This is the next post in my Website Options for Law Firms series. I’ve previously discussed whether attorneys should build their own websites or if they should hire a developer and have provided tips for lawyers who will be hiring a developer to build their firm’s website. In this article I will be discussing whether attorneys should utilize the services of Scorpion Web Design to manage their web presence.
My experience in evaluating Scorpion Web Design as a law firm’s website option
Scorpion is a California-based company that caters to the legal profession. Their website states that they provide services including website design, assistance with search engine optimization, and assistance with pay-per-click marketing. As with other reviews I’ve done in this series, I’ll start by discussing my experience in evaluating this option.
I contacted Scorpion and informed them I was a writer for this blog and that I would be evaluating their company as part of the website option series. The receptionist transferred me to the Vice President of Business Development. He was not available and I left him a voice mail. I called back later in the same day and the same receptionist told me that the V.P. was available and transferred me to him. I explained who I was and the V.P. rather quickly told me to put any questions I had in an email and send them to him. I got the impression, rather quickly, that he did not want to take the time to answer questions about the company or the services it provides.
In the few questions I was able to ask to the V.P. about pricing, I received the somewhat vague information that is described below. After the phone conversation I emailed over a list of several questions and have yet to receive a response of any type (including a “thanks for emailing us” response). Should I get a response then I will be supplementing this article upon receipt.
In addition to reaching out to Scorpion, I ran a series of tests involving three sites they feature in the “Portfolio” section of their website. I made sure I used sites from three distinct practice areas, in three distinct parts of the country, to get a good sample base. After running these tests I feel I’m in a good position to evaluate the service as a website option.
Evaluating Scorpion Web Design as an attorney website option
I’m evaluating Scorpion under the same criteria used to evaluate other options in this series. These options include the cost of the service, the SEO potential of Scorpion sites, how easy it is for attorneys to interact with the service, and how well Scorpion’s sites are suited to the changing web environment.
Evaluating the cost of Scorpion Web Design
As mentioned above, the V.P. I spoke with give me some vague information regarding pricing. He indicated that pricing varied depending on the part of a country that an attorney is in. To be blunt, I find this odd. The level of work that goes into a twenty-five page criminal defense site for a small town lawyer should be no different than the level of work for a twenty-five page criminal defense site in New York. When we design a site, as part of our attorney web design and SEO services, the price is the same regardless of the city the attorney is practicing in and each site is carefully designed to perform well in search. Our price structure, however, is consistent regardless of where the attorney is located. I would hope that this variance in pricing, due to location, is not based on the idea that attorneys in larger locales can simply afford to pay more. I have asked Scorpion to clarify why this policy exists and will update this article if I receive a response.
In conducting additional research I did find multiple articles that described Scorpion’s service as pricy. This finding, combined with the variable price policy, would have to be a strike against Scorpion in the price column.
Evaluating the SEO potential of Scorpion Web Design
I engaged in a comprehensive analysis of three different sites built by Scorpion. The number of issues I found led me to the finding that the company is not a good option if you want to do well in search.
All three of the sites I looked at had very low page loading scores, along with a large number of technical errors, when tested through Google’s page speed analyzer. These low scores mean that Google sees these sites as potentially loading slowly and returning a poor user experience. Given the increasing importance Google is placing on site speed, this is a big negative in terms of SEO potential. Site speed falls squarely on the shoulders of the developer so this is a big strike against Scorpion.
I found several other issues, from an SEO standpoint, that raised concerns. All three of the sites I looked at had incorrectly formatted Meta Descriptions. Other issues included poorly formatted URL’s, poorly formatted page titles, and the use of Flash on the sites (which is increasingly falling out of favor with search engines). Perhaps the biggest red flag was what I saw as a lack of individualized content on the sites; Scorpion holds itself out as writing content that will go over well with the search engines. These issues, combined with others, don’t bode well for search.
I performed a number of Google searches for attorneys in the practice areas of the sites I examined. I also narrowed the searches by location. Two of the websites did not show up on the first three pages of Google for any of my searches. The third site did show up on the first page for two of my searches but not for the other three. These search results, combined with the above issues, lead to my not being able to recommend Scorpion on the SEO front.
Evaluating the ease of using Scorpion Design’s platform
Given that Scorpion is a comprehensive developer, and not a do-it-yourself platform, I would evaluate ease of use by looking at how painless is the process of being able to call Scorpion and get a site up within a reasonable amount of time. Without the feedback of Scorpion, which I requested, it’s not really possible to evaluate them in this regard.
Evaluating how well Scorpion Web Design is suited to a changing web environment
The web is changing rapidly. Since 2007 it has become increasingly important to make sure one’s site renders well on a variety of devices, such a smart phones. Over the next few years there will be a wider range of devices on which the web will be viewed. These will include wearables such Google Glass (which is awesome by the way), smart televisions, and other form factors. We monitor the web traffic of our clients very closely; right now roughly 40 percent of traffic to our clients’ sites is coming from devices other than traditional personal computers. The ability of a company to adapt its websites to the “modern web” is important.
Scorpion didn’t do well in this area. While all of the websites I looked did render well on a mobile device, they did so by using an “m.” version of the domain. In other words, if you go to “www.mydomain.com” you are automatically redirected to an “m.mydomain.com” version of the site. This is an outdated way of handling mobile and actually leads to potential problems, such as splitting page rank if Google thinks you have two different versions of the same website[i]. The fact that Scorpion is not handling Mobile through what we see as an outdated technique raises concerns, in my opinion, as to how well the company will handle future changes to the web.
My conclusions as to whether attorneys should utilize Scorpion Web Design for their web presence
I simply can’t recommend Scorpion to attorneys. Without an explanation of why their price structure varies by geography, I can’t endorse them on the price front. Combine this with the fact that the sites I reviewed didn’t do well in search and had search related issues which fall squarely on the developer, and it becomes hard to say that this is a good marketing option. With the web changing quickly, it is important that a company change with it and Scorpion’s outdated approach to mobile was somewhat alarming. I believe attorneys can find a much better option.
[i] Matt Cutts – Head of Google’s Web Spam Team – Is there an SEO disadvantage of using responsive designs instead of separate mobile URL’s?, Found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D03wRb4s7MU