Google finally confirmed that it has changed how quality is assessed in ranking after webmasters began noticing the difference. Since the beginning of the month the change in assessing quality by Google has been taking place Google has confirmed after an update called “The Quality Update.” Much debate was going on at the Las Vegas Convention over whether this was “Mobilegeddon,” or some other phantom update bundled together with the mobile algo burn in.
Some lawyers noticed negative changes in Google search engine results, especially the local packs, during the month prior to Google’s confirmation of the update, and wondered if it was related to a Panda/and/or a Venice/Pigeon update. When questioned about it being a Panda or other type of update, Google said no, the search engine results were not caused by an update.
Due to the search engine companies denial, some reports were calling it the “Phantom Update” because whether the company admitted to an update or not there was a clear change for some website owners. Of course, Google has long engaged in disinformation campaigns in order to confuse “spammers,” but as you and I know, they are the only ones who seem to benefit when there is a new algo change like this “Phantom.” In any event, finally Google came out and said that while there was no spam related update, there were changes made to the core ranking algorithm.
So what the heck does that mean to a law firm, or solo? In short, the changes affect how it processes quality signals, but what they did not comment on was how quality is now assessed. My guess is that nothing has changed insofar as ranking factors, other than that Google has created some new winners, and some new losers by increasing the value of some signals and lowering the value of others. From past Google updates it is known that the search engine company uses a wide range of factors to determine the quality of a page, and they constantly change in significance of importance when an engineer, or employee at Google decides to throw the switch with a new rollout like this.
Previously when Google was questioned if there would be any updates coming such as Panda or Penguin, they did not mention the Quality Update. Some webmaster argue that because there was no warning with this update, there has probably been more harm done than there would have been, if webmasters were warned. But since none of the quality guidelines were changed, it is unclear how the new signal works and thus, a warning probably would have changed nothing.
Social Media Engagement?
Many lawyers speculate that social media engagement is becoming a major signal AGAIN, as it was back in the circa 2010 era. When Google ended the authorship rich snippets, and turned GPlus links to “no follow,” we saw many lawyers flee Google Plus, exiting their first stab at SEO. Personally, the sites that I have seen get a bump this time around, are almost all heavily involved in Google Plus and Twitter. It could be that Google’s new Twitter policy has something to do with this update as well.
The “Confusing” Update?
Some websites are speaking out about the update like Hubpages that believes Google is really just targeting How To pages and informational websites. I personally don’t think that could be the reason. Why would Google target pages and content that it has said it wants (eg answers questions, etc.)? Though there are a large amount of legal websites for news and for other things like loans that have not seen a decline with the update, but just the opposite, so man is this ever confusing.
I for one think this should be called the “Confusing” update. After all, this almost seems like a Penguin rollback to a lot of us lawyers, but that is not what Google is admitting to here. Google claimed they did not target any class of websites or any specific websites with the update, instead it was an update to the ranking algorithm.
There is help though, even if it isn’t Quality Update specific by Google for webmasters that feel they have been affected. As noted above, Google still swears it is all about great content, and that if you have it, you will get links, or votes, which can rank your site higher. Of course, many lawyers slammed by these constant and successive algorithms since April of 2012 disagree this is merely about quality and “natural,” and believe that Google is always thinking of ways to create an environment of fear, uncertainty and doubt (“FUD”) about the once stable organic results us consumer came to appreciate from the search engine giant.
The theory goes, that white hat, as well as black hat SEO’s will throw up their hands and move to PPC. So far what we have seen in the real world, is that when there is a confusing update like this, the PPC bid prices rise high fast, as well as the associated reports of click fraud. Those who have experienced the way that Google handles click fraud reports, have opted to the friendlier, cheaper Bing and Yahoo! for a better value. The fact us busy lawyers have to watch our PPC bids and clicks like a hawk, and then when we catch a sham click, are forced to deal with Google and fight over it, is bad enough.
Most of our members have said that Google rarely honors a click fraud chargeback, when compared to Bing. After all, the party line is that click fraud is rare. What has your experience been with PPC on either of these search engines?
Do you feel that organic is just too difficult to make it worthwhile? What does the future hold for your marketing budget as a busty lawyer? COLT wants to know! In the meantime, you lawyers and your marketing agents need to focus on quality content and praying that the sites linking to you are not secretly hurting your search results in Google’s eyes.
Posts by Michael Ehline
- Program and Syllabus COLT Con 2017 - Palazzo Hotel
- Las Vegas 2017 Circle of Legal Trust Convention - April 20, 2017-April 22, 2017
- Branding for Attorneys and Law Firms 101
- Problem Avoidance 101 for Attorneys and Social Media
- Penguin, Lawyers and the New SEO Landscape
- Building Meaningful and Effective Web Content
- Joe Mas takes the Award for 2016 for Best Speaker
- Trust Con Las Vegas 2016 Was a Hit!
- Legal Branding and Notoriety Just Got Easier for Attorneys!
- Program for April Vegas 7th-9th