Sunday, March 1, 2009

How to hire a web and SEO person

If the internet is anything, it is a haven for scam artists, crooks and losers. If you are a practicing attorney, you are a prime target. But you probably already know that based on the obscene number of cold calls you get from "web experts" attempting to sell you placement on the top search engines. They hock linking scams, search engine "optimization," pay-per-click management, and anything else that sounds technical and like it will give you the edge.

The problem is that most of these cold-callers don't know what they are talking about, and some of their plans would even hurt, if not completely destroy your web presence.

An example from my own practice: In 2003 I hired a company that cold-called my office. I was very busy at the time, and the salesperson talked a good game. I trusted them with my website and a $5,000 fee to optimize it. After about 2 weeks I started to notice inconsistencies between their rhetoric and their product. After about 4 weeks I knew something was wrong. I started to examine the code in my site and realized that they had employed unethical "black hat" search engine tactics with such brazen openness and frequency that it would set off alarm bells to anybody remotely familiar with how search engines work.

That night I stayed up all night removing the offensive code. And I was lucky. I did it not a moment too soon because within the next couple of days this company's other customers who hadn't realized what was going on got delisted (banned) from the top search engine at the time. The company ended up getting sued, and it is my understanding that the principals of that company are not operating another scam under a different name. They may have even called your office today.

This story leads me to my main point, which is that you need to be highly aware in order to make an intelligent decision. Think of your clients. If you are an excellent DUI lawyer who gives potential clients correct and honest information and who counsels in their best interest even before they hire you, who do your clients tend to be? They tend to be educated, affluent and realistic sorts. On the other hand, if you are a dumptruck DUI lawyer or run a DUI mill and claim to be the best without any substance to back it up, what sort of clientele do you attract? Probably the lesser educated ones or the ones who want to bury their heads in the sand and then blame you for their problems?

You want to be like the first type of client described in the paragraph above. You need to educate yourself on the basics of internet marketing for lawyers before you can have any kind of meaningful conversation with any potential "web guy." You need to realize right now that most people selling internet marketing are essentially selling nothing at all and trying to make it sound good. Come to terms right now with the fact that if you hear and believe what you want to hear, that you will be taken advantage of by an internet predator.

Go to and buy a book or two about how Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines work. Make yourself literate on the subject by reading blogs about it. provides great information on the subject as well. The more you know the better able you will be to weed out the rats, and you will find that there are far more rats than honest web services providers.

Never, I repeat NEVER sign a contract that obligates you to pay for ongoing monthly service without an ability to get out if your web guy is not performing. The good ones are not worried about holding you captive because good internet marketing is essential to the survival of any service based business these days.

The best way to evaluate a web person, especially in terms of the results that can be produced, is to look at that person's own web page. Does it come up well in the search engines? Does it have a lot of websites linking back to it? Is the content fresh? Is the site usable and easy to figure out? If the answer to any of these questions is "no," then your potential web guy sucks. Would you be concerned if your dentist's teeth were rotting out of her face? Of course you would. Would you hire a DUI lawyer who has to get work release from jail on a DUI charge in order to represent you in court? Of course not. My point is that if the web person can't even deliver what they promise you to their own business, then don't expect anything different for your business.

If you are hiring somebody to do organic search engine optimization, why would you even think of choosing somebody from a pay-per-click ad? If the sales pitch from a cold caller is that if you hire him your phone will ring off the hook from all the people that find you online, your response should be something like "then why is my phone ringing off the hook from guys like you? I've been looking for a good website marketing person and I didn't find you. How come?"

True Story: A guy called me trying to sell me the top local spot on Google for the keyword of my city and "DUI Lawyer." He obviously hadn't done his homework because I already had the top spot. When I asked him why I should pay him to get me someplace I already was he hung up on me. A few minutes later the phone rang again. My paralegal asked me if she should put the call through. Out of morbid curiosity, I accepted the call. He introduced himself again and asked "um, how did you get to the top spot?" I said "you called me to try to sell it to me, I assume you know." He admitted that he didn't, and I politely ended the conversation.

My point is that just because somebody says they know what they are doing doesn't make it so. Stock brokers and financial advisers love to prey on doctors, but marketing scammers like to prey on lawyers. Educate yourself, think through your strategy and selection, and you will find the right internet marketing person and quickly rise above your competitors who go with the scammers.



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