Football Penalty Flag on FieldFiguring out what is going on behind the curtain at Google and Bing can be extremely difficult.   Indeed, an entire SEO industry has emerged to help people improve their position in search results.  However, sometimes the search engines provide a glimpse into how they work and how to improve your ranking.   At a recent panel named “Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better!” (click link for full audio), Google’s Matt Cutts (head of their webspam team) stated that a new over optimization penalty will be introduced into search engine results in the upcoming month or next few weeks.  The goal being to “level the playing field” and give sites that have great content a better opportunity to rank above sites with bad content but good SEO efforts.

His exact words:

What about the people optimizing really hard and doing a lot of SEO. We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.

So, what does this mean for lawyers and law firms?

First, even more support for generating great content.  Whether your create blog posts, articles, videos, presentations, alerts, newsletters, etc. – you should be focused on generating and sharing content that your target audience will find relevant, useful and interesting.  Great content is key to raising your profile, enhancing your reputation, and being found online.

Second, be careful about SEO vendors and consultants.  There are many terrific companies (home town favorite – Slingshot SEO) that provide value, but hiring the wrong one can backfire if the tactics used trigger this new penalty.

Third, if you haven’t already done so, fully integrate social into your online efforts.  Having your content shared by others across social networks is a strong signal to the search engines that the content is indeed great.  Make it as easy as possible for people to find and share the content that you generate.

Ryan Bowers

Founder of and author of the RFPattorney Blog. Over 8 years of experience practicing law, including past experience at an international law firm, a national law firm, and a small firm. Currently GC and VP Operations for large mechanical construction company. Midwesterner, home renovator, golden retriever wrangler, new dad, Wolverine, & avid hockey fan.

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