Home  › Marketing › Strategies

BP Oil Spill Fuels Legal Marketing Machines

  |  May 21, 2010   |  Comments

Law firms fine-tune their marketing efforts to reach out to people and businesses harmed by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Personal injury and civil litigation attorneys - known for using in-your-face advertising tactics - are seeing gold in the black crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion last month.

As the oil gusher poisons the gulf's ecosystem, it jeopardizes the future of the region's fishing and tourism industries. And lawyers are looking to represent aggrieved businesses and property owners, seeking damages on their behalf.

Searches on Google, Yahoo, and Bing for "oil spill" this week show that law firms dominate the sponsored listings on search engine results pages. (BP, developer of the oil field, is also using paid search for reputation management, directing people to www.bp.com/gulfofmexicoresponse to learn about the company's response to the oil spill.)

052110-virzi-1-th-200x49
click to enlarge

A look at the websites for law firms using search advertising reveals that most appear to be following best practices for establishing trust and ensuring consistent messaging from the search ad over to the landing page. At least one effort, however, was in need of remediation.

First, let's look at a law firm that has invested in website design and content, positioning the site as an online hub for news and information about the oil spill.

052110-virzi-2-th-200x133
click to enlarge

Beasley Allen, based in Montgomery, AL, maintains a simple and intuitive domain name for its oil spill practice: oil-spill.com. The law firm, comprised of 45 lawyers and 200 support staff, has at least two people contributing to the "latest news" section. The site also includes links to the Deepwater Response Site, the Environmental Protection Agency's oil spill site, and other resources.

Oil-Spill.com, as a promotional vehicle, also sends the message that Beasley Allen delivers on behalf of its clients.

"$700,000,000 settlement in pollution case," appears in bold face in a prominent left-hand spot on oil-spill.com's home page. Two shortcomings: it's not possible to click through to any more information about that pollution case, plus there's a disconnect between an unnamed pollution case and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Noting that a class-action suit has been filed in connection with the oil spill, Beasley Allen's call to action here is an offer for a free legal consultation.

A Question of Trust

With so many lawyers scouring the Gulf Coast for clients, each law firm is working to set itself apart from rivals - and that includes establishing trust and promoting their expertise.

On their websites, some law firms emphasize their ties to the Gulf Coast and experience handling maritime legal claims.

"The Mississippi Gulf Coast Trusts Gardner Law Firm. Over 30 years of reliable legal service," reads the Gardner website.

Here's how another firm, Garr, plays up its Louisiana roots:

052110-virzi-3-th-200x132
click to enlarge

And the Gulf Oil Spill Litigation Group points out it's a network of lawyers from the southeastern United States:

052110-virzi-4-lg-400x165

Avoiding the Carpetbagger Label

Or consider how Mark & Associates approached its entry into the Gulf Coast market even though its offices are in Uniondale, NY, and Boston.

Its primary website is YouHaveRights.com; it lists scores of practice areas such as "dangerous drugs" and "defective products."

The firm set up shop on another domain, BP-Oil-Spill-Lawsuit.com, using the title tag, "Oil Rig Explosion Attorneys." (A Whois search shows this domain was registered on April 30, 2010, 10 days after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig.)

And it ran paid search ads on the keywords "oil spill" that turned up a sponsored link that read:

    Oil Spill Compensation
    Was Your Property, Business or Job Harmed by Oil Spill? 1-866-507-4448

To be sure, Jason Mark, the firm's founding attorney, didn't want anyone to overlook his Tulane University ties. Compare Mark's website before May 17 and see what he added after May 18:

BP-Oil-Spill-Lawsuit.com before May 17, 2010:

052110-virzi-5-lg-400x158

BP-Oil-Spill-Lawsuit.com after May 18, 2010:

052110-virzi-6-lg-400x160

While BP-Oil-Spill_Lawsuit.com is a clunky domain name, the site's home page is accessible and interactive. From the website, prospects have several options to contact Mark & Associates: click to call, click to chat, a toll-free number, and a form that includes three yes/no questions such as, "Did you suffer property damage from oil spill?"

Will the Real "Frank the Strong Arm" Stand Up?

Some law firm websites feature photos and bios of attorneys. For the most part, these work to help humanize a law firm.

Two lawyers seeking to represent victims of the oil spill both share the colorful nickname: "strong arm."

There's attorney Frank Azar, who's based in Colorado. References to his nickname, however, do not appear in the search ads or on his firm's microsite, www.OilSpillCleanupLawsuit.com.

Instead, someone started a Facebook page dedicated to Frank Azar "The Strong Arm," where people discuss Azar's TV commercials and debate his law firm's performance.

052110-virzi-7-lg-400x285

Then there's attorney Frank D'Amico. His law firm's website asks visitors: "Need the Strong Arm? Call Frank."

052110-virzi-8-lg-400x131

In an audio player on his website, the New Orleans attorney reinforces his local roots. "Don't call some out-of-town law firm you've never heard of. Call an attorney you know and trust," according to the pitch.

Where's the Transparency?

While the team at GulfCoastOilDisaster.com created a simple, elegant site, it lacks key info: the name and address of at least one attorney.

052110-virzi-9-lg-379x400

The site includes a toll-free number, 877-724-1050, and a contact form, but it's still going up against other sites that share detailed information about the law firm and cases they've handled.

What's more, a Google search for the toll-free number only adds to GulfCoastOilDisaster's mystery. The toll-free number turns up on several barebones websites: BPOilSpillLawyer.net, BPLawsuit.net, GulfSpillLawyer.com, and a Facebook page, Gulf Coast Oil Disaster.

The domain names for two of those sites - BPLawsuit.net and BPOilSpillLawyer.net - were registered by Luther Sutter of Roland, AR, according to the Whois search on Network Solutions. Attempts to reach Sutter were unsuccessful.

Without more information - like the law firm's name and history - websites like these are a disservice to people in need of legal aid.

The GulfCoastOilDisaster.com "network" of sites is an SEO (define) tactic that can help a website rank quickly for keywords on a search engine results page, according to Jonathan Allen, my colleague and director of Search Engine Watch.

He describes how this tactic typically works: Rather than create one site and solicit links to it, a business will create a network of sites on different domains using free blogging software; those sites will then link to a target page. Under Google's PageRank calculation, links from sites about the same topic have more impact than random links from randomly related sites. So in this case, it looks like relevant sites are linking to GulfCoastOilDisaster.com and it will rank high on the search engine results page for "gulf coast oil disaster." Ultimately, though, Google will spot this spammy tactic.

Addendum: Where's the Video?

It's surprising that more law firms are not using online video, including YouTube, to get their message out to prospects. A search on YouTube for "oil spill" this week turned up three promoted videos: "Breaking News in the Gulf" by Greenopolis TV; "Gulf Oil Crisis," a guitar riff and political statement by IranWarToo; and "Oil Spill Cleanup," a promotional demonstration for an "all natural solution" to the Gulf oil spill.

Tags:

ClickZ Live San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anna Maria Virzi

Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Interactive Product Manager
      Interactive Product Manager (Western Governors University) - Salt Lake CityWestern Governors University, one of the 20 largest universities...
    • SEO Senior Analyst
      SEO Senior Analyst (University of Phoenix (Apollo Education Group)) - San FranciscoSEO Senior Analyst   Position Summary...
    • SEM & Biddable Media Manager
      SEM & Biddable Media Manager (Kepler Group LLC) - New YorkAs an Optimization & Innovation Manager at Kepler Group, you will be on the bleeding...