Yodle Lawyer Marketing Sucks

Yodle sucks.

Yodle sucks because, aside from cold-calling NACDL members claiming that organization’s imprimatur  (which it does not have), it sells lawyers cookie-cutter websites. And not very good cookie-cutter websites, either:

There are a couple of things, other than their interchangeability, that I found interesting about these Yodle sites.

My fellow federal criminal defense lawyers who have traveled a bit might recognize the building in this photo:

Most of these lawyers are young, so I suspect that Yodle is pitching itself as a less-expensive alternative to FindLaw, which also sucks.

So why does Lafayette criminal defense lawyer Eric Neumann have a photo of the Newark, New Jersey Federal courthouse (and the statue in front of it) on his website? Could he not afford the stock image that Clark Adams (in Columbus) and James Wollrab (in Boulder) and Benjamin Hamlet (in Virginia Beach) and Robert Tunnicliff (in Lewiston / Moscow) sprang for?

Or is the Newark courthouse image an upsell from the Supreme Court image?

Speaking of young lawyers and photos, how about this guy?:

Carlo Key Website with Fake Lawyer Picture

He could stand to cinch up his tie, but otherwise Carlo Key is what a criminal-defense lawyer should look like, right? He has a confident pugnacious look, and gray hair that suggests a wealth of experience.

Except that, well, you see, that’s not Carlo Key:

Carlo Key Website with Real Photo

Much of this Yodle nonsense probably doesn’t harm anyone but the lawyers paying a grand a month for $100 worth of web stuff. It’s ugly, but not unethical. Carlo Key’s ad, if it doesn’t cross the ethical line, comes awfully close. Here’s TDRPC 7.04(g):

In advertisements in the public media, any person who portrays a lawyer whose services or whose firm’s services are being advertised, or who narrates an advertisement as if he or she were such a lawyer, shall be one or more of the lawyers whose services are being advertised.

If I were defending Carlo Key I would say that the person in the image at the top of the page isn’t portraying a lawyer whose services are being advertised, and I’d probably come up with some explanation of who that person is portraying. I know that’s nonsense—Yodle’s intent is for people seeing the ad to think that this is one of the guys who’ll be helping them, and Yodle’s intent is attributable to Carlo Key (outsource your marketing, outsource your ethics)—but it might be enough to ward off a sanction.

But to what end? Assuming that a lawyer takes responsibility for his advertising (he does, under the rules), how could paying a marketing company to do something that’s even close to the line be worth any marginal benefit that could be expected?

Carlo Key himself doesn’t look like a drooling incompetent. Put him in a better suit with a nice tie, and he’d be downright presentable. So why does he have someone else’s picture at the top of his website?

This photographic shell game is not the worst ethical and reputational decision Yodle makes on behalf of its clients (remember: OM = OE). For that, you’ll have to wait till the next post.

23 responses to “Yodle Lawyer Marketing Sucks”

  1. You know, I’m an information technology professional. I could build pointless web sites with irrelevant stock photos, and I could do it at a substantial discount. I have SO got to get in on this racket.

  2. I’ve never actually met him, but I think Carlo Key from your above example is now Judge Carlo Key of Bexar County’s County Court #11.

  3. I swore into my state’s Bar less than one week ago, and I have already been contacted by one of the e-marketers. ExclusiveAttorneys.com “found [my] law firm on online.” Amazingly, they offer a “First Page Google guarantee.” Less amazingly, they failed to realize that I have neither a law firm nor a website to be found “on online.” I’m not even going into private practice. I hope no Defending People readers are clients.

  4. Although yodle should not have put a picture on their micro site that would put their client at risk, if I am not mistaken, are you not paying for leads from people searching for your services. Who cares where it came from as long as it brings you a new cusotmer/ ROI.

    • One thing that you need to consider is how Google interprets each web site. Website’s with duplicate content (such as, every Yodle site out there) have ranking issues once Google scores the webpage itself. Ultimately, customers are paying $1000’s each month to improve their online placement and the duplication will cause them to lose their placement. That’s why you should care where it came from. You are paying for a service that sets you apart from your competition; how can you be different if the website you paid for is exactly the same as everyone else.

    • You are right, James, it is all about getting traffic in and qualified calls. At the end of the day, it is simply a numbers game. Stephanie is on the right track, but Google is concerned more about duplicate content, not pictures. As long as your site content is unique, and it will be as each attorney and law firm is unique, then the site will rank well with proper marketing.

      If you have any further questions, feel free to let me know!

  5. Hi – This is Louis Gagnon, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Yodle. While you are not a customer of ours, you obviously have a negative opinion of our services and I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a few things.

    Before I do so, let me say that your opinion matters to us. We have taken valid criticism over the years and it has given us a lot of ideas to improve our service and company. We have also received some invalid criticism that we respond to directly. Your post hits on both, so I’d like to go through one by one – 1) Our relationship with the NACDL 2) Our templated Website offering quality.

    1) NACDL Relationship: Over the years, we are proud to have worked with the NACDL in many different forms whether that means attending events, becoming a preferred and then affinity vendor, or just generally providing online advertising insight to the organization’s members. Currently, we are an affinity partner of the NADCL offering special discounts, offers, and other online marketing opportunities to NACDL members.

    2) Website Template Quality: We provide 3 different options for our clients to choose from upon signing up for our advertising services:

    1) Adversite – clients choose from hundreds of templates, and can customize colors, photos, layouts, content, etc. Clients can, and often do, provide their own text and images. In addition, clients also have an ongoing opportunity to request updates and changes, including adjustments to stock content as they deem appropriate. The price is very reasonable at $599 and the majority of our clients feel it is the best value for their money. Hiring professional writers and purchasing custom photography gets very expensive and many agencies will build these types of sites for $5,000+, but the majority of our clients simply choose not to take this option. Our Adversites are created to convert clicks and site visits into calls that drive new business for our customers. We measure each client’s site conversion and the vast majority are well above industry average.
    2) ProSite – our larger clients sometimes opt for a custom offering that delivers a unique brand presence at a higher cost – $2500. This includes custom content, layout, navigation, color scheme, etc.
    3) Client Site – We allow our clients to use their existing websites. However, we will not allow a client to use a website that we believe will yield low site conversion and hence poor advertising results. We have a strict editorial review process and often turn away business as a result.

    I would like to mention that you hit on something in your post that we have heard from our clients and plan to address with an upcoming enhancement to our website offering. Clients have requested a middle ground between #1 and #2 above that includes more support with providing customized photos and copy, which we are developing for release in the near future. Your post certainly validates the need here.

    Lastly, if any current Yodle customers reading this post have questions about their website or account they can contact me directly or reach out to their account reps. You can email me via info{at}yodle.com (reference my name) for additional follow up or information. Thanks, Louis

  6. Yodle used to hassle me night and day. They had “great ideas” on how to improve my website and bring me more phone leads. It all sounded great until they decided to belittle me when I demonstrated to the “dude” soliciting me that I was already on the first page of results without paying a dime.

    That and I felt more like I was trying out for a role of the remake of “Dude Where’s My Car” rather than discussing how to have a more professional looking website.

  7. I am a partner in a small firm. We recently had a conference call and they tried to belittle us. They did not get far. We have been burned so many times by web advertisers that we saw right through the sales pitch. Do your due diligence and you will see what I mean. Talk to them but be prepared with lots of questions. We decided not to retain them.

  8. I was just recently approached by them. I didn’t have time to do my due diligence but pretty quickly reached the conclusion that they weren’t for me when the salesperson on the other end of the line (she claimed to be a lawyer; not sure how that works when you don’t actually work as one) couldn’t pronounce “appellate.” That more or less told me everything I needed to know.

  9. I’ve done tests on my client’s site where we tracked mouse clicks for one month. Doesn’t matter if you spend $20,000 on fancy site, if the copy and call to action still says “Free Consultation” you will get marginal results. I specialize with injury attorneys and “Free Consultation” is everywhere.

    At this point it’s meaningless dribble.

    Sites that say this tired old crap will likely convert less than 2% of it’s traffic. Meaning if you’re average click for say “workers’ comp” is $2.53 you’re looking at over $100 a lead.

    Why intelligent attorneys buy into non-sense pitches from Findlaw and Yodle boggles my mind. I would think if they do sites for a very similar cluster of local lawfirms/attorneys this would seem like a big conflict of interest.

    If you want better performance online – get in touch.

  10. I should also note that Yodle is into spamming. I get the occasional spam from them suggesting that I should use their services.

    Since my web site is little more than a place holder, and I do not care to recruit more business than I already have, Yodle’s pitch can only fall into one of two categories.

    (1) Success. Their stuff works and brings in clients, despite its apparent low quality. I’m thinking Rakofski quality here. But if it works, it brings in more custom, and that is exactly what I do not need. I can see no upside in a proposition wherein I pay money for unwanted results.

    (2) Failure. It accomplishes nothing. I can see no benefit in a proposition wherein I pay money for a lack of results.

    They also phone occasionally. I think they go through the state bar web site and just cold call so many as they can on any given day.

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