Google’s latest “Penguin” update was refreshed this past Friday much to the delight/alarm of SEOs everywhere.  Already some kind site owners are posting their penguin recovery stories, so we took the time to pour them over and put together some SEO strategies that may start to hurt the legal field if you don’t take the time to revisit your current law firm SEO strategy.

1. Over Optimized Blogroll Widgets

Common legal blogroll widgets

Common legal blogroll widgets

There’s already been a few examples of the negative effects of this tactic from an article Nick Eubanks posted on SEOMoz.  His main site was hit with some penalties due to sidebar links from a blog he had started earlier in college, and upon switching the anchor text of these blogroll links from the over optimized “Web Strategist Philadelphia” to his site’s URL he saw a bounce back from his earlier SERP drop over the course of a weekend.

So what does this mean for lawyers?

Well to start it’s a pretty popular legal SEO strategy for a lot of legal marketing companies.  If your firm has any sitewide blogrolls within your sidebar it would be a good time to consider taking a look into not only the anchor text you are using, but also the percentage of links that these blogrolled sites make up.

Take a look at the anchor text linking to your site through a query on ahrefs.com and you can pretty easily determine the makeup of your anchor text profile.

Doing our own research we’ve seen some law firms with over 75% of their incoming root domains using the same 2 keywords.  NickEunbanks.com had only 11% of it’s incoming root domains using the same anchor text which isn’t such great news for many law firms.

We keep track of a few legal blogs heavily invested in this method, and have seen some of the law firms they support drop from the 2-3 spot down to second page in the recent month, but as we don’t have access to the specific sites analytics, we really can’t make any sound judgement calls as to how severe the drop may be sitewide.

2. Sitewide Footer Links

Another example comes to us from wpmu.org which sells various WordPress themes, some of which were unfortunately used by spammers to flesh out a few automated blog networks.  According to the original article  it seemed as if this might be a recurring theme between a lot of wordpress developers but it looks like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.

Through some hard work and adjustments to their link profile, the WordPress developers at WPMU have jumped back and given some nervous SEOs a little breathing room.

The suspected culprit? Sitewide footer links that give credit to WPMU for designing the blog theme.  This was a common theme among many WordPress theme or plugin developers and so it’s expected we’ll see some changes to the anchor text that used to link to their portfolios.

It was pretty popular a few years back (and we still see it now with some law firms) for over optimized footer links to be the first strategy a consultant might put into play.  To be honest it did work at times, but we’re seeing more and more that strategies like this are going the way of meta keywords: a  waste of time  for most SEOs until we get a definitive “no”.

blurred-footer

If you haven’t already revisited the footer internally on your main site, as well as any additional sites you might run, it might be time to naturalize that anchor text and check to see whether your keywords are taking a hit (or recovering)

Take it easy on your optimization

SEO strategies are constantly shifting, and taking the time to quantifiably see what is (and what isn’t) working in other industries can be a huge takeaway for the legal world.  Having the perfect anchor text for your backlinks, and especially links that were sitewide, used to be a sure-fire way to beat out your competitors in the SERPs but this may not be the case for long.

Once again these updates all point to natural linking, natural content, and a natural anchor text mix.  Keep writing good content and don’t get too aggressive with your anchor text and you should be in good hands.

Link for people – not for Google.  They seem to like that.

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