ed. note: this piece was contributed by the anonymous (k) first introduced in this post. (k) is kreig mitchell, a tax attorney in colorado. here kreig sounds off about the business practices used by Thomson to prop up its Findlaw marketing channel. i’ll let kreig speak for himself though. in the meantime, my thanks go to krieg and everyone else with the courage to speak their mind. this blog’s for you.
The Internet is often thought of as the “wild west” because so many derive riches from doing semi-unethical [someimes just plain unethical] things. In this regard I feel compelled to relate my experience with FindLaw, a well known developer of legal websites. FindLaw targeted my websites recently and in my view jobbed the search engines in order to outrank me, with negative results for those actually searching for what I offer. I explain below …
RecentlyFindLaw accessed my sites http://www.irstaxtrouble.com and http://www.coloradotrustattorney.com — traffic statistics revealed that they had used very specific searches like tax attorney to call up http://www.irstaxtrouble.com and estate planning lawyer in Denver for http://www.coloradotrustattorney.com. The sites were top results for such searches at the time. A few weeks later FindLaw visited my sites again using the same keywords: but this time my sites weren’t at the top results. Instead FindLaw was ranked highest and used a generic site containing primarily unrelated information and a prominent find a lawyer link at the top of the page. No longer would my sites be found right away by clients searching for services based on natural key-word searches: now they would see FindLaw’s dummy page and be herded over to those customers placed at the top of the Thomson pile based on who paid what. Simple pay for play.
In fact FindLaw is now soliciting me to buy a listing on their site to rank among the results from the very keyword categories in which I dominated. And of course, even if I agreed to pay for a listing I would now be one of hundreds accessed via a link on a generic page. If FindLaw didn’t exist and go out of its way to outrank my sites in the search engines clients looking for what I offered could actually find me. As it is now, who knows?
The irony is that search engines like Google were supposed to identify and index relevant websites via unbiased, mathematically derived, proprietary algorithms. Dummy sites like those put up by FindLaw undermine this function and produce skewed, ineffective search results — for example prospects looking for a “tax attorney” will now be directed away from real tax attorney sites such as mine in favor of FindLaw’s gateway page. Is that efficient? Does it even make sense? I think FindLaw is gaming the search engines to profit from unsuspecting lawyers by charging us for something we already get for free from search engines: results.
So my opinion (ed. note: this is just that — the author’s opinion, not that of the blog, its editor, or the bar association) is that
(1) FindLaw’s websites should be banned from the major search engines (if you know anyone at Google, please forward this post to them) and
(2) gaming a search engine to reduce the ranking of my law firm website so FindLaw can profit from listing me on their site is bad business, and maybe worse.
What do you think?