People often ask me why I position myself as an SEO expert witness. Don’t you have enough students in your Bay Area search engine optimization classes? Don’t you make enough money off of your popular SEO books on Amazon? Don’t you have enough adoring fans on your YouTube channel? Don’t you have enough consulting clients that you don’t need to put your finger in the messy pie of legal disputes?
The answer to all of the above is yes. Yes I have plenty of students in my bay area SEO classes and trainings. Yes I make plenty of money off of my very popular books on Amazon. You can check out my list of the top SEO books 2016, for example. And yes, I have many adoring fans on YouTube, and many consulting clients for whom I work and for whom we work together as consultant and client to improve their Internet marketing. All of the above are incredibly positive experiences, and are generally win when. Everyone is happy when they are at the top of Google or Bing, they are receiving inbound inquiries or sales, and they are making money.
Litigation and Search Engine Optimization
The situation in litigation is not quite so pleasant, of course. Usually when someone comes to me looking for an SEO expert witness somebody is unhappy: either the plaintiff or the defendant. And in other situations, it is a criminal trial in which something has really gone off the rails. The reality of live litigation work is that generally speaking someone is not a happy camper.
Therefore, when I am being deposed as an SEO expert witness, usually at least one person in the room is not happy. That might be the plaintiff, or it might be the defendant, or it is generally the lawyer who represents one or the other who is deposing me. Now, I have the utmost respect for lawyers and the judicial system. I at I realize that everyone has a role to play and everyone is playing his or her respective role.
I don’t take it personally. My job as an SEO expert witness is to do my honest best to get to the truth, and to present the facts as I see them. I try in a very honest fashion not to twist the facts, but to really research the facts. My favorite types of cases are those cases in which the facts are unambiguously on our side, and my job is generally to research those facts and be able to explain those facts to a lawyer, a judge, or a jury.
The Thrill in Being an SEO Expert Witness
Where is the thrill in all of this? Well, the first thrill is the thrill of doing detailed research. The reality in a litigation environment is that generally whatever you do or say will be challenged by the other side. Therefore your research and facts need to be done in a very thorough manner, much more thoroughly than you would normally do in a corporate setting. The reality in many corporate settings is that things are just “good enough” due to budget constraints. We take a lot of shortcuts in everyday business work, because we don’t have the budget to do everything in excruciating detail. But “good enough” is not “good enough” in terms of litigation. So part of the thrill is that I enjoy with respect to expert witness work is doing research, i.e. doing detailed research, and a litigation engagement means there is the budget for that type of detail.
Second, the thrill of being an expert witness is not that different than the thrill of being a successful teacher. I thoroughly enjoy teaching and training in both SEO and social media marketing, especially live classes here in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is the thrill when the light bulb goes on in a student’s head. In terms of being an SEO expert witness, there is some thrill in helping all the lawyers involved, the judge, and the jury to actually understand what’s happening. It’s not dissimilar to teaching: in both cases the truth has been revealed, and the truth sets you free.
Third, there is the thrill of combat. Let’s face it. While the role of an expert witness is really to get at the facts, the roles of the attorneys are to present their clients’ cases in an adversarial manner. So in a deposition or when I am on the stand at a trial, the attorney of the other side has a job which is generally to discredit me as an expert, and to challenge either the facts or my interpretation of the facts. Most of the time, I win this combat because the facts are generally on my side, and I’m very good at explaining those facts. I am on my home turf: something in which I am an expert. Occasionally, the attorney can get the better of me, usually not through facts or the technical interpretation, but through the twisting of words or some arcane legal issues which I don’t fully understand because I am not an attorney. In any case, there is the thrill of combat, and the thrill of winning.
Even losing can be OK because I learn from losing, and always debrief myself: what could I have done better? Different?