How to Avoid Penalties from Google

Whether you are a sole practitioner or a managing partner in a dozen-lawyer firm, you understand how important your website is to your livelihood. As we near 2019, your website — and more importantly, its content — is a significant driving force behind your marketing practices. And Google is definitely watching how, when, and where your marketing efforts are displayed through their search engine.

As the search engine leader, Google plays a significant role in where your law firm’s website ranks on their search engine results page. Staying on their good side is imperative to your success. Here are a few tips to ensure you are avoiding penalties from Google, so your site remains ahead of your competitors.

Integrity Rules the Web

As the Attorney Marketing Network, it is important for us to provide full transparency to our clients. In short, we value our communicative partnerships with the lawyers we represent, and we pride ourselves in stating clearly: Here’s what we are doing. Here’s why we are doing it. And even more importantly: Here’s what we will not do. And here’s why we will not do it.

Your online integrity is as valuable to Google as it is to your prospective clients. Instead of taking shortcuts to drive traffic to your site, consider your overall value and emphasize what makes your firm unique.

Google’s Quality Guidelines provides a clear look at how Google responds to your website, and when you will be penalized for overstepping their policies.

Your site must contain:

  • Unique and Valuable Content

This means nothing copied from other websites, even if it is just a disclaimer or actual statistics. Your content must be unique, valuable, and resourceful.

  • Creating Quality Citations

This means nothing that violates Google’s guidelines as spam. Loading a page with invaluable links it only going to get your site flagged by the search giant. The links that are embedded in your site should be relevant to the material on that page.

For example, adding statistics from trusted government sources, and then linking to their page for reference, is beneficial to your audience and provides a credible citation source for Google, which in turn can boost your ranking.

Overall, Google wants to know that you are building, maintaining, and updating your site with the sole purpose of benefitting the user. In its guidelines, Google often asks the website owner, “Would you take this technological step to enhance your site’s content if there were no search engines?”

Obviously, that point is moot. There are search engines — and in fact, they are the largest! But they are driving home the point that what is on your website matters, and if you fall short, penalties will follow. And when Google penalizes a website, it hurts.

How Can Google Penalize My Website?

Google can penalize your website in one of two ways, and only one of them is going to alert you that you are doing something wrong.

First, the manual penalty. A manual penalty is exactly like it sounds: A person has manually reviewed your site and found that it is not operating within Google’s guidelines.

Most manual penalties are derived from:

  • Spam-related backlinks
  • Low-quality or thin content
  • Unnatural links, which can include artificial or manipulative outbound links
  • Hidden text or links that cannot be seen by the viewer
  • Traffic redirects, where the user believes they are going to one page, but end up somewhere completely different
  • User-generated spam, which can occur in the comments section of your blog

When Google believes you are in violation of their policies, and it has been manually corroborated, you will receive a message directly from their administrators stating that you are in violation of their policies. At this point you will be asked to adjust the site accordingly, or be penalized with severe drops in your page rankings — or worse — your site can be removed from their search engine completely.

Next, the algorithmic penalty.

What Is An Algorithmic Penalty And How Can I Avoid It?

Here’s where things get tricky. Say you include a link on your site that later turns out to be spam. Google will typically give you the benefit of the doubt, which is why they will manually penalize you. It gives you the opportunity to address the issue, and get back in their good graces.

An algorithmic penalty will simply drop your ranking without notice and is typically the result of an update to Google’s algorithm and your site not being prepared. This can include their mobile optimization update that penalizes your site for not being mobile-friendly, so you are going to drop in rankings. (Your site should absolutely be mobile-friendly, by the way.)

How Do You Avoid Being Penalized By Google?

Your website is an absolute reflection of your firm, and is polished, professional, and informative. You are proud of your site, and you are happy with the traffic it receives. So, how do you avoid being penalized by Google for something you cannot control? Partner with an SEO firm that does know.

SEO trends are our job, but it is important that you know what is happening behind the scenes. SEO transparency is important to us, and our clients. We do not use technical talk that leaves you scratching your head. We want to build your online identity, so you know exactly what is happening, and why you are ranking the way you are.

The legal industry is extremely competitive, and our goal is to keep you at the top of the search engine results pages, so your actual foot traffic increases, generating real cases and real income. Staying on top of the Google algorithms, which change daily, is a key component in that success.

We provide the analytic transparency that allows you to:

  • Review your traffic, rankings, and performance
  • Understand your site’s history, how your traffic has grown, and why
  • Seek results from fluid marketing practices which keep you ahead of the algorithm updates
  • Take advantage of competitive analysis
  • Have monthly meetings with our staff to investigate both downward and upward trends, so we can change our strategies to ensure optimal results

High-quality content and links are the cornerstones of your site’s ranking ability and your resource for avoiding a manual penalty from Google. The SEO practices that our firm delivers behind the scenes is imperative to avoiding an algorithmic penalty from Google, but that does not mean you should be in the dark about how it is working.

The more you know about our ethical practices, the more you will benefit from our transparent approaches to boosting your ranking. It is not going to happen overnight, but it is going to happen the right way. And Google will reward your firm handsomely for it.

Contact one of our attorney marketing professionals today to build a partnership that produces results.