For those of you who are unfamiliar, Findlaw is the legal marketing division of corporate giant Thomson Reuters. They offer law firm websites, SEO, and “content marketing” services to law firms.
Findlaw talks a good game, and certainly has the cash to aggressively market their services. The company employs armies of regional sales reps whose job it is to go out and find potential law firms to meet with in person. They rely on these personal relationships and heavy handed contracts to lock law firms into using their legal marketing services, which often do little more than provide hosting.
To be fair, some of the websites Findlaw builds are attractive. However, here’s the problem: most of Findlaw’s legal marketing services are ineffective.
Their content marketing services have been called an embarrassment to the legal profession. We’ve seen firm after firm come to us wondering why their Findlaw websites underperform, despite hefty budgets.
In this post, I break down the website performance of a real Findlaw client who came to our agency for a second opinion.
- Findlaw’s SEO history
- Findlaw website review – breaking down a client’s analytics
- What CMS does Findlaw use to build websites?
- The bottom line
Findlaw’s SEO history
Black hat SEO is the practice of using spam, and manipulative marketing tactics, to game search engines, and achieve fast (but flimsy) rankings.
Perhaps the best known black hat SEO tactic is paying for links, a practice that violates Google’s Webmaster guidelines. Findlaw was outed for purchasing links in 2008.
However, after the link schemes were exposed, and clients saw corresponding drops in traffic, Findlaw seems to have (partially) learned their lesson. There is no evidence Findlaw pays for links in 2021.
Findlaw website review – breaking down a client’s analytics
For this post, we were fortunate to have a current Findlaw client share with us their first 5 months of Google analytics data after hiring Findlaw.
The client’s goal was to build organic web traffic to 3,000 monthly visitors in the first year of service and to see an uptick in cases after a slow period during COVID.
What does Findlaw charge clients for SEO?
The firm highlighted here is paying $3,200 per month, which included the cost of a very basic WordPress website, some budget reserved for Facebook ads, and a “blog.”
Let’s dive into the site’s performance.
Findlaw site speed review
As a first step, we ran the firm’s website through Google’s Page Speed Insight tool. Through its Core Web Vitals update, which launched in summer 2021, Google now factors in page speed and user experience as a ranking factor, albeit a soft one.
The firm scored a middling 57 on mobile and 65 on desktop.
Findlaw organic traffic review
The client’s goal was 3,000 organic visitors per month, however, 5 months into the campaign, the firm’s website has achieved a total of 3,143 users from all sources, for an average of 628 visitors per month.
As you can see, organic traffic accounts for only 12% of the total users in the first 5 months, for a 5 month total of 394 organic visits. Keep in mind that this 394 number includes clients and competitors who search for the firm by name.
In July 2021, that organic number went down to account for just 10% of traffic. In July, the site received just 72 organic search visits.
Let’s break down the data to see why the site is underperforming.
To begin, there have been an unusual number updates to Google’s core algorithm this summer. Google rolled out core updates in both June and July, and the client complained of a drop off in June, which makes me think algorithm downgrade.
However, the core updates strike at the heart of organic search traffic and we simply don’t have enough organic traffic to come to any conclusions (remember, the site has received a paltry 394 total organic visits in 5 months).
Another possibility is the increasing difficulty with getting legal ads approved on Facebook and other paid channels. This client could have seen a drop off in June as Findlaw struggled to find ad placement for the firm.
We find our first hard red flag when we review direct traffic, which, over the life of the campaign is accounting for a whopping 56% of website users.
As the name denotes, direct traffic usually happens when the site owner, staff, and competitors visit a URL they are familiar with. You can screen these visits from analytics by filtering bots and your own IP address from the data set, but this hasn’t been done for the firm here.
When you exclude direct traffic, the firm is averaging 273 visits per month, or about 9 hits a day.
9 visits per day for $3,200 is a steep price to pay.
Findlaw blog review
So as to keep the firm’s identity a secret, I will not share landing page data from analytics. However, for July 2021, the top performing blog post received 1 visit from organic search.
One monthly visit for the top performing blog page!
The blog content is not associated with a byline, but is instead written “on behalf of the firm.” The content is thin and not of a quality that can compete in today’s content space, which requires a high level of expertise and trust to drive traffic.
The blog likely hurts the firm more than it helps.
Findlaw lead generation review
How many leads did the site generate in July, 2021?
Analytics data shows 12 contact form submissions, 7 of which came from direct traffic, and 5 of which came from some organic source (perhaps someone Googling the firm name as part of a “branded” search).
We don’t have call tracking data, which could add another source of leads to analyze. However, even with spam filters in place, on most law firm websites there are bound to be a few contact form submissions that are junk, so the lead flow to this site isn’t encouraging. I would estimate that the firm received about 6-8 real leads from the Findlaw website and most, if not all, would have come without spending $3,200 per month.
By contrast, a single page we built for a client on repossession law, as part of a content campaign, drives over 200 leads per year (chat, contact forms, calls).
Facebook and paid channels
Below is a list of traffic sources broken out with conversion data.
For July 2021, the site received 88 visits from Facebook and 58 visits from Google Adwords. This paid traffic resulted in zero conversions. It’s possible those visits could have resulted in phone calls, but we don’t have that data because Findlaw hasn’t set up call tracking in Google analytics for the client.
What CMS does Findlaw use to build websites?
In my post on the cost of law firm websites, I warned against paying for the redundancy of “proprietary” content management systems (“CMS”) built by agencies. The good news here is that this site is built on WordPress using a modified Divi theme.
How can we tell? You can see the “wp-content” files in the source code screen shot I’ve shared below:
In theory, this means that the client could take their site with them and simply host on a platform like WP Engine, which cuts out the need for Findlaw altogether. At present, Findlaw is doing little else than hosting the site anyway.
However, the design of this particular site is heavy with stock images and, in my opinion, isn’t worth salvaging. The better, and more cost effective path, would be to pick a Studio Press theme and have an agency like ours modify it to a look and feel the firm is happy with.
There are some items we don’t know – for example, the number of phone calls being generated by this campaign.
However, extrapolating from the data we do have, I feel bad for this client. They are spending a lot of money ($3,200 per month) for web hosting dressed up as marketing. Rather than waste $38,400 per year, they could reinvest that money in their business, or just pay themselves a bigger salary.
The hard numbers for this Findlaw website are hard to swallow:
- 56% of traffic is direct traffic (the firm employees going to their own site)
- Just 70 organic visits per month (including people Googling the firm)
- Generic design on a commonly available WordPress theme
- Slow site speed
- 5 total organic contact form leads per month
- Outdated blog that receives less than 10 organic visits per month
Keep in mind that this is only one Findlaw website out of thousands, but for what we can see from this firm’s website and analytics, there are better options than Findlaw in today’s marketplace.
For a review of your site’s analytics, send us an email, we’d love to hear from you.