A Year of Bad Law Firm SEO

Gyi Tsakalakis
August 13, 2013

Had a rough year with your SEO? Hopefully it hasn't been as bad as it's been for these law firms.

A little context.

As is not uncommon for search agencies to do, we track a variety of search engine rankings.

While we don't put an emphasis on rank tracking, it can be useful to see more general trends. Which can provide insight into which strategies and tactics are working and which are largely useless, or even damaging.

One area we have been tracking for some time is the keyword universe for personal injury terms related to Chicago.

Number of #1 Rankings for 2 Chicago Personal Injury Law Firms

In the post image above (which I have also provided below) shows a little over a year of rank tracking for two law firms and their rankings for some competitive chicago personal injury terms.

Chicago-personal-injury-attorney-rankings

The "Current value" is the number of these terms that these two law firms currently have number one positions for in organic search. "Maximum value" shows the maximum number of number one rankings these firms had at their height.

The chart represents the trend of the number of 1st positions the firms had over the last two months or so. As you can see, both firms have lost almost all of their number one rankings over the last year. Ouch.

If you plug these sites into Open Site Explorer, it's pretty to easy to see what's going on here. Heavy use of paid online press releases, directory submissions (some paid) and some seriously over-optimized anchor text links from some seriously spammy sites.

In fairness, some of the links that have been built may have been, at worse, gray years ago, but with Google's more recent updates, have moved into the clearly violate quality guidelines column.

And perhaps, these firms paid for their SEO work many times over. After all, it only takes a few major injury cases to pay for a marketing campaign many times over.

Of course, many of you think this is exactly what SEO is all about.

And if you talked to the attorneys and marketing people at these firms, they would probably argue that this stuff worked, until it didn't.

And had they taken this aggressive approach on a microsite or "throw-away" domain, they might have been able to rationalize it.

But these are the firms' primary websites.

And unfortunately, these examples are not exceptions. Looking at the dozen or so websites in this space for which we have data, the overwhelming majority have suffered massive rankings losses.

Admittedly, some of these weren't pushing the SEO envelope.

Search engine results are highly dynamic and levels of flux have been relatively high this past year. And of course, there are some firms that aren't investing in organic search marketing at all. So, it should come as no surprise that many of these sites fall away.

If you're participating in aggressive SEO tactics, and it's "working" for you, let this serve as a cautionary tale. Google is catching on to many of these techniques.

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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