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What Your Law Firm Should Know About Google’s May 2020 Algorithm Update

May, 27 2020
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Jo Stephens
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On May 4th of this year, Google rolled out one of its period core updates. These updates recalibrate the way their search algorithms sort information on the internet and rank it for internet users with specific search queries.

Authoritative SEO voices from SEMRush have said that this particular update has resulted in a lot of volatility on the search engine results pages. What that means in practical terms is that sites that were formerly well ranked on the search engine results—and consequently saw lots of traffic—have seen big drops in their number of visitors. By contrast, other sites have seen huge boosts. 

Though the systems they use for tracking these changes vary from outlet to outlet, SEO firms have reported that the Industries most shaken up include travel, news, entertainment and retail. Law and government are lower down on the list, with lower amounts of volatility.

Whether or not that’s good news depends on how your law firm handles its approach to SEO and it’s online presence in general. 

Why does Google keep updating their search tool?

We don’t know exactly what’s behind the scenes of Google’s Core Update, and we never do. They typically release these updates every few months, and it’s part of their constant efforts to keep search results relevant to user queries. Some businesses have decried the timing, upset with Google for causing them to lose digital foot traffic in addition to the economic upheaval caused by Covid-19. But again, law firms have not been ranked as among the top industries impacted by the shakeup.

That however, does not mean it’s time to rest on your laurels. Remember that Google is constantly changing its search mechanism by recalibrating the algorithm. They’re very open about wanting to showcase search results that are the most relevant answers to the questions that people type into Google.

Though we don’t know the exact ins and outs of Google’s updating practices, we can use the research to conjecture: If content has gained relevance since the last update, it will move higher up in the search results. If it’s less relevant, it will move down.

What should you do in response to the Core Update?

That means law firm SEO, at its core, is not about backend coding or using proprietary methods to respond to Google updates. It means having an evergreen strategy of relevance. An evergreen, in case you live in a tropical climate, is a tree that stays green year-round, even through the winter. And an evergreen strategy is one that stays successful despite changes to the Google algorithm.

At the core of this evergreen strategy are a set of best practices that will keep your law firm’s site well ranked no matter the weather on the SERPs. 

Having a well-designed website is crucial. A well-designed website looks good on mobile devices. The links work. The site is easy to navigate. Behind the scenes, every page has an appropriate meta description that Google displays on the search results.

Design also matters in terms of visual appeal. Sites that communicate professionalism and competence will keep potential clients browsing around for more. Sites that don’t will send them back to Google to look for a site that does.

The importance of relevant content

Another big component of an evergreen strategy is creating relevant content. Aside from their core updates, Google is constantly scanning the web, reading content, and ranking it. Excellent quality written content is rewarded with higher spots on the search engine results. 

This has a twofold implication.

One is that you should regularly be posting content, most likely in the form of a blog. A 750-1,200 word weekly article is not only a great discussion opener to email clients and post on social media. It’s also fresh content that will be devoured by Google, who will then in turn use an assessment of that content to help determine where your law firm’s website should be in the search results.

The other implication is that you should actually refresh old content and make sure it’s relevant. Even if the content itself is seemingly evergreen (again, meaning that it’s always relevant), SEO experts have recommended that you still go back and update old blog posts, even making minor changes. Content that has not been updated comes across to Google as old. Old possibly means outdated. Outdated means less relevant. And less relevant means less worthy of getting ranked on SERPs.

A final word about the Core Update

You should not approach the core update as a one-off event that requires some sort of response to deal with, even if that’s how many online businesses are viewing it. While the legal field has not been disrupted as much as say, news and travel, SEO for law firms should still be an ongoing part of your business strategy. With or without core updates, an evergreen strategy of quality site building and content creation will pay off in the long run. 

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