Google is constantly updating its algorithms to provide the best search results for users. While that means you can usually expect helpful search results from Google, it also means that websites can be heavily penalized for violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Though some websites have been penalized for intentionally practicing black hat search engine optimization (SEO), others have received penalties due to improper site maintenance or even failing to take new algorithm changes into account. Violating Google’s guidelines have a negative impact on law firm seo.
We know you don’t have the bandwidth to become an expert in Google’s latest rules – that’s our job. Keep reading to learn about 7 common penalties and how we suggest you handle them. But first – what is a Google penalty?
What is a Google Penalty?
A Google penalty occurs when the platform detects that a website has violated its Webmaster Guidelines. The consequences are a drop in ranking and traffic. Penalties can be algorithmic (which can result in a website dropping in rank after a new algorithm is released) or manual (which are given by actual Google employees and are easier to identify and fix). These penalties typically last until you resolve the problem.
7 Traffic-Crushing Google Penalties and How to Prevent Them
1. Doorway pages and low quality content
Doorways are sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries. They are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination.
The classic example of a doorway page is plain HTML code with lots of text filled with keywords. These doorway pages are not visible to website visitors as they are usually automatically redirected to the intended page that has actual content.
Doorway pages and low quality content are not only bad for a law firm’s SEO but also reflect poorly on your firm. It’s better to have high-quality, valuable content. Don’t rely on solutions that mass produce content. If you don’t have the bandwidth to create your own content, try outsourcing to a professional content creator.
2. Hiding links and text
Law firms receive Google penalties and disrupted SEO when they hide links and text. If you do this for SEO purposes but the hidden items offer no value to the reader, you’re likely to be penalized. For example, setting the font to size 0 or using white text in the background is a “trick” that some people have been taught, but it’s a very bad practice. Again, your best measure is to never do this intentionally. If you want to see if this has ever impacted your site, then check out the URL inspection tab of your Search Console, enter the affected pages into the search box, and then “view crawled page.” There you can check for any hidden links or CSS.
3. Spam generated by users
Websites who allow guest blogs, comments, or other user-generated material can get overwhelmed by spam bots or other troublesome users. For example, some people will make comments on your blog in order to insert an irrelevant link to their own content. To prevent this, you can utilize comment moderation tools that will filter and delete spammy comments. You can also manually add tags to improper links and make them no-follow links. If others have posted articles on your site, you can add a no index meta tag to those pages that will make them accessible through your website but not visible in search results or considered in Google’s ranking algorithm.
4. Unnatural link building
Backlink building is a very effective SEO strategy, but it’s important to focus on high-quality websites. Those tactics never involve buying or exchanging links, or blog comment links. Perform regular backlink audits in order to find out who is linking to your website (even unintentional, spammy links). You can use Google Analytics, Search Console, or another tool like SEMrush.
5. Keyword stuffing
On-page SEO involves placing important keywords in headings, meta descriptions, etc. However, over time it became a common black hat SEO tactic to over-use keywords in content. It’s critical to use keywords naturally in your copy. Keep the reader in mind and explain things as you would if you were in person. You can also focus on long-tail keywords, and make sure to always use keyword research tools to help direct your content strategy.
6. A hacked website
If your website is ever hacked, you’re probably facing a myriad of problems. Unfortunately, hackers can cause problems directly on your website too (things like also injecting malicious code, adding irrelevant content, or redirecting your site to harmful or spammy pages). Eventually you’ll see your website ranking drop and it may eventually be delisted altogether. Make it a point to tighten your law firm’s website security before something like this happens. Keep your content management system (CMS) updated and use strong passwords that you change regularly. Don’t forget to use a malware scanner and backup your website regularly.
7. Improperly using structured data markup
A structured data markup is a type of code that helps Google to display your site more attractively in Google search results. It can include things like star ratings and quantity of reviews. However, if Google detects that you are including structured data that doesn’t apply to users, you might receive a penalty. This is another black hat SEO trick that is not typically done by accident. Make sure you’re not doing it by including only real reviews and using structured data markup that is relevant to your content.
Whether a penalty is algorithmic or manual, it will hurt your website. If your ranking drops then your traffic will drop, and some websites never recover from being penalized. We’ve covered 7 typical reasons for a Google penalty, but implementing any black hat SEO is likely to get your law firm penalized as well. By decreasing any black hat SEO practices, implementing security and moderation tools on your site, and focusing on truly quality content, you can avoid Google penalties, improve your law firm’s search engine ranking and traffic, and protect yourself from hackers.
Do you think you’ve been hit with Google penalties? We can help. We have experience helping law firms identify and recover from Google penalties. Contact us today for a consultation.