Law firms rely heavily on their websites for search engine traffic, regardless of whether one is a sole practitioner or a huge law firm. Google, the largest search engine in the world is watching where, when and how you conduct your marketing efforts. Google plays a make or break role when it comes to your website’s ranking on the result page. Playing by their rules is imperative to your firm’s digital reach and overall success.

Google is embarking on an effort to reward compliant sites and is punishing those who violate their rules. Firms that violate even the most basic of the SEO rules risk being harmed by Google’s non-stop algorithm updates. Law firms do not only need to be compliant but they must stay up to date with the latest updates to avoid being penalized. There are several reasons your website can be found in violation and risk being punished and we’re here to loop you in on them:

Unnatural Linking Practices

According to Google, any link intended to manipulate the page ranking of a website is considered a violation. Law firms that use unnatural strategies to manipulate links to their site or outgoing links violate Google’s guidelines. You may be thinking, “Oh no, what if I have unnatural links on my website? What do I do?” Don’t fear, we have uncovered them for you.

• Buying or selling of links with the intention to manipulate ranks.

• Automatically generated links. These are automated programs that post links in posts, comments and wiki posts.

• Exchanging links or cross-linking

• Large scale content marketing using links embedded in anchor text words.

• Bookmark site links

• Using optimized links in forum comments

These are some of the current unnatural linking practices. This list keeps growing with time. For instance, recently, Google added that submitting a link to link directories is a violation if it was done with the intention of manipulating ranks.

Use of Irrelevant Words and Keyword Stuffing

In the past, keywords played the largest role when determining search engine results. Before long, blackhat SEO providers began abusing this SEO practice through keyword stuffing. Stuffing keywords is the practice of creating keyword filled content to rank higher in the search results. Google responded by upgrading their metrics.

Today, Google can pick out stuffed keywords and keywords used unnaturally. According to Google, keyword stuffing denies readers useful and real information that can help them make informed decisions. In addition to this, keyword stuffing is basically spam! If your site is found in violation, Google may downgrade your site which will hurt your law firm’s ranking. Law websites need to focus on creating information-rich and useful content that naturally makes use of keywords.

Google can also penalize you for what they call thin content or vague content. This is content with very little value to the readers. Law firms should avoid creating content that only advertises their services without providing meaningful information that may benefit people searching. .

Pop-up Penalties

While aggressive advertising techniques are used across different industries, this strategy is more common among lawyers. Law firms now have to tread carefully because Google is targeting websites for interstitials. These include standalone interstitials that insist that users have to click on them before accessing the content, perhaps forcing them to input their email before they’re allowed to proceed.

They could also feature in the form of large PPC ad pop-ups that cover the main webpage. These pop-ups appear while readers are checking the page or when they access a page.

However, don’t worry… Not all pop-ups are violations! Interstitials that appear after the initial page are not considered invasive and won’t be penalized by Google.

Adsense Ads Violations

You’re probably familiar with Google Adsense – those little display ads that appear on the banner and sidebar of your website. Each time a user clicks on an ad, the website owner makes a small commission. Google prohibits publishers from clicking on their own ads in order to boost their Adsense commissions.

You would be shocked to know that this is one of the most common violations. Publishers have gotten smart, in the past they would even sneak around Google’s algorithm and use different IP addresses to click on the PPC ads.

However, Google smartened up. Nowadays, publishers are not allowed to click on their own Adsense ads. A mere click on your own ad can have you flagged for violations. This means that you loose out on the advantages you gain from Google AdSense.

How Law Firms Can Fix and Avoid Penalties from Google

After reading this post, you may realize that your law firm has unknowingly violated some of these guidelines. Don’t worry, we’re going to be giving you a few measures to fix it. You will have traffic flowing back to you in no time. However, the approach to the violation depends on individual violations – no one method can fix all the issues.

1. Eliminate Duplicate Content

If you have been found guilty of duplicate content, then you should evaluate all of the content on your website. This can be done using a plagiarism checker that will highlight all of the plagiarized content. Once you identify the content in question, you can delete or edit such material to make it Google-compliant. Moving forward, all work posted on your site should be checked for uniqueness and originality.

2. Purge Stuffed Keywords – Focus On Informative Content

Any stuffed keywords in your web pages should be replaced with informative and high-quality content. The content on your site cannot be solely focused on keyword density. Google no longer uses keyword density as an essential ranking factor. Manually check the content on your website and ensure that the keywords flow in a natural way without looking forced. There are keyword counting tools such as Yoast SEO that can be used to monitor keyword content. Lawyers can use this as a future content strategy to avoid keyword density penalties.

3. Audit Your Links

You may have purchased links or backlinks in the past in order to boost your SEO, it’s not your fault that you didn’t know! But, law firm websites guilty of buying links or submitting their website to link directories violate the webmaster’s rule. You should audit your links and find the ones that are in violation of Google’s rules. To clean up and restore your site, you need to disavow or remove the unnatural links. In some cases, you may have to do this manually.

To improve on link building, law websites can add include statistics from trusted sources such as government websites. This will not only benefit your audience, but it shows that your site is serious about giving credible information. In turn, this will help to improve your rankings. Google’s primary objective is to ensure that your site is beneficial to visitors.

As a law firm, you need to realize that there is a difference between a manual penalty and an algorithmic penalty. Manual penalties include link schemes, keyword stuffing, having thin or low-quality content and cloaking your site so that it is only be seen by search engines and not the users. Manual penalties are easy to diagnose and fix. However, algorithmic penalties are more complex. For starters, Google makes regular updates on their algorithms. This means that you can easily be degraded for an algorithmic penalty. If you notice an abnormal drop, then chances are then you are facing an algorithm penalty. Law websites that are not mobile friendly can receive an algorithmic penalty. This can result in poor search engine rankings and decreased traffic flow to your site.

The Way Forward

Once you have fixed all the website issues, lawyers can submit a request to regain their previous position in the search results. This can be a long and tedious process with no guarantees that Google will honor the requests. The best strategy when it comes to Google is to remain proactive and avoid what Google terms as bad practices. Website SEO efforts must be done within the legal marketing provisions.

Law websites need to have a dedicated SEO team. As a lawyer is hard to handle your clients and keep up with Google updates. You can have an in house team, or you can choose to outsource these services. Your SEO team must comply with Google’s legal marketing guidelines. Hire SEO teams based on their knowledge of these violations. Enquire about the measures they will take to avoid Google penalties on SEO and PPC. The SEO experts need to stay updated and informed because these rules can change overnight. When you are out there in the courtroom winning cases, ensure that your SEO team has got your back in the digital platform.