Scorpion is a “mega” marketing agency focused on the legal industry. You can’t help but admire how Scorpion has grown over the years, and the agency has even moved into the software space, recently raising a whopping 100 million in venture funding to improve its tech stack.
As an entrepreneur, I tip my hat to this type of ambition and scale.
However, the focus of today’s post is whether a personal injury or smaller law firm is making a good decision spending money with Scorpion on a new website and SEO services.
Law firm SEO has exploded
Since I started JSO Digital in 2012, there has been an explosion of SEO agencies devoted strictly to law firms.
Some of the these new firms are excellent, others not as much. But regardless of the reputation of any agency, there are people at the top who know the search marketing business.
The difference between a boutique SEO provider, and a larger operation, is the gulf between the subject matter experts at the top and the army of employees brought in to scale the business.
When a law firm is looking to hire a marketing agency, it’s easy to go with a massive provider like Scorpion or Findlaw.
But ask yourself:
- Who will be working on my account?
- Do they care about my business?
- Do they work with my competitors?
- Are they able to keep pace with the latest developments in search marketing?
Boutique providers are usually invested in nurturing long term relationships. By contrast, bigger shops are comfortable with churn and burn. In fact, client attrition is built into the business model of many large SEO agencies.
Even clients with hefty budgets are unlikely to receive personal attention, and their account is usually managed by a new employee with very little marketing experience. For example, we spoke with a lawyer in the southeast last year about building a marketing campaign for his firm. Ultimately, he went with Findlaw despite the fact that they work with many of his competitors.
When he shared analytics with us after 5 months, it was clear that he was receiving no value despite a $3,200 monthly budget.
You can read a case study of that Findlaw campaign, here.
SEO doesn’t scale
The dirty little secret about service businesses, SEO agencies included, is they don’t scale well. The founders are usually great marketers, but it’s not easy to train the next 20 or 50 recent college grads to implement a system that is really more of an art form than a plug and play checklist.
Why would an agency who just raised 100 million dollars be incentivized to maintain performance for a small law firm, or to care about service offerings at all?
It’s clear that, with its massive capital raise, Scorpion is pursuing the “golden goose” of the software as a service model, which means that your law firm can’t possibly be the same type of priority it would be to a smaller agency.
Scorpion client case study
A review of the Scorpion website reveals a section devoted to “Success Stories.”
One firm in particular, Yekrangi & Associates, is featured as having had 10X growth in revenue, from $100,000 to over $1,000,000 in revenue after working with Scorpion.
First, congrats to Yekrangi & Associates and Mozel Tov on the growth!
But let’s dive in and break down the site’s performance to try to gauge how much of the firm’s success can be attributed to its Scorpion budget.
Scorpion site speed
Google officially baked what it calls “Core Web Vitals” into its search algorithm this summer as a soft ranking factor. Speed is one of the primary factors in a site’s Core Web Vitals score.
As the Page Speed Insights results listed below demonstrate, The Yekangri site lags behind on top speed metrics. When we tested, the site scored 22 on mobile speed and 27 on desktop speed, both very poor scores. Site speed doesn’t just factor into rankings, it can affect conversion rate as users become less likely to wait for bulky sites to load.
A spot check for searches like “Orange County Immigration Lawyers” shows strong placement for Yekangri & Associates. The firm ranks 3rd in maps and carries the first organic search results.
However, the value of these rankings is a function of the search volume for “Orange County immigration” searches, which according to Google’s keyword planner, is around 100 – 1,000 searches per month.
This is why our approach at JSO, while it does factor in local SEO, tries to move beyond 5 or 10 keyword phrases to achieve topical dominance rather than keyword dominance for a narrow set of keywords.
Scorpion CMS and website ownership
In my post on the cost of law firm websites, I gave a warning – beware of the “proprietary” CMS.
CMS stands for “content management system.” CMS platforms allow for the easy publishing, editing and promotion of large libraries of content.
You’ve probably heard of WordPress, the famous CMS that powers close to 40% of the internet. As an “open source” project, the code base of WordPress is free and high level developers from all over the world contribute code, both to the core files, as well as in the form of plugins.
I warn against using agencies that sell imitation versions of WordPress as a “proprietary” CMS because they are usually packaged as part of a costly up-sell and, for the most part, underperform well executed WordPress websites. By pulling the source code from the Yekangri & Associates website, you can see Scorpion isn’t using WordPress.
According to Lawyerist, Scorpion clients don’t own their websites, which means leaving requires a complete rebuild on a new CMS.
Scorpion triggers one of my big red flags for lawyers – they run a redundant “proprietary” CMS. The site speed scores I list above are just one of many reasons to question the wisdom of renting a law firm website from Scorpion. Technical SEO and “EAT” signals are another.
Does Scorpion offer exclusive territories?
No, as a huge agency, Scorpion works with the competitors of their clients. It’s virtually impossible to scale a marketing agency without client overlap.
Scorpion content marketing
In analyzing the Yekrangi website, I found areas of their content marketing that I liked and areas that I disliked.
I like the decision Scorpion made to forego a blog and instead focus on building a content library, and I like the spoke and wheel hierarchy they assigned to the topics.
I’ve written recently calling for the end of most legal blogs due to the predominance of very low quality content. One idea we suggest for clients is a curated library rather than a disorganized blog that chooses topics at random. We built a site like this for a personal injury client with some similar structure to Yekrangi, albeit a MUCH higher end version than what Scorpion’s assembly line process can deliver (our site also achieved a perfect speed score of 100 on desktop).
When I reference “spoke and wheel” architecture, what am I talking about? Take a look at one of the Yekrangi & Associates library pages below and pay close attention to the left sidebar.
The site is employing what is called a “section specific navigation.” When you enter the “Business and Employment Immigration” section of the site, all relevant topics are there for the user, organized by hierarchy.
In theory, this offers a more complete resource for the reader and also gives search engines a topical cluster to associate with the business.
Investopedia’s business model relies on the success of its content to drive revenue, whereas Scorpion’s business model is driven by signing up lawyers and building subscription software. Scorpion gets paid regardless of whether their client’s websites perform, whereas Dot Dash makes money on a CPM page view model only when traffic goes up. In this way, Dot Dash is incentivized to keep up with SEO best practices for all its sites.
The Yekrangi site has no authors tied to its library pages which is the opposite of what Google (and users) wants to see.
Many of you will remember the Google Plus platform and how it tied into “Google Authorship.” For those who need a refresher – Google built a social channel a few years ago (which has since been shut down) with the primary goal of verifying the identity of content creators.
Authors could tie their G+ profile to their online content and, when that content appeared in search results, a teaser of the author’s G+ identity appeared with it.
Why would Google do this?
They want to highlight the work of subject matter experts in their search results. G+ identity was the first step in the process of verifying that the author of a given piece of content was qualified to discuss the topic they were writing about.
In the old days, a blogger could write a long form piece of content discussing why an insect bite could bolster the immune system of a new baby, and if it was well written, it could drive traffic. Today, the search results will almost exclusively contain pediatrician and medical sources for anything related to the health of kids.
Over time, the G+ method of vetting authors proved cumbersome and Google learned how to establish trust using its core search algorithm.
Today’s iteration of Google Authorship is called “EAT,” which stands for expertise, authority, and trust. Sites with high levels of subject matter expertise, excellent content, and signals of trust are the ones winning on today’s internet.
The lack of authors on the Yekrangi site may have caused significant traffic drops as Google rolls out core algorithm updates aimed at identifying authors who are subject matter experts.
Investopedia takes a modern, EAT driven approach by recruiting writers with top notch credentials and listing those credentials on all its articles.
So, while Scorpion has a sound structure to the content library it has built for Yekrangi law, it’s an outdated approach to content that lacks trust signals and evidence of expertise.
This style of site will almost certainly lose market share without major changes.
Industries like medical, legal, and financial services have long been categorized by Google as Your Money Your Life (“YMYL”) pages that are held to a higher degree of scrutiny because of the effect they can have on people’s lives.
As it pertains to the legal space, the rise of EAT related signals has rendered the content libraries of many law firms obsolete. The old game of “power posting” page after page of text – even when aimed at relevant keywords – has little to no impact on driving traffic and client intakes for firms.
Think of it this way – when Google first began indexing the web as a search engine startup – its bots were hungry for content, which is why you used to see such weight put behind freshness signals in the algorithm. When new content was published with regularity, websites were rewarded for giving the search engine more “grist for the mill.”
Now, we have the opposite problem. We have much more content on any given topic than anyone wants or can read, which is why I recently called for most lawyers to stop blogging altogether.
The goal now is to identify content that adds value, and the gateway through which the scoring of content travels is labeled EAT.
The task for law firms wanting to use the web as a tool for growth, is to build web experiences that give users and search engines a reason to trust them, and that go out of their way to add value for people looking for answers to difficult questions on their phones, laptops, and tablets, often under stress and late at night.
In the age of EAT, many of the content machines built by large agencies, Scorpion as an example, may hurt law firms more than they help.