On March 12, 2018, Google announced that it had released a core search engine update. What does this mean for attorneys?

A brief primer on Google updates

Google is continuously improving its search product. Today’s Google is different than yesterday’s Google. This is why it’s inaccurate and disingenuous to talk about the “top of Google.”

Nearly ever day Google makes adjustments to improve its results. These daily changes are typically incremental and mostly go unnoticed. They are designed to gradually improve the quality of the sites featured early in search results. Like a frog brought to a boil slowly, most businesses don’t notice these incremental changes.

However, Google also releases more extensive algorithm updates several times a year. These are the updates that get headlines. These are updates that cause businesses to panic, and opportunistic search engine optimization hucksters to pounce. At LawLytics, we love it when these updates are rolled out because, when law firms follow our methodology and use our platform, they typically see across-the-board gains.

The March 2018 Google Update

Last week we noticed increased search-based activity across the LawLytics network sites that we track as bellwethers. We consider a site to be a bellwether when it meets the following criteria:

  1. The site has been on the LawLytics platform for two or more years; and
  2. The site has followed Google’s Guidelines (and our advice surrounding them) for the past two years; and
  3. The sites have not engaged in dangerous SEO tactics such as purchasing or trading links, keyword stuffing, thin content, etc.; and
  4. The site contains a significant amount of high-quality written content in the form of both practice pages and blog posts (200 pages at a minimum); and
  5. The site does not purchase any pay-per-click or other types of traffic; and
  6. The site does not employ an outside social media manager; and
  7. The site averaged at least 100 unique visitors a day over the past 12 months (with a range up to an average of more than 15,000 unique visitors a day).

The data from LawLytics sites that meet the above seven criteria helps us verify the existence of an extensive Google algorithm update, and when applicable, understand the impact of the update. This is important for us and the law firms that trust us with their marketing infrastructure and strategy because:

  1. It informs our decisions about adjustments to the LawLytics software (and therefore our customers’ websites);
  2. It empowers us to help our customers understand what they are doing right and what they need to improve on.

Keeping in mind that there are many false reports that circulate weekly about Google updates, and many attempts to scare attorneys into thinking that Google is cracking down on their websites, it’s important to verify that there actually is a story here. In this case, Google verified it in a tweet:

The tweet goes on the explain that this is not a punishment or indictment against pages that may have lost ranking, but rather a reward for other pages that deserved it:

Google’s explanation is verified across the board by our bellwether sites. Each one gained a significant amount of traffic which became obvious on March 12, 2018.  These sites were already successful, and this update verified that the owners of these sites have made the right decision to stay the course and resist the allure of a quick fix.

If you’re unsure about what to do, or how to assess the advice you receive from marketing companies and solicitors, our law firm SEO guide provides a deep look, from an attorney’s perspective, at how the search engines work and how the underworld of providers sets attorneys up for disappointment in weeks like last week when the chickens come home to roost. For a more basic starting point, I recommend downloading our free eBook, “SEO Basics For Lawyers.”