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Outfoxing Google Updates

By Brian Burt

It’s a simple fact that being organically ranked number one on Google is still one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your website. Even the savviest marketers may be unaware, though, that regular algorithm updates by the good folks at Google can completely unravel online marketing strategies. Because of software updates, those who once boasted “page one” status on Google searches may literally become invisible to prospective clients.

You’ve Just Got to Stay on Top of the Situation

Recently, Google has been releasing as much as one software update each week—including three major updates in 2012 that unseated several websites from first position and penalized countless others with reductions in rankings of -30, -60 or -90. In some cases, previously high-ranking sites were completely de-indexed, meaning they were removed entirely from Google search results.

What can you do to make sure you remain in control of your online presence? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Value is king. Traditional thinking has long suggested that “content is king” when it comes to websites. I prefer to operate under the mantra that, as a preventive measure, value is king. Sure, content is an important part of value, but helping people solve real problems will always lead to site popularity and longevity. Search engine measurement of social interaction—Facebook likes and Twitter tweets—is already happening via “social cues,” which can help strengthen your search rankings. Google and other search engines rank websites based on a few core fundamentals, such as inbound linking and proper on-page optimization. Adhering to best practices in these areas will ensure that your website continues to rank well. And, as search engines become more advanced, they will find additional ways to measure the real-world value your site provides to visitors.

2. Google isn’t your only source of website traffic. At first, new firms with limited marketing budgets may need to focus on just one online marketing strategy, like ranking well within Google. But your long-term strategy must always be to diversify the sources that bring traffic to your site. The world has become populated by a far wider range of social media outlets, and you need to be part of them all. One very simple strategy, for example, is to have a presence on YouTube. It’s not only an excellent vehicle for showcasing your offerings, it’s also the world’s second-largest search engine—bigger than Yahoo and Bing combined. Diversification should also include Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest.

3. Don’t freak out—assess the damage. If a Google update does affect your search engine ranking, there is no immediate need for panic. Give the situation a few days—although your website may have lost rank, it is possible that it can rebound on its own. It’s against Google’s policy to release the exact nature of an algorithm update, so you won’t know exactly what you’re up against. And correcting for an update takes real testing and tracking. If your site is affected, however, here are a few steps to take to evaluate just how badly you’ve been hit.

  • Keep a record of the top 10 competitors on the first page of Google’s search results.
  • Take notice of your closest competitor’s site. Has it been removed from the first page of search results? Has it increased in rank? Tools like SEMRush, which scans sites to see what keywords are generating traffic, and Woorank, which offers a wide spectrum of SEO reporting tools, can give you potentially useful insight into other sites’ back-linking strategy and page optimization techniques.
  • Take your findings to an experienced SEO professional for evaluation. Quality SEO firms will have access to real qualitative data on hundreds of attorney (and other industry) websites, and help remove the guesswork from your preliminary assessment.

4. Every update is an opportunity. No question, Google and its competitors will continue to issue these types of updates. So welcome the changes and just recognize that the threshold of quality and the barrier to entry have been raised. After all, your competitors will have been affected, too. The key is to assess the damage and take steps to move forward, quickly. Each update, for example, is your opportunity to:

  • Be the first to correctly adjust to the latest update—putting you ahead of the pack.
  • Better protect your online presence for the long haul. Spammy, pop-up sites that may have quickly jumped to first-page positions will fall off, while you remain steady and enjoy the added gains for your firm.
  • Rebuild an even stronger online presence.

Brian Burt is the founder of Chicago-based WebRev marketing. He can be found at 

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Categories: Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Marketing, Lawyer Social Media, Managing a Law Firm
Originally published February 18, 2013
Last updated July 17, 2018
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