From the very first days of Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines, lawyers have wanted to appear at the top of search results - "above the fold." That spawned a slew of hucksters forming companies that promised unwitting lawyers that they could get them to show up on top of their competitors in the hallowed number one or two spot on Google and other search engines.
Those of us who legitimately approach search engine optimization (SEO) and other website and online strategies shake our heads at the folly of lawyers who think they can buy their way to the top by gaming the system.
Now, a Michigan litigation law firm, Seikaly and Stewart, has sued The Rainmaker Institute run by Stephen Fairley, for RICO - a frightening statute (promising treble damages if a claim is successful) that legal marketers desperately want to avoid - claiming:
“. . . the Victim Firms were duped into believing that the services to be provided by The Rainmaker Institute, a company owned and/or controlled by defendant Fairley, would be effective in making the web sites and related web pages of the Victim Firms appear high in the results of the most important internet search engines – most significantly Google – when key terms chosen by the Victim Firms to describe their practices and the services offered were entered in a search by potential clients. Plaintiff and others paid many thousands of dollars, individually and collectively to The Rainmaker Institute to obtain these services, only to find that they were, in most instances completely unsuccessful."
The law firm spent $49,000 with Fairley's company and in return, was promised top Google rankings. Many lawyers today understand that such a scheme is woefully flawed, but many others are intoxicated by the new business they think will instantly appear from better search results.
The Simple Justice Criminal Defense Law Blog excoriates the legal marketing profession in its post about this lawsuit. It also shreds the plaintiff law firm/lawyers for being lazy, naive and stupid. Here are a few sweepingly general disparagements Simple Justice's author, Scott Greenfield, writes about legal marketers:
- Fairley beat them at the game, deceiving them to the tune of $49 grand, with promises of vast internet wealth and prestige, by doing what every marketeer does, promise the world and deliver, well, nothing.
- Don’t blame Fairley for being a particularly successful member of a particularly disgraceful industry. He sold you a bill of goods. That’s what marketeers do. Didn’t you realize that when you put your reputation, your ethics, your livelihood and your cash into the hands of schemers, you’re going to get burned? What’s next, suing Nigeria for its prince welching on your inheritance?
- Did Fairley lie to Seikaly & Stewart? How would anyone know, since the entirety of internet marketing schemes are based on deception and manipulation? And were Seikaly & Stewart victimized by Fairley’s unkept promises? It’s beyond ironic that a firm seeking to buy its way to prominence from a marketeer complains that it was out-deceived.
I want to caution Greenfield not to throw all marketers under the bus because of one (or a few) bad actors.
Kevin O'Keefe also wrote about this on his blog, Real Lawyers have Blogs.
Lawyers, don't waste your money on empty promises about SEO and other marketing greatness. Instead, invest your thought, time, attention and dollars on marketing and business development initiatives that will pay off. Notice that I carefully chose the word "invest" as opposed to "spend" - like your 401(k), all marketing/business development programs are investment strategies that require brain power, patience, commitment and consistency.
If it sounds too good to be true . . .