Law Firm SEO Update: Penguin 2.0 and Lawyer Website Rankings

penguinupdateThe year 2013 got off to an interesting start for anyone who watches Google closely. Last year, Google rolled out an update to their algorithm called Penguin that devalued websites that demonstrated patterns of low-quality, manipulative links. This update, along with the widespread manual site-ranking actions taken by Google, sent everyone in the search optimization world into a frenzy. The big buzzphrase was “Kill your bad links and build quality ones”. So when Google rolled out version two of their Penguin update in May of this year, everyone held their breath, hoping for the best.

So What Did Google’s Penguin 2.0 Update Really Do?

This is truly hard to answer in detail because very few sites that we manage saw much movement at all following the Penguin 2.0 update. We conducted an analysis of commercial legal keywords across a dozen large cities and observed many winners and losers both before and after the update.

Law Firm SEO Update: Penguin 2.0 and Lawyer Website Rankings

Overall, the update intensifies the mission that Google was on the previous year to clean low quality sites from their search results. A few of the overall trends we noticed following the recent updates are:

  • Google properties appear to have captured more top positions, YouTube in particular.
  • Quality local and legal directories tended to be ranked better. Yelp seems to have lost some of its overall visibility.
  • There were more extreme examples of winners and losers on the third page and higher in the search results.
  •  Sites that experienced dramatic drops tended to have very low quality links from other countries or other completely irrelevant websites. Also, they had no links of any real authority (trust).

What Should Your Law Firm Be Doing in Response?

  1. Know who is linking to you – There are many tools (including Google’s free Web Master Tools) that will give you a list of website pages that are linking to your website. Websites that include terms like FreePR, HighRank, articlesubmission, for example, generally are manipulative and only exist to try to boost rankings.  Google has a free tool called the Disavow Tool that allows your Web vendor to submit these links to tell Google that you do not want them to pass value to your site. This is a best practice, as is contacting those sites to request that the links be removed.
  2. Get Authoritative/Local Links – You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know but WHO you know”. Most attorneys have great networks that include peers, business partners, law schools, organizations, and others. Make sure your Web vendor knows about these connections. Authoritative (highly trusted) links are the antidote to a few bad links.
  3. Ask For Reviews - If a prospective client knows that 10 other people left legitimate positive reviews about your firm when they are searching for one on Google, your firm is getting their business over ones that have bad reviews or no reviews. Google reviews, as well as reviews on other reputable sites, have a strong correlation to increased local rankings. If your firm has only one or no reviews, you are missing the boat.
  4. Establish Authorship – Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, in his book, “The New Digital Age” said: “Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.” Content on your site, as well as content posted by you off-site, should be tied to your personal Google+ page through a convention set up by Google called Authorship. Ask your Web vendor about this. It is very important.

Many of the recent updates have been targeting highly competitive and traditionally spammy niches. Some examples are payday loans, porn, and insurance. Legal marketing is a highly competitive niche, so some focus on it by Google is probably not that far away (if not already happening). Use these tips to start protecting your site and its future!

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Tanner Jones

About Tanner Jones

Tanner Jones serves as the marketing director for,. Consultwebs fosters professional, long-term relationships built on trust, integrity, quality and results. Often the first contact our clients have with our firm, Tanner helps law firms develop their online marketing strategies, including search engine optimization, responsive website design, and pay-per-click advertising. Tanner has spoken and presented at multiple legal marketing seminars throughout the country.

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