It’s 2021, which means that it’s time to deal with reality, and while 2020’s shadow is still casting upon us. But it’s a new year, and there are plenty of legal marketing opportunities to explore if you are up for a challenge to take your law firm to the next level.

Google ended 2020 by releasing another massive core update in the first half of December. Like it often happens during and after core updates, law firms can experience fluctuations in their website organic rankings. Our conversation covers what considerations you should have about what could have impacted your rankings and what you should do next.

But first, If you haven’t yet made your Google My Business listing a central part of your law firm’s marketing strategy, you are missing a world of opportunities that could potentially generate more results for your law firm than your website.

So don’t let another day go by without leveraging the power of GMB and getting familiar with SMITH, Google’s new algorithm.

December 2020 Google Core Update and Its Impact on Attorney MarketingQuestions to consider if your site is hit by a core update

Send us your questions at ask@incamerapodcast.com

Enjoy the show? Please don’t forget to subscribe, tell your coworkers, and leave us a review!


Liel: [00:00:00] Welcome to a new year in the age of predictability, where a long search queries questions and in-depth understanding of long documents are the essence of Google’s supersmart new algorithm. I’m Liel Levy, co-founder of Nanato Media and this is In Camera podcast, where we like to call Bert and Smith our friends.

Liel: [00:00:51] Welcome to In Camera podcast, Private Legal Marketing Conversations, Grace. We’re back. Twenty twenty one. How are you.

Grace: [00:00:58] Good, how are you. Twenty, twenty one.

Liel: [00:01:01] Do you believe leave it? We made it.

Liel: [00:01:03] And I must say, we’re recording this on what is the day today, Grace. Is it January 8th? And I think it just feels that we’ve already halfway through 2021. Right. What a week.

Grace: [00:01:18] It does feel like that Liel, I got to say. 

Liel: [00:01:23] And leave aside all of the madness that is happening around us, but I also coming back to work right after the holiday break. So how’s it been for you?

Grace: [00:01:36] It’s been a little overwhelming but in a good way. You know, everyone is getting everything together. Everyone wants to start doing things. And that includes, you know, with persist as an example. It’s such a new product with the new features that we have added. So all these people want to kind of get on board right now. So it’s been good.

Liel: [00:01:55] Tell us a little bit about those new features, because I’ve been wanting to even make an episode about that. And we will. But just give us a little tease as to what these new features are.

Grace: [00:02:05] So we’ve added besides the fact that we now have our own database. So if you don’t have a case management software or CRM, you can use our system.

Liel: [00:02:14] Oh, that’s great.

Grace: [00:02:15] Yeah, that’s first and foremost. Then secondly, with all the cybersecurity talk we’ve always had, we have increased the security between all the different systems to speak to each other.

Liel: [00:02:26] Very important.

Grace: [00:02:27]  Within our own system. Yes. And third, and what to me is the most exciting besides obvious security and stuff like that is some of the new dashboards that we’ve included, as well as admin capability to create their own campaigns. So there’s quite a few really cool features that people are going to have more control over their own communication campaigns.

Liel: [00:02:51] That’s tremendous, Grace. And I’m so happy to hear that the release of this new upgraded version is going out to a ton of demand. And so that’s fantastic. We’re looking forward to hearing a little bit more about that now.

Liel: [00:03:04] Grace, talking about dashboards and analytics. Right. The first thing that I would like us to jump in here, it’s kind of like get caught up a little bit on what happened during the last month of twenty twenty and a few new updates that there are, particularly around the Google world. Right. Which is pretty much where we spend a lot of our time. So why don’t we start with an update on Google my business performance reporting, because there has been a new update, Grace, which is quite significant. Right. We’ve been talking quite a lot about how important it is to know your analytics and to make sure that you keep track on what’s actually driving traffic to either your law firm, address phone calls or website visits. And so these new updates on Google my business performance reporting, have some benefits, but at the same time have some disadvantages. So here is the great thing now. It gives you up to six months of insights, whereas before it was only giving you three months. So that’s really, really good because it’s more data that you can actually use to better understand the trajectory of traffic that you’ve been getting for Google my business. Another thing that is wonderful here is that it also gives you the search terms that actually prompted your Google my business to appear, although I believe we cannot see whether these Google mu business search queries came from maps or came from Google directly.

Liel: [00:04:30] But let’s be honest. Most of the legal search queries come from Google and not from Google Maps. So that’s one thing. But on the other hand, there is another thing that we need to acknowledge is that we are now missing metrics such as website clicks and driving directions. So what we do get the data for the past six months is the number of calls and messages that have been received through the platform, but not the website visits and driving directions, which is actually very valuable. So here it’s a good argument to why is important to have tools like Yext or such that can actually give you more analytical data of your Google My business performance, because it’s massive is tremendous. Right. We’ve talked about it so much. Grace and Google my business in many cases can be more powerful than actual websites. So with that being said, Grace, I would like to make it our first, Grace help me here for a moment. How do you call those promises that you make to yourself at the beginning of the year?

Grace: [00:05:39] Resolutions.

Liel: [00:05:40] There you go.

Liel: [00:05:40] New Year’s resolution.

Liel: [00:05:42] Great. There is when my ESL really kicks in right at the beginning of the year. So those New Year’s resolutions, let’s make the first ones to be optimizing our Google my business listing. Grace. I think we do. I think we made it one of our resolutions for last year. We make it another one for this year. What do you think?

Grace: [00:06:05] Definitely it’s become more and more important. And it’s something like you said, we’ve been talking about it forever. But it’s also something that I’ve always thought about since all the other industries I’ve ever worked. And you need your GMB listing to be prime. And you should have been posting. You should have been doing all the things that you should have been doing because it is and has become just as powerful as a regular website. Agreed.

Liel: [00:06:28] One hundred percent agreed here, Grace.

Liel: [00:06:30] So, Grace, why don’t you give us three of the things that sometimes people miss out when thinking about Google my business opportunities of optimizations that in reality, as you said, these are low hanging fruit, but you just need to acknowledge them and make sure that you are dedicating time on them.

Grace: [00:06:49] So just to actually call out the specific things that people can do on their Google my business listing, like you said, low hanging fruit would be add products.

Grace: [00:06:59] In this case, your product is your practice area. So add your images, add your practice areas, add descriptions, add information that people are going to actually see what you do, what services you provide. Because this is a GMB listing. It’s a listing about your business.

Liel: [00:07:14] Yeah, absolutely, Grace. I totally agree with you that such a missed opportunity and like it works both ways, right. It makes your Google my business more prominent and at the same time it feeds back to Google so much valuable information about exactly what is it that you want and care. Right. So not doing it is a massive missed opportunity. The other thing that you also should consider is that obviously, particularly when you’re looking at your Google my business listing on desktop, there is always going to be at the bottom of the Google my business listing. There is going to be other businesses of interest and most likely there is going to be competitors of yours there. So wouldn’t you want for your listing to be longer so that that list of competitors is less visible to users when they’re actually seeing your Google My business on the top of the page? Leave alone, of course. Great as all of the valuable information that they can find directly on the listing that can prompt them to take a call to action right there in there, which most likely can be a call. And so it’s such a valuable asset that you just need to dedicate a little bit of time. And it’s so user friendly. Grace, I went yesterday to check out the new performance reporting dashboard. It’s so user friendly. It’s really as simple as using your email inbox.

Grace: [00:08:29] And honestly, Google has continuously tried to update their GMB service for businesses. So much so that, like you said, it’s become so user friendly that if you’re not doing something on it, it’s only because you just don’t want to at this point, really, because it’s so easy to use. It’s not like you have to set up Google Analytics necessarily the same way you don’t have to set up a search console the same way. It’s not all these pixels. And, no, it’s very simple. It’s attached to your address, attached to your location, attached to your services. And as long as you explain all of that, how can you not get the traffic? Because you’re giving it to Google. You’re telling Google. This is what I do.

Liel: [00:09:08] That’s right. And I believe you’ve mentioned one more which was posting. Right. So great. Can you explain a little bit what does it mean posting on Google my business.

Grace: [00:09:17] So when you post on Google my business, you generally can post pretty much like a regular blog post in a way, except that it kind of gives a little bit more information about other things about your business as well. And it looks different. Right. So it just when you used posts, quote-unquote, posts on Google my business. Does it still disappear?

Liel: [00:09:43] Well, it actually stays on a scrolling, it stays like on a scrolling carousel in a section of your Google my business, so people can actually go and see previous posts that you’ve had on the platform. So it’s inevitable. Yeah. And you’re saying you can use it for several things, right? I mean, obviously, the most simple use is just use it the same way that you would use Facebook, you can share updates, you can share links to articles. You can make it another platform where you’re basically sharing your content. But you can also use it to run specific promotions. If you’re running events, if you’re going to be participating at charities, if you’re partnering up with a local business for something, that’s a great place to actually go in, share information not only to the community but to Google as well, because then Google will take this information index at Lightspeed and then make it visible to people who may be interested or that Googles things that their intent could align to what is it that you’re doing? So that’s Google my business, Grace. Very powerful. And we cannot stress enough. So make sure that it’s somewhere there on your tasks to do in the first month of twenty, twenty one. Revisit Google my business optimized and that’s a good one. Grace. So now we need to talk here about another topic that kind of like flew under the radar of In Camera podcast during December. But it was quite a major event in the world of digital marketing, and that’s the December core update.

Liel: [00:11:12] So, Grace, there was just a little bit what do you know about this core update? When did it happen?

Grace: [00:11:19] So Google’s update apparently was one of the biggest and as most of you know, they usually do their updates every three, sometimes six months. But generally, it’s every three months, right?

Liel: [00:11:31] Yeah. Yeah, that’s true Grace. So that made this one stand out a lot from the gap that there was from their last huge core update that it was in May.

Grace: [00:11:41] May, right. So if you all recall, we did talk about the huge core update because it did change a lot of things for a lot of people in terms of rankings. And it dropped a lot of people, some of the people gained or benefited from it. And so this is another huge, massive core update that was done in December 2020. And data providers say that it was even bigger and on a scale than the May twenty twenty update, which we all knew was pretty large to begin with, because we kind of all felt it somehow some way.

Liel: [00:12:11] Yeah, there was major, major fluctuations, Grace, on the, particularly on the first days of the of the rollout, which I believe it was around December 3rd. As usual, it lasted about two weeks. So by mid-December, moreso around 18, it wrapped up, it finished up. And so now that we’ve been a few weeks into it, things, of course, have started to settle down. But as always happens, right? Whenever there are core updates, people panic because it’s not unusual that you can see big fluctuations on your rankings and see your websites traffic being meaningfully impacted. So as we are entering a new year and we know that they were going to be new core updates, right. With the frequency is now a little bit kind of like up in the air. We’re going to continue to be a three month, four months sort of calendar or are we going to start seeing core updates now, having longer gap periods between them? That’s one of the things that we are going to unveil throughout the year.

Liel: [00:13:13] But I would like us to use this as an opportunity to go over some of the points of considerations or questions that Google usually asks users to consider when they see that their rankings have fluctuated after a core update. So for those who do not know Google, usually doesn’t give you specific guidelines as to what are you supposed to do technically to get you back to where your rankings where. And so what they do do, however, is try to explain what are the parameters of consideration that their core update may be addressing. And so for you to use that information to analyze your website against it, and how is it that you think that you can align it more to be able to answer yes to a series of questions that Google asks developers and SEOs to respond? So Grace walk us over some of these questions, please, because I think it’s not going to be very surprising some of what we’re going to be hearing, but it’s still worth taking the time to read through them.

Grace: [00:14:29] Yes. So, everyone, it’s so important. This is something that we’ve been talking about forever. This is what we always talk about as marketers. Google doesn’t hide anythinh. OK, meaning they’ve told you over and over and over, they’ve told us as businesses, they’ve told us as users, they only care about the users. In the end, right? And what does that mean for us, provide information to the user that they want. So here’s some consideration, specific questions that they want you to think about as you look at your website, if you had problems with your content or rankings, does your content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis? How we always talk about white papers and not the usual have you been in a car accident.   No, we want original content and they keep saying it over and over and over again because that’s the key to getting users to your site, number one, right?

Liel: [00:15:32] That’s right. Absolutely good.

Grace: [00:15:35] So the second one it has to do again, we keep talking about content. Right. And I’m sorry, but content is king. It has been and always will be. And I’m not saying that there’s other things you can’t do, but content is always going to be there and it’s never going away, as is proven by the first three or four questions that we’re going to give to you right now. So the second one is talking about, is your content providing a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?

Grace: [00:16:02] In other words, you’re not just spraying and praying, right? You’re not just posting something that’s like a paragraph that you potentially copied and pasted from something else or just wrote and has no value and doesn’t actually give you a true analysis of some something.

Liel: [00:16:16] Right, Grace. And a little bit of what we were talking about a previous year. Does it actually answer a question? Is this actually relevant to something that a user may be searching? And is there a clear, concise answer in the document?

Grace: [00:16:29] That’s right. And that all goes back to the FAQs that we tell people all the time, you know, what questions they ask you because they ask you every day and constantly. So use that as the insightful analysis, information that they’re looking for, the complete information that someone’s coming to your website for. And so that’s the next to talk more about content. And so this third one talking about is it providing an insightful analysis or interesting information and does it draw on other sources? So that’s the fourth one.

Grace: [00:16:58] And I’m combining those two because. I said, don’t copy and paste it, saying that very specifically, are you getting something and rewriting it? Are you spinning an article that you found? You can’t do that. It needs to be original. Google knows this. It knows the content. It knows what’s out there. It’s indexing constantly.

Liel: [00:17:19] Yeah.

Grace: [00:17:21] So what comes on the heels of that has to do with your kind of your CTAs, your calls to action and to me a call to action is automatically embedded in what they’re looking at is the headline. Right. So your headline, your page title, is it descriptive? Is it helpful? Are you trying to make it click bait? Because we all know what click bait is. You click on something because that seemed an interesting title, but then you get into the article and it has nothing to do with what the title got you there for.

Liel: [00:17:49] One hundred percent Grace. Page titles, headlines, superimportant Grace both on the continent and on the side of thing is of great, great importance to Google. So I agree exactly what you said.

Grace: [00:18:03] And just a side note for everybody. Every tidbit there’s a character count that they look at. So you should have a certain character count in your titles and your headlines. And of course, as I said, do not make it click bait. And that’s actually the very next thing they say. Don’t be exaggerated or shocking in nature. Don’t put exclamation points all over the place. Make it what it’s about so that people read it and understand that’s what they’re reading and that’s what they’re getting to.

Grace: [00:18:29] So next and the last two are very, very specific, but they’re to me super important is it is the kind of page that you want to bookmark. Would you share it with a friend? Would you recommend it, or are you just writing content to put content up?

Grace: [00:18:44] Right, Liel? 

Liel: [00:18:46] Particularly on these two last points, they seem to be focusing more on the actual user, like put yourself in the shoes of the user and think about it. Would you bookmark this page or would you link it out to someone that you know because you found it so helpful and interesting? So that’s one thing and the other one. Right. Which goes back to talking a little bit more on the aspect of authority, the authoritativeness. Did I get it right? On the authority side of things, Grace. Right. Is really much asking. Would you think that this is good enough content that a magazine encyclopedia book newspaper would want to reference? So thank you for going through all of these questions, Grace. And this is kind of like just the first batch of questions that Google throws at you and say, wait, wait a minute before you panic about, look, analyze, internalize these and really understand whether your website and the content in your website meets with kind of these criteria. Right. And if not, what steps can you take to make it more aligned to this?

Grace: [00:20:01] And it doesn’t have to be difficult, right? I think it’s important for people to remember. What do you look at? Who are you still subscribed to by email? Your email alerts? Right. I’m subscribed to specific Google Alerts, specific publications because I want that content. Think about your content. Are you writing content that could go in that?

Liel: [00:20:18] That’s right, Grace. So that’s really a good way to respond and create an action plan for whenever you had an impact on your rankings after core update. So to summarize that part, if you’ve been impacted by it. Well, I mean, it’s not the end of the world and it’s still a little bit early. Things can still shift. Secondly, and as we’ve said last month over and over again, particularly focused a lot on your content for twenty, twenty one re-optimize your pages, particularly those that are getting most visitors. Make sure that those get frequently updated so that they can deliver a better user experience and better information.

Liel: [00:21:09] So that’s important, Grace. Now, another thing that kind of like comes also together with the core update is the arrival of the Smith algorithm. Grace and I know many of our listeners right now, this must be the first time that they’re hearing about Smith. But let’s take a step back first and talk a little bit about Smith’s predecessor and potentially steal the current algorithm being used by Google. Because the first thing that we need to say about Smith is that we don’t know whether this is the current algorithm that is being used for data analysis. Right. But we do know more from Bert. And what we know from Bert is that it is an algorithm that was built to understand words within the context of sentences. Right. And so that’s what made it very smart and made it very A.I. oriented in the sense that now Bert was able to read intent. Now, Grace, what Smith is bringing in, adding to the equation that the Bert did not have is its capacity to understand longer pieces of content and understand the entire document. Right. So it’s basically a revamped version of version of Bert. Is a smarter version of Bert, and it’s aimed at being able to address bigger pieces of content because that was one of the trends as well. We talk about where we’re going to start seeing more and more and more in 2021 is longer pieces of content, outranking shorter pages. But again, it has to be quality content. It has to be quality content.

Liel: [00:23:04] This is just in the whole conversation around Smith and whether it’s being used or not or such emerged right around November Grace. We don’t know if after this core update this is now the algorithm that is being used or not. That information, it’s not official, but we can understand that where Google is heading is to creating a much smarter algorithm that is more capable of further getting deeper insights about bigger pieces of content, all with the purpose of being able to target content above any other thing. Right. Because that’s one of the biggest shifts that we’ve seen over the past couple of years with Bert, is the shift from keywords to intent. And that’s extremely important. And it doesn’t just limit to the SEO world. It’s also pretty much having the same amount of impact on the ads world.

Liel: [00:24:06] So, Grace, I think for our first episode after a week break for us, we certainly have covered some of the most meaningful updates from Google, at least for the past month or so and Grace, what would you say some takeaways. You know, just off the badge, first week in twenty twenty one, just getting back to work. We heard a few things here about Google my business. What would you say?

Grace: [00:24:34] So my first two are going to be about Google My business in the third one will be about Smith and some of the A.I. stuff going on. So my first one about Google my business is just go in and add your practice areas. Something very simple. If you haven’t done that already, I think that it’s super important to just exploit what is out there already available to you because it isn’t that hard.

Grace: [00:24:56] And even if you just and in this case, you could kind of copy-paste your practice area information with a little bit of tweaks, obviously, to gear it towards somebody landing on your service page on Google my business. So in this case, just exploit your Google my business, make sure that you use every tool that you have available to you. It’s super simple to use and add your practice areas to Google my business.

Liel: [00:25:21] I totally agree with you, Grace. It’s simple. You just need to have a graphic for the product service practice area, add a title to it and a short description, which potentially you already have the information and content created in your practice area pages.

Liel: [00:25:36] So it’s just a matter of tweaking it a little bit. Right. Making it more useful for the size and format that you were going to be using it for and just adding it up. Really, it’s an hour task.

Grace: [00:25:54] Yeah. And that’s actually what kind of my second takeaway is it has to do with that just included as part of your social media, add it to your content calendar, make sure it’s part of your process and marketing strategy, because that’s as simple as that. Just make sure you post on there weekly and that it’s part of your current. Program.

Liel: [00:26:14] Yeah, and particularly, Grace, if you are creating content for your website and you are putting our blog posts, you have posts for social media, you can certainly adjust and adapt. It can also serve for Google my business. And again, this sends great signals to Google that will just help you as an overall. While we still in the Google my business side of things, and particularly this is for law firms that are a little bit bigger in size. One area that I often see that gets ignored is a Q&A from Google users. It’s extremely, extremely important, as much as it is for you to respond to reviews, for you to monitor your Q&As, and you are actually, as a business, responding to any kind of question that falls on your Google My Business Q&A. Don’t forget that users can actually ask questions directly from Google my business. That’s one of the uses that Google gives users in each listing. It allows to ask questions to the business. And so you need to be monitoring those questions. So you are in a timely manner. Responding back to the user and other visitors can see that you are responsive A, B Google can see that you’re responsive. That’s a major factor.

Grace: [00:27:36] And that’s why I said that about social media, because Egis included as one of your content plans and you do not copy and paste your social media platform from Facebook to Twitter to this to that. So you wouldn’t do that in Google my business either. It would be its own content, its own information. And yes, of course, you can use some tweaks from what you already posted on Facebook and wherever else, but it needs to be for GMB. So I agree with you completely. And that includes QNAs. Exploit it. It’s there.

Liel: [00:28:03] Yes. And again, there again, if you’re a little bit bigger in size, these questions come on a weekly basis and such. There are great tools in our agency we use Yext for monitoring questions and answers. And it gives you an easy place to actually respond to any of these questions. So Grace, that’s great. What other take away do we have?

Grace: [00:28:25] Last one has to do with the Smith I, I know a lot of people. It’s kind of hard when they start hearing algorithms in this that the other they get a little confused and maybe a little leery of what’s going to happen going down the road. Don’t think of it like that. Just think of it like when you type in and you start searching for something, it gives you a prediction of what you’re looking for. That’s exactly what Google’s trying to do. It wants to see if it can predict more and more and more what you’re looking for and give it to you so that you as users always get what you’re looking for without having to search too hard after page one.

Liel: [00:29:00] That’s exactly right, Grace. I think user, Google is one hundred percent now focused on intent. They want to make sure that they take into consideration several aspects of what a page has to offer. A lot of them. Right. What around all of those questions. Right. That Google wants web developers, SEOs, content writers to actually respond in a way to be able to meet what they consider to be important or critical factors to get the visibility that you want.

Grace: [00:29:32] Exactly. So that’s the takeaway is just think about it like that. Don’t think about it as this crazy algorithm that’s going to mess things up for, you know, think about it in context of you trying to create content that people want to see. And it’s as easy as looking to see how when you type something in what it’s predicting that it’s going to happen.

Grace: [00:29:51] And that’s all I got Liel.

Liel: [00:29:53] Yeah, absolutely Grace. And so the thing here is, you know, as you’re starting the New Year and starting to think about the content, new pages that you’re going to add, what projects are you going to plan for your website this year? Right. I mean, are you going to build a new website as a whole, keep those things into consideration. Don’t just focus on the design of the website. Very important that you revisit the actual content, which is one of the things that we’ve encountered law firms doing, is that they just want to get a new website that is faster. They want to get a new website that has better user experience. They want to get a website that has a nice video at the very top of the homepage. And those are great things. But if the content element is not going to get optimized to this new trend, an approach that Google is having towards predictability, then you’re probably not gonna get great results out of these websites organic traffic.

Liel: [00:30:55] So, Grace. That’s our first episode for Twenty Twenty one. Welcome to this year. A lot of exciting things lined up. I must say that despite this rough beginning to the year, there’s a lot of great things to look forward in this year. One of them is, of course, what are we going to be doing here around In Camera podcast. So stick around, because we’ll be back next week with another conversation, right?

Grace: [00:31:20] Right.

Liel: [00:31:21] All right. Well, thank you very much, Grace.

Grace: [00:31:23]  Thank you Liel.

Liel: [00:31:26] If you like our show, make sure you subscribe. Tell your co-workers, leave us a review, and send us your questions to ask@incamerapodcast.com. We’ll see you next week.

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