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What Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines Can Reveal To Attorneys

by | Aug 11, 2017 | SEO

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines have been available online for some time. To create a successful law firm web presence, we recommend that attorneys take the time to read them and follow the guidelines closely.

But, Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines are also enlightening for law firms.

In 2015, for the first time, Google released the full guidelines used by its search quality raters.

These guidelines are aligned with the company’s Webmaster Guidelines. But, they also provide an additional perspective that can help attorneys build a thriving web presence and grow their business.

The guidelines are an inside look at how search quality raters evaluate webpages*.

These search quality rating guidelines reveal information that’s likely to interest attorneys who want to develop a strong web presence that boosts their business.

Here are several main points that we think are important for attorneys.

“Your Money or Your Life” pages & your law firm’s website

The search quality rating guidelines describe what are known as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) pages. These are pages that “could potentially impact the future happiness, health or financial stability of users” (Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, Section 2.3).

For this reason, the quality of the information on YMYL pages is particularly significant. Google advises its search quality raters to hold these pages to a high standard:

“We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low-quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, or financial stability.”

The guidelines include examples of YMYL pages, including topics such as:

  • Financial information;
  • Medical information;
  • Child adoption;
  • Information about local/state/national government processes, peoples and laws;
  • Legal information

…among others.

These YMYL examples are highly relevant for law firm websites.

Potential clients don’t take the decision to hire an attorney lightly. It’s a choice that has real-world consequences for them. The information that potential clients have access to is likely to inform the choice that they make about what to do next.

Detailed content on law firm websites, written in a way that your potential clients understand, provides education about their case or problem. That content can help a potential client realize that the problem they’re facing is complex and that they are likely to benefit from hiring an attorney. When you provide them with this helpful information, it can send the message that you are an experienced attorney that they should trust to handle their issue.

Expertise, Authority, and Trust Are Important On Law Firm Websites

The search quality rating guidelines go into great detail about the importance of E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

Because the content on law firm website pages could impact the happiness, health or financial stability of web visitors, the E-A-T of these pages is very important and is taken into account in the page quality rating. These guidelines indicate that the highest quality pages and websites have a “very high level” of expertise, which is important for topics such as financial or legal advice.

The quality of your law firm’s website content, as well as the amount of content present, are among the factors that determine the E-A-T of your website.

Google notes that: “High-quality financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc., should come from expert sources and be maintained and updated regularly.”

The difference between low-quality and high-quality law firm website pages

Google notes that main content quality is one of the most important criterion when judging page quality, and informs the E-A-T of the page. (Particularly for YMYL pages, which demand a high degree of EAT.)

But what about what constitutes low-quality pages?

The guidelines describe numerous examples of what constitutes the lowest quality pages. One of those examples are webpages containing low-quality main content (MC).

Low-quality main content can include things such as:

  • No or very little helpful main content
  • Keyword stuffed content
  • “Misleading or inaccurate” information about YMYL topics
  • Main content that is copied from another source with “little time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users.”

The information in the Search Quality Rater Guidelines should drive home the importance of creating high-quality content on law firm websites.

These websites are held to a different and higher standard by Google because of the impact they could potentially have on a web visitor, and Google wants to return the highest quality results for relevant queries.

Your potential clients are searching for answers about their case or problem, and quality content on your law firm website can address those issues. This high-quality content is likely to be considered more favorable by Google and makes it more likely that your firm’s pages are returned in results for relevant searches.

Once potential clients are visiting your site, the content that exists there helps to forge a relationship that causes a potential client to feel that you are approachable, that you have the answers they need, and that it may be in their best interest to contact you.

For more information on how Google Search Raters are instructed to assess law firm websites, see Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.

*It should be noted that 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.

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