After issuing several warnings, Google has sued Local Lighthouse Corp. of Tustin, California, in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. While you may not recognize the company name, you are probably very familiar with their pitch.
Google claims the California SEO agency contacted businesses through robocalls claiming to be “Google Local Listing representatives.” Business owners, believing Google was contacting them, would then come in contact with the Local Lighthouse sales representatives, who would charge them for various services.
Google sent the company a letter in July 2014 and again in January 2015 according to Search Engine Land’s coverage of the lawsuit.
The company in question has over 100 issues filed with the Better Business Bureau, a 2 star rating on Yelp out of 90+ reviews, and a 1.8 star rating on Google out of 36 reviews. They also have several pending civil suits related to their telemarketing practices.
Everybody gets calls like this from companies that either directly or indirectly claim to be Google or partnered with Google. They then make promises and give you that too good to be true “act now” deal. But your law firm’s marketing is a serious investment that requires diligent research in not only the company you are hiring but also their proposed strategy.
In Kristen Friend’s article on the Custom Legal Marketing blog titled “10 essential questions to ask a legal marketing agency,” she outlines some key questions that can help you avoid making the wrong decision. We have picked our five favorites.
1) Ask about experience.
If the company is a business-to-business marketing agency, ask them about their experience with the legal industry. If they are a dedicated legal marketing firm, ask about their experience with your particular practice area. A company that has been proficient at helping retail stores and cafes get customers may not have the experience you need to deliver new cases.
Ask the company how they communicate with clients. Will you get an account rep or will you be just another caller in the phone queue?
3) Who is working on my project?
Ask about their staff and where they are located. Will your designer be local? Will your writers be in the U.S.? Are the team members you are working with trained employees or contractors? You can also ask about education and credentials. If the company is offering pay-per-click management services, ask them to verify their Google Partner status. If a company is claiming to be a Google Partner, visit google.com/partners and select “Find a Partner.” You can search for the agency by name. If they are a larger firm, the partner profile may be under a parent company. Any firm that is a certified Google Partner will be happy to prove it.
4) Do they use a proprietary content management system (CMS)?
If they say you own the site but won’t turn over the CMS, you will be starting from square one if you leave this firm. Find out what their cancellation policies are and how you would manage your site if you ever leave their network.
5) Ask about tracking.
We will admit that our sister company, Custom Legal Marketing, has an agenda behind adding this to their list. Their clients get access to the CLM Lounge, which is the most comprehensive and transparent monitoring platform available in the online law firm marketing space. If you are talking to another company, make sure you have access to at least some sort of basic monitoring of your search engine rankings, traffic and link portfolio.
Google has now established the Safety Center for people to report illegal robocalls. When you are ready to get more leads, thoroughly evaluate your options so that you can have a positive experience with your legal marketing team.