Attorneys are busy professionals with a lot on their minds; primarily clients and their cases and they don’t have time to get caught up in Internet scams targeting their vulnerabilities; mainly their need to be visible on the Internet and their lack of time to properly research Internet and marketing services. Below are four of the top Internet scams all attorneys need to watch out for and avoid.
Domain Renewal Scams
Before you launch a website on the Internet, you select and register a domain name. An example would be (mylawfirm.com). There are hundreds of domain registration companies, but some of the most notable are GoDaddy, Network Solutions and Register.com where you purchase a domain for usually under $20, and you typically renew the domain with the same company until you no longer want it.
Domain renewal scams are very common and have been propagated throughout the Internet for many years. The initial contact from the scam company may come in the form of a paper document or an email noting your domain’s upcoming renewal date – which is often public record. It looks very official, and they use language such as “This is the final billing notice. Failure to renew your domain will remove your website from the Internet.”
These notices use forceful terms such as “due now,” “act immediately” or “ final notice” making busy attorneys feel like they have forgotten to renew their domain and are at risk of losing it. When in fact, they don’t even manage the domain. Their deceptive tactics coerce attorneys to complete the form, and pay the amount which in turn initiates the domain transfer process from the current company to them. They then hold the domain hostage and charge three to four times the standard rate for domain renewal. Scam companies like this are hoping attorneys will feel a sense of urgency and simply complete the form and pay the nominal fee without thinking about who they are. Unfortunately, quite often, many busy attorneys do just this only to find out later they have been scammed and now need help getting their domain back.
Domains For Sale
“We have the perfect domain name for you, and it’s only $1,500”. Another common domain scam typically comes in email form offering attorneys a domain name for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. The domain name is usually similar to your existing domain or practice area, like “TampaMediationLawyers.com.” In their offer, they claim that the domain has hundreds or thousands of searches a day on Google and if you bought it, all that potential traffic could go to you. As attorneys, you’re keen to the subtle nuances and meaning of words and phrases. The term “searches” does not mean actual visitors to your website. Just because people search “Tampa”, “Mediation” and “Lawyers” in some variation hundreds of times a day on Google does not mean those people are destined to land on your website because of your new domain name. The value of a domain name is not necessarily the words used in the domain as much as the domain’s history and the authority it has earned over the years. Even though it may seem logical and sounds appealing, rarely are these domains of high value, and almost never worth the asking price.
Guaranteed 1st Page Results
Other scams involve making claims of impressive search engine results that are entirely misleading. Any person or company who offers a “guaranteed first-page placement on Google” is being at the very least disingenuous and most probably dishonest in using this power statement to land your business. Sometimes they will double down on the offer and state they’ll deliver results within a short time period. Here is what attorneys need to remember; the Internet is a marketplace. Like the stock market and real estate market there are no guarantees. An ongoing SEO process drives success and good rankings. Any quick gains are not sustainable without a proven method. Sustainable rankings are not about gaming the market. Not even the best SEO companies guarantee 1st-page results for highly competitive search terms. SEO is a process and a lot of work and no matter what fee they charge you, they cannot and will not get you on the first page of Google’s organic listings instantly for highly competitive search terms.
So how can they make such a claim? Short answer is they’re being disingenuous, deceptive, or just plain dishonest. If they’re being disingenuous, then typically they plan to use what is called “long-tail search phrases” which are less often used by searchers and therefore less competitive. For example, instead of ranking for “divorce lawyers”, they will optimize for “Boston divorce lawyers for women”. If they’re deceptive they have no intention of using SEO. Instead they plan to purchase advertisement for competitive search terms. If they’re just plain dishonest, they plan to hold you on the line paying month after month for as long as they can. In any case, attorneys should be very wary if anybody ever “guarantees 1st page results”.
Google Business Listing Scams
Sometimes, pre-recorded robocalls falsely claim to be working “with Google” or “for Google” in an attempt to sell different schemes and online marketing services to unsuspecting attorneys. One such scam involves your Google Business listing. The recorded message states, “Unless you update the information now, your Google listing may be removed.” The fee to keep your Google listing “active and updated” is usually about $300/month. This deal may seem reasonable until you learn that Google offers this service for free and there is no charge to claim and optimize your own Google listing. Scammers are very good at portraying themselves as a credible resource, having some unique partnership with Google and even presenting themselves as Google. They prey on your lack of Internet knowledge, and they know you need to be visible and competitive on the web but don’t necessarily understand the technical details. What attorneys need to know is according to Google, “Google does not make unsolicited sales calls from an automated system.” Remember, your Google Business listing is free and you should claim the listing in your own established Google account.
Use a Reputable Internet Marketing Partner
Finding a trusted Internet marketing partner who watches out for your best interests and helps you manage your online assets can save you a lot of headache and money. Don’t ever give out your username or password for your domain registration or web hosting accounts unless it is to a trusted web or Internet marketing partner that you know well. If you have a question about an email solicitation, notice you receive in the mail, or would like to learn how Bardorf Legal Marketing can help you avoid scams and manage your law firm’s online presence, please contact us to learn about our Internet Management and Website Maintenance program.