Do You Think You Were Lied to or Deceived by Findlaw Attorney Advertising Reps or Management?

To begin with, there is nothing more frustrating than arguing the law of fraud and contracts with an arrogant Findlaw ads supervisor. It’s as if there is no duty of good faith and fair dealings because of a so called “Master Services Agreement,” which will be discussed and debunked as a basis that allows dishonesty and lack of integrity.

Here’s what Jim Smith, CEO of Findlaw Says:

“Our business depends on transparency and our determination to do the right thing. Our customers count on the accuracy of our information, the reliability of our systems and the integrity with which we operate. Trust is our currency.”

One thing I do agree on is that Findlaw is transparent that it has no intentions of honoring many promises it has made me over the years. I have spent hundreds of hours trying to defend my business and brand from Findlaw representatives.

Why? Because the products are amazing. But alas, I beleive that Findlaw has lost touch with its internet roots and gone so corporate, that doing the right thing is a scary thing to do for any self motivated or ambitious employees.

If I made a Findlaw Comedy Play, here would be a famous line from the Supervisor character:

“I don’t care what deal you have in place now, or what promises the last 10 sales reps and corporate officers told you, our Master Services Agreement Insulates Us From Honoring them.” – Scene from the future Findlaw Comedy Play

We hear the same opinions time and time again, Findlaw attorney advertising has great products but horrific leadership and a total lack of accountability when dealing with many of their attorney clients.

Their reputation with many of our friends is the same as ours. It seems like anything they do wrong immediately will be blamed on the client or nonchalantly breezed over.

Next, like scared lemmings, everyone in their chain of command seems to tow the line against the complaining customer, reminiscent of insurance defense lawyers or an automobile liability insurance adjuster, and not a service oriented business.

Lawyers Who Sell Findlaw Marketing Services Also Double as Defense Attorneys for Findlaw?

It appears that Findlaws hire a lot of law school grads who like to play lawyer and argue the law with people who actually practice law for a living. Here is a hypothetical example in our play of what an attorney client might experience with a drone supervisor.

The comedy play we write about Findlaw would include lines like this:

Findlaw:

“Clearly that client is crazy, our Master Services Agreement means we don’t have to honor any of our promises or exercise common sense.”

Attorney Clients:

“But you and your rep said …..”

Findlaw:

While evading culpability, the supervisor may blame you for their failure to follow their own company policies on Page 55 for example.  TomsonReuters Code of Conduct

Findlaw Supervisors could say “hey those were”:

  • Unauthorized side letters
“Unauthorized side letters are undisclosed, unapproved letters, e-mails, notes or verbal agreements that vary standard contract terms. They may bind us to something we cannot deliver or expose us to unwanted liability. They can include:
  • Early outs, or the ability for the customer to terminate before the contract expires
  • Guarantees that the customer will achieve certain milestones
  • Statements that directly contradict parts of the contract, notably payment terms
  • Commitments for products or services Thomson Reuters is unable or unwilling to provide or perform
  • Offers of free or discounted products or services

In other words, Findlaw admits that these NEW or varying verbal, emailed or letters are in many cases, valid and binding terms. Yet their supervisors are apparrently trained to AUTOMATICALLY VOID THEM AND use the Master Services Agreement as an excuse or subterfuge to allow them to ignore this internal policy of honoring them. Are they not violating their own internal policies in making these promises if they are not honored and not the other way around Ms. Haas?

BLAME THE CUSTOMER.

One typical example of a varying term now not being upheld and arbitrarily being enforced, is the Findlaw Firmsite issue. It has long been the case that Findlaw has required an attorney to buy a Firmsite if they want to advertise a website on Findlaw’s paid search products.

Many lawyers wished to keep their own websites for advertising purposes, primarily because WordPress is much easier to use and FAR more user friendly than Findlaw’s clunky web firmsites.

So to this day, many existing attorney advertisers own a Firmsite they use as a static blog, and in exhange, Findlaw places their privately served websites in the link advertising sections like Top Spots or Spotlite Listings.

Unfortunately, Findlaw has such extremely high turnover that a new rep or tech would try and later strip out your website’s link, and replace it with the Firmsite. So many of us had to go and find our old reps so they could explain Findlaw’s arrangements. Despite emails and a history of these so called “Side Letters,” being active with certain users, the entire thing is arbitrary and not applied fairly in my opinion.

The Old Improper Side Deal Argument?

Later while you have an existing agreement in place, rather than upgrade your existing account, your rep may sneakily try and get you to sign a new contract, and tell you it’s an upgrade. What they are really doing is getting you to invalidate (in their mind) your existing agreement, by making you agree to a new master services agreement.

So in effect, they are trying to secure a new contract. Now later, as with me, your rep or supervisor may tell you your old arrangement it is an “improper side deal” and they will not let you make changes to update your website link, etc.

Then she might try and patronize you, waving her freshly signed new Master Services agreement around as if it was a presidential pardon to engage in unfair tactics.

Do a Lot of Current Findlaw Advertisers Keep Their “Side Letter” Agreements in Place While Others Arbitrarily Lose Theirs?

Interestingly, if you search Findlaws current attorney advertisers and run their landing page websites through who.is, you will rapidly see that many lawyers are using non Findlaw firm sites to advertise on Findlaw and some have done so for many years. This shows a pattern and practice and custom by Findlaw, and this is now a binding term for these advertisers according to its own emplyee trust rules. It may be a side letter, but it is NOT improper and it is not SUBSUMED by a Master Servcies Agreement.

This kind of tactic is patently unfair from even the most liberal contractual law interpretations. We are taking comments now. Has Findlaw promised to do or not do certain things in order to get your business or renewal, and then reneged and tried to gaslight you, telling you to show them where it is in the written contract?

Is the standard approach being used by Findlaw when they are confronted with their own alleged non feasance, misfeasance or malfeasance an approach designed to obstruct and prevent the attorney client from getting what he or she was promised by Findlaw’s agents, while at the same time making sure Findlaw gets paid its advertising money?

Here is a Great Line for Our Findlaw Ads Comedy Skit

“tell them anything, get the contract, and then later when they are upset, explain it doesn’t matter what you told them, the Master Services agreement says we don’t have to honor anything you or our management told them,”

One could substitute this scene movie scene in the famous Tom Clancy Blockbuster, but imagine its a client chat with a Findlaw ads Supervisor.

Below, Harrison Ford Plays the Attorney Advertising Client, and The CIA Guy in the Suit is the Findlaw Apologist Supervisor whipping out a copy of the Master Services Agreement.

It appears that its parent company, Tomson Reuters, has in its contract with you, the lawyer, a specific forum selection clause that forces you to sue them for any breaches, misrepresentation, or fraud in Minnesota, a state that offers far less consumer protections for unfair business practices than say, California, for example, so you may have given up.

Check out the Draconian Terms in The Master Services Agreement.

“General Disclaimer. All warranties, conditions and other terms implied by statute or common law including, without limitation . . . are excluded to the maximum extent permitted by applicable laws. Unless expressly provided (such as a promise by a rep or a supervisor?), the Services are delivered “as is” without warranty of any kind. Thomson Reuters does not warrant or represent that the Services or that all Faults will be corrected. (What about when you are promised by your rep as an inducement to deal?)
  • Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any Damages …
  • Client assumes sole responsibility and entire risk …
  • Client is solely responsible for the preparation, content, accuracy and review of any documents, data, or output prepared or resulting from the use of the Service. (Yet Findlaw may not let you update your user info?) (Read More here.)

But recent changes to the law in Minnesota could clearly invalidate parts of the Master Services Agreement Get Out of Jail Free Card proffered up by Findlaw ads supervisors as their Trump card. You can’t use a contractual term such as this as a subterfuge to ignore promises.

Normally the tougher Minnesota consumer protection laws don’t apply to contracts between consumer with advertising agencies, such as Findlaw. So it’s a great state if you want to have the most legal insulation from people you contract with. Or is it?

Are there Exceptions to Advertising Agency Exemptions from Consumer Protection?

YES! “….. if the owner, publisher, agent, or employee has either knowledge of the false, misleading or deceptive character of the advertisement or a financial interest in the sale or distribution of the advertised merchandise.” (Subd. 3 of Section 325F.69 of Minnesota UNLAWFUL PRACTICES statute.)

  • Does your Findlaw ads rep or supervisor have knowledge that Findlaw ads reps regularly make false promises to its attorney clients that it never intended to keep?
  • Did your Findlaw ads supervisor attempt to retaliate against you in order obfuscate, delay or to take away services from you, or your job, but not take away services from similarly situated people or companies?
  • Are you a former Findlaw employee who was told to say whatever you had to in order to get the sale. But then you got fired and were forced to sign a non disclosure agreement when it didn’t work out for Findlaw?
  • Are you aware of instances where Findlaw ads arbitrarily and capriciously discriminates against one attorney client over another with the same type of contractual arrangement?
  • Does your Findlaw Supervisor or Rep Call a Variance Between you and Findlaw an “Unauthorized” “Side Deal” Subsumed by their “Master Services Agreement?”
  • Does your Findlaw supervisor try and argue consumer law with you and gloat over the superior position their “Master Services Agreement” has placed her in?

Besides being forced to sue for things like deception and fraud in the inducement, in Minnesota, which is totally unfair, you may be able to void the Findlaw forum selection clause because California has a vested interest in protecting its citizens from businesses engaged in a pattern and practice of using unfair tactics to secure contracts, or use bait and switch style techniques.

I mean look at these terms. If you were not defrauded or lied to, maybe I could see teh forum selection clause as fair, but if not, no way…SUBTERFUGE.

Do you believe that Findlaw ads reps consistently engage in any other conduct which similarly creates a likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding to even a highly trained attorney?

Let’s see if this is wide spread in the Golden State, or whether it’s just a few “bad apple” “squeaky wheel” Findlaw Firmsite or Knowledge base customers complaining over all of this. We want to hear from you to see if this is just a few people, or a serious problem in the way they run their attorney facing operations.

Other examples:

  • As an inducement, did your account rep promise to fix problems with your current ads if you would renew, and then say they were fixed when they were not?
  • Did Findlaw cancel a program like “Knowledge Base” and not tell you, stripping out all the articles and links you built to your website and valuable posts?
  • Does your account rep even know what your account history or status is?
  • Does your account rep understand basic internet advertising terminology like SEO html, or coding language, such as what is a “301 redirect, or what is a subdomain”?
  • Are you arbitrarily being denied services that other attorneys are still receiving after complaining to a supervisor at Findlaw about an offense against you? (“Our Master Services Agreement means it doesn’t matter what you ‘feel’we promised you. [patronizing statements in emails to you, for example] You want to cancel?”)
  • Does the Findlaw supervisor assigned to “help” you seem to be trying to act like a defense lawyer for Findlaw, instead of trying to honor Findlaw’s promises to you?
  • Does their story keep changing the more you prove to the company that they are in the wrong in their action or inaction, or being unfair?
  • Can your old account rep(s) verify under penalty of perjury as to any misrepresentations or unfair business dealings regarding California citizens by this Minnesota Corporation’s past and present sales tactics and administrative refusals to honor promises to clients as an enticement to sign contracts?
  • Did Findlaw change or alter your existing business name as listed on your current ads with them, and then try and blame you? Are they refusing to allow you to make the changes yourself?

Why all the red tape, and seeming environment of fear uncertainty and doubt within corporate? Why is it so hard to respect clients and not patronize them? Are you a past or present attorney advertiser on Findlaw? Has anyone sued Findlaw ads and been successfull?

Send us your story so we can do a video cast with screenshots of emails and statements made by the company reps. If you are with the news media, or press, you can email us directly on our online contact us form.

Look for us in future editions of the Los Angeles Daily Journal. Let’s try and figure out what’s up. Again, great product, ineffective leadership. Let’s hear your opinions and comments.

Yelp! Can Legally Alter Reviews If You Won’t Pay Them?

California personal injury attorney, Michael Ehline

To Yelp! or not to Yelp! that is the question many a law firm struggles with. We fear if we stop the ads that Yelp! will screw up our reviews and make us look bad. Courts appear to believe Yelp! can do what would amount to extortion if not but for the internet being the forum. When we speak to Yelp! reps they say that Yelp! never favors advertisers over non advertisers, and there is nothing to fear. Then we hear other stories of lawyers upset at Yelp! being revenge sued by Yelp! for expressing their feelings about Yelp! So let’s go with what we do know. Let’s see the green light courts have given Yelp! to basically do whatever it wants with your personal reviews and reviews of others about your business or law firm.


 

Did the 9th Circuit Just Give Yelp! a Green Light To “Hard Bargain” Extort Businesses?

Yelp! has had challenges in the idea with small businesses they can imply a pay-to-play structure with positive and negative reviews and how they are displayed on their site. The 9th Circuit Court three judge panel has agreed with Yelp by ruling that even if the plaintiffs would be able to provide adequate proof of Yelp removing or replacing positive reviews and manipulating star ratings for paid ads. The panel in the ruling said Yelp would not have been doing anything illegal.

This ruling may help to show what Yelp has as a business platform and what rights businesses have involving user reviews. The ruling according to the SFgate newspaper had the ruling at 3-0, with Judge Marsha Berzzon stating in the ruling

“As Yelp has the right to charge for legitimate advertising services, the (alleged) threat of economic harm … is, at most, hard bargaining.”

Judge Berzon went on to say that threatening economic harm by extortion is “exceedingly narrow concept.” This isn’t the first court ruling, one earlier was in a lower court that dismissed a class action lawsuit brought by business owners claiming in the suit they were penalized by Yelp. The lawsuit alleged the penalty was for not purchasing advertising on the site and listed evidence such as watching nine 5 star reviews for their business disappear, but once they agreed to purchase ads the reviews reappeared. One business in the class action lawsuit the Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital of Santa Barbara claimed a sales rep offered to hide negative reviews if they paid.

With the court ruling it is difficult to say what is legal and what isn’t by going on the class action dismissal and then the higher court three panel ruling. But certainly some businesses that have used Yelp feel they have been wronged. Yelp for its part in the legal actions issued a statement on their blog that was self-righteous looking at it from some users views. The statement says how happy they are the court reached the right decision and those who brought the suit and their attorneys attempted to disparage Yelp in order to detract from their own negative reviews.

Yelp hasn’t seen the last of their problems with another lawsuit recently filed, which is a shareholder’s lawsuit claiming the company has mislead shareholders with their algorithm talk about manipulative reviews and ratings. The lawsuit cites the Federal Trade Commission has received over 2,000 complaints involving Yelp and the alleged extortion. Another lawsuit has been filed against Yelp for false advertising for the company claiming it has “the most trusted reviews.” The bottom line is that people with businesses are scared of Yelp! and rightly so. The arguments I have had with their reps makes me scared, and the court opinions shed light on the fact that judges must not be getting many bad reviews on Yelp! I mean, a few negative reviews, especially if they are being featured because you refused to pay Yelp!, is cause for concern. Whether it is true Yelp! is doing it or not is not the issue.  The issue is that they are now greenlit by the courts to do just that. I for one am praying that Google will replace Yelp! reviews as a local ranking signal with the more trustworthy Net Promoter Score (NPS) system mentioned here.

Posts by Michael Ehline

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Will The Revival of the Adwords Suit Spell Disaster for Google or Simply Raise Prices for Your Firm?

Fight Evil words on a to do list written on a dry erase board to remind you to protect other people, improve safety and security and be a force for good over bad powers

Fight Evil words on a to do list written on a dry erase board to remind you to protect other people, improve safety and security and be a force for good over bad powers

Advertisers that had placed their trust in Google took another step towards challenging the tech supergiant last month. A group of ad companies and individuals that had paid for Google Adwords services have banded together to sue Google after it was revealed that much of their money went to advertising on dead sites. Together, they attempted a class action lawsuit before being struck down in district court with the help of Google’s phenomenal lawyers, who are probably the best in the world at liability avoidance.

But unfortunately for Google and stockholders such as myself, after a fresh look, the Ninth Circuit Court has agreed to allow the case to go forward as a class action suit. The original suit was filed in July 2008 after it was discovered that ads paid for between July 2004 and March 2008 were displayed on parked sites and error pages. The suit alleges that Google knew that such actions had taken place and allowed it to happen.

The plaintiffs in 2011 decided to move for class certification. Now the plaintiffs include a major drug and personal injury firm that felt it was taken advantage of. Google has claimed that their cases individually cannot be combined into a class action suit. This jives with many previous legal arguments by Google, especially after concern about a possible monopoly increased sharply over the last decade. This also comes as the Washington Post reports, Google’s new parent company Alphabet ditched its famous “Don’t be evil” pledge.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision will allow the case to proceed, and it is still unclear how it will play out. Google has invested much in attempting to swat down this case, understanding that it could be on the hook for millions in advertising revenue in a span of over a decade. (In other words, look for Google to go to paid local search or some other new algo change to make up for the shortfall) Furthermore, Google’s reputation as a premier advertising agency could be shaken by any negative ruling. But I doubt it.

There is still a long way to go, and the plaintiffs are ready for a long slog ahead. American courts have tended to favor Google in similar cases, even as European courts believe that it is an emerging monopoly. The door may now be opened for others that felt shortchanged by the Adwords program to step forward with suits of their own. We’ve written about Google before and about possible implications of its rapid growth. Check back for more information as this case and others develop.

Posts by Michael Ehline

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Will Google’s New “Alphabet Corporation” Shield it From Those Seeking Justice?

COLT Legal Ethics In Social Media

Michael Ehline discusses negligence and discovery guidelines

Google’s transformation has captured headlines and imaginations this week. The creation of the Alphabet Corporation may completely reshape the tech market and provide rapid growth for consumers and investors. The new corporation, intended to foster innovation, may wind up having other positive effects for the internet giant.

Google has been mired in multiple European antitrust cases. The continent’s courts have challenged the company, claiming that it is an unfair competitor. In the two existing cases, the company has been accused of forcing its position as a dominant search engine and using Android to favor its own apps. The creation of the new umbrella corporation can allow Google to sidestep some of the accusations leveled against it. The creation of the new corporation will allow Google to shuffle its operations, including its cell phone operations.

By being able to bring Android as a child company of Umbrella, rather than a part of Google, the move follows recommendation of the European Parliament. According to the Business Insider, the EU Parliament held a non-binding vote that asked the company to split its search engine business from its other operations. It is unclear if Android will fall under Google’s domain or Alphabet’s, but the new structure is more flexible and in line with the EU’s demands.

Considering that the EU is considering fines on Google up to $5 billion, the moves could not come sooner. The shift allows for Alphabet’s new Android and search functions to be separate, creating a wall of protection against European regulators. Furthermore, as Google or Alphabet begins to shift its focus, the fervor of European challenges may subside.

The immediate charges from the EU may not go away immediately, but it is clear that Google is acting craftily in the face of pressure after one of their employees let the cat out of the bag that Google has the ability to except certain websites it favors from the deleterious effects of its filtering algorithms such as Panda and Penguin. Google’s argument in that case was that it does not white-list sites. In any event, its ability to transform and adapt has been legendary already, especially over the last decade. The company’s leadership understands that its competitors will attempt to manipulate governments into future antitrust cases and is taking the best possible case in trying to avoid future issues.

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Google Punishes Sites if “Link Disavowal” Used On Them?

Pull out the problem at its roots.

The Evil of Negative SEO and Copyright Spam. Dealing the Death Blow.

By attorney Michael P. Ehline, Esq. – This report really is more about the new Google tool available in WebMaster Tools (Click Here.), and probably has similar implications in its use, as with Bing. Although I have seen many comments about the new Google Link Disavow Tool, and its potential ramifications as ranking factor, I have not seen much on how this could potentially hurt a site that is a spam site, but that was not picked up by Penguin, or any of the 200 other ranking factors. Or could even an innocent site get hurt if someone simply lodges a report against the innocent site?

Could Link Disavow Be Used to Take Down Sites Like the DMCA?

Previously, we discussed that Google definitely will de-index pages, and even whole websites that are reported for engaging in copyright theft. So naturally, it follows that Google, at some point, will de-index sites that are disavowed by multiple Googlers. It only makes sense. (See also Google site block) So apparently Google has a system in place to make sure that would happen. But Google also used to say it was virtually impossible for someone to do negative SEO against your domain. And we all saw what happened there.

Sometimes Google will subtly warn you in advance about things. Case in point, was the time that Google was talking about using site speed as a ranking factor.  Many people ignored this idea, and then, kablam, it happened. Site speed is now a ranking factor. Know that Google is looking to see if the site you reported is a spam site, no doubt in my mind about that.  And this does raise the issue of whether or not you should report every site.

Reasons Why You May Want to Contact the Site Owner First Before Disavowing

1. The Offending Site Could Have Been Hi-Jacked

God knows that many a WordPress owner has been attacked with spam comments and even spam posts after site hijackings. I would sure want a fellow blogger to contact me and point out the spam, before I laid the hammer down, and reported his or her site as a spam site.

2. The Offending Site Deserves the Courtesy of an Email Before Being Reported as a Spam Domain

In my opinion, reporting a spam site, is in effect laying down the gauntlet. This will probably earn the offending site an irreversible penalty at some point. So make sure to give the offending site a chance. Of course, it could be some site that was set up to link bomb you, and in that case, you may just want to lay the hammer down.

The Whole Googleverse Benefits When Link Disavowal Tool is Only Used In Extreme Circumstances

Getting sites banned and blocked should always be as a last resort. Heck, reporting your own site when you disavow links can probably put you in Google’s cross-hairs at some point, if you disavow the “good links” [or even the bad ones]. So why not just be civil and send the host, as well as the webmaster for the site, an e-mail explaining the with the DMCA example, and that their entire host could be blocked (blacklisted.)

What Do You Think?

Don’t you think Google is looking for hosts who have massive reports of spam dripping off of them? We already know that Google knows how to look for bad neighborhoods. Why not give the host a chance too before everyone on their network gets blown out in a Google one fell swoop? (See Google ISP Blackisting here.)

If There is Also Copyrighted Content on Offending Site Is A Link Disavowal Tool Better or Faster or Vice Versa?

This covers a hybrid issue where there are copyright and negative SEO issues. I say pull it out at the roots. If your brand is being diluted, you should send an email to the host, and if possible, a notice to the webmaster. If they do nothing, and you have “negative SEO”, as well as a copyright issue (in my mind brand dilution is also negative SEO), then do the DMCA first. Usually it only takes a few days before you know if Google is gonna take it down! Also, the Disavow Tool could take forever to work.  Google doesn’t want spammers to know, so it is a secret.

I Am An Attorney Not a Web Dude How Do I Find Out the Info To Email a DMCA Hybrid Negative SEO Takedown?

Members of the Circle of Legal Trust already know that most of this information is available just by Googling “how do I do this or that?” But, if you must know, the answer is for you to Google “Whois“. Then you enter the domain, and it shows you the name, address and number of either the host, the webmaster, or both, and you can then attempt a contact. Sometimes the e-mail is invalid, or the info is private, etc. In that case, proceed with a DMCA takedown.

Example of E-mail to Webmaster/Host

Dear webmaster, someone has been performing negative SEO on my domain and brand, by publishing spam content on your site [and is also duplicate copyrighted content of mine]. My domain is www.gotscrewd.com and the offending page on your site is: www.screwdme.org. Rather than file a DMCA takedown notice, or use the link disavowal tool with Google and Bing, I wanted to give you an opportunity to remove the spam and/or copyrighted [comments, snippet, and other materials]. As you are aware, the exact match anchor appears to be spam, is all to commercial websites, and offers no value to anyone. It is clear that sites with multiple link disavowals against them are probably spam sites, and that Google will probably de-index sites and pages it considers to be engaging in negative SEO and copyright violations. Please let us know by the end of the business day today, or we will continue to exercise our legal and administrative rights in this matter.

As you can see above, I am not trying to intimidate anyone, and I am not directly accusing anyone. I am pointing out the obvious. Hey, “I don’t know how”, but your site ripped off my content, or your site was hijacked, possibly by a bot, or a hacker to lay down bogus exact match anchors as a matter of course. Some people use programs like SENuke, AMR, BMD, Xrumer, Scrapebox, etc. Anyways, some of my blogs got hit with this before, so I know hackers can get it and lay down crappy links from your site to another’s and it sucks.

In closing, I say, pull it out at the roots before the doomsday device, of DMCA, or a Link Disavowal is taken.

 

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Will FaceBook Local Be the Yelp! Giant KIller?

Money Shot

The Group Shot

We have read the stories about Yelp! suing a lawyer in retaliation for him suing Yelp! and winning. Most of us who own small businesses have heard the other horror stories about good reviews disappearing and negative reviews being “recommended” when businesses stop paying Yelp! for ads. With so many reports of tactics like this, whether they are real or imagined, it is shocking there have not been shareholder lawsuits against Yelp at a bare minimum.

Well, actually there have been at least two so far. The appearance of impropriety is usually enough to spark a shareholder revolt. But now Yelp! has a lot more to worry about than  eating itself . Although no doubt, Yelp! has great lawyers who have so far, successfully avoided having a jury actually decide a case, the bad press Yelp! has gotten out of all of this, along with what consumers are able to see with their own eyes, has really left Yahoo!, Bing and other companies enamored with Yelp! at a decidedly negative disadvantage from our perspective. However, that has not stopped Yelp’s supporters and investors from rallying after they defeated their own stockholders in court for a second time. (Source.)


New More Trustworthy Consumer Review Site Models To Eclipse Yelp!?

No matter what it does lately, Yelp! has been slowing down.  Between a declining userbase and pay-for-play scandals. The review site hasn’t quite kicked the bucket yet. But with the advent of emerging internet business models, its age is showing. Much of this is due to Facebook’s new Professional] Services. This system of consumer-friendly reviews allows for maximum flexibility and the ability for a business or service to interact with its potential base.


Enter Facebook “Professional Services”

Facebook’s model is building, and hasn’t yet reached its potential. Facebook has gotten the opportunity to sit back, and watch Yelp! sue its customers, and selectively enforce its vague and ambiguous user guidelines, and has thus been able to make sure it develops a product that only reflects a positive consumer experience. Its Professional Services division is sleek and professional, almost bursting at the seams with creative energy. Facebook’s experience in collecting data will enable the company to offer truly individualized results that can result in higher consumer satisfaction.

  • Yelp! No Longer Revolutionary?

One of the key differences between Facebook’s model and Yelp’s is the foundation it rests upon. Facebook has been the trendsetter for targeted advertisement and collecting data on demography. Yelp is a proprietary model that almost seems out of place in the Web 3.0. Its model flourished around 2009 because of its revolutionary nature. However, only combined with the expertise of another revolutionary system, such as Facebook will it truly take off. The approach has picked up where many users complain that Yelp has left off and allowed a friendlier system to become more compatible with future needs.

PC Magazine had a rundown on the new product, referencing its massive reach and ambition. The new service has already gained traction in the media, with reviews and first impressions rolling in nearly every day. Facebook’s much larger consumer base, ease of use, and ubiquitous branding will be hard to beat. There is no guarantee that Facebook’s Professional Services will put Yelp in the ground. However, for the company already swirling in controversy and seemingly one foot in the grave, it could fulfill such a role. For new businesses or those just entering into the internet rating sweepstakes, the safer money appears to be on Facebook.

After seeing a fellow lawyer sued by Yelp! after he beat Yelp! in court, I immediately knew I was not interested in doing business with this company. The user guidelines alone show many many inconsistencies that makes any business owner who adds a reviewer as friend, or even reviews a company that the business is friends with, but ALSO does business with, a potential recipient of a lawsuit. Even having a client use your office computer to add a review subjects a business owner to a potential lawsuit by Yelp! Of course, it appears that these rules could be used as easy pre-textual reasons for Yelp! to sue someone Yelp! doesn’t like. This could be especially true if Yelp! retains a “Rambo” litigator. So far, it looks like Facebook could take all of this Yelp! negative energy and turn it into a victory for FB.

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Why Posting to Blog Networks Will Kill You

Michael Ehline on Content networks

By Attorney Michael P. Ehline, Esq. – Does the blog h1 title above have your attention?  Well that was the idea. What I meant to say is that you lawyers who try to take the short way out by hiring someone to post to their blog network(s) are doomed to kill your site and all its rankings. Your “ridin dirty”.

Types of Lawyer Blog Networks and In General What They Are

First, there are many different types of attorney blog networks. Google defines or describes a blog network here:

Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site, or outgoing links from your site. Manipulating these links may affect the quality of our search results, and as such is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Some say they are linked to automatic content distribution on multiple sites, others say it is any network of sites owned by the same person, who manually posts content on their sites and member sites, on a wide range on unrelated topics. But my research indicates it is all of these and many other things. One thing is certain, Google will, and is, taking these networks out. (Source.) They can be legal directories, or a network of sites adding spun content, such as this example here. Findlaw has its own “blog network”, but they have a program where they basically lease you a blog, or firmsite, and they write the content and link it back and forth from the other paid sites they host and run.  At least it is targeted to law.  But I am Leary of this, as I think it could run afoul of the above Google rules.

One thing all private blog networks all have in common, is that they all tend to link out to the same commercial sites with similar exact match anchors – pretty spammy – with not very helpful articles (I admit Findlaw does usually have pretty decent articles that add value however), and typically with more than one link to the same external site per post.

One other common element they usually have is that the blogs themselves are not targeted to any specific topic. So usually, it is just some blog that has a bunch of blog posts on every topic under the sun. (I hear echoes of Ezine.) One post might be about “Internet Tech Consulting”, and the very next post might be about “personal injury law”. In my earnest opinion, Google saw that developers would typically create WordPress sites (free templates), leave the “this is an example of an “about us page”, and not actually add a page, and basically just start blasting a bunch of articles into the “posts” section. Of course it goes further than that, and there are many more advanced blog networks.

Typical Footprints of a Blog Network

Usually, they:

  • Are privately registered,
  • Have no disclaimer,
  • Have no privacy policy,
  • Have no contact us, or
  • Have no about us page,
  • All linking out to the same commercial sites,
  • Use an overabundance of exact match anchor text,
  • Add more than one link to the same “commercial” site in each post,
  • Have no social profile with history on Twitter, FB, G+, etc, (newer and still developing test),
  • Blast rewrites of news stories that have no editorial, or real value, but with commercial links to the same commercial sites,
  • Add formatted text into the WordPress visual editor from MS Word, etc, which leaves behind junk code and screws up the justification and formatting,
  • All happen to be on the same server.

DOH! How retarded can you get? Of course that is a giant red flag.  Especially if they are all “privately registered”.  Do yourself a favor and get a job flipping burgers.

Although Not a “Blog” Network Per Se, Directories Also Can Leave a Similar “Evil” Footprint

A digital footprint is defined as:

“… a trail left by interactions in a digital environment; including the usage of TV, mobile phone, internet and world wide web, mobile web and other devices and sensors. Digital footprints provide data on what has been performed in the digital environment; and are used in behavioural targeting, personalisation, targeted marketing, digital reputation, and other social media or social graphing services.[1] In social media, a digital footprint is the size of a person’s “online presence” measured by the number of individuals with whom they interact.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_footprint

Ok. Here we are really talking about “interactions” involving your url, how it is being used, and where it is being linked externally from. This is a related topic that simply could not go ignored in this post. Imagine the digital footprint Google sees. Indian business directories are a big culprit here, as our first example. We have all seen the ads. “Get your anchor text on 10000 high PR directories, call Gobin Rupta” So the issue here is, an automated PHP directory of thousands of links. Creates a link spike, and is all to the same anchor text. Just like the blog network, but worse, sine it is not natural acquisition as far as the speed it was added, and is all the same across thousands of sites, like “Accident Attorney”, for example. Google reasons. Oh they must want to rank for that term ,put em on page one million. Negative SEO people are now using these previously helpful sites, to hurt your competitors, or you! Beware. Your job is to try and get them all removed, and/or report them in your “link disavow tools”. Get it?

Of course, this is just a taste of it and is all, in and of itself, or collectively, a dead giveaway. So it is relatively easy for Google to spot these with an automated program, if your a billion dollar company like them. Think about it. If you, the PI lawyer, and Joe, the IT consultant, and the other clients of “SEO Blog Network” (for example) all have links pointing out from all the very same blogs, Google will probably kill your site.

Guilty Unless Your Not

Yep. Their philosophy has been, if it “appears” you are gaming them, you are guilty. After all, your job is to make sure your site complies with the Google Quality GuidelinesIgnorance of the law is no excuse. If you are too busy or too lazy to learn the law, use PPC, and stop wasting your money on content farms and SEO experts. If a U.S. Marine has a bad tailor, he can’t blame the tailor for too many Irish Pennants. The point I am making, is that Matt Cutts gives warnings, they tell you what they are going to do, what they are looking for. They have guidelines. If your SEO guy doesn’t abide by them, it is YOUR problem. Read the frikking rules and/or join the Circle of Legal Trust, to learn how to enact them.

Penalty Designed to Hurt All Parties

So now your Gobin Rupta, “SEO Guru”, and you have thousands of blog sites, forums and directories. This is how you make your money. You say, “no big deal if my PR6 site gets hurt, and de-indexed, I can still post links to other sites from those de indexed sites, and just build more sites.” Mistake. Google will use your blog network site like a boat anchor on the sites you are linking to to drag them down. Google wants to send a message that these types of linking schemes are unacceptable. Besides, as a blog owner, would you not just want to target the blog, cull and delete all the crap, or de-index it, save your crusty old site, and re evaluate what you did wrong? Maybe you should start adding quality content while you at it?

What Google Wants To See

Google wants to see what it thinks real people want to see. If you have a blog, it should be targeted to a particular topic. If your a lawyer, you should have a blog about lawyer things, you should be linking to .edu sites, court sites, .gov sites, and perhaps a FEW decent commercial sites that have good info on their CHILD pages. You should not be linking back to everyone who links to you. That looks like a fake voting ring.

  • You should be building links to your blogs themselves, and not simply use them to post paid or shared articles (don’t be a cheapskate),
  • Rarely use exact match anchor text to link out to a commercial site.

Getting links to your blog can be done by getting votes on social sites, and having great content that actually is helpful.  Trust me, people will link to it if they know and trust you. For example, everyone hurt in a crash who hates lawyers, would like to know about “how to handle a soft tissue claim in small claims court“, but probably would have their eyes glaze over if they saw an article that discussed how “millions are hurt every year in car accidents”, or “how to hire the best IT consultant.” YAWN.  If you repost news stories, why are you not discussing the legal ramifications of what took place, the potential parties, and potential outcomes in court? Think about Lindsay Lohan, or the failure of schools to provide armed guards to protect kids, for example.  Think of all the IRAC types of issues you could help consumers with.

Anyways, I sure hope this helps you attorneys who are struggling to meet payroll, and feed your families.  Don’t let posting to blog networks kill you.

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Phone: 310.376.8488

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Why Circle of Legal Trust Members Should Read First and Plus Later

By Attorney Michael P. Ehline, Esq. It has been established that authorship status is the wave of the future.  As an author, your popularity is typically determined by who reads your article and how many times it is viewed. So in keeping with this concept, it makes sense that Google would reward an author who gets his documents read. Understanding this is easy, it just had not been noticed until now. When a search user reads an author tagged search result, for a specific period of time, then Google will add three more links to similar articles in his public authorship profile. These similar articles will be from the same author, whose link was originally clicked on. So if you do a search for your content site, Google will show your most recent article, in the top spot and include your authorship status, Google + information and avatar.

Read it Don’t Just Click it Man!

Clicking on the article in the search result and reading it, and then using the browsers back button apparently sends a signal that your a good author now. Google will respond by adding the new results. These results will be more by “your name”, with three more links to articles that have been written on your site.

We know you can’t always read it. But try and read some of the stuff you vote for. Don’t just be a zombie clicker. Remember that using the back button to soon, after clicking, will not give you the added extra links. Google weighs the amount of time spent on the site, to determine if the user enjoyed the article, when this time limit has been passed, the extra links will appear, when using the browsers back button.

Google was not letting the time they wait out for public consumption, but after a little testing, it appears to be about two minutes (See source infra). What they did say, was this is a part of the authorship features. So just clicking is cool, but it is not giving your friend all the benefits. It is also recorded in Webmaster Tools as a mere click, or an actual opened and read. So to avoid the appearance of a being a voting ring, you want to make sure you read the document, and click the back button. Got it?

Sources:

http://searchengineland.com/google-confirms-hidden-benefit-of-authorship-134526?utm_source=pluspost&utm_medium=plus&utm_campaign=stream

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Why Attorneys Must Embrace Social Media – Google Analytics Says It All

 

Lawyers that want to survive must embrace social media. It is critical to search engine results.  Page  one SERP on Google is king . Page 2

Anthony Castelli Attorney

may as well be page 200. You say social media is for kids . You say prove it. I say look at your google analytics. On the left side of your google analytics home page about half way down click on traffic sources. Wow do you see the word Social

 

Google Now Has Teeming Analytics All About Social Media

Just look at the subheadings under the word social in your Google anallytics:

Overview
Network Referrals
Landing Pages
Conversions
Plugins
Visitors Flow

A quote from Google say it all (almost):

“The social media revolution is here and rapidly maturing. Are you measuring it? Social reports help you measure the impact social media has on your business goals and conversions.”

Here’s what Google specifically says about how it breaks down social media:

“The Social Relationship

The social web connects people where they share, critique and interact with content and each other. Social analytics provides you with the tools to measure the impact of social. You can identify high value networks and content, track on-site and off-site user interaction with your content, and tie it all back to your bottom line revenue through goals and conversions.

Here’s how we see this story:

Sources & Pages: Identify networks & communities where people engage with your content.

Conversions: Measure the value of social by tracking your goals, conversions and ecommerce transactions.

Social Plugins: Measure your on-site user engagement.

Social Visitors Flow: Compare traffic volumes and visitor traffic patterns through your site.

 

So is it all about fine tuning traffic to your site? Outwardly yes. But before social was added didn’t we already know where people came from. Of course, the new social metrics will allow much more of a targeted approach. You can follow the traffic from the source, say for instance blogger, learn how much traffic dropped of from the source and what traffic actually converted. (in the case of most attorney web sites, this means a legal consumer filled out a contact form or downloaded a free ebook or responded to chat).

Google now allows you to measure what social buttons on your site are being clicked . It also allows you to measure where your content is being shared off site. This is done through the activity stream. It identifies when your content has been shared or subject to another social action with google partner communities. Click here  to see who is included in the social data hub partner communities at present.

 

So What Does This Have To Do With SERP 

Why would Google track all this data if it was not going to lead to a better search experience. And that means the sites with the best engagement, the best content, and the social media buzz will rise to the top. So yes tracking what social media is driving the traffic that engages and converts the most with your site is important. But there will not be much to track if you are not page one in the search engines.

Besides this glaring clue of Google unloading these stats on social media,  there have been multiple studies showing the value of social media shares, one plusses , comments etc to increase search engine optimization. The infographic below attests to this.

 

Testing Social media for SERP

 

The infographic above is a bit small to read. That’s why I want to make  the subject of another article, “Who really moves you in the search results in terms of social media.”  The point of this article though was to wake up attorneys on what they need to do to build their practice. It’s no longer what color is your parachute.  It’s what you can do to position yourself as someone Google knows, likes and trusts so you can position yourself with legal consumers as a lawyer that they know like and trust and want to hire.

by Anthony Castelli Attorney practicing personal injury law in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Why Attorney Is Better Than Lawyer For SERP

lawyer, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, is “a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counselor solicitor; a person who

Anthnoy Castelli attorney

Anthony Castelli Attorney

is practicing law.” Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political and social authority, and deliver justice. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who retain (i.e., hire) lawyers to perform legal services.

An attorney according to Blacl’s law dictionary in the most general sense this term denotes an agent or substitute, or one who is appointed and authorized to act in the place or stead of another. In re Ricker, 60 N. H. 207, 29 Atl. 559, 24 L. R. A. 740; Eichelberger v. Sifford, 27 Md. 320. It is “an ancient English word, and signi- fieth one that is set in the turne, stead, or place of another; and of these some be private * * * and some be publike, as attorneys at law.” Co. Litt. 516, 128a; Britt 2856. One who is appointed by another to do something in his absence, and who has authority to act in the place and turn of him by whom he is delegated. When used with reference to the proceedings of courts, or the transaction of business in the courts, the term always means “attorney at law,” q. v. And see People v. May, 3 Mich. 605; Kelly v. Herb, 147 Pa. 503, 23 Atl. 889; Clark v. Morse, 16 La. 576.

Most people use the terms interchageably. But what if you are trying to optimize these words for search engine results (SERP). Take a look at Google trends to find out what the most popular word is.

google trendsClick to Enlarge

 

This is a graph with 100 being the highest of the trends for the seaches on the web.  The color coordination is attorney in blue, lawyer in red, lawyers in green and attorneys in yellow. So to state the obvious the word of choice to optimize for is attorney. In the United States it is searched on over twice as many times as the word lawyer. For some reason the plurals of the word are inverse to the singular. The trends for all 4 words appear to stay about the same.

If you take a look at Google’s keywords tool it shows 11,100,ooo  local searches per month for attorney and 7.480.000 local searches for lawyer. Again many more searches for the word attorney vs lawyer. So this seems to verify that the word most searched on between attoreny and lawyer is attorney. The plurals also were comparable.

However, not so fast, as Google keywords tool allows you to query for broad match, exact match and phrase. In exact match attorney is searched for 40,500 times per month and lawyer is 49,500. Below is how Google defines broad, exact and phrase match

Broad: The sum of the search volumes for the keyword, related grammatical forms, synonyms, and related words.

Exact: The search volume for that specific keyword and close variants

Phrase: The sum of search volumes that include the whole phrase or near variants of the whole phrase

I suggest you try this exercise with personal injury lawyer and personal injury attorney if you are seeking personal injury cases. Unfortunately in smaller markets adding a geo qaulifier such as Cincinnati yields negligible results. Of course geo qualifiers are critical.

And remember linking should be natural . Too many exact match anchor text links can now backfire. Anecdotal evidence suggests that branded links such as  Anthony Castelli Attorney are critical.

by Anthony Castelli Attorney practicing  Ohio injury law at 8170 Corporate Park Drive #220 Cincinnati, Ohio 45242 513-621-2345

 

Other articles of interest:

A J Kohn Keyword Match Ratio
Read more: What is ATTORNEY? definition of ATTORNEY (Black’s Law Dictionary)

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