For upwards of five years, the first pages of Google results have been completely overtaken by law firms who have an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy in place. The recent updates (dubbed “panda” and “penguin”), changes all that. I believe attorneys will need to become more involved if they want to have a thriving internet presence.
Google has been making a concerted effort to target sites that ‘over-do’ SEO, and I believe they have finally made an impact. Until now, attorneys websites have benefited from paid links, obvious anchor text (repeatedly linking the term “Philly bankruptcy lawyer” to your URL), and cheap content. In the past, sites would rank first on Google simply because they had one link from LPIG.org or other high page rank site. These days are changing, and attorneys are going to have to start getting their hands dirty if they want to be successful at internet marketing.
Cheap Content, cheap links and unnatural “Natural SEO”
Google latest update to their search software is trying to help weed out useless and repetitive content, paid and crappy links and general spam; which has always been their goal. This time, they are actually succeeding. One of the biggest problems with legal marketing is that lawyers aren’t writing content; writers are writing content, and in many cases, foreign IT workers are writing about the U.S. Law. Writers who know nothing about the law have very little to contribute that’s worthwhile. Attorneys practicing law can almost always provide more insightful, unique content that attracts attention and gets links; this is the kind of unique, original content Google likes to return to its users.
This latest update from Google may be overreaching; they seem to have de-indexed or knocked down some useful law firm websites that have been playing by the rules for years. Just because Google changes the rules of the game doesn’t mean those who have been compliant up ’til now should be punished. I suspect Google will be refining their filter in the near future to ease up on some sites who may have been wrongly punished with this update; they’ve already created a feedback form in the event you feel your website was unnecessarily targeted.
Google’s Take on “Individual Branding”
Social media has played a prominent role in the internet marketing industry for a few years now, and that won’t be going away anytime soon. Social media has played a strong role in helping Google to identify you and build a brand around your business or name. Google has been pushing for us to self-identify; by networking multiple accounts (twitter, facebook, linkedin) to your google account, it helps Google to differentiate the “Smith Law Firm” in Miami, FL from “Smith & Smith LLP” in Chicago, IL. This helps search engines return better results to its users.
To help identify your brand, keep your firm’s name the same when submitting to directories, on google local pages, and on your website; if your firm name is “Myburgh Law, P.C.”, don’t use “Albie J Myburgh, Esq” on twitter ; be consistent across the web. Don’t create duplicate websites, and DO at least claim your twitter and facebook profiles, even if you don’t “tweet”. We agree; it’s a bit creepy that google wants to know who we are, where we work, and what our phone number is; but unless you plan to go off the grid and retire, it’s time to get onboard.
So what can you do? Become an active part of your SEO program. Write like you’re talking to your college-age nephew – not your law school professor. Talk to your SEO firm about what they can do to bring attention to your articles and build links to your content. Submit your articles to industry specific websites for publication consideration, and make sure in your credits you get a link to your website. This is the kind of “natural” SEO Google wants to see; not cheap content and directory links.