Google recently updated its search quality evaluator guidelines.

These guidelines are used by the thousands of search quality raters who are hired by Google to evaluate search results and help Google improve its search algorithms.*

The guidelines were released to the public in 2015, and they’re aligned with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. However, these guidelines provide additional information and rich detail that can help attorneys create high-quality content that builds trust with the search engine and potential clients.

Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines: July 2018

Here’s what attorneys need to know about the most recent update.

Google and Your Law Firm Website’s Reputation

“…Google wants [its] raters to not only look at the reputation of the website itself, but also the content creators themselves,” according to Jennifer Slegg in an email to SearchEngineLand.

“This is one area that many sites fall down on. They might have an ‘About Us’ page, but the bios of their authors are sorely lacking. It also means that those accepting contributions from those not working for the site in question need to keep an eye on the reputation of their contributors as well.”

Sites with excellent reputations often have pages that rank highly for certain queries. Part of building an excellent reputation is through high-quality content creation that builds trust with search engines and potential clients. However, you may also want to consider revisiting your “About the Firm” page and/or bio page(s) to make sure that these pages are robust and useful to search engine users.

If you need a refresher on what makes a strong attorney bio, here are a few resources:

Google’s Algorithms Will Likely Fight “Clickbait” in the Future

It appears that Google is looking for ways to prevent “clickbait” titles — sensational and dramatic headlines that are designed to manipulate people into clicking a link and reading the content.

Clickbait has slowly worked its way into the mainstream over the past few years, but it might be on its way out: Google will be asking its raters to keep an eye out for sensational titles and titles that are not representative of a page’s content. Raters are advised to give low ratings to sites that contain these kinds of extreme headlines.

Does Your Law Firm Website Content Have a “Beneficial Purpose”?

Google has long said that it wants webmasters to make pages “for users, not for search engines.” Yet, that hasn’t stopped people from trying to make websites that are not focused on the user.

Google has now added mentions of “beneficial purpose” to its guidelines:

“The purpose of a page is the reason or reasons why the page was created. Every page on the Internet is created for a purpose, or for multiple purposes. Most pages are created to be helpful for users, thus having a beneficial purpose. Some pages are created merely to make money, with little or no effort to help users. Some pages are even created to cause harm to users. The first step in understanding a page is figuring out its purpose.”

A site that isn’t focused on user experience (and is focused on things such as keyword density, for example), isn’t likely to do well in search engine results pages.

Slegg notes:

So many sites create content solely for Google, without the user in mind. They just want their content with ‘keyword keyword keyword’ to rank well, and hope the person converts when they get there, whether by clicking an ad or affiliate link, or perhaps going deeper into the site. But Google wants their raters to think about whether a piece of content has a beneficial purpose or not, and this is something that any site owner, content creator or SEO should think about when writing new content or auditing current content on a site.”

High-quality content has always been at the heart of what Google is looking for in a useful website, but the change in language around “beneficial purpose” seems designed to really drive that point home for raters (and hopefully also webmasters).

This is especially important for law firm websites, which fall under the category of “Your Money or Your Life” pages (YMYL). Because these pages can affect the health, happiness or finances of an individual who discovers them, these pages are held to a higher standard by Google.

So, as you create content for your law firm’s website, make sure that you’re keeping the idea of “beneficial purpose” front and center.

For example, is a search engine user more likely to benefit from a page that is a self-serving advertisement for your firm? Or are they more likely to benefit from a practice area page or blog post that explains a legal process in great detail?

The following podcast episodes can help you create content that builds trust with your potential clients (and Google):

Learn more about Google’s Search Evaluator Guidelines

We’ve written about Google’s Search Evaluator Guidelines in the past. If you’d like to learn more about them, read “What Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines Can Reveal to Attorneys,” or see the newly updated guidelines.

*Google’s search quality raters are used for experimental purposes and cannot alter Google’s search results directly. For example, if a rater were to give a web page a low score, that rater’s scoring wouldn’t be reflected in search engine results pages. Google uses the data that comes from the work of search quality raters to improve its algorithms and keep low-quality pages from ranking highly.