If you’re advertising online, search-engine optimization is an art, a science, a necessity — and a trap waiting to spring on the unsuspecting. If you doubt it, just ask attorney Thomas Lewis Edwards of Gainesville, Fla., or better yet, try Googling his name.
Think the top result will be his law firm’s website? No; if he has one, it’s not making the top 10 results tonight. His Avvo listing, maybe? No, though that one did come in second – not bad, except that it’s sandwiched between two items that tell the tale of how his law firm’s online ad wound up next to his mugshot after he was charged with DUI over the weekend.
Rather than rely on the likes of Reddit or Gawker, we checked out the story on the ABA Journal, which notes that an organization called Mugshots Gainesville Florida posted the list of six charges, along with Edwards’ mugshot – and lo and behold, his ad popped up right next to that posting. In response to an ABAJ inquiry, Edwards issued a statement reminding us that, “under the American criminal justice system all individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
True enough, but under the rules of the Web, that doesn’t matter one bit. The ad wasn’t showing up when I checked Mugshots Gainesville just now, but the Internet is forever.
Edwards may be able to hide it; there are reputation-cleaning services that manipulate search results to push the bad stuff down to page 3. Or, he may have just scored the biggest coup of his online marketing career. As the ABAJ notes, Edwards’ practice “focuses on drunken-driving cases and other criminal matters.” With all his newfound online notoriety, he may have just sewn up the title of “drunk driving lawyer.”