Google has been busy this summer updating its algorithm, and it should come as no surprise as many of the updates that have been taking place have been on our radar for months. In this week’s episode, we discuss their potential impact on your law firm’s digital marketing strategy and what you should consider doing about it, which again shouldn’t come as a surprise if this is not your first time listening to our show.
We all knew of the much-anticipated page user experience update. Still, we take a moment to review the two code updates that sandwiched it along with a two-stage spam update that also generated some positive impact on the SERPs. Who saw the most disruption, and how it affected the legal industry.
Since we are already on the topic and will also kick in this summer, starting September, we discuss Google’s new three-strike Google Ads policy that can take get your PPC strategy shot down in less than 90 days and how to avoid that from happening to you.
Resources mentioned in our episode:
- July Google’s algorithm update recap
- June’s Spam update, what do you need to know about it
- Google Ads new three-strike policy roll-out
Send us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Liel: [00:00:00] Experience Update, June and July, core updates, spam update and the latest three strike policy in Google Ads. This summer has been anything but quiet in Google. Lucky for you and us, we have been paying attention. I’m Liel Levy co-founder of Nanato Media and author of Beyond Se Habla Espanol: How Lawyers Win the Hispanic Market. And this is In Camera podcast where we always have two fingers on Google’s algorithms pulse.
Liel: [00:00:56] Welcome to In Camera podcasts private legal marketing conversations. Welcome back. How are you today?
Grace: [00:01:01] Good. How are you Liel?
Liel: [00:01:02] Doing great, Grace. And I really hope that this time our audio is going to be sounding like it should, because last week I had a little glitch where my microphone was not the one feeding my audio into the system. And therefore the audio turned out to be not great because it was being recorded through my webcam. So I apologize for that to our listeners. But I hope you can understand and see that we still felt that we should publish that episode because the content was still good, particularly because it was about podcasts, Grace. And so now that we were back, I’m hearing that you were actually working the last couple of days in getting yourself mentioned in another podcast, which is great. And I think it’s kind of like makes a point to our conversation of the importance that there is and the massive opportunity for exposure that exists in podcasts. Right.
Grace: [00:02:01] It’s perfect timing. Right. Considering we just recently had a podcast about podcasting and getting involved in podcasting. So yeah.
Liel: [00:02:08] So Grace. This week, we’ll use it to do a brief recap on some important news and updates that have been happening, particularly related to Google over the past 30 days. To get us started here, Grace, I would like to first mention, for those of you who may or may not know, at the end of June of last month, sorry, at the end of June, we saw two spam updates from Google. These updates are very particular because what they’re trying to do is really combat fake websites or spamming websites from showing organically on the search results page. So the main objective of these updates. Is making sure that the pages that are getting listed are the right ones, right are legitimate and good quality pages for the users, and obviously it’s about removing spam and malicious content from being able to show up. And what it basically does is it audits and assesses in the case of law firms or websites to make sure that only websites that are playing by the rules sort of thing get to continue to rank. And the ones that are not obeying by the rules or by Google’s best practices, they actually get removed. They just basically end up losing their ranking. So it’s not exactly core update because it tackles particular spam activity. But it is interesting that it actually took place in between two core updates, one that took place at the beginning of June and then one that really followed as soon as the second spam update took place at the beginning of July. Well, you
Grace: [00:04:12] Know, just like we always say, big updates or any kind of updates in general, as long as you have your quality content and podcasts and whatever it is that you do and it’s quality on your website, this shouldn’t affect you. And Google comes right out and says the same thing. You know that if you’re following their guidelines, which have been posted forever, then you should be safe and secure in the knowledge that you are doing everything you’re supposed to do for your users. Right. It’s all about the user and that this should not affect you in a major way and that there’s no reason to, as Google actually recommends, don’t fix anything. Just go make sure to review the content that you offer on your site and make sure it’s the best content that you can create because that’s what Google is going to reward.
Liel: [00:05:01] Yeah. So let me just be a little bit more explicit, because some people may be saying, well, what does it mean, best practices? Why would something be considered spam? Because there is, I think, kind of like a fine, thin line there that for some, particularly those who are outsourcing their web development services and braciole strategies to third parties, to agencies may not necessarily understand that there be there may be some kind of like black hat SEO techniques being used on their website that could actually get you penalized, get their site penalized when these type of implementations are further pushed to try to track down this kind of activity. So here’s a few examples. Automatically generated content, right? So that’s not a good practice. We’ve talked about it a million times. It’s all about having quality content, original content, not duplicated content, not the content that’s been manipulated in order to seem unique or interesting. But it’s not, right. For instance, a term that comes to mind is keyword stuffing,
Grace: [00:06:06] Anything like that. I mean, if you understand what black hat tactics are, you know, think of all the things that you used to get pissed off about because you were clicking on something and it took you the wrong thing. That’s not what you were looking for.
Liel: [00:06:19] No, absolutely. And I think what you need to keep in mind is that those were strategies from many years ago that used to somehow generate results. Not anymore. Right. Inserting personal injury lawyer all over your website is not going to get you ranked for personal injury lawyer. So that’s an approach, an outdated approach. That’s one hundred percent shouldn’t be present on websites nowadays. Right. So automatically generated content actually looks beyond that. But that would be one of the things that would definitely trigger now insecure redirects. Again, we’ve just talked about poor-quality content. We mentioned here hidden links or text, which is the massive one, particularly for black hat SEO. All right. I mean, hiding links. And that’s a real bad practice, irrelevant keywords, just as we’ve mentioned. Also, keyword stuffing and abuse of structured data markup. Right. So as you can see here, these are all kind of like strategies that are trying to play out Google and Google is saying, no way. We are going to make sure that we are updating our spam detection protocols to ensure that none of those sites that are abusing these get to rank. So, Grace, here is what I am saying and why I think it was important to bring this up as happening in between two audits is because I think what Google is trying to do and again, I have really no other argument, just my own personal experience with these two last core audits and the spam update, sorry, core updates in the spam update is that Google is trying to rather than having a huge, massive update like it was normal up to a few months ago for core updates to be rolled out to break it down into stages. So the impact is not so catastrophic. Right. Because one of the things and I think you’ve mentioned this right before we jumped into this conversation is that people kind of like had that mentality of panic mode when a core update would come out because it could really substantially disrupt the organic traffic of your website. And unstabilize your business and people did not appreciate that, right, even even if after a few days or a couple of weeks, things would settle and rearrange themselves back to be kind of like where they were before, it was still very disruptive and particularly for bigger firms, bigger organizations that are really driving a significant amount of traffic every single day, this is very problematic and I think that has backfired. So Grace, I think you were mentioning something about that that you’ve read on people, you know, kind of like getting pissed off about having to rely and depend so much on Google.
Grace: [00:09:32] Yeah, it was actually read an article just yesterday, I think it was. It was this week from another legal marketing company basically telling lawyers that, you know, you can’t be held to basically held hostage. Right. That all of your marketing cannot be in everything Google because of these core updates or really any type of updates. And you and I have always said that really that you should never have one bucket where all your marketing is going into, you know, and that’s you as a digital marketer. That’s what your bread and butter is. So, I mean, for someone like you to even say that, I think people need to really listen to that. But if you’re doing it right and you have the information, the content that people want on your website. Yes. There shouldn’t be a big effect. But you will see rankings going up and down. And Google said that they’re like when we released a small update and then even when we released the large core update, rankings will go up and down based on the algorithm that’s being pushed out and not to freak out too much, but that’s the way it’s going to go. Again, you can’t ever have all of your marketing in one place, all your eggs in one basket. So if you did do that and it’s causing significant havoc on your advertising and because your rankings are no longer coming up or something like that, well, then there’s something that you need to look at, right? That’s definitely something that has to be assessed. Look at the strategy that you’re currently using in your digital marketing and your marketing as a whole and try not to put all your eggs in that one basket. You can’t do that anyway. I don’t know. What do you think about that?
Liel: [00:11:14] I do agree with the fact that, you know, it’s important to diversify. Right. And not to solely be relying on organic traffic for your site. I’m sorry for your marketing efforts. I think it is very important to actually have a strong paid strategy and paid strategy, it’s not just limited to Google ads. I think your brand awareness and in general social media campaigns are going to be equally important. But what I do think, however, is that we are starting to see that at least these Facebook updates were not very, very disruptive and particularly not for the legal industry. Right. We’re not amongst the category with most volatility, neither on the June or July core updates. And so there shouldn’t have been that much fluctuation on the rankings. And the other reason for that is just doesn’t really have to do a lot with the way in which Google is rolling out these updates. But it’s also a lot of it has to do with the fact that Google has been very anticipatory about what are the factors that are going to be looking into implementing and favoring as they’re rolling out under a new core updates. So that I think a lot of the people who are actually do in our working on the rescue strategies have had enough time to assess, to address and to prepare for. And obviously, these are the pages that are ranking frequently on the first page. And that’s potentially why the volatility hasn’t been crazy. Now, just in case you are curious as to OK, so who suffered in June and July. Science and to an animal like science, pets and animals, those really so a lot of volatility on both core updates. Shopping and beauty was only during the July one and then during the June one, we had auto and vehicles. Right. So you can see legal or law or it’s not part of those that experience some serious volatility. Now, Grace, what really happened on this update? So let’s have a look.
Grace: [00:13:45] I don’t know if you want to start, but there is one thing that I think was kind of super interesting that I kind of came across as we were talking, actually. And that’s no more preferred domain setting. Yeah. So I don’t know if people really know what that means, but if you did anything with your you URLs like the actual domain of the lake law firm Dotcom or the lake law firm Dotcom, you know, just by itself, those are the different URLs that you could tell before you could tell Google what your preferred URL was. Now they’re trying to basically simplify it by. Saying that they’re going to either choose for you or that’s just the domain that pops up and that’s the main that it’s going to be, they call it canonical. Like, I don’t even know. It’s hard for me to pronounce sometimes.
Liel: [00:14:40] You’re right. Yeah.
Grace: [00:14:43] What do you think about that? That seems interesting.
Liel: [00:14:47] Yeah. No, I mean, Google wants to streamline things and as with everything. Right, just like we did with page speed or with mobile optimized sites, they’re trying to get web developers to streamline and start setting their sights in the direction that Google knows is best for user experience. And that makes all the sense in the world to me. Now, here are a few things right, just to close on the July update. So as a whole being categorized as one of the milder recent core updates, and it really shouldn’t be coming as a surprise after everything that we’ve mentioned, a large portion of the volatility that was, right, it was not a lot of volatility. But what was there was actually corrections and reversals from the previous update in June. And that’s another thing, right? I mean, we know that that’s kind of like the way things may look like after a major car update, it’ll take some time to reorganize, to rearrange or to reverse some of those issues. And so now during the July core update, really the main disruptions that took place in June were addressed and that is what causes the volatility. It was as a result of correcting what actually got disrupted in June. And just as a reminder to everyone, I mean, you know, it’s still recent. This core update happend on the first couple of weeks of July and pieces are still falling into place. So don’t panic. And most importantly, continue working on your website’s page to experience on your speed on creating amazing content and keeping it error-free. And I think, you know, as long as you’re doing those things, you’re probably going to be fine. What are your final thoughts on the core update?
Grace: [00:16:55] The final thoughts are Google is trying to make things easier for people more locally, right? I mean, covid hit a lot of us on a lot of levels and, you know, things went remote and things become a little more difficult for a lot of people. So there are just two things that I want to mention that they also did. That’s not necessarily part of the update, but what they’re doing to make things easier for people locally and also as a whole. And that’s they added local webmaster conferences because they know people. It’s difficult for people to fly internationally. So these events are going to be aimed at helping local experts, you know, to cater to the wants and needs of their actual customers within their regions. I don’t know if you heard about that, but that’s something that they’re going to be bringing to the local areas, I guess kind of like the Google guides, right? Because they do the Google Guide events and stuff. For those of you that know anything about that, that’s just like you know, when you review food places and locations and stuff like that, you can be a Google guide. So they’re taking the webmaster conferences local.
Liel: [00:18:03] Yeah, that’s great, Grace. That’s really, really nice to hear. So I want us to shift now to another. I would say it can fall under the Google recent updates, and that is a new three strike policy that Google is going to be introducing to Google ads. And so this is actually quite revolutionary, Grace, because right now there is not such a thing. You can still get penalized for any violations that you’re doing in Google, but there is really no such thing as a particular guideline as to how you’re going to be getting penalized, Grace. So the first thing that I need to point out, so this is particularly for Google ads as a whole. Now, let me read out for you. What is Google saying about this? And it’s a little bit of a long paragraphs, but I still think that it’s important. So it says wording and strikes will be issued for violations of our enabling dishonest behavior, substances and dangerous products or service policies. This includes ads promoting deceptive behavior or products such as the creation of false documents, hacking services and spyware, as well as tobacco, drugs and weapons. among other types of content, so Grace, obviously you would think common sense, I don’t do any of those things. The thing here is that it’s not just that those are kind of like some examples that Google is putting out there and what happens with Google, particularly when we’re looking at some practice areas that handle things like debt relief or debt consolidation or bankruptcy and even sometimes with personal injury, sometimes with sexual abuse. Right. These are very grey areas for Google. Right. Because it’s hard sometimes for Google to tell the difference between a legitimate campaign that it’s trying to protect and defend people or users who are trying to scam people.
Liel: [00:20:19] And so it’s going to be very important, right, to very carefully look at how these campaigns are going to be set up and how the copyright is going to be set up and having a very, very good communication with particularly ad managers, with their Google account representatives to make sure that they’re proactively addressing any potential red flag that Google may perceive because this could actually be flagged as violations. Right. And so why is the tree strike format to be taken seriously? Well, because as you kind of expect after you do a third strike, something will happen. And in this case, your campaign is going to get closed, like shut down. OK, so let me do a quick walkthrough. What are the stages here? OK, or the first violation is going to be a warning, right. So you’re getting notified. There is no penalty. So that’s kind of like an extra chance that Google is giving you, because after this warning comes the first strike. And to actually qualify as a first strike, you need to break, the same violation you need to make the same violation that you got the warning for, and that needs to happen within 90 days of the first one taking place. And at that point, there is a penalty, and that would be that the account will be placed on a temporary hold of three days and your ads are not going to be running. So that is 10 percent of your month. Now, you’re not going to be able to run ads because of that penalty.
Liel: [00:22:07] Now there is a second strike and then it’s basically the same criteria. You need to have violated the same policy within a 90 day period. And now the suspension is going to be for seven days. And obviously during these seven days now, you’re not going to be able to run ads. So now you’re losing close to twenty five percent of your monthly advertising period on this penalty. And then the third strike. Right. Which as you can imagine, is a violation of the same policy within a 90 day period, you actually get your account suspended for good. So, Grace, this is, as I’ve said, something to be paid attention to, because if you are not acting proactively when you’re getting those first warnings and rectify them and get them to hopefully not be considered warnings, you’re going to be looking at a potential penalty on your the next thing that comes after your warning, the first strike right. And that could be, that could certainly be disruptive for a lot of law firms who have faced these type of challenges. So I think this is a super important, super-relevant something that needs to be talked about and something that needs to be acknowledged, planned too. I think it’s very important and it’s a great exercise to, you know, whether you’re doing it as part of your recertification, of your Google ads or certificates to also review the policies that Google has and proactively plan out as to how can you make sure that you can keep your campaigns running without triggering Google. And when Google gets triggered, then having a good and fast and proactive response.
Grace: [00:24:02] So I actually have personal experience with this. I don’t know if you recall, many, many years ago, actually, we had a manual spam action that was placed on the Gacovino and Lake website. We had hired. I don’t know if you remember that.
Liel: [00:24:17] OK.
Grace: [00:24:18] And yeah, so what happened was we had hired somebody to do so because we wanted to get involved in actually it was hired by the law firm. I was on, I think it was fairly new actually, maybe a few months in. And I was told that this person was really good at SEO for maritime law specifically. And so to give them access, but to watch obviously what they’re doing on the website. So I did I gave them access and I allowed them to make certain changes. Comes December twenty third the day before Christmas Eve. I see. And because I get notifications obviously from the search console webmaster side of it and I got a manual spam action placed on the Gacovino and Lake website.
Liel: [00:25:14] Yeah. So it seems it’s similar to manual actions Grace, which are more related to your website as a whole. And so basically kind of like this is a similar thing, but this now is addressing your ads. Yeah but, but I think, you know, the impact, the comparison, the gravity of it, I think it’s comparable because a lot, a lot is at stake. And particularly for those law firms who are actually heavily relying on their paid search campaigns. You know, a three-day suspension can represent a lot of missed opportunities, leave alone a seven-day suspension level on a full or complete suspension, which we do need to acknowledge that may not be so easily overcome by saying, well, I’m just going to go ahead and open a new account right. Because, well, I mean, you know, it’s not impossible, but it may not necessarily be an easy solution to take. And Google may, still, the moment that it identifies it as being related to your business may potentially do something about it. We don’t know. Right Grace. I mean, those are kind of like, why push things to the extreme? Why do you want to figure out if that’s going to be the case? So I think the takeaway on that one is just look at your track record. Look how frequent and how many suspensions you’ve been getting lately, what has been the reasons for that and start strategizing as to what you can do to try to avoid those, right?
Grace: [00:26:48] Google came out with something, you know how they are doing, these local local webmaster thing. They also came out with a new SEO myth-busting channel. So it’s cool. Yeah. So they’re on their Google search central YouTube playlist. It’s a new SEO myth-busting series. So there is something that people can do to actually see what’s going on. You can find out, I mean, because there’s so many SEO companies, there’s so much information out there. And Google realizes that this could be a problem for people. So they put out a new channel or a series in their channel that’s going to allow people to figure out why and see directly.
Liel: [00:27:27] Yeah, that’s nice. And that, again, is going to help for making sure that particularly for the things that we’ve just mentioned are now about the core updates and such to stay on track, understand the reasoning, understand the impact, and particularly, I guess, learn Google is all about wanting to educate users about what is it that they can do to to keep themselves relevant or to gain relevancy. Right. Because it’s all I mean, in the eyes of Google, it’s all about like, do you deserve to be the first website to rank? It’s not about what you want or what you think you deserve. It’s about what Google thinks is going to actually help most users. And you need to earn it. Right?
Grace: [00:28:09] It’s an award system.
Liel: [00:28:11] Kind of. Yeah, I agree. It almost it’s almost like an award system that Google rates and says, well, who is the site, who is the business that is most relevant for the search query that actually deserves by its own merits, not by trying to play out the system to be there.
Liel: [00:28:28] And I think, Grace, as you were saying here, Google is trying to, you know, as they’ve mentioned and they’ve been communicating since the beginning of this year to shift towards transparency, shift towards letting users prepare themselves, understand and be more in control as to what’s happening, on the search campaigns and on their websites. And I think that’s a move towards that. Right. I think it’s good to know that this step is being taken to try to get fraudulent players out of the system, which I think it would be great because unfortunately, there are still a lot of I would call them not legitimate advertisers getting away with campaigns. And I think hopefully this will help reduce that. But at the same time, you just need to make sure that you’re not leaving any room in your own campaigns to potentially be affected by it. So, Grace, I think it’s time for takeaways based on what we’ve done. And you’ve already come with some good ones as we’ve gone through the conversation. So why would you make take away no one Grace.
Grace: [00:29:44] Don’t freak out, because legal was not one of those as greatly affected. Right. It was other related industries. Right. You’re OK it’s not the end of the world, if you saw your rankings go a little bit up and down, move a little bit. Remember, they did two updates. It was the one for spam stuff. And then the next was more of a core and they released it one to fix the one before. So if you saw some weird things happening on your site, obviously pay attention. But don’t worry so much that that happened at that time frame. So we’ll all level out. And again, legal was not one of those as affected.
Liel: [00:30:25] Yeah, absolutely. Great. And just one that I want to point out here, because I don’t think it’s going to be worth its own take away is if you lost some ranking and somebody else now is a ball for you, then have a look. Right. Realize a little bit how their website looked like. Right. How is it structured? What are the different things that they have? What are some of the websites that are linking to this website, which probably you do need to use SEO focus tools like SEMrush or AHrefs or SpyFu. But, you know, if you’re working with an agency such that that information should be available to you. So that’s that’s just one thing, right? It’s not it’s not it’s not a top secret. It’s just looking at what has convinced Google that is worthy of a better rank. So take away number two.
Grace: [00:31:19] So to me, take away number two is there are so many resources out there, right? I mean, I just went over two pretty big ones. I can make them their own takeaways, but I’m not going to because I think it’s just pay attention that Google does give information. And if you’re not 100 percent comfortable with what you’re reading because it can. Very technical, which actually that’s what Liel and I were talking about before we even started, we were debating whether we wanted to get into this because of how technical it can be. But there are resources, and I say this all the time, reach out to someone like Liel who can give it to you in layman’s terms that can explain these things that are happening to your site or that are not happening, if that’s what you’re looking for. Right. So there are resources out there. Google themselves have the local webmaster conferences. They have their search central YouTube, and now they also have the SEO myth-busting channel. So get out there, ask for the information, read up your lawyer. If you’re if you’re legal and you’re a lawyer, you’re used to research. So go ahead and reach out and get that information that you you need to make sure that your business continues moving. Right. Websites are not set it and forget it. Ads are not set it and forget it.
Liel: [00:32:35] With that being said, Grace, I also think, you know, while it’s important to understand and educate and have a general understanding, it is also important that, you know, SEO and search engine marketing as well as much as they’ve become popular and we’re aware of them and we know they exist. And it’s something that every business has to acknowledge and deal with. And a lot of information has been put out there by nature. They’re not meant to be easy, right. And it’s good to have a general understanding of how it works and what are the trends, what are the things that Google is saying are important in relation to those strategies, but from there, to really try to have a granular understanding of things, it will mean that you’re actually detracting from what you’re actually should be doing, which is helping your clients. So I am just saying be realistic with how much understanding you want to have of things and how valuable can it be to actually have the right partner to help you get your SEO or pay per click campaigns taken care of in a way that you can still leverage those two very powerful platforms without having to break your head against the wall, trying to figure out what’s happening there because there is nothing to feel bad about it.
Liel: [00:34:08] These are not easy things that one should be able to understand just by reading them for the first time or the second time or third time without actually having any hands on experience. Right. Even Grace, to be very honest myself, a lot of the things that our SEO strategists explained to me, I really need to to get visuals and get them to explain it to me as if I was a kid, because it’s not really easy, right? It’s not it’s a lot of technical. There is a mix between Web development elements to SEO technicalities that it can get complex. So, again, understand the value that having the right partner is actually generate for you by keeping you on the loop of all these things without having you have to go through the motions of do the entire research yourself. But I’ll give you a point that it’s one hundred percent good to stay updated and be aware. And there is resources that make it now easier to do that. So we have one more takeaway, Grace.
Grace: [00:35:16] I think for me, the the last takeaway is, even though I kind of said it at the beginning, I kind of want to close it off with the same thing. And that is, you know, don’t freak out when these updates come out. I know I said it again and again and again, and I’m going to say it again and again because I think that it’s hard for us, as in the legal service industry, not to freak out when there is a big change. And any time Google comes out with a change, it feels like a major change to everybody, even if your rankings aren’t as affected. But you’re wondering when it’s going to happen or if it’s going to affect your rankings at some point. So I know that it’s not really a take away, but it’s more of put yourself in the right frame of mind when you see these updates come through. And when we do these podcasts about updates and Google, because it’s not the end of the world, it’s just a reminder to review what you do have and make sure it’s up to par up to the user’s experience and that you’re giving the client what they’re looking for, because that is the ultimate goal of anything that you put out there content wise. And that’s what Google wants.
Liel: [00:36:28] Yeah, well, Grace. That’s really good. And it’s a good point to always make. I will transform this into an actual takeaway because I think it’s super important to bring up the three strikes on pay per click, I think it’s one hundred percent necessary for you if you have and you’re running campaigns to make sure that you are proactively preparing for this rollout, which is 30 days away from us, and be proactive about not getting violation penalties because this could actually have really, really bad impact on your campaigns, on the visibility of your ads. You want to make sure that this does not affect you, and you do that by making sure that you review your campaigns where violations have been raised in the past and strategize. How can you avoid making them or take a proactive approach as to how can you alert Google about anything that may be perceived as a violation that it isn’t. So Grace, with that being said, I think we are putting an end to another conversation and we’ll be back next week with another one.
Grace: [00:37:48] That’s right. Next week, another podcast for everyone.
Liel: [00:37:51] All right, Grace. Take care. Have a great rest of your day.
Grace: [00:37:53] You too, Liel. Bye.
Liel: [00:38:00] If you like our show, make sure you subscribe. Tell your co-workers, leave us a review, and send us your questions to email@example.com. We’ll see you next week.