Having an old domain name and a well-established presence in Google can help your law firm achieve and keep high search engine rankings. But sometimes, older websites fall from their coveted positions, leaving the law office confused and faced with declining leads.
This week, we look at some common causes for dropped rankings.
Google Panda/Penguin Updates – Earlier in the year, Google released a series of content-related updates called Panda, and penalizing link-related updates, dubbed Penguin. Most of the older law websites that experienced a decline were being penalized for duplicate content, link exchanges, or possibly by having old websites that had formatting and technical issues.
Not all websites that saw a drop in their rankings did anything wrong. We looked at a number of the law firms that compete with our clients and that experienced ranking declines after the major Google Penguin updates, but that did not have any detectable duplicate content and did have fairly respectable link portfolios. So what happened? That takes us to our next reason why older websites fall.
Competition Catches Up – Search engine optimization is not something you set and forget, it’s an ongoing process. Your website has to keep growing, receiving updates, and changing with the times. If your law firms website has recently dropped in its rankings, perhaps your competition has stepped up their efforts and taken over your position.
Unlike a Google update penalty, this is really the best case scenario. If a competitive report reveals that your efforts have simply fallen behind, the solution is pretty simple.
Update your website. Creating a fresh new look will also give you the perfect opportunity to update your site’s code using HTML 5. This will allow you to utilize new features, like Google Rich Snippets (covered in this month’s Bigger Law Firm magazine), and add visual effects that are not based in Flash.
Add content. Build a library of information on your website which touts your experience over your new, aggressive competition.
Bring out the press. Doing more news releases across more networks is still a proven way to improve your link portfolio, get traffic, and gain exposure.
Google Local, Google Places — I mean Google+ Local – If your first-page ranking was within the map lineup, your ranking decline may simply be related to one of the many issues with Google’s local products. Originally named Google Local, then Google Places, and now called Google+ Local, this product has been buggy from day one. From duplicated listings and mysteriously missing legitimate reviews, to incorrect data caused by Google’s syncing with public records that sometimes do not have your law firm’s most up-to-date information, Google’s local listing service can cause many issues. The most common issue is name changes. Law firms, as they grow, will often change their name. Partners are added, founders retire, and the firm’s name is sometimes modified. With Google pulling from public records, a law firm may (by no fault of its own) have conflicting listings in Google+ Local.
Here is an example:
In 1999, attorney Jeremy Smith forms The Law Office of Jeremy Smith.
In 2003, Jeremy Smith partners with another attorney, Shirley Boyle, and the firm becomes Smith & Boyle, Attorneys at Law.
In 2007, a long-standing of counsel attorney, Harrison Issac, works his way up to the marquee and the firm’s name is changed again, to Smith, Boyle & Issac.
With Google looking to third-parties like Hoovers, Dun & Bradstreet, InfoUSA, and other business data firms with which to populate their listings, this fictional firm could very well have multiple listings pointing to the same URL — not only because of the name change, but also due to inaccuracies within the data-collecting firms:
The Law Office of Jeremy Smith – http://www.example.com
Jeremy Smith, Attorney – http://www.example.com
Smith & Boyle Attorneys at Law – http://www.example.com
Smith & Boyle – http://www.example.com
Smith Boyle & Issaac – http://www.example.com
Smith, Boyle and Issaac – http://www.example.com
Smith Boyle Issaac – http://www.example.com
The process of claiming and removing those duplicate listings must be started immediately, because it can take a very long time to clean up.
If your aged law firm website is declining in ranking, talk to us to find out why. Your rankings won’t recover until a recovery plan is formed and executed.
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