A note to our readers: Google announced its update to Penguin on September 23, 2016. Learn how this algorithm update may affect your law firm’s website.

We’ve had our eye on the impending Google Penguin update since before the New Year. Google has been reluctant to commit to a precise timeframe for when the update will be released, and they’ve pushed back the expected release date a few times. With anxious webmasters and SEO enthusiasts wondering, the most recent confirmation from a Google employee suggests that the update will be released within the quarter.

If you’re an attorney worried about whether your website has been affected by the update — nope, it hasn’t happened yet. But if you’re running into other problems that could be affecting your law firm’s rankings or traffic on the web, you may want to take this time to do a website audit to figure out where issues are occurring.

While the latest news says that the Penguin update will be released within “weeks,” we should not expect Google to tell us when, exactly, it drops. (In general, it’s not common for Google to make announcements like that.) If you’re a lawyer with questions about what this update could mean for your law firm’s website, you may feel concerned with how little information has been given about the update by the search engine giant.

“Details are sparse, and if history is anything to go by we likely won’t have our questions answered until the update finally rolls out,” a recent article noted.

This is true — but only to a degree. You don’t have to feel as if your law firm is left waiting in the dark until the update rolls out. There’s plenty you can do for your law firm website right now to make sure that it’s ready — not just for this update, but for any Google algorithm update. Here are three practices worth following.

SEO: What Your Law Firm Should Know To Avoid Website Risks

Perhaps one of the biggest dangers in not having control over your law firm’s web presence is just that: not having any control. Without the knowledge to know what can help and hurt your law firm on the web, your law firm may end up ceding control to someone who may not have your best interest in mind.

In some cases, the promises that are made are entirely too good to be true. However, without knowing what’s real and what’s not, it can be hard for lawyers to spot a shady SEO provider. Whether a provider is cold calling your law firm, promising to get your law firm to the “top” of Google, or promising other quick results, there are a number of things that you should be looking out for. For more information on this topic, I recommend reading our post, “Law Firm SEO: Myths and Realities.

The bottom line here is that any sort of quick-fix promise has the potential to do serious harm to your law firm’s web presence. Google has algorithms like Panda and Penguin for a reason, and they aggressively look for webspam and practices that violate their guidelines. It’s important for attorneys to recognize that inclusion in search engine results pages are, as I’ve heard it put, “a privilege, not a right.” Google has the final say, and risky behavior such as the types mentioned above can have permanent and long-lasting effects on your website, and ultimately, your business. That means it’s worth staying on the search engine’s good side to begin with. If you’re a lawyer looking to learn about Google’s guidelines, check out our webinar on “Dangerous Practices That Can Sink Your Firm.”

For Your Law Firm Website, Content Is Still King.

While it’s important for your law firm to know what could get you into trouble with Google, a much easier way to avoid the proverbial penalty box can be achieved by doing one very simple thing:

You should write high-quality content on a regular basis.

High-quality content — that is, content which is specific, useful, informative and trustworthy — is at the heart of what search engines want, because it’s what search engine users want, too.

Think about the last time you consulted Google. What were you doing? Trying to decide between two restaurants? Looking for directions to a doctor’s office? Trying to find the right product or service for a problem you were facing? You’re not the only one. This is what your potential clients are doing, too. They’re looking for answers to their problem, and it’s become a natural habit for most to consult Google to find that information.

By providing quality content that’s relevant to their question, your law firm can put itself in a position to not only answer those questions, but to inspire potential clients to engage your law firm.

High-quality content inherently meets the requirements of Google’s guidelines and is one of the most powerful ways to improve your law firm’s rankings and traffic. By providing this content regularly, Google’s bots come back and crawl your law firm’s website regularly. Google comes to expect that you produce the high-quality content it loves to index and retrieve for its users.

When your law firm’s website is returned in search results, and when it answers potential clients’ questions, those potential clients learn to consider your law firm’s website as a resource. As a result, they return often to consume more content. As a trusted thought-leader that answers the questions they have, clients are more like to choose your law firm (and recommend you to others) when it comes time to seek counsel.

Don’t Get Your Law Firm Hooked On PPC

As LawLytics CEO and Attorney Dan Jaffe has pointed out in the past, pay-per-click is not SEO. “Pay-per-click advertising has its place,” he writes, “but it’s not in the same sentence as SEO.” PPC becomes an issue when it gives you a false sense of security in your practice. PPC is a non-sustainable “arms race” that doesn’t build anything of value. And most importantly of all, it can distract you from becoming an online thought-leader.

What does build value — and establishes you as a thought-leader — is high-quality content.

So, as we wait for the news about when this new Penguin update will be released, your sense of security doesn’t have to be dependent on someone else’s control of your law firm on the web, or any sort of quick-fix solution. Slow and steady — that is, the slow and steady build-up of great content — wins the race. And by doing some very simple things, you can rest assured that you’re keeping search engines and search engine users happy, all while supporting your law firm in a sustainable fashion.