In the ever-evolving landscape of SEO for attorneys, one strategy stands out—Google’s unrelenting pursuit of high-quality content. If you’re a legal professional or a legal marketer, you may have noticed Google’s continuous crackdown on what it deems “low-quality” content. Over the years, Google has zeroed in on and penalized “black-hat” optimization tactics, including the likes of “keyword stuffing,” “content spinning,” and “spammy web practices” (commonly referred to as “linkspam”).
It’s clear that Google’s algorithm places a premium on what it defines as quality content. The journey towards producing content that aligns with Google’s quality standards began years ago with the inception of the initial Panda updates. For a deeper dive into the science behind these developments, we’ll explore that later. Suffice it to say that since these updates, Google’s algorithms have been on a quest to elevate “quality content” and cast a shadow over content that leans on less savory optimization practices. The signs have been there all along, and recent events have brought into sharp focus the repercussions for online marketers who relied on shortcuts rather than substantive content.
We’ll delve into the strategies and principles that can help your law firm not only meet but exceed Google’s content quality standards in 2023. We’ll explore how you can identify the needs and intent of your target audience, research competing content effectively, craft high-quality, unique, and structured content, strike the right balance between revealing insights and holding back, and maintain consistency in your content creation efforts. Furthermore, we’ll shed light on the evolving role of “authority” in Google’s algorithms and emphasize the significance of persistence in SEO endeavors. So, let’s embark on this journey to create content that not only garners Google’s approval but also amplifies your law firm’s online presence and authority.
Identify a Need and Intent
The first step in aligning your law firm content marketing with Google’s definition of “quality” is to identify a genuine need and intent behind your content. Targeted content revolves around topics that people are actively searching for. Google assists in this regard by providing data on the specific search terms people are looking for, both globally and locally. Google assigns an index to each word based on the total monthly searches and the frequency of that term across the internet. Your goal is to select terms for your articles that are underserved (meaning they’re not overly present on the internet) but have a substantial volume of monthly searches (indicating a significant interest in the topic). This way, your articles can be discovered by people searching for those specific terms without facing intense competition.
To identify a need and popularity for your chosen subject, use tools like Google Trends to analyze historical trend data for search terms. Additionally, you can monitor trends across various websites, including Reddit, Wikipedia, and Twitter. The narrower the niche, the easier it is to establish yourself as an expert.
Within your chosen topic, keep an eye on popular trends and developments. Focusing your writing on these topics will make your content more discoverable and shareable. Google Trends can also help you identify the most popular web topics for a given day or week.
Look for nuances within your expertise that may not be immediately apparent or may challenge common knowledge. Reddit is an excellent resource for finding less obvious questions and topics people are discussing. Every industry has its Sub-Reddit, such as /r/legaladvice for legal questions, /r/askscience for science, /r/medicine for medicine, and /r/technology for technology. Be cautious while searching on Reddit, as nothing is off-limits, and not all content is filtered.
Research Competing Content
Perform Google searches on variations of the topic you intend to write about and review existing content that competes with your piece. Consider setting up Google Alerts to monitor industry-related news. Paying attention to news articles about your topic can be valuable for tracking developments, identifying key writers, and establishing yourself as a resource in your field.
Write High-Quality, Unique, and Structured Content
Your content should be at least 1,000 words long, highly unique (with less than 5% similarity to existing content on the web), and well-structured with clear headings.
Strike a Balance: Don’t Give Away Everything
While you want to provide enough valuable information to engage readers and showcase your expertise, it’s essential to leave some details out. Share broad insights and withhold strategies that aren’t common knowledge or readily available elsewhere on the internet. Incorporating “scare statistics” can also pique readers’ interest and encourage them to reach out for more information.
Consistency is Key
Quality content creation should be a consistent effort. Your marketing team may continually request content from you, and that’s because Google values consistency. Consistent publishing helps Google provide users with current and relevant information. Google recognizes suppliers of valuable content and crawls their sites more frequently, enhancing the user experience. Publishing content regularly attracts Google’s crawlers to your site, making it crucial to maintain a steady flow of quality content.
Consider two ends of the content publishing spectrum: one resembles The New York Times, frequently publishing articles shared and read worldwide, and the other resembles a personal blog, publishing editorial content once a week. Google’s algorithms now allocate more resources to crawling frequently updated sites (e.g., The New York Times) every few seconds compared to personal blogs, which may be crawled once a week or every few days, depending on their popularity. Google refers to these often-shared, often-read, and frequently crawled sites as “authorities.”
“Authority” is akin to a multiplier attached to your content in Google’s algorithm. Frequent publishing enhances your domain’s credibility within Google’s eyes, strengthening your “authority status” (alongside other factors such as site age and online buzz). For instance, The New York Times would have a high “authority” rank, while a personal blog’s rank would be negligible. This “authority” multiplier expedites the time it takes for The New York Times’ content to appear on Google’s front page.
It’s essential to note that “quality” and “authority” are somewhat independent and not equally weighted in Google’s algorithms. While Google places a greater emphasis on quality content over publication frequency, extremely low-quality content may not rank well, even if it’s from an “authority” source. The reverse might be slightly less true. The primary objective is to produce content that enhances your “quality” score.
A practical way to maintain consistency is by dividing long articles into smaller pieces or publishing them as part of a series.
SEO doesn’t yield immediate results. Even when following best practices, it can take Google months to rank your content highly. Once ranked, having a reservoir of content at your disposal helps maintain your position. Conversely, if you don’t keep producing content that aligns with Google’s preferences, you won’t stay on the front page for long. Over time, each subsequent “quality” article Google identifies adds weight to every article on your website, making it exponentially easier for compliant content to reach Google’s front page. Write and publish articles before and after you appear on Google’s radar.
There is No ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Approach
While the balance of criteria within Google’s algorithms is constantly evolving, it’s clear that the best web optimization strategies revolve around high-quality content. Tailor your strategy to your practice area and refine your distribution networks. Be proactive in seeking the next trending topic for your articles. Keep in mind that to maintain a presence on Google’s front page, your strategy must adapt as swiftly as Google’s algorithms evolve.