In the last post in this series, we talked about the importance of links to search engine optimization (SEO) and how improper link building strategies could get you into hot water with Google (and ruin the search ranking you are trying to achieve).
According to some experts, here are some of the top SEO reasons websites are penalized by Google:
Poor quality backlinks
Unrelated backlinks, often the result of paying for inks, using link farms or exchanging links with anyone who asks, regardless of relevance or value to your audience is the best way to drop your Google rank.
Lack of fresh content
This is why ‘static’ websites don’t perform well. Your rank today won’t be your rank tomorrow. Search engine results are constantly being updated – your website needs to be as well.
Write for the actual people you want to visit your site – not for search engines. If your copy is stuffed with keywords and doesn’t flow, Google knows you’re trying to ‘game’ the system.
There are some SEO strategies that still work. If you site is low in the rankings, there are some basic steps you can take that might help improve them, including using title tags, descriptions, header tags, and image alt tags, among others.
No Social Standing
Social media has become an increasingly important factor in SEO. The rationale is similar to linking: receiving links, likes, comments or other engagement on social media is ‘social proof’ that the content linked to (or Liked, Shared, etc.) is trustworthy and authoritative content. As a result, that content receives a higher ranking. Bottom line: if your site is getting hits from social media sites or is talked about on social media, Google will take notice. On the other hand, if no one is talking about you Google may assume that no one cares, or that your site does not contain valuable content. If that’s the case, there’s no point in returning your site as a search result.
How can you get real link ‘juice?’
As one ethical SEO strategist notes,
The fastest way to increase natural incoming links, is to provide people with something they WANT to link to. Provide the kind of site that they WANT to tell their site visitors about. (articles, free services, quality content, quality blogs, etc.) Once you are doing this, you can easily ask people to consider linking to your site.
As the emphasis is placed more and more on genuine, informative content and natural links, it will be more and more difficult for law firms using ‘build links quick’ strategies to artificially improve their website rankings.
Instead, reaching the first page of results on Google will be the result of hard work and quality content, some of which may only be able to be generated by lawyers, rather than outside SEO companies. Links will need to be built as a result of other individuals or companies on the web finding the law firm’s site content informative and helpful and linking to it naturally, rather than planting links on unrelated sites.
This takes time. Beware of any “SEO Expert” who tells you they can generate a lot of links to your site in a short period of time.
The best approach may be the human approach, as articulated by UK marketing consultant Jim Connolly*:
- Write for human beings, not for search engines or computer programs
- Engage naturally with others by writing about what they care about
- Focus on building a community, rather than building a list
- Respond to the people who engage with you
- Provide valuable content – if others think it’s worthwhile, they’ll share it naturally
*(hat tip to Nancy Myrland for alerting me to the article)