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Google Updates Penalize Cheap SEO

Three years into my private law practice, the web continues to be the primary way I market my law firm. Having represented more than 500 people over the past three years, I’m starting to see both repeat business and referrals. But not everyone needs a criminal lawyer, the way they’ll eventually need a realtor, so it takes time to build out a referral base.

In order to not put all my eggs in one basket, I’ve launched a bankruptcy practice as well with separate websites and separate identities to help channel potential clients to the right information, and so that if my web presence suffers on one dimension, it won’t suffer on all dimensions.

We’ve also tried other marketing efforts, including direct mail, radio advertising, and networking. The networking can be effective, but that’s really not my strength, so I’ve not invested the kind of time and effort that I should on reaching out to other lawyers in order to develop referral channels.

All of this is to say: I spend an inordinate amount of time focused on Google (and to a lesser extent Bing and Yahoo) in watching updates.

For the past nearly 30 months, my website has been number 1 in my city for my primary keywords. But the ride has been bumpy, especially in the last year and a half. Google has made more than a half dozen important changes to its algorithms and search behavior since January, including one that is rolling out as we speak. This after a number of years in which Google implemented fewer updates than that for entire 12 month periods.

Some of the updates have been improvements. For instance, in April, Google released a penalty for over-optimization – basically spammy and keyword laden websites. Fortunately, I had moved away from keywords about a year prior, so I was not penalized, but I did see some competitors take a huge hit.

What does this mean? It means that, first of all, there is never one SEO strategy. Building a quality website takes time, and Google is trying to reward quality over quantity. And it’s trying to penalize people who take quick – and often spammy – routes to success.

If you were building a website in 2009 (as I was), then the road to the top could be swift. But if you’re building a website in 2012, it’s a much harder slog, not just because of the increased competition, but because Google is increasingly on the watch for cheap techniques.

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  • 6 comments

    6 Comments so far

    1. Stefan V June 2nd, 2012 10:23 pm

      Ultimately Google has (correctly) recognized that to maintain the integrity of their service, sites cluttered to hell and back with clickable ads generally do not contain information pertinent to their users. And, of course, when users are not finding pertinent information in a particular search engine they simply jump to the next competitor.

      That said, for any professional trying to propagate their website up in the ranks, this is fantastic news. The same techniques that attract clients to contact/leave their contact info (well-formed blogs, attractive UI that’s easy to use, etc) ideally will also appeal to Google’s algorithm. It’s a win-win.

    2. Minerva June 3rd, 2012 5:16 am

      Google has been constantly changing a lot of what has been used to in SEO. so, as much as possible we have to be aware of those changes and make sure to outsmart the rest of your competitors.

    3. Dylan Darling June 5th, 2012 12:42 pm

      The funny thing is that some spammy, keyword stuffed sites with blinking ads on them still rank better than some white hat SEO sites. Really ticks me off!

    4. Jonathan Browning June 6th, 2012 9:41 am

      “I spend an inordinate amount of time focused on Google”

      That is a great line and I am right there with you. Google is working out there bugs and I believe in the long run, it will make for a better search engine.

    5. Jayson June 6th, 2012 10:32 am

      I agree, some of the changes have been improvements, and in some cases, results are worse. Overall, I think they do a pretty good job of organizing information. I can’t image how hard it is to rank more than a Trillion pages.

      It’s definitely harder to rank a website on a budget today.

    6. Ashley Smith July 1st, 2012 11:29 pm

      I appreciate that Google Penguin and the new algorithm changes focus on website containing good, compelling content. I get tired of reading content on websites that is so stuffed with keywords that the pages become unreadable. I am concerned how the changes will affect reputable, established websites, however. Hopefully, Google will work out the kinks quickly, so such websites can maintain their rankings.