Legal Marketing: Diagnosing Google Penalties on Websites

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Have calls to your law firm slowed down? Perhaps your SEO metrics are lower than they have been in the past. Sometimes, these instances can be explained by the presence of a Google penalty. Adding insult to injury is the fact that many lawyers are unaware of Google penalties until they begin to negatively affect their business.

Here we will break down the two types of penalties, diagnose what led to them, and give tips to rectify these mistakes to Google.

Detecting and Diagnosing Manual Penalties

A manual penalty means that a Google reviewer penalized pages, or worse—your entire website—for violating Google’s search quality guidelines.

The first step to diagnosing manual penalties is to ensure that your law firm or your SEO team has access to Google Search Console. If you receive a manual Google penalty, your Google search console is where the notification of the penalty is sent. Not only should you and your SEO team have access to this platform, it should be checked frequently.

 

Addressing the Cause for Manual Penalties from Google

Google Search Console’s notification e-mail will include the reasons for your manual penalty and which websites or page have been penalized.

Common reasons why Google might manually penalize your website include:

  • Spam links pointing to your website
  • Sparse content
  • Hidden text on your web pages
  • A hacked website

Once you’ve narrowed down the reason(s) for your manual penalty, you will need to rectify them and resubmit your web pages (or website) to Google for approval to enjoy top SEO results in the future.

If you feel as though rectifying your manual penalty is out of your league, this is a good time to call a legal marketing firm for guidance. While some attorneys handle much of their Internet marketing in-house, it won’t hurt to delegate this to the experts to ensure that your submission for Google’s reconsideration goes smoothly.

The penalized pages or websites need to be corrected in line with Google’s best SEO practices. Rectifying a Google penalty could involve editing the text of your websites, modifying its design, and tidying up your backlinking profile.

Rushing through this process or doing it incorrectly could make matters worse. When Google penalizes your website and you need to make alterations to please the “search engine giant”, you need to always put your best foot forward.

 

What You Need to Know About Algorithm Penalties

Google updates its algorithms on a regular basis. These algorithms, which rank web pages, are used to maintain relevant search results for internet uses. You could see a decline in your law firm’s SEO if your website and its content fails to adhere to Google’s recommended SEO and content practices and latest algorithmic changes.

Avoiding Google penalties starts with maintaining white hat SEO strategies. This means that hidden text on your website, used to try to fool Google’s indexing spiders, and paid-for spammy linkbuilding strategies could lead to your web properties sliding down the SERPs (search engine results pages).

Other things can trigger algorithmic penalties, too such as having mobile content that isn’t adequately optimized or not utilizing secure (https) website URLs. Great SEO companies strive to avoid algorithm penalties by meeting Google’s standards. While some companies might cut corners to excite their clients with improving metrics, Google will eventually catch on.

 

How to Troubleshoot Algorithm Penalties

Unfortunately, Google Search Console won’t deliver notifications if your website has incurred an algorithmic penalty. You and your SEO firm will have to troubleshoot your website’s declining rankings and traffic on your own.

Start troubleshooting by asking yourself (or your SEO team) the following questions:

  • Was there a sharp drop in website traffic or has it declined steadily?
  • Are traffic declines affecting the entire site or a few web pages?
  • Has your website’s content or layout changed recently? Has your SEO firm altered your linkbuilding strategy?

Answering these questions can help you delve into the underlying issues of why your legal website’s ranking and traffic is underperforming. Beyond keeping an eye on your website’s traffic and SERPs, it’s important to watch how your competitor’s websites are performing, too. You can use websites like www.semrush.com to audit your website’s SEO and that of your competitors. If your competitors rankings are declining as well, look for similarities that you and your competitors employ that might be catching Google’s ire.

 

Evaluating Your Law Firm’s SEO Strategy

After looking into your SEO strategy and your backlinking profile, and it seems likely that you’ve been hit with an algorithm penalty, you might need to have a difficult discussion with your SEO team. If spammy or poor SEO practices are to blame, it can’t hurt to seek out the expertise of another internet marketing company.

If your algorithmic penalty has more to do with thin content or the fact that your website hasn’t been updated in a couple years, there are steps you can take to mitigate this by deploying new content strategies and website redesign. Be sure that any updates to your website are mobile-friendly and in line with Google’s best SEO practices.

Many lawyers try to handle their internet marketing and SEO themselves or with small, in-house teams. While this can work, it can also be a headache. If you feel like your SEO and marketing strategy is beyond your time and resources, reach out to our team for a consultation. We offer everything from linkbuilding and content development to analyzing SEO. Contact us to speak with a friendly and knowledgeable member of our team.