3 Ways To Avoid Google Penalties On Law Firm Websites

by May 17, 2017

Being penalized by Google can damage your firm’s ability to be found online.

While it’s rare that Google applies an actual manual penalty, Google’s system is set up to reward websites that follow their guidelines. Google penalizes websites that try to game the system by demoting those website pages in search engine results. That can harm your law firm’s business.

Here are three ways to avoid being penalized by Google. For a more in-depth look at practices that can damage your law firm’s web presence, check out our comprehensive Law Firm SEO Guide.

Avoid unnatural linking practices on your law firm website

Link schemes can harm your law firm’s web presence.

Google defines link schemes as follows:

“Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”

Google provides several examples of link schemes that can harm your web presence:

  • Buying or selling links that pass rank. This includes exchanging of anything of value for links, links in posts, or giving something away for free in exchange for them linking to your law firm’s website
  • Exchanging links or cross-linking
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with links that contain anchor text with keywords
  • Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
  • Keyword rich low-quality links embedded in widgets
  • Forum comments with optimized links in posts or signatures

An example of a bad linking practice for attorneys

Sometimes, attorneys engage in bad SEO practices that waste their time or are dangerous to their web presence.

Submitting your law firm website to link directories is an example of a bad SEO tactic. The primary purpose of submitting a site to a link directory is to manipulate rankings in your website’s favor.

If something is designed to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google’s search results, it likely violates Google’s guidelines.

At one time, Google advised webmasters to submit sites to relevant directories. Google has since removed that advice from their guidelines.

Earn links naturally. The best way to earn links naturally is to create high-quality content that educates your potential clients and referral sources. The more quality content that you publish, the more opportunities you create for people to find, read, and link to your law firm website content.

Avoid irrelevant keywords

A long time ago, keywords played a larger role in search results.

Today, search engines are more advanced. But in the past, metrics such as the frequency of a word on a page had a larger impact on the relevancy of a site. It wasn’t long before blackhat SEO providers abused keywords through practices such as “keyword stuffing.”

“Keyword stuffing” is what it sounds like: A webpage filled with keywords with the intent to rank more highly in search engine results.

According to Google:

“Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.”

What does keyword stuffing look like on a law firm website?

Here’s an example of keyword stuffing for attorneys:

“Smith Family Law is run by successful Phoenix divorce lawyers. Our Phoenix divorce lawyers handle divorce cases in Phoenix and the surrounding suburbs. If you need a Phoenix divorce lawyer, contact us today for a consultation with a Phoenix divorce lawyer.”

The above paragraph sounds unnatural.

It doesn’t provide web visitors with real, useful information that can help them make a decision about their problem. And, it looks like spam.

Google’s algorithms look for this kind of website content. If your website contains information that sounds like this, Google may relegate your site in search results.

A common SEO myth is that keyword density is an important factor for rankings and relevancy. As search engines have improved, the importance of keywords has decreased.

Algorithms and artificial intelligence are advancing. The emphasis is now on creating high-quality content that answers the intent of a searcher’s question.

Avoid low-quality content on your law firm website & blog.

Your law firm website’s content quality affects your potential clients’ ability to find you. It also affects how they perceive your firm.

Write useful content for your potential clients and referral sources. Your content should add something unique to the information that already exists on your chosen topic.

Your content should provide additional value or an alternative perspective from any other article on the topic.

Avoid writing vague content or content that simply advertises your firm. To ensure that your content is highly specific, consider your target audience before you write. You may want to create a client persona for your firm.

Your written content should be engaging and easy to read by a non-attorney. Avoid thin law firm website content. When you write content, ask yourself whether a potential client who is unfamiliar with the topic would have a comprehensive understanding after reading what you wrote.

When you’ve built up your written content, consider adding things like audio/video, ebooks, infographics, and other elements that can increase engagement from your web visitors.

Low-quality content can show up in a lot of forms. We recommend that attorneys examine Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to learn more about quality content.

LawLytics helps attorneys do search engine-friendly content marketing.

Content marketing works better than any other form of SEO with both search engines and potential clients.

Quality content drives traffic to your website and transforms web visitors into clients for your firm. When done right, law firm content marketing gives attorneys an unprecedented opportunity to attract new clients and referral sources without the unnecessary risks and expense often present in other kinds of online legal marketing.

To learn more, schedule a 20-minute interactive demo of LawLytics.

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