As we specialise in generating business online for our law firm and professional service clients, Moz is one of our main sources of information when it comes to all things digital. Their recent article The Month Google Shook the SERPs highlights the ephemeral nature of Google’s search engine result pages (SERP).
With the staggering amount of content on the World Wide Web it would be almost impossible for users to find anything remotely useful online. Enter our saviour Google, who are leading the battle against useless content through their dedication to ensure that only the most reliable and high-quality websites, full of genuinely relevant and useful content make it to the top of SERPs. Whilst obviously beneficial for users and Google, this demand for the highest-of-high quality content keeps us SEO professionals in check as we have to make sure that our client’s websites truly are trustworthy, honest and valuable resources to users.
But Google doesn’t just mix things up about every now and again. As Moz blogger Dr. Peter J Meyers has recently said: “Google can change the rules overnight”. Below we list several ways in which the world’s most dominant search engine has changed SERPs over the last several weeks.
1. Paid search leaves less room for organic
When in need of goods or services, it’s not a secret that most of us turn to Google. Businesses know this and use Google AdWords to bid for commonly searched keywords in order to secure the highest positions on SERPs. But type any competitive search term into google and you will notice that above the all-important fold, between 5-7 paid ads show at the top and right-hand side whilst only 1 or 2 organic results appear. Meaning that regardless how perfect our organic SEO is, we will rarely be shown above the fold of Google SERPs for the most competitive of terms, without that additional spend to PPC. Having said that, getting your organic, on-page SEO improvements perfected is a great way to reduce your PPC spend.
2. Google took a U-turn and removed Authorship photos
Google’s own social media platform Google+ has just turned 3. Whilst its adoption hasn’t come anywhere near the numbers of competitor Facebook, it does come with some benefits for SEO – one of which was Authorship photos. By having a photo on a Google+ account and then adding authorship mark-up into articles, blogs etc. content writers could have their photo show up on SERPs. Authorship photos on search were definitely eye-catching in a page otherwise full of text and Google saw it as a way of making content appear more trustworthy as it came with a friendly face.
However, despite Google continually pushing for the creation of more Google+ accounts and more authorship photos, by the end of June authorship was completely removed from SERPs. Google’s John Mueller states the reason for this change was to ‘create a better mobile experience and consistent design across pages’. Whilst this does make sense, especially when you consider the increased bandwidth that images would occupy on mobile search, it was completely unexpected.
Yet not all is lost for authors: content can still be attributed to its creator as bylines still remain on SERPs and there are still some benefits to be gained. But with Google’s unpredictable nature there’s no telling how long this will be the case.
3. In-depth becomes even more in-depth
In Google’s mission to present only the highest-quality websites on the front SERPs, they brand some content as ‘In-depth articles’. These only appear for certain search terms, but as we can see from MOZ, the amount of in-depth articles shown on SERPs jumped from 6.0% to 12.7% from the 1st July to the 2nd July. If Google continues to give more valuable results-page space to in-depth articles, content producers may have to step up their game to secure a position - and that's something we're definitely doing with our customers, particularly via our new sister company specialising in copywriting and content marketing for law firms, Curated Media.
4. Video thumbnails follow in the footsteps of Authorship photos
In the same way that authorship photos gave an extra element to the appearance of certain links, video thumbnails too grabbed the users’ attention. However, come mid-July thumbnails began to disappear and instead a smaller play button took its place. Whilst this still shows that there’s some multi-media content to be found within the page, it’s not entirely clear whether the content is video or radio. Content producers who were once able to enjoy the benefits of having video thumbnails appear on SERPs, may now have to consider other methods of making their pages stand out.
5. Local search results affected by pigeon
Google is forever improving, experimenting and updating algorithms. Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and Pigeon are the names designated to Google’s algorithms. However, their names do not truly represent their nature (from an SEO perspective). The addition of a new algorithm can hugely upset a number of websites as previous best-practice for SEO is turned upside down and new best-practice guidelines come into play.
July saw the arrival of Pigeon – an algorithm which affects the ways in which Google understands and uses the location of a searcher. Previously, Google would take a user’s search query for a certain good or service, and use the location of this search to form a list of local businesses which would show up in a “pack result”. Depending on the query, usually several local businesses would show up together, sometimes with Google Maps at the side to show their relative location. Yet the introduction of Pigeon has meant that pack results now only show around 2 or 3 businesses at a time. Some local businesses have benefitted from this as there is less much competition shown to potential customers, yet understandably, others have seen themselves at a significant disadvantage.
Even more changes later in August
Further changes we have seen in August include the following and there will certainly be more to come in September:-
- Website call conversions integration with PPC (as a supplement to call tracking)
- AdWords close varient keyword matching
HTTPS as a ranking signal, not just to make your site more secure- something we'll be rolling out for our customers soon
But these are topics to cover in another discussion.
Law Firm SEO: The art of staying on top of the changes
At Moore Legal Technology we have to keep on top of all these changes in order to keep our clients websites competitive and ranking highly on SERPs. The best way to maintain and improve your law firm SEO is to build a robust website, integrated with vibrant social media channels, providing great value to visitors, not seeking to game search engines. Nevertheless, our best practice is forever being adapted to perform as best as it can with the latest algorithm updates from Google and we look forward to blogging about the next changes!
What can we do for you?
The forces that are driving change in the legal profession are wide and varied. The ability of law firms and individual solicitors to respond positively and innovatively to these challenges will determine who survives and prospers and great search engine marketing is a key part of this. If making more money through online marketing is something that appeals to you please get in touch today.