Don’t worry, it happens to almost everyone at some point: You’re doing a regular check of your website’s traffic, and you notice a startling development – your normally upward-trending graph looks like a cliff with a sheer edge!
You were getting plenty of online leads for your business last month, but this month, your visitors have suddenly and without warning slowed to a trickle. On top, there’s no email from a Google Webmaster in your inbox and there’s been no bad press related to your law firm…
So what the heck happened? And what are you going to do about it?
When Penguins & Pandas Strike
If you didn’t receive an email directly from Google alerting you to a manual website penalty, your site has likely been affected by one of their Penguin or Panda algorithm updates.
Simply put, these frequent algorithm updates may either greatly or subtly change the way that Google analyzes and ranks pages. Every time an algorithm is tuned, which can be several times throughout the year, your website might slip in the ranks – or, even worse, be delisted altogether.
If this happens to your law firm’s website, it’s important not to panic, but it’s also important to act quickly and deliberately to fix the problem. Here are five steps to take:
1. Be sure to discover the penalty
It might sound simple, but a huge number of law firms are not discovering that they have been penalized by Google, simply because they are not regularly monitoring their website traffic. It is absolutely vital to track all of your marketing efforts, online and off, and this includes closely watching the progress of your web traffic.
When Penguin and Panda penalties strike, there are plenty of steps to take to ameliorate the issue. But if you don’t know that there’s a problem in the first place, your marketing strategy and revenue may be hit hard, and you may not notice until months down the road – after significant damage has been done.
2. Determine the cause of your penalty
There are two major types of algorithm penalties: Panda penalties and Penguin penalties. Panda penalties are all related to site usability. The most common Panda issues include:
- Lack of quality content
- Plagiarized or duplicate content
- Slow site speed, and
- Poor site design.
Penguin penalties, on the other hand, have to do with internal and external linking issues, including:
- Links to spammy websites
- Too many links, and
- Links to dead websites.
There are generally two ways to determine whether your penalty was caused by a Penguin or Panda update. The first is to check and see if a big update of either algorithm has been recently recorded by marketing experts (a good resource for this is the Moz link I provided above, which keeps a running list of significant updates).
The second is to take an honest look at your website and look for any poor content, linking issues, or user design problems. Using both of these approaches, it is usually easy to determine the source of your penalty.
3. Clean up your act
Now it’s time to get to work. Once your problem is pinpointed, create a strategy to quickly and thoroughly fix it, either in-house or with the help of an expert. This may also be a time to fix other issues with your site that haven’t been penalized but that could be in the future. For example, if you’re spending time (and/or money) redesigning your website to make it more user-friendly, that’s a great time to work on making your site loading speed faster, too.
4. Be patient
It’s important to realize that fixing your issue will not result in a huge, immediate pick up in traffic that mirrors your earlier drop in traffic. It may take time to rebuild your traffic and improve your pagerank again. But know that if you are doing everything right, you will eventually be rewarded. It may just take a few months.
5. Avoid future penalties
After fixing your issues, take precautions to avoid similar future mistakes. Before making new changes to your website, make certain that they will help and not harm your search engine optimization.
Most importantly, make changes that you think users will appreciate: Great content, fast loading speeds, and logical site design. Don’t make changes that you think will trick the system or get you instant results. Those are changes that Penguin or Panda may catch down the line, as Google’s algorithm continues to increase in sophistication and nuance.
Looking to Increase Your Leads Online? Call Black Fin Today
At Black Fin, we specialize in helping attorneys and law firms improve their online presence and perfect their marketing plans. If you need help getting your marketing strategy and website into shape – or if you’ve just been struck by an algorithm penalty and don’t know what to do – we are here for you. To talk to our team or ask a question, call us today at (216) 206-6855 or fill out our quick online contact form. Not ready to talk to an SEO agency? If you would rather keep marketing in-house, check out this SEO Training Program for Lawyers. It is complete with great explanations, best practices, tips, checklists, and tutorial screenshots to help you increase your online rankings. Easy to follow through and comprehensive.