Answer: Ask Google.
Google provides a lot of great resources on its website and blogs about how to build a high-quality website that will perform well in its search results. And, since the Panda Update, they have really expanded their informational areas to include more helpful resources for webmasters. In a recent blog post on the Webmaster Central Blog, Google provides more guidance as to what counts as high-quality:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
Applying High-Quality Principles to Your Law Firm Website
These are some excellent guidelines for developing high-quality content on your legal website or blog. To me, the most important of these are trust and expertise. Attorney-client relationships are built on trust. If your website doesn't appear trustworthy, it's probably not only going to be unsuccessful in search results, it's also going to be unsuccessful in motivating your visitors to take some kind of action toward becoming a new client.
Ask yourself whether the content on your website appears expertly written, or whether it is shallow, containing very little critical thought or analysis. Again, shallow content will both hurt your search positions, as well as, increase the number of visitors who bounce off your website without taking any action.
Is your content shareable? In their efforts to "game Google" too many lawyers have resorted to simple direct keyword spamming. This makes their web content largely boring, spammy, and generally annoying. Even articles that aren't overly spammy tend to be generally boring. Ask yourself whether your target audience is likely to share your content. Social signals are becoming increasingly important to search engines. Don't assume that because you work in a largely dry and boring practice area that your content should be dry and boring. Find ways to make it more interesting and more shareable. Incorporate these law firm web content ideas into your online publishing.
Always remember that Google is constantly trying to find mathematical solutions to provide their users with the best experience. While they don't always succeed, trying to game Google is a losing proposition. Any short-term benefits that you might get from publishing cheap shallow content, are very likely to hurt you over the long run. Don't believe me, call up the folks at Demand Media.
Invest in your web content. Don't publish for the sake of publishing. Build trust and expertise into your online content. Committing resources to your online content is one of the best marketing investments that you can make.