White Hat SEO: Employing SEO strategies that are in full compliance with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and eliminate a risk of penalty. In contrast, “black hat SEO” refers to unethical practices that are meant to manipulate rankings but violate Google’s guidelines.
Choosing the right law firm SEO agency is extremely important. When you rely on the expertise of an agency or consultant to execute your organic search strategies, it can be difficult to understand if their tactics carry any risk of a penalty.
Google’s algorithm is meant to do two things:
In the legal industry, we see SEO companies engaging in tactics that are meant to manipulate search rankings and violate Google’s guidelines. This is known as “black hat SEO” and can be virtually impossible to spot from an untrained eye.
There are two types of penalties: algorithmic and manual. Algorithmic penalties occur when Google’s bots automatically detect that your site is violating its guidelines through routine crawling of your website. This may be something like publishing large quantities of thin content. If you receive thousands of backlinks overnight, this is also something the algorithm would pick up and penalize your site for.
A manual penalty occurs when a reviewer at Google analyzes your website and concludes that you are violating guidelines. This may be engaging in spammy linkbuilding tactics, publishing duplicate content or having a poor user experience.
It’s important to understand that a penalty and a drop in rankings are not necessarily the same thing. With a penalty, Google will remove your website from search results until it’s resolved. On the other hand, an algorithm update may just cause your website to lose rankings but not be penalized. If your website experiences a loss in visibility in organic search results, the first step is diagnosing whether it’s a penalty or a result of an algorithm update.
A penalty from Google can have devastating effects on your law firm’s business development in the long term. Recovering from a penalty is time-consuming. You can expect at least 90 days where your website is not generating any leads from organic search. In addition to the time and money you may need to spend cleaning up the penalty, you may also need to increase investment in other marketing channels like PPC in order to keep the leads coming in.
One of the most challenging aspects of SEO is that it takes more time to build a strong organic search presence using white hat techniques Black hat SEO can yield rankings faster, but put you at a very high risk. Google is continuously updating their algorithm to combat these practices. For websites that engage in black hat techniques, it’s only a matter of time before a penalty will hit.
At Postali, we have never had a client’s website affected by an algorithmic or manual Google penalty.
We create strategies focused on long-term, consistent business growth and set realistic expectations and goals for our attorney SEO campaigns. We’re not interested in quick wins that will put your law firm’s website at risk down the road.
Many attorneys come to Postali looking for help with recovering after a penalty. In many cases, they weren’t aware of the tactics their marketing agency was using.
We can identify the cause of the penalty and help your website recover. Depending on the cause of the penalty, this may include:
Google’s algorithm is always changing. Each time they announce a new update, website owners everywhere are anxious to know how they will be affected and what they can do to avoid a penalty.
While it’s important to keep up-to-date on Google’s algorithm changes, their core principles don’t change. They are looking for high quality websites that provide the best experience for users. If you are engaging in white hate SEO practices, you don’t have to worry. These practices include:
If you are outsourcing your law firm’s SEO efforts to an agency, you should be able to trust that they are not engaging in spammy, manipulative tactics, known as “black hat SEO.”
Unfortunately, this is still prevalent and can be difficult to gauge. With law firm websites, the black hat SEO tactics we see used most frequently are:
Postali believes in full transparency in everything we do. We report to our clients on the links to their site, our content initiatives and Google My Business updates. Our content is unique, SEO-friendly and regularly updated. Our linkbuilding strategies comply with Google’s guidelines, and we design fast, mobile-friendly websites for all clients.
We’ve found that there are some common red flags that indicate a company may not be using white hat SEO tactics for your law firm. If you hear any of the following, proceed with caution:
Any SEO provider should be able to provide confident assurance that your website is in good hands. At Postali, we share our previous work and walk our attorneys through our strategies. A reputable, white hat SEO agency should be able to answer the following questions:
Algorithm updates are a part of SEO. They require monitoring and shifts in strategy, but a white hat SEO strategy avoids risk of penalty. We often see algorithm updates benefit our clients by giving a ranking boost or penalizing a black hat competitor.