– Originally Published by Plaintiff’s Attorney Marketing Newsletter
By this point, I am sure many of you have become aware of the new Google algorithm update known as Medic. For those of you still waiting in the SEO emergency room, August’s update was the largest adjustment to the search algorithm since April 2012. Word on the street is that Medic will come to be as influential as Penguin or Panda.
If your law firm’s website is in need of atropine following the Medic update, fear not — we have your prescribed therapy outlined below.
What did the Google Medic update do?
Google was as much help in explaining their Medic update as a proctologist would be for an appendectomy. The official guidance from Google:
“As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded….
There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.” – Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison)
With so little explanation provided by Google, as if on cue, thousands of search professionals descended with their diagnostic medical bag to respond to the emergency. What has been found can be categorized into two areas:
1. YMYL – Your Money, Your Life
Stat! What does YMYL mean for attorneys?
YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) is a categorization that Googles uses for businesses that could have a profound impact on a person’s life or money. Google didn’t leave any room for ambiguity with attorneys: they used them as an example of the types of businesses that would fall under that category.
The best way to think of YMYL is like a threshold for measurable trust. No matter how great your website is, if your business does not exceed this minimum threshold, then it isn’t going to rank in the search engines. For YMYL businesses, this threshold is significantly higher. Summarized by Google in yet another acronym: E.A.T. – Expertise. Authoritativeness. Trustworthiness.
Does your firm pass the E.A.T. test? What do you need to do to exceed the minimum threshold for trust? What is the prescribed course of action?
- Consistently Receive Good Reviews Across the Internet. Google understands that small law firms can’t get as many good reviews as the larger ones. Google understands that this isn’t necessarily an indication that the quality of service from a large firm is going to be better or worse than a small firm. Consistency and quality are what matters here.
Your firm should be getting good reviews monthly and avoiding bad reviews, though the occasional bad review is okay. Respond to all reviews in a professional, courteous and timely manner.
Additionally, notice we said “across the Internet” – you need to diversify your review placements to include Google, Facebook, AVVO, and others.
- Get Awarded. When Google provided examples of why some websites rank, awards were consistently cited. We all know that the clear majority of law firm or lawyer awards are nothing more than marketing gimmicks. How can an award be legitimate when all you must do is pay for it? But if the Google algorithm is giving more credit to law firms with awards, then it makes sense to fork out the dough for those awards.
- Enhance Your Online Reputation and Brand Awareness. Is your firm getting in the news? Are you getting quoted in other publications? Are people saying nice things about you in forums and other places that Google can monitor?
If your law firm has legitimate news to share, make sure you let your local news agencies know about it – heck, make sure your Web marketing team knows about it. It may not be your nature to brag, but welcome to the world of marketing and advertising. You need to crow about your firm’s news.
If you don’t have any news to share, then try to make some. We’re not suggesting a Trumpian approach to fake news. Instead, consider sponsoring an event and be part of making some noise for that charity or organization. Be an active participant in your community. Have a positive impact on the world and make sure people know what you are doing.
- Don’t Give Up on Your CLEs! Google is verifying that your business has the authority and experience to be an expert. This is easy for attorneys because you have a license … presumably. Simply make sure your website and profile are listed on the websites of organizations you belong to: state Bar, local Bar, AAJ, etc.
Over the last couple of years we’ve noticed firms ranking in the search engines outside of the areas for which they are licensed. Looking down the road, we expect that Google will eventually update their algorithm to make it more difficult to rank in areas in which the law firm does not have a licensed attorney.
Understanding Your Website Content in a Post-Medic Environment
The evolution of Google has a consistent theme, and that is one secret that Google has never kept: They want the best websites that meet the intention of the search user to rank. Over the course of time, Google has gotten better at selecting which websites to show.
When it comes to content, Google says they look for pages which clearly show that a significant amount of time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill was used to create the content. Gone are the days of whipping up a web page in a couple of hours.
Today, your website content needs to be quality, custom, and focused on what potential clients are looking for. What’s new, right? The measuring stick has moved. The key phrase in the above is “significant amount” – lengthier, more robust, more engaging.
It can be difficult for small firms to invest in this level of effective content. It is not out of the realm of possibility to spend 6-8 hours per page to develop 1,750-word pieces, with supportive material, graphics, authoritative quotes and links – all based on keyword research and optimization practices. Small firms can’t possibly generate positive ROI taking this approach sitewide … so, implement the approach where you can and tackle your content problem over time.
When evaluating your existing content and strategizing on new content projects, here are some considerations to keep in mind.
- For someone who has never hired an attorney but suddenly finds themself in need of one, provide the information are they looking for to…
a. Understand their case better.
b. Learn what options are available.
c. Have some understanding of how to select and contact an attorney.
d. Decide that you are the right attorney to contact.
- Don’t just slap all of the above on a page and call it good. The content should be organized in a logical order that walks the person through a journey.
- Our internal research has shown that the pages that provide the most complete answer will rank. Do your SEO landing pages provide a complete answer, or is the information scattered across your website?
- Compare your website content, quality and flow to that of your competitors. Are all of you saying the exact same thing? Google likes to rank pages that bring unique value. What information can you provide that no one else can or at least isn’t? One place to start is by incorporating your elevator pitch within the content. If a potential client talks to you and your competitor, how do you sell your firm? What makes you different? Conveying your story helps add persuasiveness and uniqueness to your content.
Finally, how easy is your content to read? Is the reader faced with huge blocks of text? Do you have titles or other visual cues throughout that make it easy to find the information your visitors are looking for (bullet points, bolded sentences, etc.)? It isn’t enough to have great text — it must be a great user experience (UX).
Think about reading this article. We started with an overview, outlined what we were going to present, and broke it out along with way with quotes, bullets, sub-headings, etc.
How can you improve your website content to tell your story better, to make it stand out from the crowd and easy for your potential client to interact with?
The Medic Update Demands that YOU Participate in Your Health
Has your doctor ever told you they can’t lose the weight for you? If your physician takes your prescriptions, it doesn’t help you – right? You and your doctor are a team, both focused on your health, but your participation is required. Google’s Medic update now demands your participation in your online health more than ever.
- Your Web marketing agency can help you get reviews, but they can’t get reviews for you. How you treat your clients is on you. Exceeding their expectations and investing in your firm’s customer service is on you. Staying in contact with your client base, asking for referrals and checking how their experience with your firm is going is on you.
- Agencies can help get the word out when you are involved in your community, but they can’t be active in your community for you. If 80% of success is showing up – YOU have to show up. Particularly with small firms where often you are your brand, if you want potential clients to know who you are, you have to be seen and heard.
- Your Web marketing agency should be able to craft great content – but you have to chime in as the expert. You have to be able to effectively share your elevator pitch with your agency. Participate and add the unique considerations that only you know.
Taking a backseat in your firm’s online marketing is becoming a less viable option. It takes a consistent, concerted effort – by both you and your marketing agency —
to have a great reputation, meet the YMYL threshold, and provide the best content experience.
Total body wellness is a lifestyle, not a prescription, surgery or quick fix. Similarly, Google’s Medic update reflects the reality that ensuring the wellness of your online marketing is an ongoing process and approach, not a one-time fix.