Top in Google Search Results: Another Self-Check of My Blogging Results in the Search Engines -- My Blog Posts are Doing Very Well

Today, I did another "spot check" of how my personal blog posts are performing in various search engines, Google as well as Yahoo and Ask.com. (I didn't bother with Bing, maybe I'll go back and check Bing later.  I don't like Bing, it's a personal thing.)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that my blog posts are doing very, very well in search results.  I'm very happy, truth be told:  many of these posts were written pre-Panda much less Penguin and Hummingbird.

Why are my posts so successful in grabbing and holding the top search result spots in searches numbering in the millions?

I've got posts written 7 or 8 years ago that are holding in the top results on the first page of searches with literally millions of results provided.  That's wonderful, and I'm proud of this accomplishment.

Now, what am I doing?  I'm not posting daily - heck, on my fiction blog I'm rarely posting at all.  I'm not buying keywords and I'm not researching SEO for hours here.

Here's what I believe:  I think I'm getting these results because I have always written with the reader in mind and how they will be searching for the information (not how Google will organize it).

Bottom line, my consistency in top Google search results is, in my humble opinion, because I have always written with the idea of sharing information with my reader.  I ponder who my reader is -- and what they will be putting into that Google search bar to find the information that I have for them.  The readers of my simplicity blog are not the same as the readers of my lawyer-writer blog, for example.

Google wants to help the reader and the top results will be those sites (articles, posts) with content that best serves the query entered by that person.  Experts now opine that writers of web content wanting to get top results in the Google search engine should be pondering "topics" in queries instead of keywords.  

Which sorta goes with my attitude on web writing since I first started back in 2004: my goal is helping people with what I'm placing on the web, and I'm thinking about who these people are and how to reach them.  I'm not targeting Google, I'm targeting the people who I want to read my work.  

Focusing efforts on helping the reader instead of cracking Google's algorithms works.  

Attached below and viewable in Scribd is  my December 2013 Spot Check.  The Attachment with screenshots of the search engine results themselves as supporting documentation is also available on my Scribd page.

Granted, not all of my posts are number one with a bullet in every search engine query.  However, a lot of them are -- and given my track record on word count and my past posting schedule, I'm really happy with what I've found today -- particularly after Google's big change regarding keyword SEO.

A few examples from today's Spot Check:

Yahoo Query: should you use legalzoom rocketlawyer 
EverydaySimplicity has the 1st entry of 11 entries on the 1st page (total results for this search = 591,000) for a post written on August 9, 2008 (my post is 5 years, 4 months old)

Google Query: win flea war with salt 
EverydaySimplicity has the 1st entry of 10 entries on the 1st page (total results for this search = 58,600,000) for a post written on June 20, 2012 (my post is 1 year, 6 months old)

Google Query: admitting tweets as evidence 
RebaKennedyLawyerWriter has the 1st entry of 10 entries on the 1st page (total results for this search = 4,660,000) for a post written on February 28, 2011 (my post is 2 years, 10 months old)

Google Query: lonely at the keyboard 
RebaKennedyLawyerWriter has the 10th entry of 10 entries on the 1st page (total results for this search = 7,600,000) for a post written on November 9, 2007 (my post is 6 years, 1 month old

Google Query: elements of thriller vs mystery 
RebeccaKennedy has the 10th entry of 10 entries on the 1st page (total results for this search = 4,140,000) for a post written on November 24, 2006 (my post is 7 years, 1 month old)

Google Query: Texas child protective services workers arrested 
BackseatLawyer has the 5th entry of 10 entries on the 1st page (total results for this search = 2,000,000) for a post written on September 30, 2013 (my post is 4 months old)

Here is my full Spot Check:


Google In Depth Articles Feature: Why Not Create a Corresponding In-Depth Articles Section on Your Law Firm Web Site? (Please?)

Have you seen how some of your search results in Google Search include "in-depth articles" now?  (I've posted about this new subset of search results already, go here for details on what Google is doing with "in depth articles" in the results it provides.)

Above:  example of Google Search Results "In-depth articles" 

Well, over at the Unofficial Google Blog yesterday, there was news about a further development with Google's "in depth articles" selection.  Now, if you click on the "in-depth articles" section, you'll get even more of these longer pieces to read and review.

Read that post, "More In-Depth Articles in Google Search," here.

My Suggestion:  Build a Law Firm In-Depth Article Section on the Firm Web Site

Here's what I'm pondering right now -- I think that law firms should be considering this new Google Search categorization as a great opportunity for them to use some of their longer word count stuff -- articles, maybe even briefing or memoranda  -- here.

Lawyers have lots of writing that is too long for a blog post and too cumbersome for a web site page -- but it's work that is quality and worth the read.

Why not create a section on the law firm web site entitled "Long Articles" or "In Depth Articles" and place a few of these longer works online?  Perhaps next to the FAQ page?  or the Publications section?

Two considerations right off the bat:
1.  copyright -- if the item has been published already, say in the local Bar's trade magazine or in a Law Journal somewhere, then you may need to get permission from that publisher to publish the article online on your firm's site;  and
2.  coding -- the publication itself will need to be coded for Google with the appropriate code to alert Google that an in-depth article exists on this portion of the firm's site.

Why do this?

I think that lawyers who do this may see their longer writings hitting the coveted first page of Google Search Results in the "In Depth Article" section if they follow my suggestions here.  That's their benefit.

The bigger benefit is providing this writing -- the research and the analysis -- to readers who can benefit from work that may well be gathering dust in credenza drawers or setting on thumb drives right now.

Could this include briefing filed of record, saying winning appellate briefs?  I think that would be great to have online, especially in instances where there's a hurdle to get access to the public record filing (sure, I'm thinking PACER).

Yes, I'm a geek that reads the briefs, not just the opinions.  Just typing that makes me realize I may need to get out more, think I'll hit the publish button now and go take the dogs for a walk.  Sigh.


Web Writing Tip: Never Write Directly in Your Blog Platform Because You May Lose Your Blog Post - and What to Do if This Happens

Sure, it’s faster and pretty darn easy to write your blog post directly into your platform, whether it’s WordPress or Blogger. It’s faster to get the post done and published and out on the web — and it’s so much easier to insert hyperlinks this way.

I get it. I wrote directly into the little box on the screen for Blogger or WordPress for several years.

Until I was happily writing away, inserted a link or two, and hit the publish button only to have the platform crash. Crash, as in lost.

Everything was gone. The content, the links, the image.

Irritating, obviously. So I heaved a heavy sigh, and rewrote the darn thing. (Google History helped here.) It wasn’t as much fun this time, I didn’t write with as much zip, but the re-creation was not that difficult.

I made sure I saved the stuff a couple of times, to be on the safe side. No worries. I hit publish.

Everything disappeared from the screen. I saw the dreaded “404” error message.

So, I made a phone call to the designer ….

And learned this lesson that I would like to share with you.

Never, and I mean NEVER, write directly into the blogging platform.

Write your blog post in Word, Google Docs, or Scrivener; collect your hyperlinks; get your image ready to go, and then open WordPress or Blogger.

Here are some things I do to make this smoother since, yes, it’s not as fast and speedy to create your post in one place and then transfer it into the platform as it is to do everything in one spot.

1. I write everything into a content draft so I can “select all” and easily drop everything into the blogging platform. I use Scrivener for this, although many of my clients use Word to write their stuff. This is an easier thing to accomplish with WordPress than Blogger for Scrivener pastes — in Blogger, I have to take the time to insert paragraph breaks, etc., and I have to make sure that I’m inserting into “html” and not the “compose” block or things are even more hopper-jawed. It’s a pain, but not enough to make me stop using Scrivener.

2. Links are important in blog posts. I insert hyperlinks into my content as I go because I’ve found that it’s easier to remember what phrase you want to use with the link when the hyperlink is closer to the chosen text than if all your links are listed in a group at the end of your document (or bookmarked or tagged in Pocket, etc.). My practice is to insert the hyperlink immediately below the paragraph I’ve written, and if there are two links, then I insert them in the order they’ll appear in the content.

3. It also helps me to write the title and place it into the top of the content. Not as the title of the Word document or the Scrivener file, but as the first sentence of the post’s content.

4. As soon as I cut (or copy) from Scrivener and paste my entire block of content into the platform, I save it. No categories, no tags, I just save the inserted content immediately.

5. AFTER I save the post in the platform, I take the title I’ve written from the top of the content block and insert it into the title bar. Why? WordPress has given me problems a time or two with crashing when things are placed into the title bar. This way, if there’s a crash, hopefully that content is safely saved. I save again now.

6. Then I edit the post title’s file name (for example, see that little spot in WordPress right below where the title appears) because the platform will save something without a good description like “834” - and unless you change it, that’s what will appear in the hyperlink for your blog post.


Hyperlinks Now Required in Briefs Filed Before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

This is cool.   A new procedural rule becomes effective in December 2013, and now attorneys filing briefs before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit must include hyperlinks in their citations.

New Fifth Circuit Rule 28.2.2 states:

28.2.2 Record References. Every assertion in briefs regarding matter in the record must be supported by a reference to the page number of the original record, whether in paper or electronic form, where the matter is found, using the record citation form as directed by the Clerk of Court.


For multiple record cases, parties will cite “ROA” followed by a period, followed by the Fifth Circuit appellate case number of the record they reference, followed by a period, followed by the page of the record. For example, “ROA.13-12345.123.”

In single record cases, parties cite the short citation form, “ROA,” followed by a period, followed by the page number. For example, “ROA.123.”


RebelMouse Review: What is RebelMouse, Anyway? Is RebelMouse Worth My Time - or Yours?

A notice hit my Gmail inbox today: BisnarChase, a California personal injury law firm, has joined RebelMouse.

Now, I recall joining RebelMouse, too, several months ago. And I’ve never gone back to the RebelMouse since then.

RebelMouse is a Social Media Aggregator.
 However, this notice made me think I might want to give RebelMouse another looksie, so today I went over to RebelMouse and looked at my RebelMouse page.

This afternoon, I added my Pinterest feed to RebelMouse as well as my LinkedIn feed. (I had originally added only Google+ and Twitter). I added my blog feeds, too.

What does this mean? RebelMouse Collects Your Social Media Stuff

It means that when you go to my page on RebelMouse, you will see a nice display of all the things that I’ve added recently on all these sites: my pins, my tweets, my G+ posts, my LinkedIn updates.

Which seems like a nice thing to have all in one place, I suppose. I get why it's being described as a "social aggregator."

Yes, I can go to other RebelMouse pages and see what someone else (or something else - like HuffPo) is posting on these various social media pages - but will I?

Posting on RebelMouse - It's a blog, too?

RebelMouse also offers the opportunity to post on RebelMouse. So I did. And I shared that RebelMouse post on Google+ using the RebelMouse share feature.

However, I’m not sure what I’m suppose to get from RebelMouse. It’s easier for me to post on Google+ and have that post automatically appear on RebelMouse than vice versa (I had to enter new text for the shared post to G+ from RebelMouse).

Also, there’s not an option to share to LinkedIn from RebelMouse, a decided disadvantage but understandable given LinkedIn’s reclusiveness, social-media wise.

Will I return to RebelMouse?  That’s a big question.  I'm not tempted to do this; there is no siren's song akin to Pinterest.

I’m going to play around with RebelMouse for a couple of days or so. However, I’m not breathless with anticipation of a Great New Find here.

Maybe I’ll learn more this week to change my mind. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s what RebelMouse explains about itself:
RebelMouse organizes your social presence into a beautiful, dynamic and social site -- in seconds. It's based on the idea that people are proud of what they share on social networks, but are starting to feel embarrassed about their websites. RebelMouse is your social front page and automatically updates as you post on social networks as well as when you blog directly on your site.


New York Attorney General Investigation Into Fake Online Reviews (Like Yelp): "Operation Clean Turf" Clamps Down on 19 Companies For Fake Online Reviews

Back in September 2013, the New York Attorney General announced the results of a year-long investigation into fake online reviews, resulting in 19 different companies being nabbed by the New York prosecutor and fined over $300,000.00.

False advertising online via fake reviews?  It's called "astroturfing."

According to the New York AG, false advertising where an SEO company or other business pays someone money for preparing or disseminating a false or deceptive review that may be reasonably assumed to be a neutral, third-party review is a form of "astroturfing."

New York State Attorney General
Eric T. Schneiderman
From the press release:

  • Besides using their own employees to write and post the reviews, the companies hired freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review.  One SEO company required that freelancers have an established Yelp account, more than 3 months old, with more than 15 reviews (at least half unfiltered), and 10 Yelp "friends," as an attempt to avoid Yelp's advanced review filter. ,,, 
  • Attorney General Schneiderman's office also discovered solicitations on sites such as Craigslist.com, Freelancer.com and oDesk.com to hire people to write fake reviews.  ....
  • The OAG has entered into Assurances of Discontinuance with 19 companies, with penalties ranging from $2500 to just under $100,000.  The practice of preparing or disseminating a false or deceptive review that a reasonable consumer would believe to be a neutral, third-party review is a form of false advertising known as "astroturfing."  Astroturfing is false and deceptive, and it violates, inter alia, New York Executive Law § 63(12), and New York General Business Law §§ 349 and 350.

What does Yelp have to say about it?
"More than 100 million visitors come to Yelp each month, making it critical that Yelp protect the integrity of its content," said Aaron Schur, Yelp's Senior Litigation Counsel. "We take many steps to do this, including the use of automated filtering software, leveraging our vast user community for tips about suspicious content, undercover sting operations, legal action, and cooperation with law enforcement. We applaud NY Attorney General Schneiderman for his willingness to tackle the issue of illegal fake reviews head on, and for his success in shutting down these operators. We look forward to continuing to cooperate with the New York Attorney General's office and any other interested law enforcement office or regulator to protect consumers and business owners from efforts to mislead."

Who got caught for "astroturfing" by the New York Attorney General in September?

Here is the list of 19 companies identified in the news release describing "Operation Clean Turf":

  1. A&E Wig Fashions, Inc. d/b/a A&E and NYS Surgery Center 
  2. A.H. Dental P.C. d/b/a Platinum Dental 
  3. Body Laser Spa Inc. 
  4. The Block Group, LLC, d/b/a Laser Cosmetica and LC MedSpa, LLC 
  5. Bread and Butter NY, LLC d/b/a La Pomme Nightclub and Events Space 
  6. Envision MT Corp. 
  7. iSEOiSEO 
  8. Medical Message Clinic and HerballYours.com 
  9. Metamorphosis Day Spa, Inc. 
  10. Outer Beauty, P.C., Lite Touch Plastic Surgery, P.C., Staten Island Special Surgery, P.C., Sans Pareil Surgical, PLLC
  11. Stillwater Media Group 
  12. Swan Media Group, Inc. and Scores Media Group, LLC 
  13. US Coachways Limousine, Inc. and US Coachways, Inc. 
  14. Utilities International, Inc. d/b/a Main Street Host 
  15. The Web Empire, LLC 
  16. Webtools, LLC and Webtools Internet Solutions Ltd. 
  17. West Village Teeth Whitening Service, LLC; Magic Smile, Inc., aka Magic Smile 
  18. XVIO, Inc. 
  19. Zamdel, Inc. d/b/a eBoxed  


How Does Your Blog Look on a Tablet or Smartphone? Look Here (and Here's Why It's Important).

Traditional blog platforms (think WordPress, Blogger) were designed for desktops and laptops -- not for smartphones and tablets.  Which means that your blog may look strange and hard to read on your IPhone or IPad (or other phone or tablet device) unless you've taken steps to accommodate these new smaller-screen devices.

How can you find out how your blog appears to readers using a smartphone or tablet?  

The easiest way to check is to grab a smartphone or tablet and go to your blog's home page.  Is it hard to read -- are you seeing more of the left sidebar than the posts themselves?

Other ways to check:  go to websites like TestiPhone.com or iPhone tester to see how things look on a smartphone's small screen.

If the blog looks wonky, call your webmaster and get this fixed.

For most blogging platforms, it's an easy fix.  Wordpress has a plugin that solves the problem; Blogger does it automatically.  (Blogger also provides its own preview for how Blogger blogs look on these smaller screen devices.)

Why should you care what device is used to read your blog?

Don't get overwhelmed.  The biggest hurdle here is taking the time to check the blog's appearance on various tablets and smartphones; changing things to accommodate the smaller screen is simple to do.  

It's an important task to undertake as soon as you can, though:  it's estimated that more readers are going to be reading blog posts on smartphones and tablets than desktops and laptops very soon (think weeks or months), so getting your blog adapted for those smaller screens is a priority.

BOTTOM LINE?  A hard to read blog post on a smartphone may remain an unread blog post -- and your time and effort in creating those blog posts deserves better, so make it easy for the smartphone reader to pull up and read what you've written.

For more, check out Forbes' article, " Smartphones, Tablets, Tab-Phones Edging PCs Off The Shelf?" and Econsultancy's take on things in "Smartphones and tablets: five key differences."

Even more? Read this piece written back in 2011 on Wikipedia, where Wikipedians are pondering where most of their readers are reading Wikipedia articles then (2011) and where those readers are going to be reading Wikipedia articles in the future.


Can LinkedIn Get Lawyers In Trouble With Their State Bar? Maybe

LinkedIn provides a great service for professionals, and lots of lawyers are members of the online site.  However, given the prohibitions placed upon attorneys by their respective bars and supervising authorities over marketing, solicitation, maintaining the appearance of propriety, etc., there's been a lot of discussion over how attorneys can be active on LinkedIn without getting in trouble with their State Bar Associations or State Supreme Courts.

Skills and Expertise in LinkedIn Bios - Careful About Those Practice Areas

Consider the recent Florida Bar Association advisory opinion on LinkedIn's profiles.  It is the opinion of the Florida regulatory authority that Florida lawyers should not list his or her practice areas under the "Skills and Expertise" section of their LinkedIn bio unless they have achieved Board Certification.

For those who follow LinkedIn regularly, this may seem a little over the top.  Still, Florida lawyers -- know that you cannot list your practices in the Skills and Expertise section until something changes with the Florida Bar.

And that's not all.

Endorsements?  Uninvited LinkedIn Endorsements May Not Meet State Bar Approval, Either.

You've seen all those endorsements that pop up for you?  People you know well or barely at all, endorsing you for all sorts of things?

Well, if those endorsements involve legal areas, then take heed.  Maybe these will get you in trouble with your State Bar, too, even though you have had zip to do with being endorsed.  These are uninvited surprises to LinkedIn members as other people take the step to endorse them for something.  It's not done by the lawyer.

From the Bar's perspective, these endorsements may be in violation of Bar Rules.  Florida may find them to be in violation of the same Ethics Rule that bars the above Skills and Expertise listing of practice areas:  in Florida, it may be that these endorsements can only be legally placed on an attorney's LinkedIn page if that Florida lawyer is Board Certified in that area.  

Illinois, according to opinions given in the Illinois Bar Association, finds that LinkedIn endorsements for Illinois lawyers is okay with the Illinois Bar.

For more on the Florida endorsement issue, go here for local lawyers' take on things and go here to read Robert Ambrogi's discussion of the situation.


Prenda Lawyers: The Zaniness Just Keeps On Coming — But When Are These Guys Going to Get Zapped?

“So, what’s the latest with Prenda?” asked my client, and instead of filling him in on things personally, I thought I’d just post an update here.

First of all, you may remember Prenda (we’ve been following their antics for awhile now). Now, there’s even a nice summary page over at Wikipedia, where the Prenda Law Firm is described as “… a Chicago, Illinois-based law firm that claims it battles copyright piracy, but is also strongly identified with copyright trolling.”

BoingBoing labels them grifters, but whatever.

Prenda, or following what’s happening in courts all over the country delving into Prenda-activities, is just a hoot. Yes, maybe a geeky-lawyer hoot, but a hoot nevertheless.

For the latest, check out Techdirt’s latest (they’ve been doing a great job of tracking Prenda stuff), “Report From The Court Room On Latest Prenda Hearing In Minnesota: Another Hearing, Another Mess,” by Nancy Sims as well as its recap, “Prenda Soap Opera: Steele Contradicts His Own Previous Claims, Lutz Disappears Again... And The Mother-in-Law Surprise.”

For even more, there’s Boing Boing’s article “Porno copyright troll John Steele accused of identity theft -- by his mother-in-law,” which includes a link to their earlier coverage.

A tidbit of things:  Prenda’s Mark Lutz never seems to show up. He’s been a no show in court, he’s failed to come to depositions, and the excuses as to why Lutz isn’t where he’s suppose to be are amazing not only in how long it takes to provide one, but the reasons for his no-show are worthy of a jaw-drop in their own right.

There’s simply too much here to share in a short blog post, but hopefully these links will help you catch up with this infamous Porno Copyright as a Practice Area law firm.


Google Constitute Project -- Amazing Stuff. I Love Google So Much.

Google is great and I sure hope they're not secretly evil.  Yes, I know their motto is to do no evil, but the Bible warns us that Satan masquerades as an angel of light - and I sure hope Google isn't deceiving me (and you).  All that brouhaha over in Europe over Google's privacy and security issues (France may be imposing fines on Google shortly over storage concerns, for example) does give one pause.

Then, just when I start really thinking about Google and wondering about all the bad juju I'm reading about them, well -- it's just like my first husband and what I learned later were his "guilt gifts."

Google up and launches Constitute for me.  Well, for everyone, of course.

And I'm back dancing around and all happy happy happy with Google again.  I'm so easy.

It's not enough that I love Google Scholar.  (Though I'm really, really ready for statutes to be included there, too.)

Nope.  Now, Google has created a site where I can surf around through various national constitutions, either by country or by topic.

It's fascinating.  For example, go search topics for "shari'a" and you'll get three constitutions:

Bahrain 2002, Libya 2011, and Somalia 2012.

Read them.  They're not that difficult to read -- they've all been translated into English.  (And if you don't know about shari'a law, then rectify that quickly, here.)

Then read ours.  The U.S. Constitution.  Remember this?
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America....
I love Google for so many things.  Its dedication to quality.  Its dependability.  Its zeal for moving forward and developing new things.  And I think I love Google because it exemplifies something that I believe is critical for every human being: a love of learning.


Yelp Online Review Site Sues California Lawyer for Fake Reviews

Yelp.com has sued a California law firm for allegedly fake reviews posted on the review site - read the details in a news story published in Bloomberg Businessweek which includes a link to the complaint that has been filed in the California court.

The defendants here are McMillan Law Group, Inc., and Julian McMillan, who practices bankruptcy in San Diego, California.

The twist to this story:  McMillan sued Yelp.com earlier this year - and won.  Yelp successfully appealed that decision according to the Business Insider and now, Yelp has sued the lawyer in another lawsuit.

There's more coverage with more details, if you're interested:   the Wall Street Journal has blogged about it; and ArsTechnica.com reports that the Yelp case has been ordered to binding arbitration.

What I find interesting about all this is that: (1) apparently, Yelp has yet to make a profit on its review site, where revenues come in from advertising; and (2) allegedly, lawyers are not only getting friends and family and employees to write sweet and wonderful reviews for their Yelp profits but lawyers are also purportedly grouping together, so that firms can submit glowing reviews about each other's practices on Yelp.com, too (this all, according to Yelp).

Two things:

1.  If Yelp isn't turning a profit, then how long can it survive?  Just wondering here.
2.  I realize that lawyers come in all shapes and sizes, but asking Aunt Harriet to write a fake Yelp review, or forming some secret review society to chock the site with fake reviews for the group?  Sure, I'm jaded enough to think that there may be some lawyers out there doing this.  I just don't know any lawyer that would bother.  They don't have enough hours in the day as it is.   And I mean, really.  


Google Plus: Tips for Writing Google+ Posts and Why You Should Care About Google Plus

Google is promoting Google+ in a big way. Surf around and you’ll find continuing integration of Google+ into other Google offerings; for example, it’s impossible not to notice the growing Google+ connection in GMail if you use the Google e-mail service.

Blogger pushes a connection with Google+ where Blogger posts automatically appear on Google+ and vice versa, Google+ comments automatically appear on the Blogger blog. There’s also integration between Google+ and YouTube; Google+ and Google Chrome; and the big one for me this week: Google+ and Google Search.

That’s right. Contributing to Google+ is going to help you get top ranking in Google Search Results. Why?  Well, you need to think of your Google+ Page as a kind of blog and the content that you write for Google+ as mini blog posts.

Google+ Posts Are a Big Deal Now Because Google+ Appears in Google Search

There’s a great article at Moz explaining their research into a correlation between Google rankings in Google Search Results and Google+ contributions. (We’re talking stuff you write and put on Google Plus, not the “+1” which is Google+’s hat tip to the Facebook Like feature.)

Go read the Moz article on the "Amazing Correlation" they've discovered for lots of details on this study.  Bottom line, Moz found that sharing stuff on Google+ helps you with Google Search. (Why does this surprise anyone?)

You want to take the time in writing your Google+ contributions because each Google Plus post connects with Google Search (go here to read how spiders work):

  1. Google Search will read ("crawl") and index your Google+ contribution. IMMEDIATELY. 
  2. Google Search is going to check those links in your Google Plus post, too. IMMEDIATELY. 
  3. Google Search includes Google+ in its PageRank categorization — this is good for your Google+ page, but it’s good for your web site or blog, too, if you’ve inserted their links into your Google+ post. 

For an in-depth discussion on writing posts for Google Plus, I recommend Dustin Stout’s article, “The Anatomy of a Perfect Google+ Post.” He’s providing lots of detailed instruction.

However, for many of my clients, what Dustin recommends is too much for them: they want to slap something into Google+ and go — lawyers are an impatient (busy) lot.   For example, Dustin’s suggestion that communication be encouraged by asking for comments simply will not be followed by many attorneys right now because they don’t have the time to commit to these conversations. And don’t even get them started on Twitter: they will not tweet.

Therefore, I’m offering the following information for a fast post on Google+ that I think will help the writer accomplish the goal of being noticed both on Google+ as well as on Google Search.

Remember: you care about how to write a Google+ post because it can help you appear in the top results in Google Search.

Tips for Writing Google+ Posts Without Spending Too Much Time On Them

These are tips for those who are busy but want to be involved with Google+ — there’s more than can be done, but if you want to be lean and mean, here are my tips and suggestions:

1. Consider Your Google+ Post to be a Mini Blog Post - Because It Is

This contribution on Google Plus isn’t a blurb and it isn’t a tweet. It's a short blog post on Google+, a social media site.

Inverted pyramid approach, sure, with maybe 1 or 2 paragraphs. It’s a short and sweet blog post, not a comment to a news article or a Wikipedia entry.

Approach the Google+ contributions as exactly that: contributions you are making to the readers out there, and if they want further information then they need to click over to the link you provide. That can be your website or your blog, of course. It can also be any other site on the web.

Recap: One paragraph is okay, two is better, don’t go over three. Link should be there for more information (Google+ will shorten the link for you). Content should contribute to the reader. Rant if you must, but I don’t read rants and I know lots of folk that are annoyed by ranting. Google+ readers aren’t the same as other sites: I suggest you offer fun, positive, informative content to them.

2. Use Bold and Italicized Fonts to Help the Reader Zip Through Your Post

Bold-face words and italicized words not only stand out from the remaining text, but these highlighted words and phrases help to create headings and sub-headings which readers can scan quickly (especially helpful with a small screen). Use them to follow the old lesson of “tell them what you will be telling them, then tell it, then tell them what you told them.”

Highlighted text accomplishes the first step of that lesson, plus Google Search will like it from an SEO perspective.

Never use ALL CAPS — it’s like you are screaming on the screen. Bad form. Rude.

How to insert bold and italics into a Google+ Post

For bold text, put a * symbol (asterick, there above the number 8 on your QWERTY keyboard) at the starting point where you want the bold to begin; put another * at the end of the phrase or word to appear in bold.  (*bold*)  When you hit "share" and your words are published on the Google+ site, what you typeds as *bold* will appear as bold.

For italics, same thing but use the underscore key _ instead of the * symbol. You can find that next to the + symbol on your QWERTY keyboard; you have to hold down the Shift key here or you’re going to type a minus sign (or a strikeout, depending on how you look at things). No minus sign/strikeout here! You want the underline and you just want one (1) of them. One of them: _. Not a bunch of them: __________.

For underlining text, which I don’t recommend but you’re you so maybe you like it, you do use the minus symbol instead of the * symbol as described above for the bold text.

3. Use Hashtags to Help Searches Find You 

Consider what you’ve written and pick out your main words or phrases — aka your “key words” or “key phrases.” Two or three, four on the outside: don’t go nuts.

These are what you want to identify with a hashtag. The hashtag helps people find your stuff on Google+: hashtags are a way to index your content so it is easier to search and to find.

In Google+, clicking on a hashtag within a post will take you to search results of other Google+ posts containing that same hashtag.

The hashtag symbol (#) is above the number 3 on your QWERTY keyboard. Hold down the Shift key, hit the 3 key, and voila: you’ve typed a hashtag.

Some folk insert their hashtags into their content; it’s a common practice on Twitter, where there is a character count limit of 140 characters. Doing this saves character space.  Google suggests that you do this in Google+ posts.

However, it makes your content harder to read.  I like to see hashtags at the end of the contribution, or post, lined up there in a row. I believe that Google can find them just as easily, and doing this method doesn’t intrude on your writing. #writing #post #hashtag #Google+

4. Images (Photos) Are VERY Important for Google+ 

Just surf through Google+. Look at how visually appealing it is. Notice how your eye slides right on by those posts with no photos or pretty visuals? Sad, boring little posts that might have something important or entertaining for you, if you noticed them.

Google+ is designed for the eye. Your posts need eye candy.

This may take the most time, granted, but it need not cost you anything in terms of money. Free public domain images are all over the place on the web (read my post here on finding free infographics and my post here on finding free photographs) and they are very helpful on Google+.

If you are promoting or discussing your own site or blog, then make sure to place a nice image in that content; when you link to it, the image will appear in your Google+ post. Problem solved.

If you haven’t, then you need to insert an image directly into Google+. This isn’t as time-consuming as it sounds. Just click on the little camera icon on the place where you write your contribution (post) on Google+ — a new window will open for you. You cannot pull a photo from a link to a URL, however — that is a drag, and I’m thinking it will change.

And yes, the image is important enough for you to take the time to download an image and then upload it into Google+ (more encouragement to get those images into your blog posts in the first place).

5.  Reference Names in Google+ Posts with +, @, or E-Mail address

If you name someone in a Google+ post, and they have a Google+ page, then you can include "+" before their name and Google Plus will notify them that you've discussed them in your post.  You can also use the "@" prefix, made popular by Twitter, and it will do the same thing.  (Caveat:  they have to set their account to receive these notifications in order to get them.   That's their call.)

Don't be shocked if a list pops up when you do this: Google may have several names for you to review, so you can pick the right Google+ account from several similar or identical names.

Also, this notification process only works between two Google+ accounts.  If you want to notify someone who isn't on Google Plus that you've named them in your post, then use their email address after the "+" or "@" symbol.


To summarize:

1. Write short posts, 1 to 2 paragraphs, with positive, informative, entertaining content.
2. Include links. 
3. Bold and/or italicize as needed in your Google+ post.
4.  Include hashtags - I recommend placing them at the end of the post.
5.  Add an image if your linked material doesn't already provide it.
6.  Notify those mentioned in your post with + or @ before their name or email address. 


Citizen Journalists Die 3:1 In Syria News Coverage - Citizen Journalists Need to be Respected (and Covered by National Shield Law)

Last February, I wrote about a man who died in Syria named Rami Ahmad Al-Sayed, a citizen journalist who published a blog with both videos and posts as he tried to get the message out to the rest of the world about what was happening in his hometown.

He died at the age of 27 years old, and I have no idea what has happened to his wife and baby daughter.

This week, I discovered that the Pew Research Center has been tracking what has been happening to these ordinary folk, like Mr. Al-Sayed, who are reporting without benefit of journalistic education or experience.  According to Pew, lots of these people are not only risking their lives in getting the truth out, as they understand it to be, but they are dying in the process.

Consider the following infographic provided by Pew:

That's right:  73% of the media-related deaths in Syria are those of citizen journalists.  In fact, the Pew research reveals that circumstances being what they are in Syria, traditional journalists have come to rely on the citizen journalist more and more for information and verification of what is happening there.

Read the complete Pew Research story here, entitled "Another casualty of war in Syria—citizen journalists."

Are Citizen Journalists Doing the Work of a Journalist?  

Which brings me to the recent debate over a national shield law and one proposition that shield law protections should be given to "journalists" as that job title is defined by statute, and part of that definition should be that a "journalist" is someone who draws a salary to do their journalism job.

Techdirt has some nice coverage and commentary of that debate here.  So does Professor Larry in a Huffington Post piece.

Considering the Pew research, I'm thinking that bloodshed or the risking of one's person or life or liberty to report the truth to others should carry some weight regarding being legally protected as a journalist, too.

Sure, the Syrian example comes from another country, and I'm not rabbit trailing down that political road.  My point is that citizen journalists perform a job that is a part of journalism today, no matter where they work.

May God forbid that we ever see U.S. citizen journalists exposed to the dangers that this Pew research reflects; however, I am secure in my belief that here in the United States we have citizen journalists just as dedicated as those working in the Middle East today.

Citizen journalists are important to our society, to insure that the truth is revealed.  They deserve respect and recognition - including protection by a federal shield law.

Bloggers aren't just ranting about celebrities or kids or sharing recipes and DIY projects anymore - does Congress realize this?


Google In-Depth Articles in Search Results - New Segregation of Results in Google Search

Perhaps you've noticed “news results” appearing near the top of your search results in Google, with two or three stories from mainstream media sources appearing near the top of the results with an invitation to surf over into more search results under Google News Search.

Soon, you’ll be seeing another subset of results on your Google Search Results page: beginning this month, Google began clumping together “in-depth articles” as a subset of finds, similar to News Results, in your Results.

Personally, I've only seen "in-depth articles" pop up once or twice in my searches; each time, they appeared at the bottom of the first page of search results, included three options, and were all provided by mainstream media publications.

What is this content? 

In the words of Google (here and here):
[P]eople continue to invest in thoughtful in-depth content that will remain relevant for months or even years after publication. This is exactly what you'll find in the new feature. … 
Often when you're searching on Google for a person or organization name, or other broad topic, you'll find a block of search results labeled "In-depth articles." These results provide high-quality content to help you learn about or explore a subject.… 

Google In-Depth Articles in Search Results

Expect to find articles published by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other established publications, although Google does suggest that these in-depth articles will include “…great articles from lesser-known publications and blogs.” 

Here’s an example of search results including the new feature as provided by Google:

google in-depth article results feature image examples

Google Tips on How to Get Your Content Into In-Depth Articles Section of Search Results 

Google will be making its own top-secret decisions on what content will appear in this subset of Search Results. There’s no magic wand that is going to get your content into that new first page position.

However, Google Webmasters do provide instructions on coding to include in your content that will help you meet this goal. From Google (read all the details here):

1.  Include coding from Schema.org in your content (metadata) 

Google suggests that you use the article markup provided at Schema.org including specifically the following:

  • headline 
  • Alternative Headline 
  • image (note: the image must be crawlable and indexable) 
  • description 
  • datePublished 
  • articleBody 
  • Authorship markup 
  • Pagination and canonicalization 

2.  Have a Logo (check out the logos appearing in the image for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times)

Google suggests logo placement via:

  • Google+ Page linked to your website, where the default image for the Google+ Page is your logo or icon that will be used for the In Depth Article result. 
  • Use organization markup (see above metadata).
For those thinking that this is one more reason to get cracking on Google+, you're right.  It's important.


Public Domain Infographics: Where to Find Free and Informative Graphics for Your Web Site or Blog

Infographics are hot these days, and for good reason.  A good infographic ("informative graphic") is more than just an image, a piece of clip art, or a photo: it's a tool that educates, even entertains, the reader.

Infographics are Copyright Protected - Unless They're Not

Thing is: there are lots of infographics out there on the web that are great, but their creators haven't released the copyright to their work.  Use those infographics on your site or blog without the creator's okay (and fee) at your own risk of an infringement claim -- or at the very least, the embarrassment of receiving and having to respond to a cease and desist letter.

Two options for you if you don't want to pay for the design: build your own infographic (it's pretty easy and can be free) or find a public domain infographic on the internet to use.

For how to build your own infographics, check our my earlier post.

Finding Public Domain Infographics

For locating free public domain infographics, think of places on the web where they have no expectation of copyright.  Like .gov sites - the government's infographics aren't protected by copyright and often government sites are publishing infographics in the hope that you will share them with your readers.

Hint:  Go to Google Images and type in a search phrase related to your subject matter, including the word "infographic."  Next, search through the results for infographics appearing on .gov web sites; go to the site itself and confirm that it is an image within the public domain.  Eureka! You've found your public domain infographic.

Another suggestion: sites where the creator has released his or her copyright in order to promote their work.  (Wikimedia Commons is a good place to find public domain images but not so much public domain infographics at this point.)  This may be a graphics design site, or an individual artist's portfolio page.

Here, it may be in the public domain or you may need to credit the infographic to the creator and perhaps provide a link to their site, but they won't be asking you for payment.  The best bet is to find an infographic that fits your needs and email the creator asking if he or she is willing to have you publish their work on your site at no charge if you give them credit / linkage.

For a few public domain infographic sources, check out:

  1. Department of Homeland Security (often provided with news releases)
  2. Centers for Disease Control  (search among the various issues for infographics)
  3. U.S. Census Bureau
  4. NASA
  5. Office of the Governor of your state (often provided with news releases or with blog posts).

Here is an example of a federal infographic that accompanied news of a Homeland Security financial felony bust in New York where the grand jury came back with indictments:


How I Use Feedly, Pocket, and Evernote to Sort Through 1000s of Articles and Posts Each Day

Part of my work involves research and part of that research includes keeping up to date with news stories and fresh articles on a variety of topics.  I can easily cull through 1000 - 2000 headlines each day, and after a couple of clients asked how to do this for themselves, I thought I'd share it with you, Dear Reader.

1.  Freeware I Recommend:  Feedly, Pocket, and Evernote

First, I use free Windows versions of Feedly, Pocket, and Evernote.  Get them.  Why these three?  They work well - you can't beat the price - and they are very user-friendly.  Fast, fun tools that do the job.

2.  Set up Feedly for a Fast Read.

I have set up Feedly so the view is "headlines-only" for my research stuff.  Feedly calls this its "title-only" view, choose it for your particular collection by clicking on the far-left option in the row of images in the Feedly home page's top right corner.

I have some collections where images appear -- food, interior decorating -- but that's personal, fun stuff.  Images slow me down when I'm going through lots of content.

3.  Set up Feedly Topics That Make Sense.

One thing I watch are the Top 10 Blogs as determined by Technorati.  Why?  It helps me understand what people are wanting to read, both for myself as well as for my clients.  So, I have a Feedly collection that is titled "Top 10 Blogs" and while the feeds within this collection are rather divergent, the overall theme makes sense to me -- and can be quite revealing when a common thread starts to appear in very different sources.

Above: Here is a screen shot of my Feedly feed collection of "Top 10 Blogs" today.

4.  Read The Headlines and Pick Only Things Worth More of Your Time.

Writers may write headlines or blog post titles that they think are fun, maybe witty - but if that title or headline doesn't give me information on what the content of the article (post) itself provides, then I don't have time to investigate.  Title your post "Whoa" and I'm gonna surf right by it.  Title your post "Whoa, Supreme Court surprise ruling in copyright case" and I'm interested in learning more.  Helpful hint: Be selective here. Don't pick more than you need.  

Above:  I've chosen one article here, published in Ars Technica, to read in more detail. 

5.  Pull the interesting article from Feedly into Pocket.

Using Google Chrome, I right click on the Feedly headline and choose the option "Save to Pocket."  I don't go into Pocket, I continue through Feedly until I've completed going through all my Feeds and have reached the pretty blue Feedly screen that tells me I'm all done.

6.  Once Feedly has been read through, then I go to Pocket.

After I've read through say 500 article titles (headlines) in Feedly, I've sorted through them so I only have a handful to consider in Pocket.  I close Feedly, move to Pocket.  Here, I read through the blurbs provided by Pocket and decide if the article bears further time investment.

I do this for all my Pocket saves.  In Pocket, I will organize these saves by Tabs.  For short term use, say an article to send with some discussion to a client, I tab the article with the client's name and in my afternoon email session, I'll pull it from Pocket and forward it along.  For long term use of an article, I move the article to Evernote.

Above:  Here is the Ars Technica article saved to Pocket after I read its title in Feedly.

7.  Articles warranting inclusion in my research stacks get moved from Pocket to Evernote.

There will be a few articles that I think are good enough to include in my research stacks.  These articles get clipped using the Evernote WebClipper into Evernote.

Above:  Here is the same Ars Technica article as shown in Pocket being clipped into Evernote.

Initially, I put them in a big "Pocket Stuff" notebook in my Evernote library.  When I get to my research block of time, one of the first things I do is organize that Pocket Stuff notebook and move things to their proper notebook in my Evernote world.

For instance, I have an ongoing research project on the drug cartels that have entered South Texas.  I may move something from my Pocket Stuff notebook to the "STxDrugCartels" notebook and feel comforted that when I get back to that project, I've already got accumulated news stories, articles, etc. sorted into the proper folder for my review.

Whew.  Hope this helps you.


What are Long Tail Keywords? Why Should You Care About Them?

What is a "long tail keyword" - and why should you care? First of all, it's a phrase used in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) circles, and it's something that is used to try and reach higher in Google Search Results (as well as Yahoo, Bing, etc.).

What is A Long Tail Keyword? 

Long Tail Keyword: 3+ Words
Simply put, a "long tail keyword" is a phrase using 3 to 5 words, could be more, that appears in web content more than once, syncing with the future searcher who may well enter that same phrase in the Google Search Box when researching a particular subject matter.  (You may also hear things about "long tail marketing," etc.)

There are lots of "long tail keywords" in legal writing and in legal blogging (blawging). Right now, for example, the Boston Marathon Bombings are very recent and the phrase "search and seizure" is getting lots of Google traffic (33,400,000 just now).

Other phrases that are getting lots of interest today (according to Google Trends):

  • 2013 NFL Mock Draft (71,000,000 hits) 
  • Katherine Russell Tsarnaev (spouse of the slain Boston Marathon Bomber)(111,000,000 hits)

Why Should You Care?

There will be SEO Experts who throw this phrase at bloggers and lawyers as part of a strategy to get more traffic to the site.  Not to worry: for most legal writing for the web, the "long tail keyword" is a given:  most law firm blog writing includes long tail keywords automatically.

For instance, writers will write about -- and readers will surf for things -- that involve long tail keywords without stopping to consider that SEO is involved.  Long tail keywords often include:
  • case names 
  • legal phrases
  • names of parties
  • names of judges
  • legal jargon 
When writing for the web, many lawyers will automatically include long tail keywords in their piece without knowing they are doing so, especially when their intended readers are other lawyers or legal professionals with the legal savvy to be surfing for similar vocabulary.  Easy peasy.  


Quick Prenda Update: Hilarious Article by PopeHat's Ken White.

It's Monday morning and I don't have time to write a long blog post now, but this was in my Feedly today and it's so funny thought I'd share. Started laughing at the "self esteem" edit and it just got better from there: "Angry Prenda is Angry" at TechDirt, article by attorney Ken White who posts at PopeHat. .


Is Your Marketing Newsletter In Compliance With Federal Law? FTC Regulates Commercial Newsletters: Fines If You Don't Comply with CAN-SPAM Act

Have you heard of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (“CAN-SPAM”) Act?

If you’re sending out newsletters via email for marketing purposes, then you may want to insure that you (or your firm) are in compliance with this federal law designed to curtail unwelcome spam messages. 

Together with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the CAN-SPAM Act works to protect all of us from unwelcome and uninvited messages in our email inboxes or in text messages on our cell phone. 

They’ve been on the books since 2003 and they’re enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These federal laws regulate ALL commercial messages sent via email or text message; therefore, any marketing campaign that includes email newsletters or text campaigns must be in compliance with these federal laws.

1. Is your communication a “commercial electronic mail message” as defined by the Act? 

From the CAN-SPAM Act: 

  • The term "commercial electronic mail message" means any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service (including content on an Internet website operated for a commercial purpose). 
  • The inclusion of a reference to a commercial entity or a link to the website of a commercial entity in an electronic mail message does not, by itself, cause such message to be treated as a commercial electronic mail message for purposes of this chapter if the contents or circumstances of the message indicate a primary purpose other than commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service. 
  • Except as provided in subparagraph (B), the term “sender”, when used with respect to a commercial electronic mail message, means a person who initiates such a message and whose product, service, or Internet web site is advertised or promoted by the message. 
  • (B) Separate lines of business or divisions: [i]f an entity operates through separate lines of business or divisions and holds itself out to the recipient throughout the message as that particular line of business or division rather than as the entity of which such line of business or division is a part, then the line of business or the division shall be treated as the sender of such message for purposes of this chapter. 

In essence, the federal law requires the reader of your newsletter or series of emails to consent to these messages being sent to their inbox if the messages meet the definition of “commercial electronic mail message.”

2. Need for Consent from the Recipient for Commercial Email Messages 

The FTC has rules in place that require written consent for text messages to a phone; for email inboxes, the consent can be oral or written (say, in an email message subscribing to the messages or newsletter) if the message meets the definition of “commercial electronic mail message.”

 Your Newsletter Needs to Meet Requirements under Federal Law 

 The Small Business Administration (SBA) recognizes the power of email marketing on its website; it quotes Pingdom research for a Return on Investment of $44.25 for every $1.00 spent on email marketing in 2011. 

ROI of $44 to $1 means that newsletters work: therefore, the goal is not to back away from email marketing but instead to make sure that the newsletter comports with federal guidelines.

To that end, the SBA provides details and suggestions on how to take advantage of the benefits of this marketing tool without falling afoul of the federal laws and regulations.

Read more from the SBA here.

And remember: the FTC does enforce this and does fine companies it determines to be in violation of these laws. Here’s a helpful video from the FTC on this issue:


Prenda Update: Judge Wright Clears His Docket for the Day, Hearing is Done in 12 Minutes. Wow.

Prenda Law latest:  the Big, Fat hearing that was scheduled in California today ended really quick when everyone and their dog took the Fifth.

The federal judge that had cleared his entire day's docket for this hearing sent them all home after only 12 minutes.

What will Judge Wright do now?  Here in Texas, I think I feel the ground shaking as his frustration and angers builds ....

For details, including predictions on what we'll be reading in Judge Wright's order, check out:

  • TechDirt - 1 (summary)
  • TechDirt - 2 (all the details from a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who was there, also seen at Popehat)
  • Forbes (main stream media's take on things)

Wonder if these guys know that they're waiting to hear back not only from an angry federal judge but also from a U.S. Marine who served in VietNam and then spent several years as a deputy sheriff?

Take the Fifth with this guy?
Wow, it's like facing off with Raylan Givens or something.


Infographics for Lawyers: a Great Addition to Your Law Firm Web Site or Blawg

Infographics (informational graphics) are so much fun, and sure they are getting to be pretty darn trendy right now.  (Just go over to Pinterest and search for "infographics" to find all sorts of wonderfully creative infographics on all sorts of topics.

Thing is:  infographics are great tools for lawyers to use to educate readers about all sorts of issues.  Law firms can place infographics into their websites, their blogs (blawgs), their newsletters, even in client emails.  (I'm not sure about using them in motions or briefs yet - but if I were a judge, I'd welcome the innovation.)  

Here, for example, is a great infographic from DailyInfographic that provides details on the impact of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) upon employers (click on it or hit Ctrl + a couple of times to enlarge the image):

For more information on infographics, check out these online sources:

Daily Infographics 

To learn more about creating original infographics for your site, for free, see:


Prenda Law Facing Federal Sanctions as Pirated Porn Copyright Infringement Practice Blows Up in a Big Way

Prenda Law, have you heard about them yet?  After three different clients asked me if I had heard about Prenda Law and was this the same as Righthaven, I thought I'd corral some information here in one post with lots of links to more detailed coverage in various other posts and news coverage.  And there's a court case or two to follow, as well, if you'd like.

Prenda Law: a Law Firm Targeting a Specific Niche

Prenda Law is a boutique law firm based in Chicago that in a manner akin to Righthaven has sought to dig for gold in federal copyright infringement law; however, unlike Righthaven, Prenda Law has much more of a TMZ twist to things.

There's porn involved.

That's right: pornography; specifically, pornography copyright rights.

Seems this group of lawyers got the idea of going after copyright infringement cases by filing federal lawsuits based upon federal copyright laws seeking damages from those defendants who downloaded porn from websites illegally.

Pirated Porn as a practice area.

Initially, the law firm had to file complaints with "John Does" as defendants until they could get federal court subpoenas to obtain names from the Internet Service Providers of their porn-downloading clients.  The Internet companies were asked to open their files, reveal the names associated with specific IP addresses whose download histories showed the computer at that address had grabbed  porn from sites without permission or payment.

The problem is that Prenda Law doesn't seem to have real live clients in all this.  

Prenda Law's clients seem to be lacking substance: what will Judge Wright do?

Federal Judges Not So Happy With Prenda Law's Plan

Defendants and ISPs in these cases didn't set idly by, and things exploded earlier this month when a federal judge set a show cause hearing for sanctions against Prenda Law asking that the defendants show cause why they shouldn't be sanctioned by the federal court for filing sham pleadings.

Elsewhere in the country, two men have challenged Prenda Law so far, alleging that they never gave their permission for their names to be used in these lawsuits and as a result, the law firm has committed identity theft.  In Florida, a Prenda Law case was dismissed by a federal judge after no one could point to lawyer and client in the courtroom (link to that hearing transcript shown below).

(After reading that transcript, am I the only one thinking of Chinatown and "she's my daughter ... she's my sister" here?)

Prenda Law faced off with U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright in a Los Angeles courtroom earlier this month; it wasn't pretty -- and lots of lawyers all over the country are talking about what happened in that courtroom back on March 11 - and what will happen when that show cause hearing resumes on April 2, 2013.

April 2013 Order to Show Cause - Federal Judge Gets Specific

Here is what Judge Wright has ordered for the April hearing (excerpted from the order as signed by the Judge):

Thus, the Court amends its February 7, 2013 Order to Show Cause (ECF No. 48) to include sanctions against the persons and entities in subparagraphs a–m below:
a) John Steele, of Steele Hansmeier PLLC, Prenda Law, Inc., and/or Livewire Holdings LLC;
b) Paul Hansmeier, of Steele Hansmeier PLLC and/or Livewire Holdings LLC;
c) Paul Duffy, of Prenda Law, Inc.;
d) Angela Van Den Hemel, of Prenda Law, Inc.;
e) Mark Lutz, of Prenda Law, Inc., AF Holdings LLC and/or Ingenuity 13 LLC;
f) Alan Cooper, of AF Holdings LLC;
g) Peter Hansemeier, of 6881 Forensics, LLC;
h) Prenda Law, Inc.;
i) Livewire Holdings LLC;
j) Steele Hansmeier PLLC;
k) AF Holdings LLC;
l) Ingenuity 13 LLC; and
m) 6881 Forensics, LLC.
These persons and entities are ORDERED to appear on March 29, 2013, at 10:30 a.m., TO SHOW CAUSE for the following:
1) Why they should not be sanctioned for their participation, direction, and execution of the acts described in the Court’s February 7, 2013 Order to Show Cause;
2) Why they should not be sanctioned for failing to notify the Court of all parties that have a financial interest in the outcome of litigation;
3) Why they should not be sanctioned for defrauding the Court by misrepresenting the nature and relationship of the individuals and entities in subparagraphs a–m above;
4) Why John Steele and Paul Hansmeier should not be sanctioned for failing to make a pro hac vice appearance before the Court, given their involvement as “senior attorneys” in the cases; and
5) Why the individuals in subparagraphs a–g above should not be sanctioned for contravening the Court’s March 5, 2013 Order (ECF No. 66) and failing to appear on March 11, 2013.
For more: 

  1. read the transcript of an earlier Florida judge dismissing a similar case filed by Prenda Law which we can assume that Judge Wright has read -- and one which TechDirt describes as worthy of a movie script.
  2. read Popehat's continuing summary of events here (Ken of Popehat was present in the California courtroom on March 11). 
  3. read ArsTechnica's continuing coverage of things here: it's good, too.
Image:  Wikimedia Commons, public domain


Commercial Speech vs Political Speech and the Law Firm's Blog - Is Your Blawg Protected Free Speech or Not? What Would Your State Bar Answer Here?

Free speech isn't without its limitations, lawyers know this, and when it comes to "commercial speech" the United States Supreme Court has been happy to allow limitations on the free speech of attorneys and law firms when "commercial speech" is involved.  Lawyers don't like being regulated, however, and there are attorneys blogging today who may think that their blog (blawg) isn't subject to state bar review when in fact, it is.  Those bloggers (blawgers) are at risk of bar discipline.

Free speech protections provided by the federal constitution are not as broad for commercial speech as they are for other forms of free speech.  Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Comm'n of New York, 447 U. S. 557 (1980); Virginia Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U. S. 748 (1976).  Advertisements are subject to governmental regulation.

This distinction between different kinds of speech is very important for lawyers who write blogs to remember.

Consider, for example, the concerns of the High Court in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977) where things like (1) the adverse effect on professionalism; (2) the inherently misleading nature of attorney advertising; (3) the adverse effect on the administration of justice; (4) the undesirable economic effects of advertising; (5) the adverse effect of advertising on the quality of service; and (6) the difficulties of enforcement were determined to be sound bases for regulating attorney advertising even though "advertising by attorneys may not be subjected to blanket suppression."  Bates, 433 U.S. at 368- 379, 383.

Of course, the Bates opinion came down long before blogs popped up everywhere.  Lawyer blogs are tricky things.  There are firm-blogs, and individual lawyer blogs.  Ones written for specific practice areas (e.g., appellate, real estate, or environmental law) are popular these days.  You will find some blogs attached to law firm web sites (where they may be tools to boost the search result rankings of the firm's site) or you may find blogs as stand-alone publications (where they have their own separate domain).

Blogs and Free Speech:  Commercial vs Political Speech

Twisted into all this complexity of law blogs ("blawgs") are the legal protections afforded to the particular blog under constitutional free speech protections.  Not all blogs (blawgs) are the same, and not all blogs will be policed in the same way.

Commercial speech in a blog will allow the Bar to regulate and police that publication, just as the Bar regulates advertisements in the Yellow Pages, on the television screen, or in a standard firm web site.

If the blog basically serves an advertising purpose, then the state bar association that has jurisdiction over the lawyer or law firm responsible for that blog will argue it has a right to regulate that blog.  Period.

When does a blog not have to conform to Bar regulation?  When the blog publishes content that is protected as political free speech.

Political free speech isn't trying to sell the reader on hiring the lawyer or the law firm.  Political speech essentially involves any “... interactive communication concerning political change.” Meyer v. Grant, 486 U.S. 414 (1988).  It's not trying to sell the reader on paying the author of the content for the author's goods or services, in other words.

What happens if there's a mishmash of the two within the blog?

Blogs published by lawyers may offer political speech, but all too often they are intertwined with commercial speech -- especially if the blog is attached to the firm web site.  Whether or not the speech will be given free speech protection isn't as easy of a question to answer.

If one of the motivations for the blog is marketing the lawyer or law firm but it's not the only reason for the blog's publication, then what?

In Bolger v.Youngs Drug Products Corp., 463 U.S. 60 (1983),  the problem of mixed commercial and political speech in advertising was addressed.  Lawyers cannot use political free speech posts to protect themselves from regulation:
Advertisers should not be permitted to immunize false or misleading product information from government regulation simply by including references to public issues.
Bolger, 463 U.S. at 68.
If the blog combines commercial speech with political speech, then it will not automatically achieve the constitutional protections that a blog devoted solely to political speech will have.  Nevertheless, that combination of commercial speech with political speech may still rise to that level of constitutional protection if certain characteristics exist.  See, Bigelow v. Virginia, 421 U.S. 809, 818 (1975); Board of Trustees of the State University of New York v. Fox, 492 U.S. 469, 474 (1989).

According to other precedent, we have a test:
....For commercial speech to come within that provision, it at least must concern lawful activity and not be misleading. Next, we ask whether the asserted governmental interest is substantial. If both inquiries yield positive answers, we must determine whether the regulation directly advances the governmental interest asserted, and whether it is not more extensive than is necessary to serve that interest. Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Public Serv. Comm'n, 447 U.S. 557, 566 (1980); Adams Outdoor Advertising v. City of Newport News, 236 Va. 370, 383, 373 S.E.2d 917, 923 (1988).
Whether or not the reader may be misled means looking at the unsophisticated reader (Bates) and the assumption is going to fall in favor of the potential that someone out there reading the blog posts may be misled -- think Jethro Bodine as your potential reader when you're evaluating your publications.

The Bar Is Focused on Lawyers Misleading their Readers

The reason for bar regulation of lawyer advertising is to protect the public from being manipulated by lawyers marketing themselves in various formats: newspapers, television commercials, internet marketing, etc.  It's true that there's a profit motive in lots of web sites that enjoy protected free speech: the local newspaper's web site, for example, is published by a company operating for a profit and yet its site content is under the First Amendment free speech umbrella.

State bars, however, are going to come down on the side of regulation of the site or blog.  Consider your blog content and the design carefully.

Ask yourself this:

Would Jethro Bodine think you're selling yourself to him, even if your posts are careful not to market your practice or your firm directly?  Does having your blog attached to your law firm web site suggest that the blog is a commercial tool to get him to call the firm for a free initial consultation?  Does the design itself suggest commercial intent with things like 1-800 numbers in huge fontfaces in headings, footers, or margins?

If so, then you need to make sure that your blog (blawg) conforms to your state's advertising requirements (disclaimers, etc.) even if the majority of your content is political in nature.