Down On The Farm

Gyi Tsakalakis
March 15, 2011

Green Acres we are here! Have you been content farming? Your website (and professional reputation) may be suffering.

If you follow what's going on in the world of search engine marketing, you likely have heard something about Google's Recent Panda-Farmers-Content Update:

Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on.

This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on. We can’t make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites. It has to be that some sites will go up and some will go down. Google depends on the high-quality content created by wonderful websites around the world, and we do have a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does.

In the wake of this most recent update, we've received a lot questions from law firms wondering how this might impact their website traffic. And the answer, like most other online answers, is that it really depends.

If you write your own unique website content and blog posts. If you research your posts and provided your opinion, analysis, or even remotely articulate something resembling a point, you will likely not be greatly impacted by this most recent update.

On the other hand. If you copy (or scrape) content from other websites. If you buy content that has been copied or spun via software. If you pull news headlines off of news sites and follow them with the first 100 words of the news articles. If you're using a blog feed of disaster (as Kevin O'Keefe warns against), your website or blog's traffic and rankings may be at risk.

While some of these "strategies" may have worked to increase traffic to your site in the past, they are likely to do more harm than good. Both to your search engine visibility and to your professional reputation.

So here's my advice:

Naturally, I can hear the question from many of you ‘What do we do now?’ So here are a couple of statements that we can make without question.

  • If you are scraping sites and mashing content together – Just stop what you're doing right now.
  • Make sure that any content that is published to your website or blog is unique. Also, if you are publishing articles on your blog and then syndicating them on other sites without altering them – You should stop doing that too.
  • If you're going to syndicate content that you have published to your own site or blog, only put unique content on your site; and wait before syndicating a modified version of your content elsewhere.
  • If you publish external content (i.e. guest blog posts, etc) make sure that it is unique.
  • If you comments turned off on your blog, turn them on. Moderate them. Respond to them. This tells Google, and more importantly, your visitors that you are listening and actually care that they visit your site. 

I recognize that online publishing may not be a high priority on your list of daily tasks. I also realize that not all lawyers are great writers. While I don't think that outsourcing content for websites and blogs is bad per se, you must have an editorial review process in place for any content published to your website or blog. You should also establish specific guidelines for anyone that contributes content to your site or blog. The truth is, more often than not, you will be the best at writing for your own law firm website and/or legal blog.

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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