PHOENIX (CN) – A law firm claims in a RICO lawsuit that The Rainmaker Institute – which calls itself “the nation’s largest law-firm marketing provider” – charged it $49,000 to increase its visibility on Google, knowing that its work violated Google’s guidelines.
Seikaly & Stewart, of Farmington Hills, Mich., sued The Rainmaker Institute and its CEO Stephen Fairley, in Federal Court.
Seikaly & Stewart claim the defendants created a “bogus Internet marketing program, supposedly designed for small law firms and sole practitioners.”
Everybody and their brother tries to play the SEO game, search engine optimization, which explains the tens of thousands of spam backlink comments, the “guest post” scam and pingbacks that deluge anyone whose blog or website has any potential to lend them some Google cred. But Seikaly & Stewart paid Fairley $49,000 for what a bunch of starving kids in Bangalore would do for $7.95 and a box of corn flakes? Sheesh, that’s humiliating.
Seikaly & Stewart claim that “the Victim Firms were duped into believing that the services to be provided by The Rainmaker Institute, a company owned and/or controlled by defendant Fairley, would be effective in making the web sites and related web pages of the Victim Firms appear high in the results of the most important internet search engines – most significantly Google – when key terms chosen by the Victim Firms to describe their practices and the services offered were entered in a search by potential clients. Plaintiff and others paid many thousands of dollars, individually and collectively to The Rainmaker Institute to obtain these services, only to find that they were, in most instances completely unsuccessful.
Not to be unsympathetic, but did you seriously think that Fairley, or any of the other marketeers promising magic bullet solutions to turn you from internet zero to hero overnight had a chance?
But before we start throwing around words like “racketeer,” did Fairley get your money by threatening to break your kneecaps? Did he put in the promised effort and fail miserably to get the puffed results?
The Rainmaker Institute disclaimed all liability for lack of success of its efforts, and this case is not brought for lack of success per se, the lack of success merely being evidence of fraud and damages to business or property. The action is based on the fact that, at the time that the defendants were promoting this marketing scheme to the Victim Firms, they knew that the techniques they proposed to use were in violation of the guidelines already well-established and published by Google; knew that Google was moving rapidly to crack down on violators; knew that use of these techniques would not only fail to enhance the likelihood that the Victim Firms would rise in Google’s rankings but would actually be downgraded to the point where the websites being used by the Victim Firms would become ‘contaminated’ for search engine purposes; knew that they intended to use automated programs rather than direct personal effort to create the appearance that links to the Victim Firms web pages (the key to rising in search engine rankings) were being generated in the numbers represented; and knew that they intended to cloak their schemes in allegations of ‘trade secrets’ to avoid the balance of the scheme from coming to light.”
Trade secrets, huh? Had you put in about ten minutes of effort, you might have found their trade secrets plastered all over legitimate blawgs, this one for example, that would have clued you in to the fact that there wasn’t a chance in hell it was going to work. Do the math, guys. Everybody can’t be on page 1 of Google. Everybody with a clue knew that Google didn’t like being played by schemers and scammers, and any lawyer with minimal internet savvy understood that the nuts and bolts were played out in boiler rooms in exotic locales.
The gravamen of the complaint is that Seikaly & Stewart apparently wanted to play the public by showing up on the first page of Google, as if it earned its way to that vaunted bit of virtual real estate organically. Instead, Fairley beat them at the game, deceiving them to the tune of $49 grand, with promises of vast internet wealth and prestige, by doing what every marketeer does, promise the world and deliver, well, nothing. Sometimes worse than nothing, as the Google-gods got pissed off at being played.
And, the law office claims, “even after it became evident that defendants’ methods were not capable of achieving the results that had been represented to the victim firms and that, in fact, web page rankings were not being achieved as represented, defendants continued to market their services in much the same way and continued to withhold from existing victims the fact that the services for which the defendants were being paid were worthless.”
Don’t blame Fairley for being a particularly successful member of a particularly disgraceful industry. He sold you a bill of goods. That’s what marketeers do. Didn’t you realize that when you put your reputation, your ethics, your livelihood and your cash into the hands of schemers, you’re going to get burned? What’s next, suing Nigeria for its prince welching on your inheritance?
Did Fairley lie to Seikaly & Stewart? How would anyone know, since the entirety of internet marketing schemes are based on deception and manipulation? And were Seikaly & Stewart victimized by Fairley’s unkept promises? It’s beyond ironic that a firm seeking to buy its way to prominence from a marketeer complains that it was out-deceived. It’s not that they have no cause of action, having paid a pretty sweet sum to the Rainmaker Institute and gotten bupkis in return, but that when someone seeks to game the system and got played in return, it’s just awfully hard to feel badly about the whole thing. Plus, it’s always fun to see the imaginative uses to which civil RICO is put.
In the meantime, looking forward to Fairley’s next Avvo post, Is anyone dumber than lawyers when it comes to forking over a ton of money for nothing? Isn’t it nice to be the gold-standard in lawyer marketeering?