If you are a lawyer or law firm that would like to rank higher in Google search without the fear of any future Panda, Penguin or Hummingbird algorithm changes please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any lawyer or attorney that has been on the Internet for more than a full month has heard of the website FindLaw. Recently, lawyers and attorneys that had websites or subdomains with FindLaw have seen a significant decrease in search traffic after the Google Panda 4.0 algorithm update. This update started to roll out on May 20th, 2014 and has continued to hit websites that do not have quality content which is desirable for their visitors.
History of FindLaw
FindLaw is owned by Thomson Reuters and was intended to be a resource in which anyone, legal professional or not, could find laws and regulations in a state or country. As the website expanded there were opportunities for lawyers to create their website and web presence through FindLaw. This made life easy as legal professionals did not have to purchase their own domain, find the proper hosting service and build out a professional website.
FindLaw was the one stop shop to get your website, update content and ultimately rank higher in Google search. While this sounds great, there were some problems. With hundreds and thousands of lawyers looking to use the service it became much easier for the website to regenerate content by just changing a few words. Something that could have caused FindLaw Lawyer websites to get hit with an algorithm update is duplicate or repetitious content. If you were a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia there is a good chance there is an article about car accidents that is very similar to a personal injury lawyer in Houston, Texas. By simply switching up a few words, such as Houston and Atlanta, FindLaw was generating completely unique content for each client, right? Not so fast my friends. I am not saying FindLaw did this to each client but it is something Google has gone after with previous Panda algorithm updates.
Duplicate and Thin Content
By just changing a handful of words in a 500 word blog post it does not mean the content is completely original. This type of “manipulation” has been going on for over a decade on the Internet as it started out as article marketing with Amazines, eZineArticles, HubPages, Squidoo and others. “SEO gurus” would write one 500 word article and submit the same article to multiple different directories or websites. The articles happened to have anchor text links for a specific keyword phrase such as “Denver Criminal Defense Attorney”. Unfortunately, lawyers and attorneys were not aware that this tactic was not natural and it would eventually be punished by Google.
When the initial Panda algorithm change was released it crushed all of these article marketing websites which in turn devalued the links from articles that had been submitted. Some websites, like Mahalo, lost over 75% of their search traffic. As the Google spam team continued to go after websites that were manipulating search they noticed that many of these pages had been duplicated on many different sites throughout the web. With the Googlebot being able to crawl most of the web it was only time before duplicate content pages where hit by a Panda update.
When purchasing a FindLaw page, lawyers have the opportunity to add on content for a certain fee per month. FindLaw’s website clearly states they offer: “Custom content: persuasive, valuable content that builds prospects’ trust, developed by FindLaw’s expert web copywriters.” Along with “custom content” they also offer “Blog and content-syndication options: content-sharing strategies that take advantage of the reach and influence of social media.”
If there were truly expert copywriters that were creating unique content for each lawyer or attorney that signs up with the service the Google Panda 4.0 algorithm would not have slapped a penalty on the websites within this domain. In the last week, many lawyers have stated they have seen a significant drop in their search rankings and they do not know what to do. Once again, I am not saying that FindLaw did this to their clients but something must have gone amiss to cause the rankings of lawyer websites to drop in Google search.
How to Find Out If You Have Been Hit
To find out if you have been hit by a Google Panda, Penguin or Hummingbird update you can simply go to your Google Webmaster Tools. If FindLaw does not give you access to your Google Webmaster Tools you may want to read over your contract. If you do not own your domain or web property I would suggest taking an alternative route moving forward. Owning your domain will allow you to install and update with any Google resource or plugin that you desire. Wojdylo Social Media offers several packages that will help you create a website, build truly unique and engaging content and rank in search.
Another quick way to determine if you have been hit with a Google Panda 4.0 penalty is to search for a few or your more common keyword phrases that you ranked for prior to May 20th. If you aren’t on the first five or ten pages of the Google logged out (incognito) search results, you can almost be rest assured that your website has been hit with a penalty. If you have any concerns whatsoever that the content on your website is duplicated or not unique to your law firm there is the possibility that you could see a large decrease in search traffic as the Panda 4.0 algorithm continues to roll out.
Search around on the FindLaw website for attorneys or lawyers in your industry that happen to be in different parts of the country. Medical Malpractice lawyers in Orlando, Florida can easily find MedMal lawyers in Portland, Oregon. Check out their blog section and see if the content is similar. If it is, you can probably guess that there are dozens of lawyers in your industries across different parts of the country that have similar content.
Should You Hire a New SEO Company?
When trying to determine if you want to recover from Panda 4.0 or start fresh it may be best to contact those that have worked in highly competitive industries. I currently work with lawyers, orthodontists, LASIK eye surgeons, dentists, car dealerships and eye doctors. While it is not a “rank #1 overnight” or “get rich quick” scheme it is a method of building your brand through unique content and social media. One again, if you want to avoid the worry of any future Google algorithm updates yet still get plenty of business by ranking on the front page of Google search please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com.