This week over at Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield had an exchange that reveals the three most prominent characteristics of modern internet marketeers: entitlement, dishonesty, and recklessness with client reputations.
Our story begins, as modern marketing stories often do, with ill-considered spam.
Someone named Hemant sent an email to Scott praising Scott's blog and proposing a guest post on behalf of Florida attorney Jeffrey Luhrsen:
We recently published an article titled “Why Does Anyone Drive Drunk? ” that fits perfectly with the rest of the content in the law niche on your blog. Any chance you’d publish it if you think it speaks to your audience?
This was a Very Bad Idea. Scott is part of a group of lawbloggers — including me, Mark Bennett, and Eric Turkewitz — who are frequent critics of sleazy legal marketing techniques. He's ridiculed guest post spamming before.
Scott responded to Hemant like . . . well, like Scott:
Why no, Hemant, I’m not interested in publishing such garbage at all, but I will enjoy publishing your email and ridiculing your client by name for being a marketing whore who has hired an asshole like you to disgrace him on the internet.
I would have gone with something about ponies, but de gustibus etc.
This would have been a minor story, but Hemant's boss doubled down. Marketeer David Faltz responded to Scott in foolish anger. Mr. Faltz made it clear that — though his company had written Scott on the pretense that Scott has an awesome blog — Mr. Faltz actually thinks Scott's blog sucks:
I would just like to say how inappropriate I think this response is. First off, our writers and writing is [sic] some of the best on the web, and outreach is part of expanding your audience, and building relationships. The normal course of a well oiled internet marketing plan, which your firm could benefit from to be quite honest. [sic]
Have you read any of the useless fodder disguised as blogs on your site? The are defined as headline chasers and are not unique or a viable source of information for anyone. Google penalizes sites for this nonsense. You have no resource high authority sites, and the couple of links you do have are commercial terms to your own site. This strategy is 4 years ago at best, and was never a solid strategy to begin with. Blogging on your own site will not improve your rank, it is meant to engage your readers.
So before you send nasty and insulting e-mails to my team or anyone looking to build a relationship with you, you must first look in the mirror. By looking at your back-link profile full of commercial anchors and barely any branded terms, and a marginal looking and functioning site at best, it looks to me like your the asshole who is disgracing the internet. There are so many issues with your on-page and off-page work, that you are obviously paying money monthly for, that I can not even begin to list the issues.
Mr. Faltz proceeded to engage in an ill-considered internet fight on Twitter and in Scott's comments.
This episode demonstrates the three most prominent qualities of modern marketeers: entitlement, dishonesty, and recklessness with client reputations.
Mr. Faltz displays classic marketeer entitlement — the belief that marketeers are entitled to use other people's web sites to promote their clients, and the belief that they are entitled to respect even when their conduct is inherently disrespectful to the people they are spamming.
People like Mr. Faltz promote shitty "guest posts" — insipid drivel that adds nothing to any substantive discussion but only serves as an effort to game search engine results. This, in turn, promotes the idea that clients should choose lawyers by search engine results, which in fact is a terrible way to choose a lawyer and irresponsible to promote. Mr. Faltz and the lawyers who use his tactics are making the legal profession measurably worse.
But Mr. Faltz and marketeers like him feel entitled to pester people like Scott and me, and feel entitled to our respectful treatment, as if they had behaved in a civilized manner in the first place. Hence you get you get comments like this from Mr. Faltz:
I just think there is a common courtesy to the process. I came to the defense of my team cause you were rude, and obviously very bitter and unhappy person. I would do it again, even in light of this result. I am not dignify calling you names every time you decided to lash out and show your immaturity.
Mr. Faltz thinks it is not rude to spam Scott with a solicitation asking Scott to post garbage for the SEO benefit of Mr. Faltz' clients. Mr. Faltz actually thinks that's not insulting. But Mr. Faltz thinks it is rude to respond to a spammer with a blunt assessment of what they are asking for. Mr. Faltz thinks his disreputable behavior is entitled to respectful treatment.
This entitlement is familiar if you've read what we write about marketeers and spammers:
- BrandLink Communications felt entitled to be treated with respect when it spammed The Bloggess with a solicitation to write about what hose the Kardashians wear, and so felt entitled to call her a "fucking bitch" when she responded with a humorous picture.
- Marketeer Sparta Townson felt entitled to post spam comments on blogs because those blogs have open comments and are therefore fair game.
- Marketeer "Ofek" of Biology-Online felt entitled to demand free content from a blogger and so felt entitled to call her a whore when she refused to work for him for free.
- Marketeer Marc Romano feels entitled to have his shady profession viewed with respect and so reacted with rage mixed with braggadocio when Brian Tannebaum criticized it.
- A legal marketeer felt entitled to send spam with misleading titles like "FELONY ARREST" to get me interested in their sleazy referral services, and so felt entitled to threaten me with litigation for writing about it.
- Marketeers at a marketeering conference felt entitled to control a hashtag on Twitter and therefore branded those using it to question their activities as spammers — which in this instance they didn't mean as a compliment.
In short, marketeers feel entitled to our attention and respect. They aren't.
The next attribute of modern marketeers is dishonesty about what they do. Marketeers craft spam emails suggesting that someone has reviewed your site and determined it's suitable for their guest post. They haven't. That's dishonest. When called on it, marketeers tend to double down and deny they are spammers. Instead, they describe spamming as outreach:
I am glad I could have oblige, and how I am the asshole? All we did was outreach to your firm in hopes of building a relationship, and you send back an inappropriate response.
Called out on this, marketeers dishonestly evade. So when I ask this in Scott's comments:
You say you seek to build relationships. Are relationships based on lying?
“Hemant” says “I found your website through Google and was impressed by what you’ve built here – I find your voice authentic and your content crisp and insightful.”
But you say Scott’s website is just awful.
Was your company lying then, or is it lying now?
Was Hemant — acting on your behalf — lying? Did Hemant — or someone affiliated with your business — actually review Scott’s web site and form those opinions of it? Or is that standard language you put in every email you send out? In other words, is it spamming puffery? If the lawbloggers responding to you ask around and locate every email your team has sent out, will we find that you say that to everyone?
Is that how you “build relationships,” David?
. . . . Mr. Faltz responds with evasions:
The outreach email could, and should have been better. I concur with that. We could do a better job of making sure it was more personal. Duly noted. The goal is to build relationships with quality writing though, even if you do not agree.
There's also the typical implicit blaming of the "team":
My answer is that I am not aware of every site my team reaches out to based on the parameters set forth.
Note how Mr. Faltz avoids addressing the core issue: that his business is spamming lawbloggers without (1) taking the time to target appropriate blogs, or (2) taking the time to craft individualized messages. Ultimately, he falsely denies that he's a spammer:
@Popehat @ScottGreenfield We are not spammers. There are no links from commercial anchors in any of our blogs. All high authority sources.
Does that dishonest and evasive response sound familiar? It should. It's how marketeers react when called out on spam. Four years ago we called out an SEO spammer who appeared in the comments to defend himself and bob and weave. After berating me for mentioning his name — which he used prominently in his spam email to me — he claimed that his spam was not spam:
We do not operate on SPAM of any sort.
Im sure i would like this website if i got the chance to review it myself. My point is this tho. We do send out an links that do not always refer to the EXACT content we are looking for.
Patrick, I understand the annoyance of SPAM, and apologize for our marketing department sending out this email to this site. It was completely off-base.
The common thread is this: marketeers, even when confronted, like to pretend that they're doing something other than spamming. That's dishonest. Marketeers are sending form emails to blogs they haven't reviewed. That's spamming, no matter what type of marketeering bullshit they use to describe it.
Recklessness With Client Reputations
The third feature of modern internet marketeers — and the one that ties the rest together — is recklessness with client reputations.
David Faltz' company used the name of his client, Jeffrey Luhrsen, in poorly drafted spam — spam that he sent to an undifferentiated audience he did not understand. Scott's post — which now appears in Luhrsen's search results — was the natural and probable result. When Scott sent an angry response, David Faltz sent an angry and entitled reply that dramatically increased the newsworthiness and drama of Scott's post, and hence the prominence of a negative reference to Faltz's client. Faced with that post, Faltz doubled down, engaging in feckless bickering on Twitter and in Scott's comments.
That did not help Jeffrey Luhrsen's internet reputation. It very predictably hurt it.
This is increasingly common. Marketeers name their clients in their spam, heedless that they are dropping their clients names in spam to bloggers who hate spam and who will name and shame their client. Marketeers, if asked by bloggers who are rather clearly fishing for information, eagerly give up their clients' names.
This is what lawbloggers mean when we say — to paraphrase Eric — when you outsource your marketing, you outsource your reputation and your ethics. When you hire, and fail adequately to supervise, marketeers, you court train wrecks like this. You invite the marketeers to spam strangers who may go out of their way to shame you. You promote marketeer entitlement and dishonesty.
Stop hiring marketeers.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- RIP Abe Doe - October 21st, 2016
- Lawsplainer: The Ninth Circuit and Compelled Speech About Abortion - October 17th, 2016
- Thanks and Congrats To Dhillon Law Group For Important Pro-Bono Anti-SLAPP Win - October 10th, 2016
- Hillary Clinton, the Sixth Amendment, and Legal Ethics - October 10th, 2016
- FIRE Attacks Northern Michigan University's Shocking, Wanton Rule Against Students Sharing Suicidal Thoughts - September 22nd, 2016