FindLaw is a Thomas Reuters company and an absolute giant in the legal community. They represent thousands of Law Firms, employ over 1,000 people and offer a suite of marketing products.
If you are a lawyer, you have or will inevitably come across FindLaw.
I have now personally spoken with dozens of Law Firms about the FindLaw services and their experiences with the company.
Attorneys often ask me for my opinion on their products or share their past experiences.
Through conversations with practicing attorneys, reviewing websites of FindLaw’s clients and speaking with FindLaw sales consultants, I have come to understand the pros and cons of their services.
In this post, I have provided a review and my personal assessment of their SEO service.
I should probably preface my posting with saying, by no means am I out to attack Findlaw. The company was started by two attorneys in an apartment with an idea. They have now blossomed into a mass media company that did over 11 billion in 2016 and trades publicly on the NYSE.
To me, that is an incredible success story and I applaud those two entrepreneurs for their foresight and accomplishments.
By all measurements they are a huge success story and should be proud of what they built.
Now, let’s jump into my assessment of one of their products!
If I’m being direct, it should not be classified as SEO:
While a sales consultant referred to the product as “SEO,” it’s formally called “Integrated Marketing Reach.”
Here are the 14 items of the program accompanied by my feedback.
1. Custom Designed Website
They are using an older tool called “publisher.” Below are a two sites they built. Publisher is not a modern day Content Management System. They are slowly transitioning to WordPress, which is a great decision.
My first major sticking point with the “custom sites” is you do not actually own the site outright. You are essentially leasing the site each month. If you terminate the agreement, they would you send the content so you can rebuild a site in a new CMS.
Imagine receiving an email with a Word Document with the copy and a zip file with pictures and videos. The new web developer has their work cut out for them.
I advise business owners never to do business under this model.
As a Law Firm you want 100% ownership to your website and all of its assets.
My above statement should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how many companies build sites for clients under this model. From the service providers perspective, it’s a way to make the relationship “sticky” and make the client think twice about switching providers.
From the client’s side (you), it’s terrible to be on the other end of that deal. You deserve full ownership of your website. Everyone else like Web Developers, Designers, SEO Professionals, and PPC professionals should be invited guest!
They do not allow clients or vendors of clients to make changes to SEO components of content they created. This puts a lot of pressure on their team to do the SEO perfectly as outside consultants will be restricted. Personally, I feel it’s too big of a risk since many of their sites are not properly optimized.
Of the three above, in a quick audit I found:
- No SSL Certificate
- Incorrect character count for Title Tags
- Incorrect character count for Meta Descriptions
- Thin Content
- Poor Navigation
An SEO professional or in-house team member would be restricted from fixing some of the issues I laid out above.
They also do not allow FTP access for clients.
In my opinion, this could be frustrating and you deserve to have full autonomy to make changes to all aspects of your site and should most certainly have FTP access.
I believe every business owner should have full access to every section of their site and they should decide who to authorize access to. Not the other way around.
I am not sure if they use their own Google Analytics code for clients. If so, you would lose all the data after switching. All three of the above sites do not have the Google Analytics code installed. I believe they have a proprietary tool for Web Analytics. I highly encourage using Google Analytics. It is the industry’s standard, free and transferable. You can add other Web Analytics tools like Kissmetrics, Hotjar and Optimizely. Just make you sure you OWN the accounts and the data!
2. 10 pages of custom content
You will mostly likely need more pages. Let’s take a look at a basic sitemap for a Personal Injury Law Firm.
Our Team (not a page)
- Lawyer Profile
- Lawyer Profile
- Lawyer Profile
Practice Area (not a page)
- Car Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Dog Bites
- Slip and Fall
- Wrongful Death
- Brain Injuries
- Pedestrian Accidents
That’s a pretty standard and basic site layout and it came out to 17 pages which is seven over the out of the box package. Many firms will also add more services; an awards page, a community page and then pages explaining their process. It’s pretty easy to need 20 or more pages which is double the amount of their standard offering.
3. Ability to add unlimited additional pages of content
I’ll try and refrain from being redundant. But that language highlights the fact that they own the site. Because, of course you would have the right and ability to add unlimited pages to your website.
As you probably understand by now, SEO is a very broad term. Every SEO program is structured differently and this section requires a massive elaboration. Is it Local SEO, Technical SEO, On-Page SEO, Off Page SEO, Content or Link Building? Just stating they will do SEO is inadequate.
5. Responsive design (mobile friendly)
We are arriving at the point where we really should not have to point out that a brand new site will be responsive. In reality you have to go out of your way today to build a site that is not mobile responsive due to all the great and easily accessible technology on the market.
We are at the point where mobile friendly is a clear requirement but it’s actually not enough. Every brand needs to be reviewing the experience from mobile, documenting challenges and constantly working to improve them. With over 50% of traffic coming from mobile, it’s imperative we all continue to improve the mobile experience for current and prospective clients.
6. FindLaw.com starter profile ($299 value) – be listed in 5 related practice areas
This is good! I don’t know if it will be a consistent traffic source but it’s a niche citation and will help with Local SEO. They rotate clients so you will constantly be in a different spot but you will have the benefit of the citation and backlink!
7. Two Blogs a Month on Legal Issues
This is definitely an antiquity strategy due to the word count of each posting. There was a time over a decade ago when you could write short blogs and rank them on the web. That day has come and passed.
The content they are producing is 250-500 words. This is considered “thin content” and will not do any good from an SEO perspective.
Modern day Content Marketing best practices call for about 2,000 word blog postings. Their thin content will not rank and will set up short dwell times and high bounce rates. Google is looking more and more at User Experience metrics. If you launch a Link Building campaign in the future, you will most certainly want high quality long form content. Great content is a contingency to successful link building. Content and Links are the top 2 SEO ranking signals. Publishers want to link to great, high quality content that comes from subject matter experts and not content that is just a few paragraphs long.
8. Six blog posts will be promoted to Facebook
In terms of the length of content, I have the same opinion I gave for #7. However, I am an advocate of boosting content on Facebook. Facebook advertising is a great way to target a different audience and it’s much more cost effective than Google. I also like how you can create audiences of people who have previously interacted with your content and push new content directly to them.
I typically encourage Law Firms to have a budget for the production of content and a separate budget for marketing the content.
In the case of FindLaw I am guessing they are sharing your content on Facebook, I am not sure if they are talking about paid advertising when they say “promoted.”
9. Creation of links and cleaning up of existing links
I believe this is a reference to directories/citations. It’s not likely directory links will be causing any harm. You might be listed on some directories with low domain authorities. These sites won’t hurt you, but they won’t help much either.
For adding links, I believe this is a reference to their directory since I know the plan does include outreach to publishers to acquire new links. “Custom Blogger Outreach” as we call it, is a discipline of SEO that stands on its own and requires a specific skill set and weekly dedication.
10. Optimization of Google Maps/Google Local – get you on the maps section
For the most part, this is a one time optimization of Google My Business. In terms of on-going maintenance, we recommend paying attention to new features added to GMB and updating your GMB “posts.”
11. Review Us functionality which allows for the firm to get more reviews easily.
Great! I am a fan of any tactic that helps acquire more reviews. I mostly advocate attracting as many 5 star reviews on Yelp and Google as possible. Prospective clients will sometimes skip search engines and go to Yelp directly. If your profile has dozens of 5 st