All’s Fair Or Dirty Pool?

One day in the last few weeks, I happened to read this news story.

The basics: Law Firm A, a big personal injury firm that spends big bucks on marketing/advertising, sued Law Firm B because Firm B had been — in a search engine sense — attempting to glom onto Law Firm A's reputation and fame. They did so in a pretty clever way. Using Google AdWords, Firm B bid on certain key words (in this case, the name of Law Firm A) for the purposes of a sponsored link. I have no desire to bore you with an extended explanation of pay-per-click advertising, but let's put it this way: every time someone searched on Google — by name —  for Law Firm A (which had "earned" that search with their reputation or their advertising or whatever), then naturally the first "organic" listing in the search results was (as it should be) Law Firm A. However, right above that #1 organic listing, appeared the "sponsored" listing for Law Firm B.

Clever. But not very cool, in my view. It's a sort of confession that…we know you beat us in the marketplace, we know you have a bigger reputation, but rather than earn or buy our own presence in that marketplace, we're going to be the gnat that attaches itself to you and rides on your reputation.

The court ruled that Law Firm B had done nothing illegal and although I disagreed with some of the quotes from the defense attorney ("There is no evidence of confusion here") I didn't think much more of it. 


It occurred to me that I hadn't performed a Google search on my own name for a while. So I did, and this is what I found (click on the image to enlarge):









The organic search results were what you might expect. My firm and my blog were the first two listings. But there on top of those results is a paid listing from KDunn Marketing, one of my competitors (at least in some minor sense). Clearly, some genius at KDunn decided that a good way to attract business was to advertise to people who were searching for Mark Merenda. 

OK, I guess there's a way I could see that as a compliment. They want to grab onto my coattails. Fine. I don't like it much or respect it much, but it's not illegal. I do think it's borderline deceptive. And I've always wondered how companies that start the client relationship with a deception (like those debt settlement firms implying that they are government agencies with ads that begin, "A program has been established…") can hope for a successful long-term engagement. But who knows, maybe they're only looking for a quick hit. 

So far, I was a bit irritated and a bit flattered. Then I clicked on KDunn's advertisement and landed here (click on the image to enlarge):

Screen shot 2011-06-17 at 10.06.24 AM









Note the language: "Your search was for Mark Merenda and you found it."

Well, actually, no, you didn't. 

I would think that the unwary attorney, searching for me and my services, would be likely to think (or reasonably infer) that they had found me, and that I was the author of the "Special Report" being offered.

Note to Kathryn Dunn: you might want to try to attach yourself to this blog, as well — it has 7,000 subscribers — subscribers that I earned by putting my best thought and effort into this blog every week for the last seven years.

So what do my readers think? Should I be mad, or should I laugh? All's fair in love and war, or dirty pool?


9 thoughts on “All’s Fair Or Dirty Pool?

  1. Mark:
    This is the dirtiest of dirty pool. This is pure fraud. Saying you searched for Mark Merenda and you found him is a LIE. Too bad you don’t know any good lawyers who would love to pounce on this fraud…. 🙂
    James B. Reed
    NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
    Ziff Law Firm, LLP
    Mailto: [email protected]
    Office: (607)733-8866
    Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
    Blogs: and

  2. As you point out earlier, there are lawyers who will do whatever it takes to get business… it’s no surprise that there are marketing firms that market to lawyers in a like manner. As distasteful as it is, leave those lawyers to that firm, eh? They’re not a good fit for you, and are perfect for her…

  3. Years ago when Internet was much more of a new thing, I had an individual who was part of a group of three consultant ‘competitors’ copy an entire page, verbatim, from my web site including the tag line “We invested the time, so you don’t have to.”
    I guess she took me literally.
    So, I called the owner of the software product that we mutually supported and he suggested the following: place a copyright notice on all web pages, print it and send it to myself in a certified return receipt letter. He said don’t open it unless required at a later date.
    I then called one of the other three consultants who was surprised to learn of the transgression. He agreed to remove it and was obviously embarrassed by the error.
    It’s really is a shock when it happens to you.

  4. Mark, you are ever the gentleman, but this is deceptive and fraudulent and unauthorized use of your name in advertising. However which way you choose to approach this individual, I would do it and do it quickly because quite frankly, you don’t know what garbage she is putting out and having your name associated with it could actually be damaging to you. Time to take the gloves off, my friend.

  5. With respect to her adwords strategy, I don’t think there is anything wrong with her bidding on your name. She is merely bidding on a search term that people that want estate planning marketing services will be searching on. You can pretty easily beat her at that game by simply bidding on your own name. Since your ad will have your name in the title, web site, and description (none of which she can do), and since your web site will have your name all over it and therefore be deemed more relevant than hers, you will top her ad for a fraction of what her bid is. As for her statement on the site that “you have found Mark Merenda,” that is a fraudulent misappropriation of your name and goodwill, and I think you should sue her.

  6. Mark, it is perhaps the sincerest form of flattery to want to preempt your fine reputation, but it is also the sleeziest form of marketing. I am disappointed in Ms. Dunn if the action is intentional on her part. I will respect her greatly if she is unaware and immediately takes steps to correct the situation upon her discovery. It is the honorable thing for her to do. Wayne

  7. Anyone who is smart enough to search for you on the web should recognize the
    scam she is attempting. If they still go ahead and call her for help, you
    probably don’t want them as a client anyway.

  8. I agree with all the above comments. I think Dunn’s deception will be exposed quickly and this move will only damage her reputation and hinder her business. As we all know from Mark’s great coaching on marketing and business advice, building an excellent service type business takes time, dedication, and talent. I am sure that while Mark’s business will continue to thrive, we probably won’t even hear about Dunn a year from now. Maybe she took sessions from another attorney in California I know.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *