No, this isn’t a post about highwaymen. But you may soon find yourself targeted by marketers looking to make a quick buck off this non-issue.
A leaked version (verified by Search Engine Land) of Google’s new “Search Quality Ratings Guidelines” has added a new type of site to be analyzed by the engine’s Search Quality Raters. Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) sites are those that “can have an impact on your current or future well being (physical, financial, safety, etc.).” The idea is these sites should be held to a higher standard of authority, and thus page quality will be analyzed based on factors related to this authority. Keep in mind that Quality Raters can’t hurt rankings, but page quality is one of many cogs in the Google machine.
One example provided by the document was pages providing legal advice. This would probably include most law firm websites that maintain some form of informational content and legal Q&A sites. While attorneys generally add ethically-required disclaimers, many sites still provide some extent of legal advice that could impact current or future well-being.
What are they looking for?
According to Search Engine Land, the document asks Quality Raters to examine the content quality and author expertise, availability of contact information, reputation, and whether the content is maintained and updated.
It’s clear the idea here is to ensure web users are relying on the correct websites when making serious life decisions. Attorney websites already have to meet ethical standards, but this just serves as a good reminder that other entities may be judging your site.
What does this mean for law firms?
There isn’t much information surrounding these guidelines (despite Google releasing a water-downed version earlier this year). This isn’t surprising, because they obviously don’t want search marketers to abuse it. And to be honest, that’s probably a good thing.
This whole thing should be a non-issue. Law firms with an updated content strategy likely won’t have to worry. Just keep doing content. The author expertise comes naturally from being a law firm, along with your reputation. If you get an email offering to sell you some page quality service based on these guidelines, I’d pass.
The big thing will be keeping content maintained and updated. This means that your site that hasn’t been updated since 2009 needs to be if you want to be seen (in the eyes of Google’s Quality Rating system) as an authority. Of course, your outdated site likely already suffers (in terms of organic ranking) from a lack of content in general, but this is just another reason to get active.