On Aug. 13th, a techie blogger named Oilman posted an article entitled, “Shame Shame Shame Findlaw,” accusing the legal behemoth of violating Google’s guidelines. Within hours, Findlaw was pilloried by the search engine optimization blogosphere. Terms like “ethical violations,” “multimillion dollar business models,” “potential lawsuits” and “scamming” were bandied about. Google dropped FindLaw’s page rank from a 7 to a 5. Popular legal blogger Kevin O’Keefe outlined a course of action for Findlaw, which called for public disclosure, refunds and apologies.

The controversy unveiled Findlaw’s SEM Advantage program — which was essentially an agreement to sell a link from FindLaw.com to a law firm’s Web site for up to $2,500 a month for the sole purpose of improving that site’s search results. This is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, which state: “Buying or selling links that pass Page Rank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.”

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