Your Law Firm’s SEO Will Either:
Whether you’re a managing partner at a law firm, an in-house marketing administrator, intern, SEO’er, designer or programmer, content writer, or anyone else who has done a Google search in the past year to find out how well your website ranks, if you’ve looked into ways to improve those rankings to get more local, relevant traffic to your website, you’ve made which of the following statements to either yourself or to someone else in the past year:
a) “Google and Matt Cutts hate SEO”.
b) “SEO is dead.”
c) “Why won’t me website’s rankings improve? Ugh, I need help”.
d) All of the above.
If I had more time to promote our own content, I would turn that into a poll, promote this post, collect and publicize the results (note to self: have summer intern implement poll plugin), and my prediction: Answer D would be the overwhelming favorite.
I want to weigh in on the first two statements, but before I go off on my tangent, here’s a timeline of recent (significant) Google updates which have everyone in an e-frenzy (via [newly-renamed] Moz’s post on Google Algorithm Change History):
February 23, 2011– Google’s first Panda/Farmer update, which affected 12% of websites and targeted websites with lower-quality content (spun content, article websites, content farms, etc.)
April 24, 2012- Google Penguin update, which affected 3.1% of English websites (although I think this number is on the low side) and targeted websites which over-used certain keywords/phrases in their page content, websites which had keyword-rich anchor text links coming from other websites, and websites with links from “spammy” websites such as forums and non-related websites.
April 25, 2012-May 21, 2013- SEO’ers, webmasters, writers, and everyone else scramble to figure out why their (clients’) organic search traffic (and search engine rankings) have plummeted. Countless hours are spent e-mailing other webmasters requesting for links to be removed, Google launches their disavow tool after after many webmasters complain about the lack of responses from link removal request e-mails, and “Google Penguin Recovery” becomes a service provided to law firms and other small businesses by SEO companies trying to establish themselves as “actually knowing what they’re talking about”. Software companies like Majestic SEO, Raven Tools, Link Research Tools, and other inbound link analysis tools reap the benefits of Google’s sudden change of mind, and the era of “quantitative link building” is (rightfully) put on life support.
May 22, 2013- Google announces their Penguin 2.0 update, and the next few days are spent by many holding their breath, checking traffic and rankings data, and hoping that their websites weren’t affected.
TIP: You can use a Chrome plugin called Chartelligence to look at your Google Analytics data and correspond traffic drops/spikes with Google updates.
Google Hates SEO
This isn’t necessarily an inaccurate statement, but it’s more of a generalization than anything. If the majority of SEO’ers (not agencies who say that they do SEO, but the people who they outsource the work to) are overseas spammers or people who don’t speak English as their native language, and who are practicing link building techniques that are somewhere within that gray-to-black area, then that leaves others with the impression that SEO’ers are all spammers and that SEO is snake oil and ineffective. I hate SEO based on the majority of people who I talk to who consider themselves actual SEO consultants, and I’ve been doing this as a profession for the past 5 years now.
But that doesn’t mean that Google hates it.
I hate spam, you hate spam, your father who got upset whenever someone called your house during dinner to sell him a newspaper subscription hates spam, and Google hates spam.
There’s no reason for you, as an attorney or law firm, to have a link on a page that talks about furniture refinishing or something else completely unrelated to law, or for that link to be using a keyword in the anchor text of the link like “Los Angeles personal injury attorney”.
There’s not much of a reason for your website to have a link on a page with 362 other links, varying anywhere from sex pills to free UFC streams to payday loans (this blog post just decreased it’s chances of being seen by 37% based on me including those phrases, and yes I made that number up).
The reason why Google hates SEO (based on our generalization from earlier) is because of quantitative link building and the theory that “more is better”. In the good ol’ days of SEO, the more links that you had, the higher your rankings would be. The more PR6, PR5, PR4 links that you had, or the more .edu links that you had, the better chance of ranking #1 and beating out your competition. So if an SEO or link building company approached you and promised to build you 10,000 links for $199/month, you didn’t ask yourself “well what kind of websites are they”, “how relevant are the websites or the other links on those websites”, or “are these sites that are trusted by the search engines?”, and you paid the $199 a month hoping to see your rankings increase increase. Maybe you saw an increase in rankings for a few search terms, but after Google Penguin, now you’re left wondering what happened, and that $199/month turned into countless hours of link removal requests and disavow file uploads.
Here’s what I know as the owner of an SEO agency: reporting when it comes to link building is almost impossible.
How can you explain that you built 35 links one month, and only 3 links the next month, even if those 3 links are more powerful?
Focusing on the quantity of inbound links versus the quality of inbound links (relevance, authority, traffic referral, etc.) is what got us into this mess, and it’s frustrating to see the monthly content side of the business go down the same path. Okay, so you paid for 100 blog posts per month and your site has 6,000 pages, 5,500 more than your top competitor, and you’re still not outranking anyone? Google doesn’t care how many pages are on your website, especially if the majority of the content is complete crap (only a few sentences, regurgitated news stories, multiple misspellings, broken links, irrelevant content, etc.).
Having more links, more content, more websites- this all means absolutely nothing, and hasn’t meant anything for a long time. Stop falling for the “extra value meal” packages that you’re being sold by your web company, because they don’t work and, as a result, Google hates you. Take that.
“SEO is Dead”
Right. So your competitors just got lucky and cracked the Google code by “writing awesome content, sitting back, and watching all of the links and traffic pour in”.
SEO is not dead.
There are hundreds of ways to optimize a website to improve user experience and SEO at the same time (improved load times, higher quality content, minimalistic design layouts, mobile and/or responsive websites, less on-page links, schema.org markup, etc.), and it’s a proven fact that (quality and relevant) inbound links are still vital to higher search rankings.
Google isn’t out to kill SEO because, at the end of the day, you’re optimizing your website for user experience and, as a result, improving your search engine rankings. Google’s algorithm may continue to evolve, but thinking that “all websites are created equal” and that more/higher quality content is the only key to success will have you finding out the hard way that it’s never that easy.
SEO’ers who continue to focus on old school SEO metrics like how many higher PR links a website has, how many times a keyword is mentioned on a page, how many pages of content a website has- aka spammers who thought more about the search engine bots and less about users and potential visitors- those guys are dead, and they might be taking you with them.