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In its PDF titled, “How Google Fights Disinformation,” Google writes that the internet is vulnerable to the organized spread of false or misleading information.

“These concerns directly affect Google and our mission – to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” it writes. “When our services are used to propagate deceptive or misleading information, our mission is undermined.”

Since its inception, Google has been trying to provide the best web content to its users — in its early days, Google began working on problems caused by blackhat SEO practitioners who tried to trick the search engine into ranking sites more highly than they would otherwise merit. These days, Google is also fighting misleading information on the web.

In this post, we’ll discuss highlights from this Google PDF as well as what it means for your law firm’s web presence.

Highlights from Google’s PDF, “How Google Fights Disinformation”

First, it’s important to understand how Google defines misinformation. In its PDF, Google writes:

As we’ve all experienced over the past few years, the words “misinformation”, “disinformation”, and “fake news” mean different things to different people and can become politically charged when they are used to characterize the propagators of a specific ideology or to undermine political adversaries.

However, there is something objectively problematic and harmful to our users when malicious actors attempt to deceive them. It is one thing to be wrong about an issue. It is another to purposefully disseminate information one knows to be inaccurate with the hope that others believe it is true or to create discord in society.

We refer to these deliberate efforts to deceive and mislead using the speed, scale, and technologies of the open web as “disinformation”.

Google goes on to note that, “Our approach to tackling disinformation in our products and services is based around a framework of three strategies: make quality count in our ranking systems, counteract malicious actors, and give users more context.”

Here’s how these strategies can affect your law firm’s website marketing.

What Google’s fight against disinformation means for attorneys and their websites

The creation of high-quality content on attorney websites is now more important than ever. 

Here’s what each of the three strategies Google uses (listed above) mean for your law firm’s website and content.

Google Strategy 1: Making Quality Count

Google has always had a focus on providing quality information to its search users, and, in fighting misinformation, that goal is likely more important than ever.

“Our products are designed to sort through immense amounts of material and deliver content that best meets our users’ needs,” the search giant writes. “[…] While each product and service implements this differently, they share important principles that ensure our algorithms treat websites and content creators fairly and evenly: 

• Information is organized by “ranking algorithms”. 

• These algorithms are geared toward ensuring the usefulness of our services, as measured by user testing, not fostering the ideological viewpoints of the individuals that build or audit them.”

Tip: When it comes to Google Search, you can find a detailed explanation of how those algorithms operate here.

This should highlight to attorneys not only how important accurate information is, but also how important it is for search users to be able to find the right information.

Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are particularly important for law firm websites.

Law firm websites are considered “Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)” pages by Google. These pages have a potential effect on the happiness, health, or well-being of a search user who finds them. (Pages with legal information, financial information, and medical information are among the pages that fall under the “YMYL” designation.) As a result, YMYL pages require a high amount of trustworthiness, and Google holds these pages to a higher standard.

To learn more about this topic, see “Google’s E-A-T & Your Law Firm’s Website.”

Google Strategy 2: Counteracting Malicious Actors

As it relates to counteracting malicious actors, Google writes: “We look for and take action against attempts to deceive our ranking systems or circumvent our policies.”

Google notes that, since its earliest days, many content creators have tried to deceive Google’s ranking systems to get more visibility. “[It’s] a set of practices we view as a form of ‘spam’ and that we’ve invested significant resources to address,” Google notes. 

“This is relevant to tackling disinformation since many of those who engage in the creation or propagation of content for the purpose to deceive often deploy similar tactics in an effort to achieve more visibility. Over the course of the past two decades, we have invested in systems that can reduce ‘spammy’ behaviors at scale, and we complement those with human reviews.”

This should reinforce to any attorney that they should remain on the right side of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines — and, if you’re an attorney who is not familiar with those guidelines yet, now is the time to learn. Conveniently, Google’s guidelines are even easier to understand if you’re busy creating high-quality web content — which is what Google needs to thrive online, and what your potential clients need to educate themselves about their problem.

Google Strategy 3: Giving Users More Context

“Easy access to context and a diverse set of perspectives are key to providing users with the information they need to form their own views,” Google writes.

To that end, Google provides its users with several tools that give additional context, including features like “Knowledge” or “Information” panels in search.

More context is essential not only in Google search but on your law firm’s website. You’ll want to be sure to provide your potential clients with as much information as they need to make intelligent decisions about what to do next about their case or matter. And, the more content you create, the more opportunities you have to connect with potential clients who are searching for related answers to their questions.

Learn more about what Google wants from law firm websites in 2020

When you understand how Google works and what the search engine wants from webmasters, succeeding in Google search — and connecting with viable potential clients — becomes much easier for attorneys.

To learn more about how to develop a successful law firm website that gets found in search, join us next Thursday for our webinar, “What Google Wants from Law Firm Websites in 2020.”