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Picture the iconic Hollywood cross-examination scene. The attorney calmly and systematically dismantles the argument of a hostile witness, exposing his lies and half-truths and turning those lies against him. This is the traditional perception of attorneys – they’re shrewd, calculating, and precise. They can spot BS from a mile away. Why, then, aren’t attorneys able to detect the lies and half-truths of SEO scammers? The truth is, many attorneys are more comfortable in the courtroom than they are online, and it’s making them susceptible to the sales pitches of SEO conmen (and women). Here are five aspects of the legal profession that make attorneys particularly easy marks for SEO scams.

1. Attorneys Don’t Have The Time To Learn About SEO

99.9% of what you need to know about search engine optimization is easily available online. SEO conmen go to great lengths to hide this fact from attorneys, because they profit from that ignorance. Lawyers are busy people – everybody knows this, including fly-by-night salesmen. By targeting attorneys, conmen are ensured that most of their potential marks will not have had time to educate themselves on SEO, and therefore will be unable to detect legitimate SEO services from snake oil.

2. Attorneys Are Held To High Standards Of Professionalism

Attorneys must be licensed and must abide by rules of ethical and professional conduct. If they don’t, they can be sanctioned by their state bar or disbarred completely. Because they are held to such high professional standards, they expect the same from other industries. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. There is no regulation to speak of in the SEO industry – there’s no licensing requirements, no required college degree, and no central regulatory body. Because it’s such a relatively new field, the SEO industry is essentially a wild west town with no sheriff – people can do as they please without fear of repercussion. The only barrier to entry is owning a computer (and, frankly, that can be worked around). If an attorney holds himself out as an expert, he better be a certified expert. The same doesn’t hold true for SEO “experts.”

3. Most Attorneys Are Small Business Owners

Most law firms share more in common with the mom & pop deli down the road than with the multi-national bank downtown. Though attorneys are well-educated and sophisticated business owners, most are forced to wear many different hats to keep their firm operating profitably. In addition to practicing law, most attorneys have to keep their own books, manage administrative staff, and deal with the day-to-day operations of their practice (to say nothing of any family obligations they might have).

Understandably, search engine optimization doesn’t rank very high on many attorneys’ priority list. Most attorneys think about their online marketing efforts enough to know they need a website that ranks well, but not enough to know how this is accomplished. SEO conmen exploit this knowledge gap and make outlandish promises to attorneys that their site will appear on the first page of search results pages overnight. This is not the case. A fact that many attorneys discover only after they’ve given up their credit card number.

4. Attorneys Need To Be Easily Accessible

In addition to being overworked and under-informed about SEO, attorneys are also easy to find. Because the health and profitability of a firm is predicated on generating new clients, attorneys prominently display their phone numbers, email addresses, and office locations on their website, in the yellow pages, and on other media. While this makes it easy for clients to contact attorneys, it also makes it easy for SEO scammers to call them and send them unsolicited messages. A simple Google search for an attorney in any given city puts hundreds of potential targets at a conman’s fingertips in a matter of seconds.

5. Attorney Websites Are Essential To The Health Of A Firm

Another factor at play is the importance of a law firm’s website to their business. Many firms rely exclusively on their website to attract potential new clients. A dip in ranking could be catastrophic to business. To say the stakes are high is an understatement. SEO salesmen know this, and they know attorneys are willing to pay through the nose to avoid dropping off the first page. When the stakes are so high, emotion often trumps rationality, which makes paying a massive sum of money to some shady character seem less ill-advised.

Until attorneys educate themselves on SEO and online marketing in general, conmen will continue to think of attorneys as easy marks. Luckily, there’s a lot of great, free resources for SEO information, including Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, and Moz. We also provide a variety of free resources, including a weekly webinar series, designed to empower attorneys to take control of their online marketing. Armed with a bit of information, you’ll be able to spot a scam from a mile away.