This post is part of a series about 5 Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Law Firm SEO Provider.
In the last blog post, we discussed the importance of choosing a SEO provider who understands and abides by legal ethics.
If you decide to hire someone to handle your law firm’s SEO, it’s also important that you choose a company/individual that follows Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are an essential part of successful online legal marketing. And that’s regardless of who is writing, editing and optimizing your web content. Failure to follow the guidelines can keep your law firm website — and your business — from thriving.
It should be noted that an attorney could violate Google’s guidelines on their own if they don’t understand Google’s guidelines.
But this post will focus on what can happen when attorneys hire a SEO provider who doesn’t understand or follow Google’s rules.
(The importance of learning what Google expects from webmasters cannot be overstated. It can keep you, or anyone you hire, from making mistakes that damage your firm’s web presence.)
Does the law firm SEO provider follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?
Inclusion in Google’s search results is “a privilege, not a right.”
Google is the most widely used search engine on the web, performing billions of searches a day. Many potential clients find their attorney by using search engines, particularly Google. That means it’s important to stay on the right side of the company’s guidelines.
Before you hire a SEO provider, ask whether they follow Google’s Webmaster guidelines. The answer to this question should be “yes,” without exception.
Do they answer that they “mostly,” “sometimes,” or “never” follow these guidelines? Or that they don’t know what Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are? If so, this is a red flag.
If they tell you that they have their own guidelines (and follow those exclusively or in some combination with Google’s guidelines), this is also cause for concern.
What can happen when law firm SEO providers don’t follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?
If you hire a SEO provider that doesn’t follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you are putting your law firm’s website at risk.
When a SEO provider doesn’t follow Google’s guidelines, there’s a good chance that the work they do to your website may violate Google’s guidelines at some point.
Examples of violating Google’s guidelines
A SEO provider might do something to your law firm website with the intent to “trick” Google into ranking it higher in search results. For example, they might engage in keyword stuffing, cloaking, link schemes, or scraping content from other sites.
In other cases, the SEO company or individual might do something to your law firm website without realizing that it violates the guidelines.
For example, maybe this SEO provider creates lots of pages on your law firm website that have “thin content“. Thin content violates Google’s guidelines because it doesn’t provide value to web users.
But Google doesn’t make a distinction as to whether you caused the problem or someone you hired did.
It doesn’t matter if the action was intentional or accidental. A violation of Google’s guidelines is just that. Violating those guidelines can mean that your law firm’s online visibility may suffer. And if Google relegates your site in search results, your business can suffer, too.
If my SEO provider violates Google’s guidelines, can my law firm website recover?
The answer to this question is “sometimes.”
In some cases, it can take months for a law firm website to recover and return to a good standing. During that time, however, you may end up missing new business opportunities and waste time and money trying to correct the problem.
Sometimes, we’ve seen attorneys who hire several SEO providers in a row. Each one may claim they can fix the problems the last one has created. Attorneys often spend thousands of dollars with these companies, only to find the money they’ve spent hasn’t fixed the problem at all. Sometimes, new problems have been created, too.
Providing the most useful and relevant results to search engine users is the basis of Google’s business model.
To do that effectively, it must prevent untrustworthy websites from ranking well. If your law firm’s website, through a series of unfortunate webmaster or SEO choices, has been a repeat offender when it comes to Google, it can be difficult to recover. At that point, it may be smarter to start from square one.
Can attorneys avoid SEO providers that don’t follow Google’s guidelines?
As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
There are some simple things you can do to protect your website and ensure that, if you hire a SEO provider, they’re doing work that actually benefits your law firm.
Learn about Google’s webmaster guidelines. When attorneys take the time to do this, they often see that:
- Law firm SEO isn’t complicated once you understand the basics.
- Making mistakes that get you into trouble with Google are usually preventable.
Learning the rules not only prevents you from making these errors, but it can protect you from hiring someone who doesn’t understand and/or abide by these guidelines.
Ask the right questions. Asking the right questions upfront can save you headaches later. We recommend reading our SEO for lawyers page to see more questions to ask a SEO provider before you hire them.
Don’t let fear or confusion guide your decision making. Attorneys hire SEO companies for lots of different reasons. They might worry about the state of their marketing and believe that they need an “SEO expert” to help them. Maybe the attorney receives a cold call or a SEO report that claims there’s something “wrong” with their website. Or, they might feel they’re too busy to learn about internet best practices.
There are certainly reputable SEO companies out there. But in many cases, attorneys who are fearful about their lack of marketing success or unsure about what works decide to hire a SEO provider…and many times they hire the wrong one.
That often leaves attorneys spending lots of money with SEO companies/individuals that don’t produce results or worse, that damage the firm’s web presence.
The truth is that attorneys can do their own SEO successfully, even while practicing full time, so long as they have the right tools, training and support.
Useful SEO resources for attorneys
We believe attorneys should take the time to educate themselves about how Google works, and what search engine optimization really is. To help you achieve this goal, LawLytics provides a library of free, on-demand legal marketing webinars and blog posts that cover what attorneys need to know to build a strong foundation for their online marketing.
Google recommends that, “before beginning your search for an SEO, it’s a great idea to become an educated consumer.” We couldn’t agree more. To learn more about Google, check out their Webmaster Guidelines, and How Google Search Works.
Other blog posts in this series:
- Blog Series Introduction: 5 Questions Attorneys Should Ask Before Hiring A Law Firm SEO Company
- Does Your Law Firm SEO Provider Understand Legal Ethics?
- Does Your Law Firm SEO Provider Claim To Have A Special Relationship With Google?
- Does Your Law Firm SEO Provider Understand Your Practice?