Thursday, December 18, 2014

Attorneys, How to Dominate on Yelp Listings and rank higher on listings.

I was involved in auto accident recently. Because the accident occurred in an parking lot with both vehicles backing up and many others factors that were involved that I'm not going mention, the first thing I did was to seek legal advice from an attorney. My first reaction is to go on Yelp and search for a lawyer. One attorney's strategy for ranking high on the Yelp listing for "Most Rated" and "Most Review" caught my eye.

I searched for the keyword "auto accident attorney".

There were 26 results.

I found that a majority of them either have no ratings or many positive ratings. Immediately I knew that this is a area that could be easily dominated.

The first 2 results were paid advertisements, both with 5 star positive feedback.

The results after were sorted by default to "best match"ed, so the list is ranked by how many times the word "auto accident attorney" occurred in the comments and in the business's description. With Yelp's simple algorithm, they then display the results based on the occurrence of the keyword on their business page and rating.

I filtered the search by "Best Review" since I figured "auto accident attorney" is a very narrowed keyword.

Then the first results listed right after the ads was for a attorney that had 37 "5-star" positive reviews over double the average of positive rating from their competitors.


A majority of the 5-star positive reviews were from people who rated them not based on the positive experience they have hiring them as their attorney but for giving them advice.

Here are the first few ratings from the page

"I emailed Matt for legal help and he responded almost immediately around 10:00 pm. His response contained lots of useful information such that I considered his rate to go over to their office. After a couple more emails where he inquired more about my case (which involved reviewing a company release document), he called me and pretty much told me what I can do in my situation and what further action to take. "
"Update: Matt D. quickly contacted me via Yelp. Somehow my phone call had been overlooked & he asked that I contact him via email w/my case notes. 20" after doing so, I received a reply to my inquiry. Kudos to him for the fast, informative email response! 3.5-4 stars updated from my original 2."
"I was not sure if I needed a lawyer to assist with a minor car accident. So I emailed Matt and he responded via email & phone within just a couple hours. He was extremely friendly and gave me great advice. It turns out that I likely will not need his services this time around but will definitely keep him in my contacts for anything that may come up in the future.  Very appreciative of his prompt and direct advice."
"I did not expect any reply when I emailed to inquiry but Matt replied me the next morning. It is great to have such an warmhearted lawyer that can give your case an initial evaluation and honest suggestion before you take further steps. You deserve all the good reviews here!"

The positive reviews were placed to compensate the attorneys for their time giving them legal advice and relieving their stress in their legal ordeal.

This shows how easy it is for Attorneys and Law Offices to dominate Yelp listings by ranking higher, which then leads to potential clients like myself.

All it takes is some time giving legal advice for free without expecting anything in return. A few minutes of your time a day can give you higher ratings and in return give you some potential leads in the future.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 Struggles To Keep Their Head Above The Waters

After the acquisition of Redbeacon by Home Depot, it seems that there has been a flood of new startups going after the local service market. But like many founders in that industry, Mark Zappacostas, CEO of Thumbtack, had no idea the challenges and pressure he will be facing. Even with 5.7 million dollars in funding, Mark Zappacostas did not have an easy time acquiring new customers. The 5.7 million dollars in funding just added more eyes over his shoulders and people breathing over his neck pressuring him to succeed and pushing him into making desperate decisions by turning to evil practices which involves spamming and charging their users hidden fees.

It all started with this email from one of their worker "Heather"

Hey XXX,
I'm reaching out to you because Thumbtack is getting a lot of job leads for handy mans, and I'm looking for another handyman who is interested in taking on more clients.
After checking out your website I think you are a great fit for Thumbtack and I'd love to start sending you job leads. Please fill out a few details about your skills and rates, and I'll start forwarding you potential new clients.
If you have any questions about what Thumbtack can provide, please don't hesitate to ask.
Unsubscribe Link: One-click unsubscribe.
1001 Page St, Suite #45, San Francisco, CA
This message is an advertisement.

Then again... but on another account

Hey XXX,
I'm reaching out to you because Thumbtack........

 How is this company getting my email addresses? I've never submitted any email addresses to this company before.

After doing a quick search on Google, it turns out that many other people have the same questions as me in regards to how this company obtains their email addresses. 

Here's what some people said about them:

 "The spammed me too. Said they have image consultant work and needed help. Wanted me to fill in their form and name my prices. I’m not an image consultant. It was clearly a fishing expedition…SPAM"

 "I just got one today, in which they let me know they visited my website and found my credentials as a Home Inspector very Impressive! They want me to fill out some forms and take on new clients for my Home Inpection business. Trouble is…I’m neither a Home Inspector NOR do I have a Website! Spam is just another word for SCAM…and that’s what these people are doing. No legitiate business would tell such flagrant lies to try and get your attention, and they ALWAYS depend on the greed (or financial need) of the recipient. Be careful out there."

Through about a hundred complaints, it is obvious that this company has been scraping emails off the web and mass sending them. Emails are listed on my contact pages were scraped by Thumbtack and added to a list that would be mass emailed with a generic message. Spamming is an evil practice and to have a well-funded start up in the Silicon Valley do it is embarrassing. No legitimate business SPAM! You only see that with Nigerian scammers or affiliate marketers. 

 But what happens if someone responds to this free service?

A few people responded to the ad and became a victim of what we call bait and switch.  A bait and switch is when you offer someone something, and then you proclaim it is no longer available and offer something else.  In this case, they get you to enter your company information, you’re offered a free lead then you are told the lead is no longer available. They will then pitch to you that you will have a better chance at landing the job if you get a background check with them for $7 dollars. They will then notify you that you have potential customers and try to sell you leads.  The leads cost anywhere from $3-$7 dollars and you don't get any contact information such as email addresses or phone numbers and when you do, the phone number will be disconnected or a Google Voice number that no one will ever answer.

Here's what people had to say:

"So I very uncharacteristically signed up and paid for a few “leads” totalling $6. I can tell you unequivocally it’s a scam. The “leads” turned out to be to one phone number that was disconnected and when it was listed belonged to someone different than the name they sent me, and
another phone number which goes straight to voicemail with no callback
and is registered to a “business consulting” firm which has listings all over the internet but no description of their services and no reviews(until I posted on this morning.) Do not give these people any money! I am not usually so gullible."

"Thumbtack is a total scam. They started out free, then started charging up front in order to bid on any so-called lead. The leads are phony, and Thumbtack is a racket, taking your money under false pretenses. You don’t need Thumbtack to post on Craigslist, people. Post your own ads — and you don’t have to pay for false leads!"

"I never get an actual email or phone number for the lead. im forced to communicate through Thumbtack, even after I paid them for the lead. I can’t continue doing business this way."

"I have been on Thumbtack for two months, and I have received 13 leads but not one has been a hit. I thought like everyone else, SCAM! There is probally no one really behind the lead, Thumbtack just makes them up. Then, I actually got a call from someone and it had given me new hope. I am a struggling business man trying to survive in this economy drop. So finding something like Thumbtack gave me something else to look at besides CL. I have been with CL for about a year, actually get to talk to real people. Even though they try to low ball you, they are still real. Back to the point, I talk to a real person for once but never heard back as well as with the other leads you send. If I could get one lead, a real job, out of this or even hear ONE positive thing about this site you might convince me to stay on. I have paid for a BG check a few 7% leads and a Monthly fee of 14.99 and if I do not see my money turn something around. Then I will have to be on the side that seems to be where everyone else and shout out SCAM! I have even called the # you posted and it said the Google voice subcriber is not availble (more than once). I have had some leads say that the customer is no longer in need of my services and that the customer is “not performing” yet you also state we will be reimburse for any bad leads. Can you show me anywhere where people have actually gotten any work from this site, a praise report of some kind. One other thing can you guys post leads for all to bid on even if you only allow access for those that pay the monthly fees. I reply once for a lead and then never hear from them again with nothing that says they found someone else or any kind of closing. Please help!"

Wait that’s not all! If that’s not bad enough, we learned that Thumbtack also hijack these company's Google Places Pages and upload pictures that include their watermark and direct users to their website to fill out request forms!

"Today I went to my google places account and I saw some images I had upload to my thumback listing, those pictures had a link to Thumback site. I assume the pictures were uploaded into google places by Thumback. The issue I have is that if customerse are finding my business on google places which is free, and for some reason decide to click on the images ( which redirect to Thumback), I will be receiving the lead from thumback, so if I want to contact the client I will end up paying for the lead, something that initiated from my free google listing, the same applies for the listing in craig list, which is free, but is linking to thumback."

"I will ask the people at google places to delete the pictures thumback uploaded with the link to their website. For now the images still on my google places account, and since I deleted my thumback account, they are being offered to contact other similar service providers. Not right in any way."

"Thumbtack does place their name on your images and creates a link to their site in your FREE Googles Places Listing! Then the customer goes to their site and filles in their information and what they want. That information not only goes to you, but all other cleaning businesses signed up with Thumbtack!!!! So your Google Places Page is giving your competition your business. Not right! Not so easy getting that image off of your Google Places Page either. I loved Thumbtack, until I found this out. I was recommending Thumbtack to all of my friends and business associates until this. Thumbtack should not send your leads to your competitors. That is not fair business practice. Not to mention the fact that it was a FREE lead to you and because they IMPOSED their link into your Google Places Page it then becomes a paid link! That should be changed. Good luck and I hope that Thumbtack changes their process. Have a great day!"

But why is succeeding in this market so difficult? This business is very simple right? A user submits a form describing what jobs they need done and it’s then sold to a bunch of professionals. It’s a Win-Win situation. Nope! Here's why. There are too many companies out there offering the same service and not enough people requesting services from professionals. There are already two major players in the market and that’s more than we need. With Service Magic and RedBeacon as the main player, leaves only a few users for Thumbtack and rest. In order to satisfy just the professionals alone, thumbtack has to send quality leads. Now quality leads are hard to fine, because most people requesting service are not actually looking to get jobs done anywhere in the near future and if they are seriously thinking about getting something done they will request proposal/bids from multiple professionals leaving the others unsatisfied. Thumbtack could not generate leads thus forcing them to scrape emails, spam users, and gives struggling small businesses and professionals false leads and upselling them.


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