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Google’s Search Leak (for Law Firm Websites)

Posted on Thursday, June 6th, 2024 at 2:00 pm    

The Google Search Algorithm Data Leak

Recently, the digital marketing world was shaken by the news of a massive leak of Google Search ranking data. The leak, which exposed internal documents detailing aspects of Google’s ranking algorithms, left the SEO community and businesses, including law firms, amazed. We finally got a peek under the hood of the Google rankings algorithm. For over 32 hours, Google remained silent on the issue, fueling speculation among digital marketers and webmasters.

The leak contained a breakdown of thousands of ranking factors, some of which directly contradict what Google has publicly said is used by the algorithm. SEOs are thrilled to gain some insight into potential Google ranking factors. This event is particularly significant for law firms that rely heavily on their online presence to attract and retain clients as it gives them, and their competitors, insight into what they can do to improve their website’s standing in Google’s search results.

Below is our breakdown of the leak and recommended strategies for law firms.

Google Confirmed the Leak

After more than 32 hours of silence, Google confirmed the leak of their search ranking data. This confirmation came with a strong caution from Google against drawing definitive conclusions about their ranking system based on the leaked documents. They emphasized the importance of considering the context, currency, and completeness of the information in the documents. Google maintained their policy of not disclosing specific ranking signals.

We would caution against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information. We’ve shared extensive information about how Search works and the types of factors that our systems weigh, while also working to protect the integrity of our results from manipulation. – Google Spokesperson

The leaked documents provided a rare glimpse into Google’s search algorithms, revealing an extensive array of modules and attributes used in their ranking system. However, the exact weighting and application of these features remains unclear. So, even if all the all the ranking factors included in the leak are legitimate, without knowing how important each of them are, it is still impossible to recreate Google’s exact approach.

Speculation and Skepticism

The confirmation of the leak has raised skepticism among digital marketers, who are increasingly questioning Google’s honesty and transparency. Some of the leaks have been interpreted to contradict past statements Google has made about its ranking algorithm.

Many of their claims directly contradict public statements made by Googlers over the years, in particular the company’s repeated denial that click-centric user signals are employed, denial that subdomains are considered separately in rankings, denials of a sandbox for newer websites, denials that a domain’s age is collected or considered, and more. – Rand Fishkin, SparkToro

Many digital marketers are uncertain about whether all the leaked data was ever used, if it was merely for testing purposes, or if it’s even part of the rankings algorithm at all.

Whether the leaked documents are used in Google’s current ranking algorithm or not, we can still highlight some of the potentially positive signals attorneys can implement in their websites.

Potential Impact on Law Firm SEO

Despite the skepticism, the Google search algorithm leak could have significant implications for law firms and their SEO strategies. The leaked documents expose numerous potential attributes and ranking factors previously unknown or unconfirmed by Google that lawyers can consider implementing into their current digital marketing.

TSEG has helped the country’s top law firms stay competitive in search rankings for more than fifteen years.  We have experienced every kind of Google search update over the years, and we we have successfully maintained our clients’ strong positions.

Since before this recent leak, we have been making the optimizations aligned with Google’s leaked documents. Below is a breakdown of some of the most important takeaways for legal websites.

What Are We Doing For Our Clients?

      1. Producing well-designed websites. One of the leaked ranking factors, NavBoost, is believed to prioritize websites that are designed well and have intuitive architecture. So, in addition to improving engagement, our user-friendly website designs allow potential clients to find relevant information quickly, reducing bounce rates, increasing conversions, and hopefully pleasing the NavBoost factor in the algorithm as well.
        Bonus: See how we helped a law firm design a user-friendly search function for 100+ attorneys on their website.
      2. Improving site focus. The leak revealed that a potential ranking factor could be how focused on a topic a website is. This is outlined in a machine learning concept called “embeddings” that Google likely uses to determine what a website is about. Basically, the idea is to teach the algorithm to associate your law firm’s website with searches for your practice areas. This concept is applied to determine topics on individual pages as well as site-wide topics, and the relationship between the two. One way to harness this knowledge is to optimize heading text to align with your most valuable user queries and ensure that the content beneath these headings provide clear and concise answers to those queries.
      3. Content that earns more impressions and clicks. When it comes to ranking, it’s not all about conversions — clicks and impressions seem to make a difference to Google. This leaked information tells us that search results with increasing impressions and clicks are providing a positive user experience and a positive signal to Google. Though TSEG optimizes all of our client’s digital marketing around getting more cases, KPI’s like impression and click count should not be under-estimated.
      4. Content that is regularly updated. Google can tell when your website’s content is not up-to-date and may not show your website as prominently. Depending on how often your website’s content is updated, your website will be more quickly accessible by Google. In fact, the leak shows that Google is indexing the most frequently updated websites on faster storage mechanisms than websites updated on an irregular schedule. This means marketers should upload be uploading new content AND on a regular posting schedule. For legal marketing, this includes new textual content to practice areas blogs as well as richer media including videos and images that reflect fresh information from very recent dates.
      5. Regularly auditing content. As mentioned above, the leaked documents highlight the importance of several different factors that impact your sites scores, including topic scores, page quality scores, click scores, etc. To get the best average score for your site, removing low performing pages can be just as beneficial as optimizing new content. If you cannot optimize your outdated or poorly performing pages accordingly, seriously consider removing them.

Stay Up to Date with TSEG

The strategies outlined above have been implemented in our clients’ websites, ensuring our clients stay ahead of the curve, even before the Google algorithm leak.

Law firms can certainly apply these strategies independently, but partnering with TSEG means benefiting from our deep expertise and constant monitoring of search engine trends specific to legal marketing. With our proven track record, we can help your firm excel in the constantly-changing world of legal marketing.