FindLaw Marketing: What Lawyers Need to Know

by | Aug 15, 2018

FindLaw Marketing is one of the largest providers of websites, SEO (search engine optimization), and digital marketing for lawyers. They claim to have more than 17,000 law firm clients.

If you’ve been a practicing attorney for any time at all, and you’ve ever looked into website marketing services, you’ve no doubt come across FindLaw Marketing.

Here at Manticorn we’ve spoken to dozens of past and current FindLaw clients. From those discussions and our own competitive research, we have come to understand the pros and cons of working with them. We’ve done our best to provide a useful review here, approaching their services from two aspects:

  1. Practical concerns regarding FindLaw’s administrative process and contract requirements, and;
  2. Professional concerns related to Findlaw’s marketing strategies and SEO tactics.

If you are an attorney who is a current FindLaw customer, or you are considering hiring FindLaw, this article is for you.

Brief disclaimer: FindLaw is one of our competitors, and as such, we are not impartial. Our goal is to earn the opportunity to show you why we are a better a choice to be your firm’s digital marketing provider.

Practical Concerns About Working with FindLaw

Concern #1: The Infamous FindLaw Service Agreement

By far the most common complaint we’ve heard about working with FindLaw relates to their service agreement. They almost always require a 3-year term, which is nearly impossible to get out of early. So many firms who are very unhappy with FindLaw’s digital marketing services often want to work with a new agency, but they are usually only 12 to 18 months through their contract.

While FindLaw can’t prevent you from engaging another marketing agency, there is nothing cost-effective about paying two companies to do the same job. If you run a small law firm, you know the importance of flexibility. You may feel reasonably certain about signing a 3-year lease on your office space, but a 3-year obligation to work with a service provider who doesn’t give you any legitimate avenues for ending your agreement early?

For solo practitioners and other small firms, that level of commitment is hard to swallow.

Here’s the crucial point you must understand about FindLaw’s service agreement: don’t expect an ounce of understanding if things aren’t working out. They will enforce the contract, and they do not hesitate to litigate if you try to sever it early (without paying every last penny as required by the terms of the agreement).

Manticorn’s More Flexible Service Agreement

Here at Manticorn Marketing, all of our agreements run month-to-month. Our clients pay us, we do the work for that month. Rinse, repeat. Because we take a holistic approach that includes both paid and organic traffic, most of our clients see a nice return within the first 30 days.

Since our primary goal is to increase our clients’ trust/authority with their target audience while growing their own proprietary lead source, however, we do ask that they mentally commit to at least 6 months if they want to see those efforts fully bear fruit.

Furthermore, we treat our clients how we want to be treated. If a client chooses to cancel service with us, we listen to their concerns and look for an arrangement that is fair for both our company and theirs. If a workable solution cannot be reached, we fulfill any remaining commitments and part on good terms.

Concern #2: Working with Your Competition

Another common complaint we hear is that FindLaw will work with as many firms as they can get, including your top competitors.

We recently earned the business of a small firm in St. Louis, Missouri that is practicing family law. They had been considering whether or not to sign up for a FindLaw plan instead. It took us less than 10 minutes of research to discover that FindLaw was already engaged with at least 2 of the firm’s top local competitors, with all 3 firms located within a few miles of each other.

While we don’t believe it impossible to achieve strong results for multiple competitors in the same practice area and local market, we do believe that our clients deserve to work with an agency that is not also working with several competing firms in the same city. We see that as a conflict of interest, and we would never feel good about accepting that business.

Manticorn’s Exclusivity Policy

Here at Manticorn Marketing, we make the following promise to our clients:

For as long as you are engaged with us, we will not work with any competing law firms in your local market or MSA (metropolitan statistical area).

This means if you practice personal injury law in Fayetteville, Arkansas, we will not engage with any other clients who want personal injury leads from the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO Metro Area.

Furthermore, if you contact us to get a proposal, but we cannot work with you due to a conflict with a current client, we will gladly refer to another trusted legal marketing provider who has no such conflict.

Concern #3: Content Ownership

FindLaw’s service agreement makes it almost impossible for you to keep the website and content that you paid for.

They build their websites on a proprietary content management system (CMS) that cannot be transferred to a third party hosting provider when you part ways in the future. This means that, regardless of your satisfaction with the website they built for you, taking your site with you is not an option, as no one will be able to update or edit its content without completely rebuilding your site from the ground up on a more flexible, open source CMS.

Perhaps this is not a major concern for your firm in particular, but for a company that claims to provide services for “small law firms,” it seems odd that they would place so little importance on providing some modicum of flexibility.

Manticorn’s Website and Content Ownership Policy

With Manticorn Marketing, you have complete ownership of every digital asset we produce for you during the course of our engagement. This includes all blog posts, articles, infographics, designs, photos, videos, and anything else that’s published on your website or social media.

Additionally, we build all of our clients’ websites on WordPress, which is the most popular CMS in the world built on open-source technology. This is to ensure that, should you ever choose another provider, you can easily transfer your website and all of its contents to them, and they should be able to complete the migration in less than 15 minutes.

Professional Concerns About FindLaw’s Tactics and Results

Concern #1: Over-reliance on FindLaw’s Directory Network for Leads

One of the advantages to working with them is that they will add your site to its extended network of law firm directory websites like SuperLawyers.com, LawInfo.com, and Abogado.com. Being listed is beneficial in 2 ways:

  1. They provide valuable backlinks and directory citations, which help your website rank better in search engines, and;
  2. They can generate referral leads because their directories are highly ranked for relevant keywords.

Because FindLaw owns and operates these massive sites, and because it is cheap to add new clients to those sites, they seem to rely on them too much. And why shouldn’t they?

If FindLaw can generate new leads for their clients simply by adding their information to a few directories, what incentive do they have to implement more advanced search engine optimization strategies or digital marketing activities?

You may be thinking: So what? If FindLaw brings me relevant leads, why should I care how they do it?

Therein lies the problem: there are only so many top spots on their directory pages. Research tells us that the top spot on any business directory receives about 75% of the total visitor clicks, the next two spots combined receive 15-20%, and the rest of the listings share the remaining 5-10%. Not all of FindLaw’s clients can hold a high enough position to see consistent leads.

What does FindLaw do? According to several of their clients that we’ve spoken with, it goes as follows: FindLaw waits for you, the client, to contact your account manager to express concern over your lack of leads from the web. At that point they move you to the top of the list. Soon, you start seeing a lot more inquiries and relax a bit. No sooner have you been placated, another client makes the same complaint, and FindLaw moves that client to the top of the list, and once again your lead quantity dwindles.

Manticorn’s Approach to Generating New Leads

We believe in investing in marketing systems for our clients that will outlast us. That is to say, when a client decides to leave us after 2-3 years, they will leave with websites and social media properties that continue to produce consistent, valuable leads, and they will have gained enough know-how from us to maintain these things themselves.

Let’s say that 90% of the value that FindLaw provides your firm is a result of their directory listings. The minute you leave them, you lose your place on those directories, and the leads stop flowing. You will have spent 3 years renting digital real estate, and once you stop paying the rent, that real estate will no longer be yours.

At Manticorn Marketing we focus on building you an online real estate empire that will last long after you stop paying us.

Concern #2: Poor Keyword Targeting and Content Marketing Strategies for SEO

In order for law firms to gain maximum exposure to their target audience from organic search results, they must publish content that is optimized for the keywords that their potential clients are searching for.

Keyword research is essential to success. Without conducting thorough keyword research as a first step, all of your other efforts will be wasted. You can have the most beautiful website with a ton of content, but if there is no strategy behind that content, it will not get you the results you were hoping for.

Having analyzed several FindLaw client sites using multiple SEO tools, one pattern that stands out is random, unidentified keywords, which signals mediocre content marketing. It’s true that SEO takes time and consistent effort, and some keywords are more valuable than others, but a total lack of significant search traffic indicates to me a lack of fundamental, strategic keyword research behind their content marketing.

Discovering law firm websites whose total organic traffic is valued at less than $100 per month, when those firms have been paying FindLaw thousands of dollars each month for SEO and digital marketing for years, and not just a few months, is frankly absurd.

Reading the blog posts on any given FindLaw client website, the content problem becomes immediately apparent. Most posts are under 300 words and contain no heading or images. The copy itself is generic, giving no actionable tips or unique insights. Just 3-4 paragraphs of worthless, boring content.

Even if such a post managed to gain high position for its target keyword (it won’t because the quality is poor), what purpose will that serve? How will that post help the firm get more clients? The answer is: it won’t.

Manticorn’s Approach to Achieving Substantial Relevant Organic Search Results

As I mentioned above, Manticorn Marketing considers effective keyword research to be absolutely foundational to the success of our clients’ content marketing efforts. When thoughtful research is paired with exceptional, keyword-optimized content that employs a mix of media, the sky is the limit in terms of results over time.

Concern #3: Plain Vanilla Link Building That is No Longer Adequate in 2018

The ability to gain high-quality backlinks from authority websites is essential to ranking your website for valuable, competitive keywords. The more competitive your industry, the more crucial high-quality backlinks become. Areas like personal injury or criminal defense require an investment in advanced link building strategies.

Examining link profiles of FindLaw client websites, we rarely see examples of backlinks that are earned through advanced campaigns. Rather, they tend to be almost entirely a result of the simplest, cheapest type: directory submissions.

Don’t get me wrong, directory citation links are an important part of a well-rounded profile for local SEO. But they are rarely adequate for gaining top rankings for competitive keywords.

Here’s my guess as to why FindLaw doesn’t focus on high-impact links using advanced link building strategies. It’s really difficult and time-consuming, which means it’s also expensive. For as much as they charge their clients each month, there’s no reason they couldn’t include this to some degree. Whatever the reason, FindLaw seems to avoid adequately investing in their link building deliverables.

Manticorn’s Approach to Link Building

We understand that high-quality link building is what separates good SEO results from exceptional results. Many agencies shy away from it because it is difficult and takes time, which reduces their profit margin. Not us.

Directory submissions make up the entirety of FindLaw’s link building services. For us directory submissions are only where we start.

Summary

In our opinion, there are four significant drawbacks to hiring FindLaw as your digital marketing agency:

  1. Inflexible service agreement: FindLaw has contracts with 3-year minimum terms that are very difficult to break. This lack of flexibility is a common pain point we hear about from their clients.
  2. Representing your competition: FindLaw claims to have over 17,000 small law firm clients. With so many across the country, it’s almost certain that one or several of those clients are your direct competitors.
  3. Content ownership: FindLaw builds client websites on a proprietary platform, which means that once you leave them, you can’t take your website with you.
  4. Cookie-cutter content and SEO services: FindLaw’s over-reliance on their own directory listings, their lack-luster keyword research and content marketing, and their basic link building all form the basis of our critique that gets to the heart of our argument against FindLaw, which is as follows…

FindLaw is an established company with amazing brand recognition. Their sales team has the ability to sign new clients based on name alone, and to retain old clients by enforcing stringent contracts and leveraging their multiple legal directory sites. FindLaw has zero incentive to invest in improving the quality of their SEO offering, and so they haven’t.

Considering FindLaw? Let's Talk first

Before you sign on FindLaw’s dotted line and make a three year commitment, we hope you’ll let us show you our vision for growing your law firm. Schedule a free growth consultation today.