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Google announced that it began implementing a new core update on Monday, the first core algorithm update of the new year. 

Here’s what to know about this change to Google’s search algorithm, and how it might affect your law firm’s website.

What happens when Google makes a core algorithm update?

Several times a year, Google makes significant changes to its search algorithms and systems. 

In 2019, Google announced core algorithm updates in March, June, and September, along with a natural language processing update called “BERT.”

What is the purpose of these core algorithm updates?

“They’re designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers,” writes Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan.

In his blog post from August of 2019, Sullivan gives an analogy to describe what happens when Google implements a core algorithm update:

“One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before.”

What Google said about its January 2020 core update:

It should come as no surprise that Google’s advice about this core algorithm update is to focus on your website’s content.

“Our guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before.” The search engine giant pointed to Sullivan’s August 2019 blog post that details what webmasters should know about core algorithm updates.

Sullivan suggests focusing on offering “the best content you can” because that’s what Google’s algorithm seeks to reward. With that goal in mind, he provides several questions to ask about the content on your website:

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?
  • Does the content provide a substantial, complete, or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

What does this change mean for your law firm’s website?

As Google continues making algorithm updates, it should reinforce the need for your law firm’s website to provide high-quality content to search users — namely, your potential clients. 

Keep in mind that expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are particularly important for law firm websites. Google holds law firm websites to a higher standard because of their potential impact on the health, happiness, or finances of a person who finds a law firm website.

For you, this is good news. Developing and publishing high-quality content to your law firm’s website makes it more likely that your site will be viewed authoritatively by Google. That can make it a resource for local potential clients who conduct queries related to your practice area(s).

Developing high-quality informational content will help you cover all of your bases — it gives both your potential clients and Google what they need because high-quality information is at the intersection of what both users and search engines are looking for.

If you’ve stayed on the right side of Google’s guidelines and you’re focused on high-quality content creation for your law firm’s website, you’re on the right track.

Google will continue to refine its algorithms to provide the best search results for users — those who are going to benefit from these algorithm updates are those who avoid the allure of a SEO “quick fix” and instead focus on providing value to users through educational content.

To learn more about what Google looks for in law firm websites, see: “Google’s E-A-T and Your Law Firm’s Website.”