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seo for law firm websites

SEO for law firm websites: What you need to know about EAT and the latest YMYL update

Written by Amy Hinman

If your firm saw an unexpected dip in traffic in 2021, you’re not alone. Google released a new algorithm update that negatively affected many “your money, your life” (YMYL) websites. YMYL sites cover legal, tech, medical, and financial services and content.

Almost every single LaFleur client could have been affected by this algorithmic change. (And some did see dips in their keyword rankings.) However, there’s no reason to panic to ditch your law firm SEO strategy.

This isn’t the first core algorithm update to affect organizations and businesses that provide professional services, and it won’t be the last. If you’re feeling frustrated about your firm’s drop in traffic, there are some practical law firm SEO tactics you can implement to build your rank and authority back to your YMYL site.

However, there’s no quick-fix solution to search engine optimization and YMYL marketing. Instead, you’ll need to align with SEO best practices and Google’s evolving expectations—and that takes real work.

What happened in the most recent Google algorithm update?

Complex algorithms inform what content shows up first on a search engine results page (SERP), and Google is continually updating these algorithms to ensure end users are being served the most relevant, helpful, and high-quality content when they perform a search.

Many of these algorithmic changes are so subtle that most people barely notice them. The company doesn’t even issue statements or notices about these incremental changes. But occasionally, Google makes broader updates—called Core Updates—that can significantly affect your ranking.

In June and July 2021, Google rolled out a two-stage Core Update that focused on improving the relevance and quality of highly ranked content. This particular update seems to have affected services like law firms by giving more weight to websites with a lot of high-quality backlinks, higher domain age, and other authority indicators like comprehensive content written by industry experts.

My law firm’s website took a hit after the June/July 2021 Core Update. What do I do?

Google does not provide specific guidance before it rolls out most Core Updates, so you won’t find a simple “how-to” guide on the internet. However, Google has released advice in the past about how to cope with the latest round of updates if you saw a dip in traffic and performance.

Core Updates are supposed to improve Google’s search results. You might have done nothing wrong, so don’t tear yourself up too much.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my content offer comprehensive information about your targeted keywords?
  • Do other respected websites link to your content?
  • Is your content written by an expert?
  • If someone reviewed your content or researched you online, would they come away with the impression that your firm is a trusted authority on the topic?

Google (and many SEO experts) use the strategy acronym EAT to describe this type of analysis—and it might be the most effective and helpful tactic for gaining traction online. EAT stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

EAT stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

We’ll spend the rest of the blog discussing EAT, steps law firms can take to improve their rankings, and how LaFleur’s team of experts can help.


A note on emerging tactics

As the internet evolves, so do the strategies to stay relevant. One of our strategies at LaFleur is called our AAA process: the three As stand for attract, analyze, and adjust.

Once we launch a campaign, tactic, or solution, we always revisit to make sure it’s working effectively. If it’s not, we adjust. Because the “solutions” to the algorithm update are emerging, we are ready to analyze and adjust later if our first idea falls flat. This process is all part of the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing for law firms.


Address your legal website’s search engine optimization and functionality with EAT

In 2018, Google published new Search Quality Rater Guidelines. These guidelines introduced us to the concept of YMYL websites and EAT. The guidelines also include two essential statements:

  • Google has very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low quality pages might harm a person’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.
  • Online legal content should be maintained, comprehensive, regularly updated, and come from a trustworthy source.

But what does EAT mean in practice? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Expertise

The “E” in EAT focuses on the expertise of your content’s creator. Google wants to see content that is written by subject matter experts. As an example, let’s consider another YMYL field: healthcare. Suppose you’re researching “treatment options for depression.” It’s likely that a pillar page written by the Mayo Clinic or the CDC will outrank a health enthusiast’s blog that recommends vitamin supplements.

But aren’t all law firms experts? Not necessarily.

You can help Google identify your expertise:

  • Are you publishing rich, informative content that addresses your audience’s needs?
  • Do you post detailed author bios?
  • Do you have an established business and a website with a solid domain age?
  • Do you have awards or honors that demonstrate your expertise or authority?

Authoritativeness

You want Google to consider your content, your writers, and your website as authoritative sources of knowledge. Backlinks from reputable websites are a great way to demonstrate your authority. But, they are not the only way.

  • Is your content regularly updated?
  • Do you cite credible, primary sources?
  • Are you fact-checking your content?
  • Are you referencing you and your firms’ credentials?
  • Are other websites and sources referencing you, your firm, or your content?

Trustworthiness

You need to be seen as a trustworthy online source. This element looks for social proof and other trust indicators.

  • Do you have a five-star rating on Google My Business?
  • Is it easy to find your law firm’s contact information?
  • Do your credentials align with the content you’re publishing?

In the YMYL realm, even a mixed reputation results in Google questioning your trustworthiness.

RELATED: Social proof: Consumer opinions matter for your marketing

Update your marketing strategy for EAT and YMYL websites

While there’s no one magic solution that will boost your domain authority, give your site thousands of backlinks, and bring in exclusively qualified leads, there are some steps you can take to improve the odds of turning prospective clients into new clients.

Demonstrate expertise, authority, and trustworthiness with high-quality content

Google Search aims to connect readers with genuinely helpful, informative content. As you write blogs and webpages, consider your audience’s specific needs and concerns. Then, provide them with accurate information and practical solutions.

In-depth articles that provide helpful resources in plain English are critical for building your organic traffic, EAT, and search engine optimization strategy. Here are the features that our clients see the most success with:

  • Using keyword research to inform your articles’ subject matter
  • Publishing content at regular intervals multiple times a month
  • Writing at roughly an eighth grade reading level
  • Publishing in-depth content about your legal services that are at least 1,000 words long
  • Optimizing articles for your desired search term (make sure this search term is included in the article headings and title tag)
  • Optimizing articles for conversion with calls-to-action, a phone number, and contact form
  • Making sure your web pages include fundamentals like meta descriptions, citations, Google maps links, links to practice area pages, social media links, a link to your Google My Business profile, and other essential information that keeps your target audience engaged
  • Including plenty of internal links (like links to relevant success stories) within each article
  • Regularly updating your highest value pages and blogs
  • Fact-checking everything and citing credible sources and references

While there’s no one magic solution that will boost your domain authority, give your site thousands of backlinks, and bring in exclusively qualified leads, there are some steps you can take to improve the odds of turning prospective clients into new clients.

What if you have high-quality content, but you’re still not ranking?

After the most recent algorithm update, we’ve increasingly seen sites with high authority rank higher than related sites with a lower authority score. For instance, suppose you had a high-performing blog post about traumatic brain injuries that consistently ranked on page one of Google search before the update. After, it no longer ranks on the first page, and has been replaced by articles from both the Mayo Clinic and smaller medical practices.

You might not ever surpass the Mayo Clinic’s domain authority (DA); according to SEMrush, it’s earned an impressive 79/100 DA. However, you could potentially supplant some smaller competitors if you highlight your expertise in traumatic brain injury claims. Dig into your link and authority building efforts, and keep on writing high-quality, targeted content.

Reassess your backlink strategy

Backlinks are essential to building your website’s authority. When respected websites link to your content, it demonstrates your content’s value and your expertise to Google. So, if you don’t have a backlink strategy, now is the time to build one.

Creating (or refining) a backlink campaign is often as much an alchemy as it is a science. You’ll need to identify linking opportunities, which might include:

  • Directory sites
  • Professional organizations
  • Businesses that you partner or collaborate with
  • Periodicals and blogs

It’s meticulous work. You’ll need to claim your law firm and lawyers’ profiles, populate them with helpful information, and perform a lot of outreach. You’ll also need to decide whether it’s worth paying for some links, since certain websites have paywalls.

Before you invest in paid links, take advantage of all the high-value free ones out there. For example, if you don’t have your website linked in your bar association profiles, alumni group pages, and non-profit board bios, add them right now.

Also look for opportunities to promote your community service. Some websites that might mention your law firm, like a news site, might not be able to publish your website under its ethics rules, but if you aren’t sure, ask anyway!

Invest in your domain authority with a link building campaign

Link building is an ongoing process, and it doesn’t stop once you’ve claimed all your existing profiles. Now, your firm should launch campaigns to get even more backlinks.

There’s a reason why so many law firms have scholarship programs. In addition to helping their communities, these lawyers want schools to link to their scholarship pages. (Websites with .edu or .org domains often have significant domain authority, so these links can be valuable.) However, fewer universities and schools are linking to individual scholarships today—so this tactic isn’t as effective as it used to be.

We’d encourage you to look beyond the scholarship. Your law firm could write guest blogs and articles, host webinars, present at CLEs, and sponsor community events or programs. (And if you need help identifying opportunities or launching these efforts, our skilled strategists and writers are here for you.)

Build trust with testimonials and client reviews

Rich, diverse content is critical to any high-performing website. It’s also essential for building trust with your potential clients. We encourage law firms to feature their client success stories on their websites in the form of a “results” page, success story videos, and Google My Business reviews.

Again, these efforts will pay off in multiple ways. First, legal consumers value peer reviews—even if they don’t know the reviewer. If you have a large library of five-star reviews on Google and other platforms, you’ll likely convert more leads into clients.

Second, Google search ranking system relies (in part) on reviews, ratings, and other social proof to assess your trustworthiness and expertise.

Increase your content’s authority by adding author bios

Attorney bio pages and “about the author” blurbs on blogs have real value. Most user journeys involve a visit to a law firm’s About Us or Attorney Bios page. Legal consumers, especially those getting ready to hire a lawyer, want to check out your credentials. Make it easy for them by offering up-to-date, relevant information in your bio and author blurbs.

However, well-written bios can also boost your EAT metrics. Google and the other search engines are comparing your authors to the competition. A bio that highlights an author’s background and credentials can demonstrate your expertise and authority.


A note on content optimization and SEO efforts

As the internet has evolved, so has internet content. One of the strategies of yesteryear was called keyword stuffing—the act of “stuffing” your page or article with as many keywords as you possibly could. This might have tricked a greener algorithm into getting your website to rank highly in Google’s search results, but it made the content impossible to read.


Today, the days of keyword stuffing are long gone. If you want to reach your target audience, existing content needs to be readable, and natural language is a priority as people (especially younger demographics) are increasingly using voice search queries.

For effective optimization, you need a good SEO writer and content strategist who can help you identify high-value keywords, develop a content strategy to attain them, and write great articles that provide value to your clients and your web health. LaFleur’s SEO services team is stacked with SEO and content experts who are versed in the particulars of legal writing, and we’re ready to help your firm get started building its content library today.

LaFleur’s SEO services team is stacked with SEO and content experts who are versed in the particulars of legal writing, and we’re ready to help your firm get started building its content library today.

You would never advise a legal client to handle their own case. That advice also applies to your law firm marketing plan

Do you know any attorneys who would advise a potential client to handle their claim without legal counsel? We don’t, either. That’s because you’re the best at what you do—just like the digital marketing experts at LaFleur. Our roster is full of experienced writers, strategists, developers, and designers who are all ready to take your marketing from good to great.

If you’re worried about the latest algorithm update, need to update your marketing foundations, or need help implementing a specific tactic, let’s talk. Get started by calling (888) 222-1512 or complete this brief online form.

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

RESOURCES

General guidelines. (2020, October 14). Google. Retrieved from https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/guidelines.raterhub.com/en//searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.pdf

What site owners should know about Google’s Core Updates. (2019, August 1). Google. Retrieved from https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2019/08/core-updates