Circle of Legal Trust Las Vegas With Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen, Etc.

Dolman goood eyesIt has been awhile since our last Las Vegas Convention. Many of our attorneys have seen dramatic increases in the search engine results, as a result of embracing the COLT quality guidelines, which mirror those of Bing and Google.  At our last seminar/ HIRL (“Hangout in Real Life”), we had a full day of speakers and workshops with Steve Sweat and Andre van Wyk showing us all how to do our own e-book, and PDF magazines, Dave Amerland, Eric Enge, and Mark Traphagen detailing the overlaps of the semantic web and best social media practices, etc.

It was a killer of a seminar and we all learned a lot. This time, Eric Enge, Traphagen are gonna be on again. Eric is going to go into some more good stuff, as well as some new speakers. Check out the list of activities I have prepared so far.

Convention Times, Dates, Locations

This is a one day convention starting at 10 am on April 25, 2014. It will go as long as it goes.  We will take a lunch break at 12:00, and it will be a HIRL. (Hangout in Real Life), just like the last one.

The location will be at the Richard Harris Law Offices located at 801 S 4th St Las Vegas, NV, click here for directions.  Of course, locations can also change, but till now, we thank Richard for hooking us up.  Make sure to check out his website, and maybe even add a good word or two about him on his reviews, and add him as a friend on GPlus.

Speakers of the Day and Times

1. I have Eric Enge down for 11 am Vegas time. He will be speaking on a variety of relevant issues to building your brand and getting ranked using white hat techniques. I will add more here after I hear from him tomorrow.

2. Conrad Sams is down for 1:30 pm. Topic “10 Flagrantly Obvious Secrets of Online Marketing” –     He will be there in person . Castelli is going to talk to Dan Goldstein and get his topic and time

3. Mark Traphagen is on at 2:00.  (Can someone send this to Mark, as I seem to not have his e mail address?)  We all know him and he will be speaking on some relevant topics and I intend upon getting the exact topics from him tomorrow for posting here.

4. I have the president of 24-7 Press Release. Mike Iwasaki, on at 2:30 to discuss Co-Citations and Co-Branding using press releases, and the irrelevance of no follow versus do follow in many situations, as the semantic web becomes more intelligent.

5. What are Andre’s times and topics?

6. Does anyone know if Bincer wants to do a 30 minute HIRL with us? Anyone else who wants some exposure from the legal side?

7. Does anyone (Tony) have the complete list of attendees who will physically attend, and their hotels?

Hotels – Where Am I Staying?

Myself and Seth Price are staying at the Palazzo (Go here.) Not sure on Matt Dolman or Rosenfeld.  Contact Seth to find out about discounts, etc. Our even coincides with AVVO, so there may be people who can get breaks.

Physical Attendees so Far

Richard Harris, Matt Dolman, Michael Ehline, Alan Beck, Seth Price, Jeff Nadrich, Jon Rosenfeld, Tony Castelli, Conrad Sams, YOUR NAME HERE.

When Am I Arriving?

I am coming in on the evening of the 23d.  I am leaving on the evening of the 26th.  Attorney Seth Price will be there Wed-Saturday.

Extra Curricular Activities

I am planning on doing the full auto machine gun range the day prior, on the 24th, with Alan Beck, a Title 42 Section 1983 Civil Rights attorney in San Diego, who has won Second Amendment cases in the 9th Circuit, as well as several MARSOC Marines who just got back from deployments overseas. Castelli is going with me. Alan, also a former U.S. Marine, may do a mini workshop on the human right of self defense and defense against government overreach. Is anyone interested in attending? It will be a blast.

Personal Injury, Online Magazines

Adapting to Changing Trends in Online Attorney Search

The Old Way Attorneys Ranked:

Jonathan Rosenfeld Injury LawyerEver since the advent of search engines, publishers (attorneys) have been conniving ways to get to the top-literally. Appearing at the top of queries equaled more viewers, and that translated into more business. A whole industry of search engine optimization (SEO) appeared overnight. Simultaneously, a triangle of interests emerged: the user with its interest in searching for specific content, the search engine company with its interest in presenting information in a certain way, and the search engine optimizer with its interest in getting its content in front of all other content.

Needless to say, tension developed and continues between the last two parties. The general way that engines began to order queries was through the number of links and source of content. Basically, the more sites that linked back to your legal website for particular content, the higher you would be on the list (you can think of them like votes). Of course, SEO companies quickly became adept at manipulating this system by working with other sites to link back to each other, buying or otherwise obtaining links and then manually putting them into your site, or by letting site visitors embed links themselves.

However, search engines also weighted the quantity of links against the quality of the source. They analyzed how worthy the site was overall (versus spam), how much it actually related to the content searched for, and how fresh the web page was in relation to the search. These tools and others began to weed out and order the search universe as seen by the user, but obviously SEO companies continued to abuse the link system (in a process known as “link-building). Thus, search engine companies began to modify the algorithms by which they presented content to establish a semantic-web experience.

Search Engines Adapt:

The lawyer’s semantic web approach is designed to make the user/potential new client experience more authentic and personal. Many search engines, in eliminating the importance of link-building within websites, are trying to target the intent of the user when searching. In attempting to reach this new goal, they utilize different metrics to measure the real value of content in relation to the search, such as user engagement with content, mention of content, interaction with content, and impression of content. This is a marked shift from quantity to quality as major search companies switch from a link-based regime to a content-quality regime.

Now, publishers must use a more complicated approach to differentiate themselves from the pack and rise to the top of the search engine universe. Gone are the days when websites can spam their way into the limelight by buying or trading links (for more discussion look here). In fact, even websites themselves are carefully scrutinized; therefore, proxy sites established to prop up the legitimacy of others would no longer be effective.

The New Way Lawyers Can Rank:

Publishers adapting to new search engine rules must construct their websites not link-by-link, but on a solid foundation of authentic content. It is a substantively different process (transitioning from hyperlinking to writing), and requires a larger commitment of time and energy. However, following a few guidelines, you can ensure that your website is optimized as efficiently as possible.

First, craft content that targets a motivated audience and inspires them to embed it within their own pages; try and develop relationships with authors offline so that your online communications are more developed and in sync. Second, search for publishers and audiences that will not only help share your writing but genuinely want to read and follow your brand. Third, develop a consistent message that conveys quality to your followers. Also, note that link-building has not completely vanished from search engine calculations, just decreased in significance.

Therefore, link to websites that are topically related to yours, that are indexed and organized well, that minimize the amount of spam and advertising, and have an engaged community. Additionally, within the actual pages of your website, inject more keywords that users might potentially be searching for, encourage users to mention these same phrases on your website, and try and latch onto websites with more esteem to increase your own worthiness. Using these strategies, your website will remain optimal for the most demanding of search engines.

Moving On:

As outlined above, search engines are changing. This is inevitable because the Internet itself is changing. Companies like Google, Yahoo, and others emerged well before the dawn of social networks like Facebook and MySpace. The trick is to adapt so that your website can remain at the top of every search. If possible, dedicate an employee, or at least a significant amount of one’s time, to work on assembling genuine content to match what users are browsing for on the web. Research companies like HARO that specialize in connecting publishers with experts to comment on news events in real time. This will make your writing relevant and sophisticated. Move on from trying to link your site to every other site, and focus on authentically building up your own to make it stand out from the pack.

Jonathan Rosenfeld is an attorney in Chicago and concentrates his practice on representing individuals who have been injured in accidents. Learn more about his work at www.rosenfeldinjurylawyers.com. Jonathan would like to thank law student William O’Brien, who assisted in the preparation of this material.

Personal Injury, Online Magazines

Personal Injury Warriors Magazine – A COLT Publication

Personal Injury, Online MagazinesThe Circle of Legal Trust is an organization of attorneys who assist each other in understanding online search and in finding ethical means of internet promotion that comply with both State Bar guidelines and Google Quality Guidelines.  We are constantly looking for ways to help our members promote their practice areas in ways that provide good, quality information to both consumers and attorneys alike.

One of our latest projects is the Personal Injury Warriors Magazine.   In that many of our members are accident lawyers, we started this online publication as a means for these members to demonstrate their authority in this area of law by providing good, quality content that both persons injured in mishaps caused by negligence or other wrongdoing and other injury legal counsel will find useful.   For a look at our first edition, click here.

This first edition contains articles crossing a wide spectrum of injury claims from a great article on the latest federal legislation regarding injury claims on cruise lines from our president Michael Ehline to  a discussion of how attorneys can find liability and insurance coverage for intentional torts claims from attorney Steven Sweat.

We will be coming out with our second edition of the magazine within the next few weeks.  This second publication will focus on various procedural aspects of tort litigation including articles regarding discovery practices, pre-trial civil procedure, alternative dispute resolutinon and trial techniques.  If any personal injury practitioners are interested in submitting articles for review and possible placement in our magazine, they may feel free to contact Editor, Steven M. Sweat by email at info@gslawfirmllp.com.  Articles should be 800-1200 words in length and should be regarding some aspect of civil procedure in the prosecution or defense of a personal injury claim.  The Circle of Legal Trust membership and the editors of the magazine reserve the right to edit any content and Personal Injury Warriors Magazine is the sole property of the Circle of Legal Trust.

Author Bio Steven M. Sweat is a personal injury attorney based in Los Angeles California, a full patched member of the Circle of Legal Trust and the Editor in Chief of Personal Injury Warriors Magazine.  For additional information on his practice go to www.victimslawyer.com .

 

Lawyers.com Goes No Follow?

Lawyers.com goes no follow

Lawyers.com goes no follow

Article provided by Michael Ehline, a personal injury attorney employed by Ehline Law Firm PC, based in Los Angeles, and founder of the Circle of Legal Trust – In the wake of Panda and Penguin, many web site owners are irresponsibly converting vouchable links into rel=”no follow” links, under the mistaken presumption that Google will penalize them if they leave them as do follow links, or more insidiously, they are Page Rank sculpting (What is PR sculpting?) by using articles and work from others as a method to manipulate Page Rank within their own sites.

So when I was recently editing some of my old posts on the lawyers.com blog, and noticed when I saved my changes, that lawyers.com went ahead and automatically added the “rel=no follow” attribute, destroying much of the value of my indexed and socially shared article. So in essence, I wrote the article on the lawyers.com blog, I helped the page grow in value and sent traffic to the page with my social indexing and social signals, but now all that “link juice” was being hoarded by lawyers.com, because they turned off the trust flow to my web properties and sources of authority. Before I go further, let me give you some background of this ”rel=no follow” attribute, and distinguish when a no follow link is and is not appropriate.

Here is a snippet I found of one of my blogs. Just right click “view source” and see the naked code and look for no follow:

The experienced personal
injury bicycle attorney has dealt with this type of situation and knows that building a strong case
and dealing with them aggressively means getting the injured victim the amount of compensation they
deserve. Contact <a  rel="nofollow" href="http://losangeles.ehlinelaw.com" title="LA Law">Ehline</a>
to speak with an injury lawyer now.<br />&#160;
						<div style="clear:both">&nbsp;</div>

Above is the code from this article here:

Michael Ehline Automobile Accidents Law Blog on Lawyers.com

Bicycle Accidents Can Cause Lifelong Changes

Photo of Michael Ehline

Riding a bicycle on the road can be a dangerous challenge and bike wrecks can have lifelong changes. These changes can include ongoing medical care that will be needed, the can cause the type of employment to need to be changed and can have a devastating effect on the family.

…..

Bicycle accidents that can cause lifelong changes also mean ongoing medical care, loss of income and other changes, after a negligent driver causes a bicycle crash in Los Angeles, or Sacramento cities.  Getting paid is not easy. When this happens insurance companies will often try and settle quickly or try and blame the cyclist for the accident rather than pay the amount of compensation the rider deserves. The experienced firm has dealt with this type of situation and knows that building a strong case and dealing with them aggressively means getting the injured victim the amount of compensation they deserve. Contact Ehline <<<<<< to speak with an injury lawyer now.

As seen above, the anchor text is “Ehline”.  Clearly, we are not trying to manipulate for any particular key search.  We let Google decide how to treat the juice.

History of Rel=”No Follow” From an Injury Lawyer’s Perspective

In the early days of the web, it was very easy to rank a website. An intelligent SEO person could simply find a high PR blog with open commenting, and add exact match anchor text into the comments.

So for example, one could find a dry cleaner blog, and post a comment like “great article, and by the way, if you ever need a car accident attorney [<<< that would be the link], we are here to help.” That exact match anchor would typically cause your website to rank higher for that search term “car accident attorney”. Get it so far? So Google, along with Yahoo! and Bing decided to come up with a solution to try and cut down on this “comment spam” and devised an attribute that a webmaster could add to links that he or she could not vouch for, or did not trust.

No follow also was supposed to be used for non Google PPC links that you paid for from other sites, such as “sponsored links”, paid footer and sidebar links that were sitewide, etc. This attribute, called rel=”no follow” (A history of no follow here), was designed to help control spam by preventing the trust and authority of PageRank, or, in essence, the vote, from counting.

Th effect of this feature prevented the links  from garnering the trust and authority that a normal “vote” would have. You see, links to your website from another site are treated as votes.  It used to be that the more votes you had, the higher your site would rank in the SERPS, or if you prefer, the search results position on the Google results page.

Presently, Google changed the way it handles links, and instead Google is looking for quality links as opposed to massive quantities from unrelated, or irrelevant themes. Thus, a do follow link from that same dry cleaning site today, could actually act like a boat anchor, and sink your rankings for that exact match term. But that same unrelated link could also harm the sending site, not just the receiving site.

In fact, Panda looks for this on pages themselves, along with overoptimization and thin content, and Penguin analyzes whether there are “too many” exact matches coming to your site from many other sites, assuming that most webmasters who cast a vote, will typically not use the same exact match anchor. For example, site A may only use a link text anchor to your site like: “personal injury attorney”, and the webmaster from site B would probably use: “awesome personal injury lawyer”, etc. It is logical to assume that both webmaster A and B would use the brand the most, in any event. So normally, links containing the anchor text “Ehline Law Firm” would probably appear to your site the most from most sites.  But many exact match links that contain “personal injury attorney” could actually kill your rankings for that term under the current algo. Of course, sites linking out to with too many exact match links also can become suspect as ghost sites, or content farms by Google.

This gets a little away from no follow, but now I will explain the relationship.  Many lawyer sites, like lawyers.com, HG.org, etc., lost a lot of traffic and search engine placement post Panda and Penguin, and started converting the links pointing to their customers’ websites to rel=”no follow”, under the mistaken impression that their own rankings would come back.

This is because their in house SEO people had no idea how to deal with these new algorithms, assumed that linking out made them look like they were selling links, etc., and they went ahead and threw out the baby with the bathwater, rather than analyzing what Google has said, and what Google, and to a different degree, Bing and Yahoo! This step was taken in some cases, due to the mixed signals about “guest blogging” from Matt Cutts. Some webmasters assumed no matter whether you can vouch for your clients, in this case, practicing attorneys who pay a lot of money to use lawyers.blog and their listing services, it is better to make everything rel=”no follow”.  This caused many law firm sites that were getting great link value in the form of PR authority to lose overnight, their hard built and earned trust.

People getting cut loose and the ensuing panic became so bad, that Cutts actually re-stated his position on Guest posts (read here) Basically, the rule is that is the author posts something that is of value and highly relevant, AND it is not being submitted for the “sole” purpose of getting a link to manipulate rankings and Page Rank (What is PageRank?), it is good to remain a do follow.

Matt Cutts Says Guest Posts/Blogs Cannot be For “Sole Purpose” of Ranking Manipulation See the Video

Clearly, Cutts Said:

It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

I’m also not talking about multi-author blogs. High-quality multi-author blogs like Boing Boing have been around since the beginning of the web, and they can be compelling, wonderful, and useful.

I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article. (Source.)

As shown in the video above, Cutts is sick of press release, or purely promotional type posts passing value. So if your “sole” reason is to get juice, then no follow must be added.  One way to show you are not seeking a mere backlink for ranking, is to make it a naked or a branded link.  You rightly should get authority from a HQ post and that is what Cutts wants. What he does not want, are thousands of exact match anchors in spammy, thin, promotional snippets about your firm that are constantly flying off of the lawyers.com blog

This should be a no brainer for lawyers.com to implement. But then again, that requires having a vetting process and editorial procedure, similar to what Findlaw employs. I note that Findlaw does not place content on their site that would ever require a no follow tag.  They only allow great content.

So assuming you contribute something of value to lawyers.com, are a vetted client, and not posting a link filled and a purely promotional press release, there is ZERO viable reason for disavowing a client who actually paid you to edit his materials and list him on your site.  In this case the site itself is an attorney rating and listing site.  Martindale prides itself on providing the best lawyer database in the world.  For many years, prior to attorney rating sites like AVVO and Findlaw, Martindale Hubbell was the gold standard, and remains so with the old timers (Learn more about the decline here.) It would be false advertising for them to promote a non attorney as an attorney in any event.  So there is no way Martindale, or lawyers.com can’t vouch for you, if you are an admitted, active attorney in your State Bar.

So What is the Probable Reason Behind Lawyers.com Silently Adding the No Follow Tags to Attorney Blog Posts on Their Site?:\

  • Link Juice Hoarding: One potential theory being tossed out by a few COLT members is that Martindale was just bought out, and that within days they went no follow to hard link juice. I note that zero warning was given in advance.
  • Fear of Google: This is probably the greatest reason. After Matt Cutts’ video, they may have thought that their attorney blog is a “guest blog” as discussed in the Cutts Video. As also discussed, if that was the reason, it was a wrong reason.  These are REAL attorneys who are contributing helpful materials. If there are purely promotional posts, it is up to lawyers.com to police the site and institute quality guidelines, as does Findlaw.com.

What Are My Legal Rights Against Lawyers.com?

We are all lawyers, so we understand fraud, false advertising, etc. But we also understand how to vote with our feet.  Lawyers.com needs to change with the times if they expect to compete with Findlaw and other sites. Cutting off link juice without even telling us savvy and sophisticated attorneys was rude and a change of the material terms of my contract with them.  I was induced into entering into the contract based upon the trust and authority that posting right to their blog gave me. It was later concealed and changed to no follow. Forum selection clauses can be challenged when fraud is a factor in the case.  Whether this is a case of fraud, or pure breach of contract depends upon what a court or jury might say. It could just be the case that this was all an unfortunate mistake, or misinterpretation of the latest Matt Cutts edict. I elected to give LDC notice of the breach and time to cure, before I take any drastic action.

Notice of Breach and Time To Cure

A note to the reader that the written contract will typically cover the four corners of the contract and if it says that LDC can change their site when they want, that still does not change the fact that when you buy a service that contains A and A then later changed to B under cover of darkness, you no longer are receiving what was bargained for.  Evidence like keeping the change secret, certainly is convincing to a jury determining state of mind of the breaching party.  Some companies like Findlaw are headquartered in states where false advertising laws favor the dishonest party when compared to the consumer protection laws in California.  This is when you have to get creative and use the argument that fraud in the contract makes it an “illegal contract” and unenforceable as the forum selection clause. Lucky for me, California often overlooks these clauses in cases similar to the one at issue here.

That being said, these are powerful sites if they are sending juice to your site. At the end of the day, it would be better to try and cure the breach, and mitigate the damage they are doing to your rankings by turning off your juice.

My Conversations With Lawyers.com

The above is basically a synopsis of my conversation with Andre Franklin of lawyers.com a few weeks ago. He listened intently, and was nice.  He had no idea about any of the changes, and promised he would get back to me the following Monday.  That same Friday, I instructed our members as to the silent changes, at lawyers.com and we all assumed the worst, that lawyers.com would go the way of other human edited sites like hg.org and others that once provided such a valuable signal of trust.

I also discussed the fact that even directories like yahoo! and DMOZ were do follow as they are human edited and the links are thus, “vouched” links.  I expressed my consternation that lawyers.com has turned off its trust for us lawyers, but still trusts our checks we write then every month. How ironic.

In any event, I heard back from Andre Franklin last week, and he explained that I would be one of the first members to have the rel=”no follow” restrictions lifted, and the due to my call and complaints, that they were advising a new editorial policy and to expect a call back.  Today, Wednesday, I still have heard nothing, so I sent Kathy, an employee there, an email seeking advisement.  She responded that:

Hi Mr. Ehline – I just followed up with my manager, Andre Franklin.  He advised that he is speaking to the appropriate parties and awaiting the updated blog policy.  He will reach out to you as soon as he has more information.”

So although it is not a done deal, my efforts in mitigation seem to have moved the ball for all members of the Circle of Legal Trust, and the benefits of me being able to argue not just for me, but on behalf of all of you, really makes a difference.  I would rather have lawyers.com as a friend than an enemy. And perhaps, we lawyers finally are able to speak as a unified voice when it comes to us vouching for sites that take our money and cut off our benefits.

This is an evergreen article, so expect updates.  This story has legs.

Avoiding Google Penalties for Law Firms Understanding Hot-Linking

Nadrich

Nadrich law

Foreward by Michael Ehline, Esq. – Personal injury attorney. This piece is the first step that Jeff Nadrich, and indeed, Nadrich and Cohen, a California negligence attorney law firm, has taken to become a prospect into the the vaunted Circle of Legal Trust.  Nadrich assists law students and newly minted lawyers in getting into and understanding the basics of law firm management and the practice of law itself. With the internet being more and more, an integral part of any accident law practice,  Jennifer Poole, a Juris Doctor, brings us this exciting piece that definitely covers a hole that many of us COLT members have in our game.  Check it out!

By: Jennifer Poole, J.D.

One of the latest manual action penalties to be rolled out by Google is the Image Mismatch Penalty. The Image Mismatch Penalty is a response to the widespread practice of “hotlinking.”

What is Hotlinking?

Hotlinking is the practice of populating images on one’s own site with images from another website. Hotlinking was used primarily as a means to conserve bandwith and as a means to hijack images (copyrighted or otherwise) from other websites. When an image is hotlinked, the image returned by the SERPs is not the same image that appears on the website. Hotlinking is now an outdated and frowned-upon practice for which Google is now dishing out manual action penalties. This provides a poor user experience, hence, the reason behind the penalty.

How do I know if my site is subject to the Image Mismatch Penalty?

First, you will want to log into your site’s Webmaster Tools account and view “manual actions.” These penalties can be a site-wide penalty or a partial match penalty, depending upon the extent of hotlinking used by the site. This penalty will most typically carry the following warning:

“This site may not perform as well in Google results because it appears to be in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines.”

A common site-wide match penalty will be explained as follows:

“Reason: images from this site are displayed differently on Google search result pages than they are when displayed on this site.”

If I am not hotlinking, can my site still be subject to the Image Mismatch Penalty? Unfortunately, yes. There are four common practices that can trigger an Image Mismatch Penalty.

1. If you have anti-hotlinking protection scripts in place, you need to have your Webmaster review the scripts’ settings. There may be a very good reason to have these scripts in place, based on the type of site, e.g., copyrighted photography. These protective scripts intended to prevent hotlinking, can now trigger the Image Mismatch Penalty.

page1image18608

An anti-hotlinking script checks each image against a “trusted referring source” url, typically a “whitelist” of friendly urls selected by the program and/or the webmaster. If the image is not associated with a trusted url, then an error message is displayed instead of the hotlinked image. Google reads the error message as a form of hotlinking because a different image is returned to the user.

  1. If you have not been into your C-panel lately for your hosting account, you should review it immediately to make sure that you do not leave yourself open to this manual penalty. Many hosting companies offer a “no hotlink” setting as a value- added service to its customers. The no-hotlink setting runs a series of anti-hotlinking scripts as noted above.To find out if your hosting service is running anti-hotlinking scripts on your site, simply log in to your C-panel and review settings for anything described as “Anti-hotlinking,” or “Hotlink Protection.” If you find that an anti-hotlinking feature is enabled, you may want to disable the feature to prevent being subject to a Google Image Mismatch Penalty.
  2. You should also have your Webmaster review your .htaccess URL rewrites for images. URL rewrites are another anti-hotlinking setting and can trigger the penalty. Specifically, your webmaster will be looking for the following code rewrite rule in the .htaccess files:rewrite engine on rewrite rule/.(gif)$http://www.domain.com/nohotlinking.gifIf the rewrite feature is “on,” you will likely want to disengage the feature so as to prevent being subject to this manual penalty.
  3. Watermarking scripts can also trigger an image mismatch penalty. Watermarking scripts are most commonly used on artists’, photographers’, and various stock photo websites to prevent unlicensed use of the artwork or images. Watermarking scripts can be created using various software and add-ons, such as WP-PICSHIELD. Merely displaying watermarked images on one’s site can trigger the penalty because the website shows a different image than the one displayed in the SERPs. The watermarked image is seen by Google as an altogether different image, making one’s site subject to the Image Mismatch Penalty.
  4. What do I do if my site has been the subject of a manual Image Mismatch Penalty?

You will need to submit a reconsideration request via Google Webmaster Tools as you would for any other Google Manual Penatly. You would only submit your reconsideration

page2image20824

request after the offending practices have been discontinued. Remedial actions that your webmaster will need to take include the following: remove or disable any anti-hotlinking scripts, add google.com and no http_refer to the whitelist for any anti-hotlinking scripts. If you utilize a watermark script, you will also want evaluate other ways to protect your image and/or remove the script altogether.

Once the reconsideration has been requested and Google has revoked the manual penalty, you will receive notification via message in the Google Webmaster Tools.

Panda lawyers

Understanding Google and Negative SEO Against Attorneys

Table of Contents:

Learn about how blog networks will kill your rankings

Michael Ehline on Content networks

By Michael Ehline – First, let me apologize for not posting anything new or exciting recently on the Circle of Legal Trust blog.  I have been very busy trying to thwart incessant negative SEO attacks against our law firm’s website. In the process, I believe we have come up with an approach for identifying who some of the/our attacker(s) is/are, and how to win the skirmishes and battles against those who would do evil to your brand.

Unfortunately, the war can never be truly won until Google comes up with a method to disallow bad actors from harming the search results for top ranking sites. Until then, there will always be an environment of fear, uncertainty and doubt for those accustomed to Google’s more stable algorithm of the past. So for most lawyers like me, it is no accident that you fell on this aggressive attorney’s treatise on this more and more popular topic. Despite recovering millions of dollars for injured victims and having a stellar reputation as a personal injury attorney, for example, a few bad votes from bad neighborhoods, and you can easily lose your position on the semantic legal web.

The Discussion and Test Site Will Be About http://ehlinlelaw.com/ A Statewide Personal Injury Firm Based In So Cal

The Ehline Law Firm PC, is a personal injury attorney firm brand based in Los Angeles, CA, that has been up for about 8 years on the www. Most of our clients are car accident, cruise ship and motorcycle injury victims in the Northern and Southern California judicial districts. When we lose a position for those above terms, it effects our ability to meet our bottom line. Since assisting seriously injured victims is what we do, we were ill prepared for the havoc that post April of 2012, the month prior, would bring. As one of the first 5000 or so members of Google Plus, we were already engaging in social, and had already been top Mixxers, Diggers, and bloggers. So before Penguin broke, we had already created a brain trust of top ranking attorneys on Google Plus. Eventually the outcome of these efforts evolved into the Circle of Legal Trust. Now, our site and others are starting to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of Penguin, and the advent of aggressive, negative SEO.

Here, we will discuss the tools that your law firm should be using to find malicious linking to your legal site, how to get contact information about the attackers (not always possible), how to spot patterns, link spikes, and poor quality sites, both law related and non specific. I will also cover how to get rid of bad links you may have intentionally or unintentionally built to your law website.

I am also proposing the creation of an index of suspected negative seo networks so we can have a blacklist to quickly identify bad links and bad link networks. (we will include a link to our current “Google Links Disavow List” at the bottom resources later today.)  So get me your disavow lists and let’s compare notes and share. That way, we attorneys can help eachother take down these negative SEO networks.

So moving along. Any law firm that keeps getting loaded up with “exact match” anchors from “low quality sites” needs to read this this comprehensive treatise. Who knows, maybe Google will do something about this major problem if enough of us legal beagles start clamping down and spreading our stories.

Why The Circle of Legal Trust?

The Circle of Legal Trust has different levels of membership. The attorneys in the highest levels, are the ones who want to take control of their online presence, need to have their finger on the pulse of search, especially when it comes to understanding the semantic web. The attorneys at the top level become mentors to the newer attorneys seeking to get the “Law Degree” in Attorney Search. Our terms of use and rules, inter alia, mirror the Google, Bing and Yahoo! Quality Guidelines.

As a collective of lawyers, we can act as watchdogs both when it comes to what the search engines are up to, and help oversee eachothers’ websites when evil-doers are attempting to manipulate Google’s constant changes to harm us. We really don’t want people linking to our sites unless it is a legitimate vote, earned through a trusting relationship.

I know, for example, that when injury attorney, Anthony Castelli, links to my Gplus profile, or our firm site, that it was not a “guest post”, or some other artificial link. It was not an attempt to manipulate Google’s rankings, but instead, it was because he trusts me, he knows I understand attorney search and the quality guidelines, and he feels confident he is not linking out to a bad neighborhood.

He knows my firm and I have an excellent reputation for recovering significant monetary verdicts and settlements, and yet, I still make time to strengthen the public perception of the legal profession by my volunteer work with the Circle of Legal Trust. If he wants to voluntarily link to our law firm, he chooses the topic and anchor text, not me, and all I do is just be me. It is a real vote and I did not even need to campaign for it.  I was just being me.

Since COLT members are collectively light years ahead of most other attorneys in their web rankings, we all become unsuspecting [till now] targets of unsavory SEO companies whose clients (other attorneys we compete with), lost a lot of rankings when Google got smarter about detecting bogus and manipulative links. As we continuously improve and they don’t, a few negative SEO attacks, and we disappear or lose rank. The SEO people these firms may be paying, charge from $500, or maybe even $10,000 per month.  To keep a windfall of money like that coming in, these SEO people need to show results to keep that unjust enrichment coming in.

Even the law firm’s in house SEO people have to find a way to recover from Penguin FAST or they will picketing a McDonalds for a pay increase for flipping burgers lickety split. And since it is so hard to get a natural link on a contextually related, themed site, why not just pay someone a few dollars to blast a bunch of bad links to each competing site on page 1, and scale your site back onto page 1?  Sure, it will probably ignite a war of mutually assured destruction, with every firm on page one firing back at the firm that took over page 1. But who cares, so long as you can show a flow chart that your firm’s site popped back up and keep that check coming in.

So while it is a blessing to rank well on Google, and have a group of trusted attorneys who have vetted eachother giving eachother a helping hand, there are a lot of SEO companies and other bad actors, would rather pay $5 bucks to someone to blast one of our sites with bad links from Xrumer, for example, so they can pop up above your site, rather than engage in proper online ranking strategies. Getting this so far? If you can knock out the first page firms, and you are at the top of page 2, you go back to page 1. Simple!

Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Ranking on Google

So eternal vigilance in tracking your incoming links is now a mandatory, daily job, unless and until Google closes the negative SEO floodgate.  I for one, as a Google stockholder, am extremely dissatisfied that Google allows quality sites to essentially be destroyed by negative SEO. But at least Google has provided the ability for aggressive, vigilant attorneys to recover and defeat negative SEO, if you have the time, desire and it is affordable, or are simply ego driven to be the best, like me, you can stave off some of the effects of negative SEO.

Tough Choices

For now, many attorneys face two stark choices: (1) Watch your site like a hound and battle spam and malware attacks daily; (2) Invest more money into Pay Per Click and give up on organic search altogether. For those of us who ignore PPC when we search Google, we strongly see the value in a powerful organic presence and brand, and look at PPC as an adjunct to fill in the blanks if we don’ get what we want organically or via Google+..

Thinner Wallets

Unfortunately, now the money we would have spent on PPC, is now being used to pay off negative SEO sites that blackmail us, and to pay dedicated staff members to locate bad links; and our attorneys eat up billable hours doing DMCA take-downs on sites that are hurting, and scraping us. So although PPC use does seem to increase when Google tweeks the algo, the bid prices are now so high, that we now must focus all our energies in getting our organic rankings where they need to be and have had to use our resources like a mobile fire brigade.

Our PPC budget is now eaten up entirely – and some – by our efforts to eliminate or reduce the negative SEO.  This is a story I am hearing more and more from larger firms, and why I am writing this piece. So while I totally support getting rid of spam, etc., and I like PPC  (It is has doubled my stock values since Penguin was released :-)), I do not want to rely 100% on it, nor do I solely rely upon organic search. But now am seeing a mass exodus of attorneys in my circles, from Google PPC moving to Bing and Yahoo Paid Search! Stories range from “it looks like Google is trying to force us into PPC with these algo changes”, to “with the increased bid prices, despite using Google PPC for 15 or more years, we just could not afford it, and the leads were lower and lower quality” as PPC became more competitive and expensive.)

I could be wrong, but it seems like Penguin in particular, has made Google PPC a churn and burn tool that firms are using to try and save their Google ships from sinking. In the end, they spend whatever money they had left, and felt that they had to give up, or were being “Scroogled”. Whatever the reasons, numbers don’t lie, my Google stocks have doubled and I am gonna do whatever Google says to do, and go with the program.  Once I make a commitment, I am in it for the long haul. But below is an example of how easy it is to take a shortcut that is being used against our firm.

Example.  Attorney A, B, C rank ok in organic. A in number 1, B is number 3, and C is at the top of page 2. Attorney C knocks out A and B from organic SERPS with negative SEO and rises above their old slots and maybe takes slot 3, or 4.

Attorney C takes over the first page organic slots and A and B, for what amounts to $45.00 worth of bad links. Attorney A and B now are forced to bid entirely all their marketing budget against thousands of other people who have Higher PPC Quality Scores, whose sites are specifically optimized for PPC conversions and placements. A and B spend $50.00 per click for several months, and get low quality calls and leads and are even bidding on negative keywords they didn’t want and have to actually block, and simultaneously risk blocking a word they want to bid upon.

A and B scrap their web sites (just give up) and spend 50k a month for a few months on Google PPC, using up their entire yearly marketing budget in two months. The leads they do get from PPC are not at the same quality level as what they had gotten from organic, and they are starting to get angry.  They finally realize that they need to find another way to market online, and that Yellow Pages and bus stops are no longer effective.  Many of my friends realized in about June of 2012 that they would, as a matter of budget, have to turn to Bing and Yahoo PPC combined, and are at least able to [still] get some business. They would rather use Google, but now only huge firms can afford PPC, and SEO “experts” also can constantly attack PPC competitors with highly advanced PPC click farm attacks and control the first page of the organics and PPC. So now you are spending an inordinate amount of time doing click disputes to Google. My attorneys who are active in running their own marketing departments at the Circle of Legal Trust, have relayed to me that both Yahoo! and Bing are MUCH more likely to honor a click fraud dispute than Google.

So for many of us, assuming we want to be recognized online, we cannot effectively do everything, and none of dare use or trust organic SEO or PPC click management services like Reach Local. In fact, I personally believe that I was deceived by their salespeople in an ongoing dispute, and have the documentation to prove it. So we have to make stark choices. My hope is that Google will see my evidence below with respect to the major, and incessant attacks on our law firms’ site, along with the actual IP addresses and email addresses, emails, and list of black sites that are improperly trying to hurt, and are actually hurting our law firm’s organic rankings.

We are also going to show you, the average solo attorney or small firm with a shingle out, how to get rid of bad links. We know not whether we can demonstrate to Google how their new policies are forcing businesses in a tough economy to focus efforts on defeating attacks, rather than focusing their efforts on adding quality content and improving search results with fresh, quality content.

But we can help you protect yourself. We are just barely surviving, but remain confident. Negative SEO has become so prevalent against our site, and many other legal sites, our main thrust, and the focus of many law firms has gone from getting good links, to removing and stopping the bad links! My how times have changed.

So What is Negative SEO?

Back in January of 2013, I wrote a pretty comprehensive article about negative seo and lawyers here.  For the purposes of this article, we will try and confine our discussion to bad links. But in reality, it can be achieved by malware attacks, hacking that redirects and cloaks, and any number of other methods discussed here at the bottom, So for this article, Negative SEO is the process of building bad linking signals to a website, typically the website of a competitor that has risen above your site, for example, in the search engine results position (“SERPS”).

Building links, exact match anchor, or even branded, dirty or naked anchors from low quality sites, is the primary and cheapest method that most evildoers utilize to hurt your rankings on Google, Bing and Yahoo! Although in the past, since 2006, Google had said it was virtually impossible for a competitor to build bad links to your domain(s).

There’s almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. If you’re concerned about another site linking to yours, we suggest contacting the webmaster of the site in question. Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content of these pages.

Our search results change regularly as we update our index. While we can’t guarantee that any page will consistently appear in our index or appear with a particular rank, we do offer guidelines for maintaining a “crawler-friendly” site. Following these recommendations may increase the likelihood that your site will show up consistently in the Google search results. (Read more here.)

So even back as far as 2006, while although Google admitted that it was possible to take out a website with bad links, they made clear that is was almost a non issue. But then, a month or so before the first iteration of Google Penguin came out, in about March of 2012, Google had actually silently (no fanfare) changed changed their written policies to say that it now would be MORE possible for a bad actor to harm your website.

Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. If you’re concerned about another site linking to yours, we suggest contacting the webmaster of the site in question. Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content of these pages. (Read more here.)

As an attorney, this new language basically tells me that Google was being honest that there would be some more “give” with the new Penguin algo, that was just around the corner in April of 2012. Interestingly enough, right around this same time, our main site received a huge link spike of exact match anchors for terms we already had been number one, page one for years, from a huge network of Indian, Russian and Swiss based directories and low quality forums. It is almost as if someone on the inside at Google had tipped off some SEO webmasters of a shortcut to number one that was about to be unleashed.

Of course, back then we didn’t even know about tools like ahrefs, majestic or MOZ tools.  And we rarely used WM tools, and frankly, it was a waste of time, since it does not tell you the individual pages and file extensions where the bad links are. So we didn’t discover this information as to the dates the massive March 2012 link spikes occurred, until after the first release of Penguin when our site tanked, and desperately searched for, and located effective tools to help us identify negative SEO and bad links in general.

How Do I know If I Lost Organic Ranking

For you noobees, you may already know just by doing a Google search, or from your phone having stopped ringing.  But there is an easy way to check your traffic, either by using Google WM Tools, or by using any number of the paid tools we discuss in this treatise.

First, think like an attorney and do some reason and deduction.  When was the last Penguin update? We know from Google that the last Penguin update was “Penguin 2.1 (#5)”, on October 4, 2013. So let’s look at our traffic flowchart and see what happened to our website here:

DMCA and other takedows for Penguin

Screenshot of Ehline Law WM Tools

Ok.  So from a traffic point of view, we lost about a thousand impressions starting on October 4-5 and lost about 30 real clicks a day, until about October 8, which saw a sharp increase in traffic and then in started to fluctuate.  As of today it is down down down and that has coincided with a steady flow of exact match anchors from foreign language porn and Cialis sites. Unfortunately for us, the traffic we are now getting is not for what we are selling, but for our how to become a lawyer with no law school tutorial on our site. You see, we have great content and we get traffic from all over the place (Social signals, past clients link to us from their blogs, Circle of Legal Trust interactions, etc.), so this chart by no means represents just organic search impressions for our valued terms to keep our business alive.

So any net increase in traffic displaced our keyword terms, and other tools like Serpfox, show we fell off the map for terms like “Los Angeles car accident attorneys“, and “Los Angeles personal injury attorneys” compared to where we were before (Page 1, Slot 1, to page 3.) Based upon the timing and history of the Negative SEO links to our site, we see a direct relationship. So using the WM tools chart is not exclusive factor in making our determination that Penguin is hurting us big time.  The sharp drop in business and money terms and timing of the releases say yes, it was Penguin.

Other Factors that May Explain Our Apparent, Sudden Bounce Back In Traffic But Not For Search Terms

As soon as we heard Penguin was released in 2012, my team went to work and watched our SERPS.  We started reading articles about “link dilution” and discovered various link detection tools that apparently were being used by only a few big SEO firms. After using these awesome tools, we did a history of our domain and identified a huge spike in our BL profile for links containing the terms “accident” and “car accident”, and sure enough, using tools like SERPFOX, we were able to see that we lost rankings for all those terms post Penguin.

So we stopped adding valuable content, stopped researching ways to make a PPC campaign more effective, canceled client meetings, and went back to work on our site.  We spent several days doing DMCA Takedowns (and still are doing them almost weekly), notifying site owners and hosting companies, and for all negative sites, we did a disavow, not just a DMCA.

With the most recent Penguin, we dipped again and spotted a new attack that almost would have been overlooked by us, had Eric Enge not told us about foreign language sites. We found that digger deeper into these sites, that although they look English, they are really French, Russian, etc. So we doubled our efforts, and within a few weeks of doing this x 2, starting around October 29, 2013, and Google honoring DMCA’s that had already been submitted prior to the latest Penguin, we started to see our rankings return A LITTLE.

Eric Enge said in our Las Vegas seminar that we have to wait to recover, until the next Penguin update.  My only theories are that Google recently changed their recovery policy to be more dynamic like it used to be in the happy times, or that Penguin was still running and noticed that many of these bad links had been shed during the algo run.

A Consistent, Unrelenting Negative SEO Attack is Akin to Plugging a Dam With Your Fingers

Plug it

Plug the dam – Not

The bottom line, since April of 2012, we have been in a constant battle with negative SEO. When we get links taken down we move up. When a new attack begins, we go down. So we are probably not the best example site since there has not been a period where we have been bad link free. It is akin to plugging a dam with your fingers.  You plug one hole with your finger, and a new leak is detected from another area of the dam. But we are an example of a site that is spending almost all of its time trying to defeat attacks, rather than better our site (but isn’t cleaning bad links bettering your site?) So this is probably the best explanation as to why we have not disappeared altogether. Who knows?

So What is an Exact Match Anchor?

As you probably guessed from reading above, an exact match anchor is simply a string of keywords like: “Personal Injury Attorney”, “Car Accident Lawyer”, or some other set of words that searchers commonly use to find an “injury lawyer”, for example, when they type a search query into Google. But it could even be singe word like “Accident”. It used to be the case that the more exact match anchors you had to your site for the same term, the higher it would rank for that specific term (See also “Google Bomb“.)  But even as far back as 2006, it was known that a link from a blacklisted, or porn site, would probably hurt your site – but rarely did.  During the time, Google had been striving to give more credit to themed, contextually related external sites, and basically seemed to treat links from non themed sites in more of a neutral fashion.

When Penguin was finally released in April of 2012, it sought, inter alia, to identify too many exact match anchors to your site as unnatural, and it actually reduced the rankings and value of both the sending and receiving site. It worked(s) in tandem with Panda.  Based upon our testing, if your link is on an overoptimized site, even if it is NOT an exact match money term, you still get punished. Google says it is not a penalty, but an algorithm change that can be recovered from.

In fact, Google even sent out notices via Webmaster Tools, informing many site owners that they had unnatural appearing links, so they could have a chance to restore their site’s value by getting the crappy links removed.  But many people were unable to get many of these now “unnatural” links taken down, as many if not all, were naturally obtained, and the parties linking back either refused to remove them, or wanted to be paid, or simply did not respond to multiple removal requests.

There was no link disavowal tool yet for Google, and Bing already had one of their own, beating Google to the punch.  While Google debated internally on a disavow tool, Matt Cutts said that some webmasters may be better off trashing their poorly linked sites, and starting over!

If you’ve cleaned and still don’t recover, ultimately, you might need to start all over with a fresh site, Matt Cutts said.

Reading some of the comments on the site link above containing that quote, webmasters and site owners were none too happy, and they almost universally and desperately called for a Google “links disavow tool”, and even for Matt Cutts’ very head.  In the meantime, Wikipedia and new, one or two page sites with little to no links started to dominate the first page results for major keyword searches, and many businesses who relied upon their search presence went under, or had to lay people off. So strategies had to be developed to get rid of bad links and recover, or start over from scratch. I am proud to say that Circle of Legal Trust led the Herculean effort at saving our members’ branded, time tested sites.

Google’s Official Position – Negative SEO is It’s “Rare”

Matt Cutts, Google’s representative, has said that negative SEO is “rare”. Considering there are millions of sites and only ten or so organic slots on page one, I agree. But I disagree that it is rare as to those previously top ranking sites that have been blasted to the back page of Google.  I have personally felt, and am still feeling the effects of Negative SEO on our brand and on our law firm. We have consistently been on page one for many key terms and phrases for at least seven (7) years, and even have maintained a PageRank Six (6), for several years.

It was not until these huge link spikes and foreign blog networks started to blast us with exact match anchors in about March of 20012, that our slots of the Google Atlantic Ocean suffered, and we no longer enjoyed the “glückliche Zeiten“.  Advances in spamming technology made it far more possible than ever for your boat to get sunk by a weaker opponent. And we have all seen many first page companies fall.

Even doing a cursory backlinks check on personal injury attorney websites that historically had used to be on page one, I have seen this same pattern.  Tons of exact match anchors were blasted to their sites starting right around March of 2012, right before Penguin, Panda and Hoard hit. What surprised me more, is that it appeared that many of the sites that ended up taking over those ten slots on page one, emanated from legal blog networks, such as Findlaw’s Firmsites.

Enter the Negative SEO Industry

There are also numerous reports of other non attorney sites getting hit and disappearing, as well as documented tests proving how easy it is to destroy a high ranking website for $45.00. In fact, a whole new industry of negative SEO companies has arisen, using old directories and blog networks that used to do well in Google, to link out to your site to hurt you in Google.

They do it so you will pay them to remove the links (aka blackmail/extortion), and/or to help your competitors hurt your site. They even will have a link to paypal to remove the link on the “contact us” page.  Genius! (I will show you some screenshots below along with an estimate on how much it has cost us to pay for removals of our links from sites we never asked to be in) And of course, around that, a whole new industry of “link removal” has risen up like a phoenix. So if it is so rare, why is it costing me and others hundreds of thousands of dollars to deal with? How can you focus on building a quality site, when all your efforts are now focused on keeping what you have?

The Google mantra became: Really good sites would get natural links and you should be fine.  But as Pot Pie Girl correctly pointed out, and I will prove in this article, beyond the intentional negative SEO, there is indirect negative SEO. “You get scraped, copied, syndicated, spammed, and so on and so on.  Those really good sites that linked to the original article and your post also get scraped, copied, syndicated, and spammed as well.” [Emphasis.] (View Source.)

So in my opinion negative SEO hurts Google’s reputation, and bottom line, and it hurts primarily people who were on page one. Sure more people turn to PPC, but the keyword bid prices for law firms are so high, many stop using it soon thereafter. In any event, why would somebody do negative SEO on a site that was on page 3 of Google? Of course it’s “rare”. It can be the result of unintended acts, as well as intentional acts by third parties, AND from a site owner intentionally spamming Google. The algo does not discriminate. So is it fair to let sites get wiped out from these attacks? Wiser legal minds than mine could answer that:

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer” (Sir William Blackstone.) Hopefully Google will revisit what is happening once they read this comprehensive report on the disastrous effects of negative SEO on innocent lawyer websites.

Look for Exact Match Do Follow When Cleaning Your External Links Profile, Unless You Built a Lot of Spammy No Follow Links

What is a do follow versus a rel=”no follow” link? Simple, a do follow passes “link juice” (learn more), which directly effects ranking, and a rel=”no follow” does not pass link juice, and only indirectly effects SERPS (example would be that a site with zero rel=”no follow links” looks unnatural to Google.) Matt Cutts has already made clear that no follow links will not hurt you, unless you have a lot of spammy (eg exact match anchors), links or links on obviously bad neighborhoods (defined as a web page that has been penalized by a search engine (most notably Google) for using shady SEO tactics, such as hidden text or link farms), on a large scale pointed to your site. (Learn more about rel=”no follow” here.)

How do I Tell if a Link is Rel=”No Follow” or Do Follow?

Ok, so now, depending upon your level of expertise, your asking, how is a basically trained attorney gonna find these do follow or no follow links? Well, don’t be alarmed first of all. To begin with, there is no identifier that spells out a do follow link like the rel=”no follow” attribute.  It is simply and automatically a do follow link unless the landing page itself is set up to no-index all the content on the page, or unless the url (your links with or without a file extension), is set up as a rel=”no follow” link with attribution.  Incidentally, there are also attributes like rel=”vote for” and rel=”publisher”, which we discuss another day, and to be ignored when you are sifting your external links. Get it so far?

I am chuckling because you are still left holding the bag trying to locate them quickly right? Wrong. ahrefs and all the other tools have a feature that allows you to locate and even filter out no follow versus do follow links. You can also use your mouse and right click view source and the to an edit “find” in your toolbar editor and type “follow” and look for the links on the page. Below is a screenshot of how to filter the search to locate only the do follow links feature on “ahrefs”.  You would simply login to ahrefs, and enter your url in the explorer box, and then in the left under BACKLINKS, click “Anchors”.  This will cause all the referring anchors to display, At which point, you click “DOFOLLOW” (See below.)

re="no follow" screenshots

Helping lawyers find no follows

Of course, you can also keep the anchor link search at default “all”, shown above, and ahrefs will simply show you an anti box next to each link to your target site. Here is a screenshot:

Ahrefs no juice passed

Example of a search on ahrefs for lawyers seeking no follows

In the example above, you can see the anchor text “www.ehlinelaw.com”, is really just a naked anchor from Scoop.it, so you are ok.  No need to disavow or try and delete that one.  In fact, you may even get some traffic to your site. Cool!

How Do I Find the Offending Site Owners and Hosting Company(ies)?

Great question.  Most of the time, they are privately registered. If not they are foreign sites. So make sure to use the Google Translation Tool when you send a takedown.  In any event, we like to use http://who.is

Just enter in the url of the offending site, and you will generally get domain registrar info, hosting info and SOMETIMES the actual email contact of the site admin and owner(s). Most of the time these are bogus e mail addresses and a waste of time. Sometimes you get lucky and get a response, as you will see at the bottom of this report.

Enter LSI as a Game-Changer

Some people did in fact trash their crusty old sites, and started over with new sites and in most cases, and for all intents and purposes, unintelligible LSI written legal pages became the new backlink for law sites. In effect, write a page like Carl Sagan, or William F. Buckley Jr. spoke, and you will rank high. Ok, now that you get that, let’s get back to brass tacks.

Is It Really Negative SEO or Is It Bad Content?

Great question right? I mean, after all, you don’t want to go removing all your link signals, if it is perhaps the Panda punishing your site for duplicate, thin, redundant, or semantically poor site (Read more about attorneys and Google Panda here.)  I would say in many cases, it is in fact bad content.  But think about this for a minute, if the stuff linking back to you is written anything like an over-optimized site that links to, you got trouble buddy. So as you read the articles and content in the link snippet area that links back to your attorney site, what do you see? Do you see constant, repetitive words like: “If you were seriously injured in a Los Angeles bicycle accident, accident lawyer attorneys for crash law are here to help at 888 SPAM-MENOW.” This is called over-optimization, and it used to work VERY well to alert Google as to what your site was about.

If you see stuff like that on your site, or the site linking to you, no matter what kind of link, be it naked, branded or exact match, get that link taken down by hook or by crook! Rewrite your site using the same natural language that an intelligent lawyer would normally use (yeah right – no write like William F. Buckley Jr.) Use semantically related words and phrases. Make sure sites that link back to you do this as a matter of common practice, or don’t rush to get that link! Understanding this so far?

It Could Be Both Bad Links and Bad Content

As noted above, it is very possible that your site got a double whammy. So obviously, you need to be very careful. You need to look at the sites that are beating you and look at their content, backlinks and other user signals and reverse engineer this. So don’t go running out disavowing links. But DO remove duplicate copyrighted content! Especially if it has links pointing back to your site.

Effect of the Google Links Disavow Tool

So many misguided webmasters try and sell us lawyers on the concept of simply disavowing the bad links. After all, so far there has been no downside. But not so fast.  As will be discussed infra, Google does not even guarantee they will ignore all the bad links, and they even encourage you to get them taken down yourself.  For this and other reasons, I have VERY little faith in this tool.

How to Find Exact Match Anchors on Your Legal Website

Where are These Exact Match Anchors Coming From?

  • Ezine Type Sites
  • Press Release Sites With Do Follow Exact Match Anchors
  • Lawyers.com or Findlaw Sites that Constantly Get Scraped
  • Do Follow Wiki Sites that Allow Public Edits
  • Social sites that get scraped
  • Do Follow Forums
  • Do Follow Blog Comments
  • Cialis and Viagra Sites
  • Other sources -Porn, Russian, Chinese and foreign language sites of all types
  • Site-wide Sidebar or Footer Links on ANY of the above sites are instant death.

Efforts at Mitigation Must Follow An Understanding of the Types Sites That Google Does Not Like

Ok. So first let’s wrap our brains around Google’s hammering of Ezine in 2012.  Google basically said that article republishing sites are really not themed, most people don’t go to an ezine to find, say a lawyer, and they are really just used to manipulate the SERPS, while offering no real value when they flood non themed sites looking for content filler, with duplicate articles, on say, their pool cleaner site(s). Incidentally, knowing this, if you are a negative SEO company, this is the first place you go to try and hurt someone right?

Ezines

Of course, if you used exact match anchors in your ezine author’s box, and your articles were shared across a blog network of dry cleaners, porn sites, and other garbage sites, that definitely hurt and is hurting you. Imagine having links like “personal injury attorney” from a pool cleaner site.  Especially a pool cleaner site that was probably exclusively created with scraped, or shared articles. No thanks. Penguin would definitely hurt both the sending and receiving sites.  The contextual relationships between both sending and receiving sites are simply too far attenuated (Penguin FILTER!) Besides, it is simply a duplicate article. (no value at all.)

So for our law firm, in order to mitigate, we immediately, within days of chatter about Ezine getting hammered in 2012, deleted our article sharing accounts on ezines, and articlesbase, despite all the traffic and lead generation we got. We decided we could see where this was headed, and would rather not argue. Lucky for us, the few sites that did pick up our articles, were mostly rel=no follow and the ones that were do follow were usually cooperative in removing our articles with no real hassle other than the time it took to contact the webmasters. We did this within weeks of Penguin breaking in 2012.

Lawyers.com and Findlaw

This is a huge problem that was addressed by Pot Pie Girl, supra. Authority sites get scraped constantly, along with the links.  This means now you have the ezine effect, with potentially hundreds of websites copying and pasting your content ad infinitum onto a never ending supply of scraper sites. There are only a few ways to deal with this, as will be discussed, the big question will be whether you own the content, or not. Sites like Chimyen literally copy and paste every lawyers.com article and blog post onto their sites along with your links (of course it is a privately registered site.)  Google knows it is a BS site, and the links to your site from them hurt you now. Understood? Hello DMCA. This is when you use the DMCA.

Wiki Sites

Lucky for you, most of these sites allow public edits.  Many are do follow unfortunately. So the best thing to do is remove your links and ALSO disavow the site, just in case it comes back again. This is the same firm, we opine, as they are still spamming the term “accident”. I posted a screenshot of this link scam set up below. http://www.lsi.us.es/~wiki/dsdm/index.php?title=Evaluate_Car_Insurance_Quotes_United_Kingdom&oldid=1014194

Evaluate Car Insurance Quotes United Kingdom - RedDSDM 2013-12-11 16-16-57As you can clearly see in the example above, it looks like a decent article and would probably pass ezine community edits, etc. But it is on a foreign language site. Obviously, to Google, this is spam, as an English article on a French or Spanish site, it adds no value whatsoever. Besides that, the wiki site itself is pure BS. It is filled with a bunch of commercial links and scraped content.  Even after we created an account and tried to remove our link off of this garbage site, the “wiki edit history” keeps the link on the site. So all we can do is disavow and pray Google will ignore it. We get links everyday from garbage sites like this, and it is hurting us.

Social Sites that Get Scraped

It is common to see articles and news clips get scraped onto crummy networks of news aggregators with your links. Disavow when you find em just to be safe.

Do Follow Forums

For years, there were primarily Indian based companies trying to sell people links from forum comments. Apparently there are paid programs people can use that mass submit exact match anchors to multiple, usually un-administered sites. You need to disavow and contact the site owner who was spammed with your links, and do whatever you have to in order to get them removed. When these Indian companies had their networks outed as spam after Penguin, they converted their networks over to paid negative SEO and probably have not suffered much.

Do Follow Blog Comments

Same as forums.

Cialis and Viagra, PORN It has long been known by Google that Cialis, Viagra and porn, are highly spammed topics.  So if a negative SEO company can get YOUR law firm’s exact match anchor onto a few of these sites, you are toast.  His client pops up above yours, and you disappear from the first page for that keyword unless you are very aggressive and get Google’s attention. So if you see sidebar or blogroll links, or if the entire site or page itself is dedicated to these topics, contact the site owner right away, as he may have been hacked, or at least let him know you are going to disavow the site unless your links are removed. http://exthoughts.com/article.php?id=20657

Other Sites – Porn, Russian, Korean, Chinese and Foreign Language Sites

Identifying a Low Quality Site Using Tools

Ok, so now what Mike?  There are a lot of way I can get hit, but how do I even know?  I am busy running a law practice and pay someone else. What do I do?  Well, for me, I want to do it myself, since it could be those very people you are hiring who are using bad tactics that got you here, or they just are not as savvy and sophisticated as they need to be to accomplish your mission of a clean site. So you can hire Eric Enge, or you can learn how to protect your own brand and use Eric as a consultant till you learn.  The only other person I can recommend is Andre van Wyk.  But for those of you with brass balls like me, you learn. So keep on reading.

Ok. So Now I have Identified What Types of External Links Google Doesn’t Like But How Do I Find Out If This is Happening to Me?

I am glad you asked.  So first, as discussed, there are several tools out there, from Majestic SEO, ahrefs, Open Site Explorer and so on.  They all offer a pretty much worthless free link tool that shows you a few of the links they found, as well as the anchor text, in relation to your site. And they all offer much better paid link detection platforms. None of them seem to find all your external links, as they all DO return a few examples that one other detection platform may not return.  Google WM tools also offers snapshot of your backlinks, but fails to show the actual landing page, or anchors of the links to your site, so it is pretty much worthless too IMHO.

We Use Ahrefs Paid Tools, So this is What We Will Use Here

So for this query, you create a paid account with ahrefs.com, and then type in your site url.  Now there are several ways you can crawl your site. You can set it up to crawl only the externals pointing to your landing page itself, or you can set it up to find links to all pages on your site.  So for purposes of this tutorial, we are going to crawl for all links to each child page and the home page of our site.

*.domain/* is what you would use: See image here below >>>

ahrefs domain

Domain

So go ahead and enter the url of your site into the explorer bar, and click “Search Links”. Next step is to click “Anchors” on the left column.

Other Examples of  Attacks Against Our Law Firm Web Site

So using the tool above, searching anchors, you can find all the sites and the terms they link to you with. Although Google asserts these attacks are rare, we beg to differ.  Our rankings virtually disappeared compared to what they were, after these concerted attacks.

Bad Neighborhood Blog Networks.

(Typically a network of multi purpose blogs that are now being used to hurt sites, instead of helping them. Could be your own scraped content, or just a sitewide link on a bunch of PR0 sites that are probably already de-indexed or filtered by Google)

Ex. Would be a company that charges approximately $5.00 to $500.00, to blast scraped or user even generated articles to hundreds of sites that all use the same template, content and backlink blogrolls.

Here is a screenshot from a link to a very spammy template page we successfully had taken down on hundreds of sites using the same template:  http://car-info.netne.net/Motorcycles/Protective_Gear_On_The_Rider_And_The_Bike__otorcycle_Awareness_3965.html << We are in the process of doing a DMCA on this site now but wanted to be able to do a screenshot first.

Automated Domain Farm

Example of a Domain Farm

As you can see, this is a non themed site that probably made someone a lot of money from ranking different types of sites selling sidebar backlinks, that uses scraped content as “filler”. Probably made someone money prior to Penguin, but now acts as a boat anchor on the rankings sites that it links to. The articles to our firm website are versions of ours, but have been slightly altered and filled with multiple exact match links to our site. Clearly not done by us, or at our behest, but Penguin sure would think it was ours.

By the way, this is day two editing this article, and here is the response from the sending site’s hosting company. Site taken down, Victory!

DMCA Takedown Notice (submitted from website)

Inbox
x
Hosting24.com <abuse@hosting24.com>

11:58 PM (10 hours ago)

to me
PLEASE DO NOT EDIT THE SUBJECT OF THIS EMAIL!************************
REPLY HAS BEEN ADDED:
************************Hello ,Listed abusive account has been terminated. Thank You for taking the time to report this.It has been my pleasure to assist you today. If you have any further questions or concerns feel free to contact us again.Best Wishes,
Jillian N.
Help Desk StaffBusiness Enterprise Hosting Media
www.hosting24.com********************
ORIGINAL MESSAGE:
********************You have 24 hours to remove our copyrighted content here:
http://car-info.netne.net/Motorcycles/Protective_Gear_On_The_Rider_And_The_Bike__otorcycle_Awareness_3965.html

Later, in our email screenshots with the owner or controller of this network, it is revealed that someone, anyone can blast anything they want on a network of hundreds of partner sites. He alleges that it was done by someone else, another law firm in another state. He even provided me with information about who he thinks may have done it, that I forwarded to Eric Enge and provided the screenshot below.

There are many other sites in this same network that all HAD the same exact article and links embedded on them with the same exact template.  Most have been taken down at the host level, due to our aggressive tactics in notifying hosting companies and threatening copyright actions. At the bottom, are the email screenshots with a list of other links on this network that took us months to take down, and of the colloquy between me and the admitted owner of many of the above domains.

Other Examples:

(porn sites with membership, dry cleaners and other wikis with old publishing platforms or compromised interfaces that allow public edits with or without user logins.) Typically, although many of these these sites have zero PR, and are probably deindexed, Google still counts the links from them.  This is why I do not believe a DMCA is even enough to clean up your backlinks. Assuming Google counts links on deindexed sites, even a DMCA cannot help you!

You have to get the content and the links removed to have security and peace of mind. Here are some examples of some screenshots of nasty sites that are linking to us that we do not want in our backlinks profile for the term “accident”, a highly sought after term for a catastrophic injury law firm!

Directory Listings:

  • Here is one with a broken contact info and private registration. http://www.linkcross.info/index.php?c=44&p=51 <<< Disavowed since that was all we could do.

Directory Networks This is typically a network of old school PHP directories that are paid or scraped listings of lots of businesses.  (They typically use exact match anchors for terms you already rank for to try and hurt you and make you fall. Neg SEO people use mass submission programs, and typically blast exact match links to thousands of directories all at once for the same term to create a huge link spike. This of course, will simultaneously trigger a filter that hurts your rankings.) There is a screenshot below of directory listings we do not want, did not pay, or ask to be in, and have repeatedly contacted owners from whois data, and since disavowed in WM tools having had no luck at removal.

Scam Directories that Put Links Up and Then Demand Payment to Remove the Links

At the other extreme, are these directories that started adding links with terms you want to rank for. Typically, when you go to the Contact Us, it takes you right to a “Pay $20.00 to remove your link” form. I can attest that we have spend at least $15,000 doing that in the last year and a half.  Below are screenshots of the sites, the contact us forms and the demand for payment of just a few of these sites.  And oh yeah, we DID NOT ask for these links, or pay or do any kind of reciprocal campaign. These are PURE extortion sites.

Scraper Sites:

Here is an example of Chimyen, a very low quality scraper site that hides all of its contact data on who.is, and that scrapes content from my lawyers.com blog posts and the anchor text.  Killing me.  Every time I do a DMCA takedown on one of my posts, ten more pop up. Disavow the entire site, and keep on trying to find a way to get the content removed. Any ideas?

Example of content scraped:

Scrape

Scraper site

This is one of the many sites that duplicates links and content that Google probably thinks our firm has something to do with.  But here, the source was on lawyers.com. We went so far as to delete the article off of lawyers.com but it is still on Chimyen and there is no way to content the site owner.  Trust me we have TRIED.

Advanced Negative SEO Is Designed to Appear to Google that You Definitely Put Up The Links

Here is an example on a POS Cialis site, that any manual reviewer would say we created. http://exthoughts.com/article.php?id=20657 You can see that this company is targeting our home page for “accident”.

Neg Seo Spam

ADVANCED SPAM

In the example above, starting in about November, 2013, a string of articles like this started popping up in a hrefs linking to us for the term “accident”.  The article seems like it makes sense at first glance. But when you read it, you are left scratching your head as to why it is on a Viagra site. Even more confusing is why anyone would link to a lawyer’s home page for the term “accident.” It is not defined on the lawyer homepage. It just is too slick.

It doesn’t make sense. Accident, in connection with personal injury is not the same as it would be in connection with drugs like Cialis. In any event, a dictionary definition would be a better page to link to for this search term. That link does not even need to be there anyways. This is precisely the kind of reverse engineered negative SEO that the Google algo triggers as suspected spam.  I am no dummy as far as these tactics go, but the level of sophistication of this individual made me read the article and look at the theme of the site twice before I recognized it as an unnatural link.

Cloaked Doorway links.  Here is an example of a link to our site we did not request that is buried in a porno site on some days and on other days it goes back to its normal url. It appears the Negative SEO company has hacked into a porno website, and cloaked our link underneath images. http://udycomidec.comeze.com/p-government-building-san-francisco.php

If you click view source, you will see our links embedded into the porno site: “<p><a target=”new” href=”http://www.ehlinelaw.com/” >Ehline Law Firm PC | Aggressive California Accident Lawyer | Los …</a><br/>Serving San Francisco, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego and Orange.”

Whether to Use the DMCA or Disavow Tool, or Both, Depends Upon Many Factors

The Domain Copyright Act, or DMCA can be a very effective tool for eliminating your content that you own from the Google index, that also contains links to your legal site that is placed upon another site. The question to ask is, is it your own content, or is it a pure negative SEO attack with just external links, and someone else’s content? If it is yours, this is the best way to have the content and links deindexed.  Google also takes steps to notify webmaster who is in violation, that their page was just de indexed, and they will typically have to respond to a ticket that the page was ultimately deleted by that webmaster, in order to get the ticket(s) closed.

In other cases, we have heard reports that Google also notifies the hosting companies – which we recommend you do first before notifying Google, Bing and Yahoo! – and the host will often take down the entire site until your content is removed. But as I discussed above, Google does count links in other de indexed content with respect to blog networks, so why would it not still follow links in a copyrighted article that has been de indexed, but not removed. Are you getting this? Disavow for good measure, but don’t take your eye of the ball. Get that content pulled down!

So obviously, the DMCA provides the optimal muscles to get content and the links within the content removed, and works whether or not your article or copyrighted works were scraped from your article the Findlaw blog network, or the Lawyers.com legal blog. After all, there is a chance the hosting company will force the blog owner or scraper network owner to take down your content permanently. So that should pretty much cover the DMCA as a tool. Soon we will go into detail on our view of the proper use, and effectiveness of the disavow tool for all the other links that suck. But what about compensation for all the money your are spending to maintain your site?

You Have No Legal Basis To Demand of Someone To Remove a Link in Most Cases Unless You Own the Content The Link is Embedded in, or Do You?

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act makes it clear that merely linking to a website is not illegal and that even bad, false and defamatory content posted by third parties on a first party site such as Yelp, for example, is protected. (Source.) Even anonymous reviews are deemed protected as far as the site where info is posted goes, unless the owner of site itself is the person doing the negative reviews and negative SEO links. In fact, there is a process in place to sue the actual party who posted the information, assuming they are not hidden underneath proxies and tunnel servers, etc. (Read more.) In any event, at least one court has also ruled there is no cause of action for trademark dilution, infringement or unfair competition. Good luck if that is your argument.

Below are some snippets taken from Out-Law.com that explain what you cannot sue for with respect to backlinking:

“…hyperlinks do not transmit a work, (to which they link) they merely provide the viewer with information as to the location of a page that the user can choose to access or not. There is thus no communication of the work.”  (source) … “Just as an improved search-engine that improves the ability of users to locate material for which they are searching should not be required to obtain permission as a matter of copyright law, so providing links or access to material already publicly available should not be regarded as an act that requires any authorization” (source) “… every internet user enjoys access to the work simply by learning the uniform resource locator (URL) the court held. The hyperlink technique obviates the need to enter the URL manually and merely provides an easier and more convenient way to use the internet.” (source) “… Kranten.com successfully argued that such deep linking to other sites is a widespread and commonly accepted practice on the internet and because, as in UK law, news articles can be copied for the purpose of reporting current events, provided there is sufficient acknowledgement.” (source) [Emphasis]

Other Arguments Creating a Potential Right of Action

Since negative SEO is a relatively new phenomenon that Google is allowing at a level it was not allowed at before, it stands to reason that a creative attorney could sue the company selling the negative SEO services, as well as any co conspirator. In fact, many negative SEO companies are selling you the right to destroy the business and business models of competing law firms.

Unfair Business Practices – Tortious Interference With Business

In other words, this is probably an Unfair Business Practice Under California Business and Professions Code Section 17200 et. seq., and is in such bad faith, that it seems a court could easily find an exception to punish bad actors with unclean hands.  Some NegSEO companies will cloak the external links to your law firm site, into a porn site, for example and try and make it appear as though you did it!  Clearly this can also damage a lawyers’ non virtual reputation, and even possibly get him or her into trouble with the State Bar. Something has to give.

Identity Theft

Remember Google punishes negative SEO based upon the premise that YOU did it. You built these bad links to your site. This means you could do a mixed bag pleading, and even forward criminal allegations to the attorney general of your state and the United States. Identity theft across state lines would entail the FBI getting involved as well, would it not? There may even be a private attorney general’s statute for you to recover attorney’s fees.

Other Ideas to Sue Bad Actors for Bad Links

We are still on the fence whether or not there are other claims that could be sued upon like intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent and intentional interference with business, and so on.  Just because a link is not a protected trademark, and more akin to a library index card, does not mean that so called “library index” cannot be used as a tool to intentionally hurt someone’s website by reducing its ranking, and overall brand value. At least, we think negative SEO has opened up a whole new test area for lawsuits. But this does not mean you should not mitigate.

Why the Links Disavowal Tool Is No Ace in the Hole

Google has already said there is no guarantee they will ignore the bad links, and to top it off, the links still appears in your overall ahrefs profile.  So you never really can monitor your true ratios of types of links until those links are gone. (View Source.)

A copy of what a disavow chart should look like

Please note that www. is actually a subdomain of http://mydomain.com. So when creating your disavow file for uploading, make sure and make BOTH domain:www.mydomain.com and also domain:mydomain.com on the list, just to make sure. Get it? If not, I will be including a link to our current disavow blacklist below. Please note that although some of these sites are no longer live, or have removed our links, I am not risking taking these sites off the list. These are sites we feel are bad.

When All Else Fails Return a Hard 404 and Delete the Targeted Page From Your Site

A hard 404 error simply returns a page not found.  Inherently, Penguin seeks to punish a page ONLY for the terms in overoptimized. So if your “car accident” child page lost rank after a Negative SEO attack, and it does not recover, you can ask the people who linked to you with GOOD links to like to a new page on your site for “car accident”, and you can delete the old page and return a 404 page not found.  But NEG SEO people typically target the first page of your site, since most sites rank their home page for most highly sought after searches. Obviously, you do not want to return a 404 error against your main page. So you cannot always use this doomsday approach.

Evidence of an Ongoing, Current Negative SEO Attack Against Our site for the term “Accident”

This particular attack that we think started around November of 2012, is part of the foreign language Cialis ring, and obviously being done by a pro. They use the same templates for the most part, but also mix it up and throw stuff on any site that is foreign and also has security holes, or lack of administrators to clean up spam. I now am able to recognize the writing style. It is probably German or Swiss, based upon the translations and way certain words are reversed. I only know this due to my experience in foreign languages regarding male and female, formal or informal.

On one of the articles, on one of their sites, you can tell it is a bunch of spun, scraped content, combining divorce law, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc., all jarbled and non sensical with legal terms.  It also links to one of my friends, Emery Ledger, an attorney in Newport Beach, California, and to our firm’s website with the anchor text “accident” once again. This is a very persistent negative SEO company, or in house SEO person, and I have actually been able to get his IP address(es) (assuming he is not using a proxy, etc), and e mail(s) contact(s) from a few of the sites he has spammed with links pointing to us.

We believe we have traced this person and connected the dots to another lawyer who dislikes both Emery and I personally, and are taking steps to deal with this at the California State Bar level.

operation payback

The screeenshot above is blurry so here is a copy and paste.

“RE: Feedback from Attorney Michael Ehline

Inbox
x
admin FLV <admin@flvhosting.com>

Nov 29 (12 days ago)

to Attorney

Hi

Thanks for pointing that out

Here is the email address

sreymeixi@hotmail.com

ip 69.163.37.124

 

Good luck

We will be deleting all content from this user account and advising of security changes needed to make

Mike McGuinness

www.flvhosting.com

Help Desk

www.flvhelp.com

1-888-409-3500

Skype flvhosting

|  FLASH VIDEO HOSTING |APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT | FLV FLASH SOFTWARE | Hi DEF ENCODING |  

From: Attorney Michael Ehline [mailto:michael@ehlinelaw.com]
Sent: Saturday, November 30, 2013 1:25 PM
To: admin@flvhosting.com
Subject: Feedback from Attorney Michael Ehline

Department: Violations

Message: There is a person spamming your site and mine who is scraping our content. This is pure commercial spam. If it is not deleted we will disavow the site and use the DMCA. Here is the offending account. We would appreciate it if you would give if the e mail contact of the spammer so we can sue them. http://www.urbantelevision.com/blog/10937/driving-in-my-car-beep-beep”

As seen above, we got an IP and email to the actual spammer.  Our research on sreymeixi@hotmail.com revealed accounts set up as a man, and woman with various user names on easy to access spam sites throughout Russia, Germany, and other European countries.  Now, I have no way of knowing if this is a false lead. But we believe that in conjunction with the other evidence, the source was reliable, and not in a conspiracy.  So we researched the IP further, and among other things, we discovered that the IP range has been blacklisted for spamming on at least 20 domains. Sound familiar?  Check it now here.

Here are a few shots of this spammer’s work against us on other sites. You can clearly see the level of sophistication of this spammer.  The stuff is doing really makes our site backlink profile look like we are a bunch of semantic dirtbags: In this below example, we have contacted the webmaster of AliceOcean at least 6 times with zero response. It is so far removed from anything personal injury related. Yet it again uses the term accident with our home page link embedded into it. What on earth does a law for have to do with making a “spa more inviting”. Again, this is clearly being done to hurt us. Then when you look at the site itself. It has a bunch of random commercial links for home remodeling.  Clearly not a topical or theme relevant site. Clearly goes against everything I have been teaching my COLT members to avoid for almost two years now. Exactly what Penguin seeks out. Check it out:

Alice Ocean Negative SEO

Alice Ocean Negative SEO

Here below, is another example from the same negative SEO spammer and it is really a whopper.  It is a Korean Language site.  A church for crying out loud.  You really couldn’t go much further off topic from a personal injury attorney than a church. I mean are you kidding me? Does Matt Cutts or Eric Enge really think I would ever allow this kind of crap?

Blacklist Korean Negative SEO

Korean Church Negative Seo

Notice that this site uses the same template and comment section as the Alice Ocean Negative SEO site above it? Me thinks we are zeroing in on a blog network. In fact, this guy is so smart, he is even placing our links on mirror, clone rel=”no follow” sites for the same anchor term “accident” here:

http://www.big-beggar.info/web/blog/show/blogid/26844/id/13670

http://big-beggar.com/web/blog/show/blogid/26844/id/13670

Here is another one for a Los Angeles accident attorney that talks about Chicago and mentions Pennsylvania divorce law, and even mentions one of my friends in OC. This has got to end.

exboard - Outlines For Rapid Programs Of Accident Attorney 2013-12-11 18-22-27So after seeing the above screenshots, and comparing the content on our site, blogs and history of links to our site, it is clear that we do not put out this kind of content historically.  This is poorly written, is usually placed upon a porno site, dry cleaner site, Korean church, or some other Russian Language Site.  What is advanced about it, is that a manual reviewer would probably assume our firm is paying an SEO company to build these links. After all, they are exact match, they are being build “slowly”, perhaps one article every few weeks, and they are kind of poorly written articles that are scraped with bits and pieces of content from other legal sites.

In essence, they are a montage of legal websites all spun into one article. So it looks plausible that we built that. But in the words of President Obama, we “didn’t build that, someone else built that”, and now we will further prove to you, Google, Eric Enge and Matt Cutts that we are not being “evil” or lying about this.

The E-Mail Colloquy Screenshots

Below, per the advice of Eric Enge, I am presenting what I believe is a very strong case of a deliberate and insidious, multi faceted attack against the Ehline Law Firm PC.

Fake Accounts on Article Sharing Sites

One big problem is the deep thought taken by bad negative SEO companies to hurt top ranking sites. As I will show later on, one way NSEO companies try and spoof Google into hurting your domain, is to create a scenario that makes a manual reviewer believe it is you doing the exact match anchor, “linkbuilding” to your site. How this was done to us is astounding and really hurt us.

How do we know it hurt us? Because once we contacted each article sharing site owner, and got the scraped and stolen articles removed, we popped back up for terms we had lost that contained the anchors, or related anchors to those queries.  How can we prove they were not our firm or my own accounts?

Simple, the site owners themselves verified in writing that someone else was doing this, and pretending to me ME! In a few cases, I got IP addresses and e mails, which I am going to provide here-below, for Matt Cutts and the Google Anti Negative SEO Team (Is there even one?). Last, I have never hired anyone in any capacity to set up article sharing accounts for me.

More Proof – Article Sharing Accounts Were Set Up In Our Name By Use of Fraud and Deception – Identity Theft

So you still think we are the source of all these shared articles Google? Hear from the actual site owners and see what they said and didn’t say about these article sharing accounts that they deleted for us.

First we have the honest webmaster approach from ezinemark and then we have the neutral response, and last, the blame the messenger response:

EzineMark 2013-12-11 14-41-50

articles.al.lv Contact form: - Negative SEO Spam - issuethewrit@gmail.com - Gmail 2013-12-11 14-25-26

Here is one guy who swears our law firm’s “SEO Agency” did it, but refuses to give us the “results of his investigation”, and said he was reporting us to Google as “spammers” when we demanded he stop blasting our copyrighted content. Yet he did agree to remove our content. He must have learned how to deny deny deny from Bill Clinton. Keep in mind, we have never hired anyone to submit articles on sharing sites. If we had, we would be able to login and edit. Simple common sense.

Ezine9
Scammer

Here is the first e mail to the Hosting Company>>>

DMCA Takedown Notice: http:::society.ezine9.com:ehline.htm - issuethewrit@gmail.com - Gmail 2013-12-11 14-30-09

So despite the slanderous allegations of ezine9, it appears they were using the CYA approach.  So when a lawyer sends an email, I guess denial is the game one plays. If we had placed these articles, we would have simply logged in and deleted them. Obviously, this is a scraper site. Lesson learned, people get angry when they are caught. So try and be as civil as you can when asking them to stop violating your property rights.

Here is our email back and forth between that site we suspect that responsible for all these bogus domains linking back to us with exact match money terms.

1 - Emails DMCA Takedown Notice - issuethewrit@gmail.com - Gmail 2013-12-11 18-37-49

As you can see above, all of these links are to a bunch of PR0 sites. I know this is the guy who is running the pay to post as I contacted him via the pay to post form. This is the only method he would respond to. So it goes on below. And it gets heated. First he directs me to an old article that reflected Google’s pre Penguin policies on negative SEO, and then he admits that it is not me or my firm blasting the stolen content, but some other person

3 - DMCA Takedown Notice - issuethewrit@gmail.com - Gmail 2013-12-11 18-45-20

As you can see, finally we are getting somewhere.  But he still hasn’t given me the contact info or IP address of the spammer.  At least I can prove to Google that our firm is not responsible for this garbage.  Now if they could only tell their algo that. In any event.  We were able to knock out hundreds of these sites.  But we stand ready for the next attack.

The Pay to Remove Your Directory Link Scam

As discussed above, rather than get rid of low quality directories, enterprising scumbags found a way to make far more money than were selling directory listings to spammers. As I said, we were loaded up with over a thousand exact match directory listings in a HUGE link spike starting in about March of 2012. It just does not make sense that negative SEO would start so soon after they changed their policy in March of 2012, just a month before the first iteration of Penguin.

Example Site:

ray@3sfmedia.com

Dec 4 (8 days ago)

to me

Please use following page to get link removed:

www.dmozing.com/remove

As you can see above, in response to a link removal request, this site directs you to a file extension that leads to paypal.

Here is one that makes you wait 3-4 weeks to remove the link you never asked for, or pay to guarantee removal now!

CostDirectory.com Contact Form : Attorney Michael Ehline

Inbox
x
Helen at HitTool.com <helen@hittool.com>

Nov 5

to Ehline
Images are not displayed. Display images below - Always display images from helen@hittool.com
Hi Michael Ehline,We are working on remove link requests. Your link will be remove within 3 – 4 weeks, in the order it was received.If you need your link to be removed within 48 hours, then we can do the express removal for only $5 and payment can be made via PayPal.

Best Regards,
Helen
Customer Service

From: Ehline Law Firm PC <issuethewrit@gmail.com>
Date: November 4, 2013 2:20:47 PM UTC
To: Helen at HitTool.com <helen@hittool.com>
Subject: Re: CostDirectory.com Contact Form : Attorney Michael Ehline

Name: Attorney Michael Ehline

Email: michael@ehlinelaw.com

Content: We will pay you right now to remove this outdated link and listing, or turn it to rel no follow. Otherwise, we will proceed to use the Google and Bing \”Disavow tool\”.

Los Angeles Injury Lawyer – Ehline Law Firm PC
http://www.ehlinelaw.com/

Ehline Law, Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, is not just a Los Angeles accident lawyer. We are elder abuse lawyers and tort law experts. Dog bites.

http://www.costdirectory.com/law/personal-injury/

{#HS:14244854-34232#}

Ehline Law, Injury Lawyer PC <issuethewrit@gmail.com>

Nov 5

to Helen

What is your paypal? I will pay extra to get it done immediately.

Helen at HitTool.com

Nov 5

to Injury
Images are not displayed. Display images below - Always display images from helen@hittool.com

Hi Michael,You may send payment to our Paypal account at paypal@hittool.com . Please let us know if you need more info.


Best Regards,
Helen
Customer Service

I am still trying to locate some examples of screenshot of Paypal forms many of these directories have at “Contact Us”, directing you to pay $20.00 to get your link removed. Trust me, there are a ton of them. I will add some screenshots shortly.

Backdating Listings and Articles to Make it Look Like The Site Owner Did It

In any event these evildoers are smart, they will backdate the posts and listings to make it look like they were added years ago, and do anything else they can to make it look like YOU did this, that it is an old listing, and not them.  They want your BS links to look “natural” since the goal is confuse the algo into hurting you for gaming Google.  It is more believable if it looks old and manipulated. Get it?

Resources:

Ehline Law Firm’s Link Disavowal Blacklist.

 

 

googlesemanticsearch

An Attorney Reviews Google Semantic Search by David Amerland

googlesemanticsearchGoogle Semantic Search by David Amerland has made the future of internet search accessible to anyone that is interested, especially for those whose livelihood is impacted by having their business found by relevant customers or clients.

He has nailed the future of search in writing a book about positioning yourself and your business to succeed on the internet in the new world of Semantic Search. He has taken a technical subject and broken it down into digestible and understandable pieces so that you can become your own “search engine expert.”

If you read this book you will understand how searching and being found on the internet is and has changed. But intead of being left behind, you will be able to plot a strategy to allow your customer base to find you readily and relevantly.

So How Does Davide Amerland Define Semantic Search

Semantic is the Greek word for meaning. Semantic search deals with the meaning of words from logic. It is an introduction of a clear understanding of what words mean and how they connect with what we are actually looking for in the search engine box. The pre-semantic web delivered links that were present on search because of the key words they represented. The semantic web delivers “outright answers” and pages that are directly associated with the question typed into search according to Amerland. This explanation Amerland calls simplistic in nature and his book truly has to be read to understand through his examples just what a revolution semantic search is.

Search Engine Optimization Techniques That Get Your Company More Traffic, Increase Brand Impact and Amplify Your Online Presence

The above subtitle is the subtitle David Amerland gave to his book. His book is not technical jargon, but a carefully structured action plan for you to carry out the above objectives so that your business can flourish. At the beginning of each chapter he tells you what topic he is going to treat, why, and the impact on you and how you can take advantage.

At the end of each chaper David gives checklists designed to help you find the tools, concepts, and practices that you have to put into effect to take advantage of the benefits offered by Google’s semantic search.

Amerland Knows Promotion of Your Busines is Your Lifeblood

If you have a business you know that your lifeblood is its customers, consumers, buyer, sellers or clients. What you call them depends on your business. Regardless, all businesses have to sell their product or service. That means that promotion is critical, as real people have to find you easily, and you have to be relevant to them. As I’m reviewing this book as an attorney, suffice to say that you can be the best lawyer in the world, but if you have no clients you will starve. But in this new internet you better be the best or at least “try harder” to be good at what you do, as search should serve up the best lawyer, instead of some keyword stuffing ambulance chaser, that has never ventured into a courtroom. Don’t worry though, search is still a long way from that. But it’s moving in that direction with each new algo change.

Just search for the best lawyer in a particular field of law. Maybe what comes up is the best. But maybe not. Not yet anyway. While keywords and links may take less prominence, the way you write your content, and the authority you are seen with, and the impact of your content is crucial. Although word of mouth and reputation is still important, it is also helpful to your business to position yourself on the internet as a top lawyer in your field. So you better accomplish something that is noteworthy. This can be as simple and important as great service to your clients.

If you really want to succeed David Amerland would tell you that competence off line and online is critical. As Google wants to serve up that great lawyer for you on page one. And it’s not by asking who is the best lawyer. Maybe someday the internet will be able to serve that answer that coincides with real life. Especially if others are writing about you that way.

The critical question though that David Amerland answers for business with his book, is:

Can anything be done to bring search back under the control of the business owner with a business to run, products to sell, and mouths to feed?

His answer is “yes.” He states in that regard that the saving grace is that semantic search, in assessing the quality of the reults it serves uses three criteria to mathematically simulate decision making of your village:

Trust

Reputation

Authority

Add in citation and serendipity and the recipe is complete according to Mr Amerland.

I have only touched the surface of his book. Let me just say that if I can comprehend it then any one can. He tackles a broad range of topics, with a laser focus and a clarity of writing that is remarkable for the information it conveys in understandable terms. Any “web speak” is clearly defined, explained and made understandable.

It is clear David Amerland set out to write a “How To Book on Search” for the business owner , not particlarly for the search industry. He has succeeded mightily in providing cutting edge information, with understandable action items, so that any businenss owner, large or small, can make their business accesible , available and relevant to its customers on the internet.

This book truly delivers on its promise to teach you search engine techniques that get your busines more traffic, increase brand impact and amplify your online presence. The internet is the great equalizer for the small business man or woman. David Amerland’s book puts a great tool in their hands to succeed in the new internet of semantic search.

As a personal injury lawyer and sole proprietor I have to work in my business and on my business. In working on my business I can think of nothing better than reading “Google Semantic Search” again and drafting worthy content for potential clients, other lawyers and the public at large.

About The Author

Anthony Castelli has practiced personal injury law in the State of Ohio for 32 years. He has taveled thoughout the State of Ohio to handle severe and serious injury and wrongful death claims. He is primarily based in Cincinnati with satellite offices in West Chester, Columbus and Dayton. For more information some of his web sites are www.castellilaw.com, http://columbuscaraccident.attorneys.us, http://daytoncaraccident.attorneys.us and http://socialsecuritydisabilityassist.com/

Top 5 Reasons Why Your Law Firm Needs an Email Newsletter

Picture of David Abels

By David Abels – I am an attorney who has focused on personal injury law since 1997, so I have had an opportunity to learn some of the “dos” and “don’ts” that come with the business.  Many of these are universal truisms that lawyers stick to, but their importance cannot be underestimated as competition among firms continues to increase every year.
Quickly I learned that securing clients and bringing in business is a crucial step for any successful lawyer and without clients, even the best law firm in the area will fail.  With a track record of handling personal injury cases, many of my new clients come from prior clients referring friends and family, or from prior clients once again getting injured in an accident.   Yet as time passes after the conclusion of a case, some clients lose my contact information or forget exactly how to spell my last name, making it difficult to pass on a referral to friends or family members when need arises.  To combat these common challenges, I find that establishing and maintaining a law firm email newsletter lets me keep in contact with clients and enables me to obtain business that I otherwise might not receive.
In fact, I have found my firm newsletter to be so invaluable that I am encouraging others to begin a similar program by sharing my Top 5 reasons an email newsletter is a good idea:
 
1. Maintaining Contact with Past Clients
Attorneys like to close cases and to wrap up all loose ends but I strongly encourage lawyers to keep ties with their past clients.  These are the people who will pass on their legal experiences – good and bad – to acquaintances that are in the same situation.  Providing a client with a positive legal experience can translate to future referrals from that client but only if the prior client remembers who I am and how to reach me.I find that including past clients on my law firm’s newsletter keeps those individuals informed of the types of cases I am currently handling as well as some of the settlements I have recently reached, leading to referrals I would otherwise not receive.
 
2. Maintaining Contact with Current Clients
In my newsletter, I often include a short description of a recent settlement or award that I’ve reached as a way to let current clients know that my firm is working hard and is dedicated to getting our clients the best results possible in each case, regardless of what type of accident or injury is involved.  I believe that clients like seeing my firm’s successes and that providing current clients with this type of information has increased the amount of trust they place in my firm, which in turn leads to a more open, honest, and harmonious relationship during the pendency of their case.
 
3. Establishing Contact with Potential Future Clients
Daily I receive phone calls from potential clients who I am unable to represent due to the nature of their claim or the type of their injury.  When this happens, I explain why I cannot help and I do my best to point that person in the right direction for legal assistance.  However I take it one step further by asking these callers whether they would like to be included on my firm’s newsletter mailing list so that they can receive news and updates from my office, just in case they need my help in the future on other injury cases.  You may be surprised, but around 75% of people asked want to receive the newsletter.I have received many calls from one of these newsletter subscribers who sustain a subsequent accident and need legal representation.  As a result of the emails, I am usually the first attorney these potential clients call.
 
4. Increasing Traffic to Web Sites and Blogs
I keep my newsletters short and to the point as I have learned that most people will read shorter stories while ignoring those that seem too lengthy.   To make sure I am hitting this sweet spot, I include a paragraph or two of introductory material on a story I want to highlight and then provide a link at the bottom that takes readers to the full content.  The full version of the stories are located on my website or on one of my blogs, meaning that anytime a reader clicks for more information, that reader sees my website and has the opportunity to explore other areas.  My sites also receive an increase in traffic due to these click-throughs, which in turn helps with my website performance and optimization.
 
5. Strengthening Relationships with Other Attorneys
Like many practicing personal injury lawyers, I both accept referrals and refer out cases to other attorneys as need arises.  I strive to keep my relationships with these lawyers as strong as possible.  I pride myself on having a service-oriented practice where I answer calls from clients and I keep myself available to them as much as possible.  I take this mentality and carry it over to my interactions with referrals as well.  By including other firms in my newsletter mailing list, the lawyers in those firms see that my practice is aggressively representing our clients and working hard for maximum awards in each case.  I find that providing this type of information to those firms who help us in the representation of clients strengthens their confidence in my firm’s ability to successfully resolve challenging and mundane cases in an efficient manner.In the age of modern technology, I encourage other lawyers to spend some time creating and maintaining an email newsletter that can help you obtain referrals and strengthen your relationship with your past and present clients.
Email Newsletter Services.  As far as email newsletter services are concerned, I happen to use constantcontact.com.  The cost is around $30 per month to send out your newsletter to 500-2500 contacts.  For this price, you are only getting to use their template and they will also help you design the newsletter.  Your office provides the content for the newsletters, upkeeps the contact list and schedules the mailings.  I’m sure there are other email services out there that are comparable, or you could always just email your clients directly.
About David Abels:  David Abels is a partner at the firm of Abels & Annes, P.C. and focuses his practice on personal injury law.  He has offices in Chicago, Illinois and Phoenix, Arizona and has successfully collected millions of dollars on behalf of his clients.If you would like more information on his law offices, please feel free to check out his firm’s websites, daveabels.com and phoenixinjury.daveabels.com or email his office at info@abelsannes.com and ask to be included on his newsletter mailing list.

Circle of Legal Trust Vegas Convention Sylabus

a-year-from-now-you-will-wish-you-had-started-todayWe are proud to announce that the Vegas Convention will be held at 801 S 4th St  Las Vegas, NV 89101, special thanks to Richard Harris and Seth Price.  If you have questions, or wish to attend, call me on my cell at 310-593-4871. Ehline will fly in evening of 12th, will be there all day and night 13th for the seminar. Leave for DC early in the morning of the 14th. I need you to reserve your spot now, so we know how big of a room we will need.  Please read below and contact me immediately. Seth Price may be there earlier than that I believe.  If so, he can start networking with members and come up with something he wants to talk about that can help us get traffic, etc. As far as Matt Dolman, we are supposed to go to the fight on the evening of the 12th in Vegas, as I recall? Right? And you guys are all invited assuming you can get tickets, which I believe Matt may have a connection.  Seth and I will be getting rooms at Belagio.

On the morning of the 13th: All of the meeting will be simulcast on Youtube. Bring Google Glass if you have it.

  • First. 9 am – 10:00 am I will go into basics of site architecture using WordPress. Here we will discuss proper titles, headers, footers, page layout, and crawlability. We will show you how to delete title repeats in posts and pages, and so forth. Cleaning up your sites on the spot. (bring laptops Discussion) I will intro some basic techniques on brand building on the semantic web. Discuss brand mentions over links. Could it be the new link?10:15 – 10:45. We will detail basic LSI, and where to get ideas for LSI writing to incorporate into your style. (What is LSI and how to use it)

Example >>>>>
>>>> Title: >>> Clearwater Personal Injury Attorneys | Get a Free Legal Consultation Now

>>> Description: >>> Suffer a catastrophic mishap in Clearwater? Speak an award winning multi million dollar personal injury accident lawyer at Dolman Law now (727) 451-6900.

>>>> H1 Speak To a Unique and Experienced Clearwater Injuries Lawyer Now

H2 >>>>Personal Injury Lawyer Clearwater, Florida and Adjacent Areas

Suffering a personal injury can be a life altering experience that is typically for the worse. In case you were racked by a vehicle collision that led to a brain clot, or a post slip and fall surgical procedure by a negligent medical practitioner, you cannot represent yourself and expect reasonable compensation from a bad actor. That is where we come in. We have set ourselves apart from other firms. Read on and learn how.

Why Choose Us Over Another Clearwater Personal Injury Law Firm?

Dolman Law Group has been serving residents and victims who were just passing through our town, for over ten years.  As a result of our uncompromising service, we have been awarded the coveted Circle of Legal Trust Patch, which means we are vetted by our peers as having the highest levels of trust in the legal profession. It also means we are known for using cutting edge technology to stay in touch with our clients and keeping them abreast of the latest concerns in their case, whether it is still in the insurance claims process, or during litigation and trial. Additionally, we have been accepted into several honorary societies, and have been admitted as one of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers.” We are also accepted as “Million Dollar Advocates”, putting us in the top 1% of negligence law attorneys.

When you lose a wage earner due to a fatality, or are simply down and out recovering for a spill on a motorcycle due to the negligence of an unreasonable individual, or big corporation, attorney Matt Dolman is at the lead, and supported by his large staff of paralegals, legal secretaries and attorneys. We want to render legal aid to you before you make a mistake or say the wrong thing to an investigator or sneaky liability insurance adjustor.

We are grateful to our excellent organization of Clearwater based personal injury lawyers for giving both our potential and current clients top notch legal services. Our law firm has been committed to solely representing individuals who were afflicted with personal injuries, and wrongful death fatalities since __________.  Our proud and respected law firm has achieved monumental results in motor vehicle accident, truck crash, medical malpractice and other incidents where negligent acts of another made a happy go lucky individual into a partially, or permanently disabled victim. Call for a quick, easy, and cost free telephone call at (727) 451-6900. If you hire us as your legal advocate, we will be your champion.  You will rest assured that we are in it to win it. Accordingly, to earn your trust, we offer a no recovery no fee promise. This means you pay us nothing until we achieve a pay out to you.”

  • Discussion with Jason Brick on the above example, and Proper LSI Writing techniques - 11 am – 12 pm

Break. 12:00-1:00

Eric Enge- Negative SEO and Identification and Healing  - 1 pm – 1:30 pm

  •  Dealing with bad links and bad copy (Penguin and Panda). Open Discussion. 1:30 – 2:15. Eric has earned the respect of Mike Blumenthal and Matt Cutts. He is a winner and he graciously set aside time for us despite a previous engagement.
Amerland and Traphagen Together – 2:15-3:00 and 15 minutes for discussion.
  • David Amerland goes deep into semantic web and his award winning book.  And Mark Traphagen puts it together explaining “authorship” and its relationship to the semantic web
  • Allow 15 minutes or so for questions for youtube and live audience till at least 3:15.

3:15 pm – 4:00 pm PDF Publications and Treatises: Steven Sweat and Andre van Wyk via HOA

  • How to create your own digital PDF magazine or e-book with ease, and they unveil the first edition of the COLT Journal. Steve will have his laptop and software and can screenshare with us. (awesome)
4:00 – 4:30 Anthony Castelli on Creating Awesome Law Firm Videos Using  Hangouts and Youtube – Interviews, banter sessions, q and a, backdrops.

4:30 pm – 4:45 pm Building Alliances: Via HOA Jon Rosenfeld goes into building alliances and how it fits into co branding.

Open discussion and break.

5:30 pm – 6:00 pm Hangouts On Air Via HOA, Ronnie Bincer on How to do a Hangout on Air, and how to do a private hangout.

6:00 – 6:15 – Press Releases 24-7 Mike may or may not make this. But 24-7 Press Release is to discuss brand mentions with press releases and forgetting about do follow juice from self promotions, as we move forward.

6:15 – 6:30 – Content Curation and Various Social Signals Neil Ferree via HOA? Or in person?

Secondary Effects of Social Media – Referral Fees. Membership in Circle of Legal Trust is the Gold Standard. You know you won’t get taken by a brother. People who link together, stay together.

Anything else? Still need to pin down times.

Live Chat For Legal Websites

Click to Chat Live With A LawyerOnce you have gotten a potential client to your website you are only part way there. You need him or her to hire you. Live Chat offers lawyers another opportunity to convert website visitors into clients. Live Chat gives website visitors a chance to get immediate answers to their legal questions. This post will discuss Live Chat, ethical issues and things to consider if you decide to add Live Chat to your website as a tool to obtain new clients.

WHAT IS LIVE CHAT?

Before discussing some of the issues involved in deciding whether to add Live Chat as a way to get new clients, it is important to understand what Live Chat is. One definition of Live Chat, also known as “live help” or “live support” is:

A web service that allows businesses to communicate, or chat, in real time with visitors to their Web site. Live support applications are commonly used to provide immediate customer support and information to clients and customers. Exact features and functions of live support are application specific, however you can generally expect a live chat application to provide real time visitor monitoring, custom chat windows, invisible traffic analysis, website integration and secure administration controls.

Webotopia: Live Support

Live Chat is essentially instant messaging between a website visitor and someone from the website itself. Another analogy is that Live Chat is a virtual receptionist: someone who welcomes visitors, answers questions, takes messages and forwards information to the correct person within an office.

There are some common words and phrases in Live Chat. While definitions may vary slightly, especially depending on the type of website, here are some of the more commonly used words and phrases along with definitions:

  • Conversion: A customer purchasing or hiring the website vendor or host.
  • Pre-Chat Form: A set of questions posed to a potential website visitor before a live chat starts but after they click a chat button or accept a proactive chat invitation.
  • Chat Agent or Chat Operator: A person who responds with a website visitors during a live chat.
  • Proactive Live Chat: Proposing a live chat session to a website visitor.
  • Reactive Chat: A live chat initiated by website visitors by clicking on a chat button.
  • Unanswered Chat: A chat started by a website visitor but never responded to by a website’s chat agent.
  • Unavailable Chat: An attempt by a website visitor to initiate a reactive chat during a time no one is available to chat.
  • Unavailable Email Form: A form that permits a website visitor to complete to send an email after they click on a chat button but no one is available to respond to the chat request.

These definitions may differ slightly depending on the Live Chat vendor.

BENEFITS TO ADDING LIVE CHAT

There are a number of benefits to adding Live Chat to your legal website. The most important benefit is that, like your phone number and Contact form, it gives you another way to convert a website visitor into a client. Live Chat gives website visitors two things they really want: immediate answers and anonymity; these two factors may get some people to start a conversation that they would not otherwise if they had to call or send an email. Other benefits of Live Chat may, depending on how it is used, include: enables website visitors to connect with a lawyer outside of normal business hours; provides additional customer service and answer questions about your office; additional analytical information about website visitors; and can be free or relatively inexpensive.

There are a number of studies, although none involving legal websites, which show that Live Chat can increase conversions and sales:

  • TELUS International: Best Practices: Online Chat Sales (2011) :
    • 20% of consumers aged 18-40 located and engaged in online chat when they visited a company’s website;
    • 67% of shoppers with a previous chat experience continue to actively seek chat options on merchant websites;
    • 77% of chat users agree the new interaction method positively influences their attitude about the retailer they were considering buying from;
    • 63% of respondents reported they were more likely to return to a website after experiencing live chat; and
    • 38% stated they purchased from the e-commerce website as a direct result of the chat session itself.
  • BoldChat’s Live Chat Performance Benchmarks A Statistical Analysis 2012 Edition:
    • Website visitors who chat (“Chatters”) are 7.5x more likely to convert than visitors who do not chat, which is up from 4.1x in 2009;
    • Chatters buy, on average, 24% of the time;
    • Chatters spend about 55% more per purchase than non-chatters; and
    • Chatters who engage via proactive invitation are 8x more likely to convert than visitors who do not chat, which is up from 6.3x in 2009.

It should be noted that TELUS and BoldChat offer Live Chat applications so their findings may be somewhat biased toward Live Chat.

ETHICAL ISSUES INVOLVED IN LIVE CHAT

WordCloud of Ethical Issues Involved in Live ChatThere are a number of ethical issues involved in Live Chat as a tool to convert website visitors to clients. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), every State, except California, as well as the District of Columbia has adopted some form of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. (Source: ABA website: Alphabetical List of States Adopting Model Rules. However, many states adopted modified versions of these Rules. For example, Nebraska uses ‘”email” in the definition a “writing” (Neb. Ct. R. of Prof. Cond. ß 3-501.0(n)) while the current ABA version of 1.0(n) uses “electronic communication,” which is much broader.

As each state has its own ethical rules and/or interpretations of those rules this post cannot answer every possible ethical question about Live Chat on legal websites. Some general ethical considerations about using Live Chat, under the current ABA Model Rules include:

  • Competence (Rule 1.1): Lawyers must be careful about responding to questions outside of their areas of practice as the duty of competence could be breached.
  • Confidentiality (Rule 1.6): Lawyers have a duty of confidentiality to current and former clients.
  • Duty to Prospective Clients (Rule 1.18): The Rules indicate that anyone who consults with a lawyer about the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship with respect to a matter is a “prospective client” and that the lawyer can be conflicted out of representing another client in the same matter.
  • Communication with Person Represented by Counsel (Rule 4.2): Need to be careful that you do not communicate with an opposing party who is represented by counsel.
  • Unauthorized Practice of Law (Rule 5.5): Answering questions about a legal matter in a state in which the attorney is not authorized to practice.
  • Communications Concerning A Lawyer’s Services (Rule 7.1): Must ensure that no communication is false or misleading. In addition, many states require “Disclaimers” and certain language in any “written” communication with potential clients. This may, although it is not clear, be required for Live Chat.
  • Solicitation (Rule 7.3): The ABA Rule about solicitation includes”real-time electronic contact” so, depending on how the Live Chat function works on a site it might be considered an improper solicitation especially for Proactive Chat.

These are just some of the ethical Rules that are involved in Live Chat. The ABA’s Commission on Ethics 20/20 is currently working on revising some of the Model Rules as they involve the internet, including confidentiality, advertising and outsourcing. (ABA: ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20: Chairs’ Message).

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT LIVE CHAT

Two Live Chat BubblesIf you have decided to implement Live Chat as another means to try and convert website visitors to clients there are a number of other things to consider about what Live Chat application to use. Some of the things to consider, which will influence what Live Chat application to get, are:

  • Analytical Information: Some Live Chat applications offer detailed analytical information about the person initiating a Live Chat.
  • Answering Live Chat Questions: This becomes especially important if the person responding is not the lawyer.
  • Appearance: Do you want a static button on your site, a dynamic button or a pop-up that appears after a user has been on the site for a certain period of time? In addition, where do you want the Live Chat button placed on your site?
  • Availability: Do you want someone available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (24/7) to be able to respond to chat requests or just at specified times?
  • Disclaimers/ Warnings: Are you going to have a specific disclaimer and/or warning when someone initiates a Live Chat or rely on Disclaimers elsewhere on your site?
  • Free or Paid Application: As in the case of most things, paid applications usually offer more functions than free applications. Do you need the extra functionality you get from the paid application?
  • Mobile Application: Does the Live Chat application have a mobile application? If so, do you believe you can type appropriate responses on a mobile phone?
  • Text or Video Chat: While most current Live Chat applications are text-based there are some companies that offer video live chat.
  • Transcripts: Does the Live Chat application keep a transcript of the chat? This can be very important especially if ethically or potential conflict of interest issues arise.
  • Who Will Respond To Live Chat Inquiries: This may be the hardest decision lawyers have to make about implementing Live Chat. There are a number of companies that offer Live Chat services and have their employees (“operators”) take a potential client information. The information is then relayed to the law firm. Other Live Chat applications permit the lawyer or his or her staff to respond directly to the inquiry. Outsourcing a Live Chat has certain advantages such as 24/7 availability and possible protection against some of the ethical issues that can arise. However, these services are going to cost more than the lawyer-answered Chat and may not provide the “immediacy” a client wants. Most companies offering Chat Agents along with the chat application usually charge by the “chat” so you need to consider the costs along with whether you get charged for chats from persons that could not become clients, i.e. needs a criminal attorney and you only handle personal injury. In addition, do these Chat Agents just get contact information, or have their own scripts or use scripts or information you provide?

These are just some of the things to consider after you have made the decision to use a Live Chat application on your legal website.

CONCLUSION

Live Chat gives lawyers another way to convert a website visitor into a client. However, lawyers must be especially cautious because of numerous ethical issues that can arise. If you decide to include Live Chat on your website there are a number of things to consider such as who will be responding, whether to have proactive or reactive chat and the appearance of the Live Chat features.

Attorneys helping other Attorneys in Social, Organic and Local Search