Lawyers learn very early in their education the issues relating to conflicts of interest. In fact, at least four the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct refer to "conflicts" expressly in their title:
Put simply, lawyers are particularly aware of the dangers of conflicts. However, when it comes to hiring a law firm SEO agency, they tend to not notice or care.
Take, for example, the two Portland personal injury law firms in the map at the top of this post. Their offices are about 1.8 miles away from each other, and yet, they use the same digital marketing agency.
How do I know this?
Their agency publishes, "Site by [agency name]" in the footer of every page on both sites (with a link mind you).
To be clear, I'm not suggesting that this agency is hiding this fact from their clients. In fact, this particular agency publishes right on their website that they:
limit the number of law firms we work with to 4 per geographic area to help ensure that all our clients are successfully generating new business on a consistent basis"
In other words, they'll work with your firm and three of your local competitors.
I'm also not suggesting that they aren't able to deliver on their promise of successfully generating new business to all four firms on consistent basis. Maybe they can.
And maybe, just maybe, these firms don't work with this agency, but just haven't removed the site credential from the footer (yeah, right).
However, here's what they can't do: Make all four law firms appear in the top position for the same search query. And, in fact, when you look at a local share of voice report for these firms' local pack visibility in their area, one shows up as the #7 share of voice leader and the other is, well, nowhere to be found.
Now look, there's a chance that this agency has explained all of this to both firms and has been granted informed consent by both firms. But I'm skeptical.
But even if both firms know that this agency is working with their competition, and even if they're getting a return on their investments with this agency, the fact will always remain: one firm will always be second-fiddle to the other with respect to any given search result.
The truth is that I'm being overly generous here. These conflicts create a host of issues for the client firms. And I certainly don't mean to pick on these particular firms or this particular agency. This is actually extremely common in digital legal marketing.
You see, lawyers will go perform a search on Google and see which firms "show up on top." Then they'll click-through to their competitor's site and scroll to the bottom to look for that footer credential (Site by such and such with a link back).
In fact, with respect to personal injury lawyers in Portland, OR, there are at least two other agencies that have conflicts that I was able to identify without even really trying.
Their thinking goes, "Hey, they're getting this result for my competition, surely they'll get it for me too." And therein lies the rub. Search is largely a "winner takes most" game. In the best scenarios, both firms are getting "good enough" results to justify the conflict. In many instances, the agency pits two competitors against each other in a bidding war. It goes something like this:
Lawyer 1: We see you are working with our competitor, Lawyer 2. Why is Lawyer 2 doing so much better than us?
Agency: Actually, Lawyer 2 pays us a lot more money than you. If you want to do as well as Lawyer 2, you have to pay us more.
You see where this is headed...
Bottom line: Don't be like Lawyer 1.
Ask your marketing people whether they're working with other firms in your location and practice area(s). Ask them whether they're willing to enter into an exclusivity agreement.
Interestingly, in the instant case, neither of these firms is cracking the top five share of local voice for personal injury law firms in Portland. So, they both probably ought to get a second opinion with respect to their local SEO strategy.
Expect more from your marketing people. If they're working with your competition, imagine what else they might be doing that doesn't have your best interests in mind.
If you're wondering whether your current agency is working with a competitor, ask us. We're happy to help you find out...
Over the years, law firm prospects have sent us reports from just about all of our competitors. Unfortunately, even today, some law firm marketing agencies still mislead their clients via "reporting." One particularly egregious example comes in the form of ranking reports. Which prompted this LinkedIn post. To my surprise, I received a lot of […]
John Wanamaker supposedly said "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." In an an effort to figure out "what half is working," attribution was born. Coupled with a transition from traditional, offline ads to digital media, attribution became the holy grail for analyzing advertising spends. But […]
I recently asked ChatGPT, "What are some of the top personal injury law firms in Chicago?? Actually, first I ask "who are some of the top personal injury lawyers in Chicago?" ChatGPT couldn't handle that one, so I modified the prompt. ChatGPT listed five very well-known firms downtown. Can you guess the other four? That's […]
If you're like me, you have some degree of AI, ChatGBT, Bard, exhaustion. Now don't get me wrong, this is stuff is remarkable and is changing, well, a lot. But before you hook up the ChatGPT API to your WordPress API and crank out 10,000 pages, here are a few things to think about. Let's […]
If you know me, you know my opinions about links and SEO advice from Google. If you don't, here's the TL;DR: Meh, links! Meaning, all things being equal, links still remain a competitive difference maker for ranking. Take Google's SEO advice with several grains of salt. Google has no economic incentive to help your site […]
The best marketing advice I can give you is to be authentic. Of course, you don't find that very helpful in terms of meeting your growth goals. So, you might decide to game the system. As I'm writing this, one of the more popular ways to gain the system is to pay for engagement. This […]
The following post was written by ChatGPT. ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is a state-of-the-art language model that can generate human-like text based on a given prompt or context. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way that businesses, including law firms, market themselves to potential clients. One way that a law firm could use […]
How long does SEO take? When can I expect to see results? What results should I expect to see? These are all reasonable questions that we field from lawyers every day. And, like many legal answers, the answer is: It depends. Yes, I know that's not the answer you wanted. But it's the most honest […]
And how much time should they spend doing it? I recently had the privilege of chatting with Tyson, Jim, and Conrad for an upcoming episode of The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. If you're not familiar with The Maximum Lawyer community, you should definitely check it out. Jim asked a really great question about who should do […]