Imagine the following situation:
You’re an attorney who’s spent tens of thousands of dollars investing in a law firm website. You’ve changed SEO companies several times in the past five years, each one promising they’ll fix the problems the last company created. And each company keeps their promise – but only for a little while. Any headway you make seems to get wiped out when Google tweaks an algorithm. Your website is so far down in search engine rankings that you end up being dependent on pay‐per‐click advertising while you hope that, this time, the SEO company you’ve hired can recover your rankings.
This isn’t a situation I made up – it’s one I’ve seen before, and it’s far too common. The reason I’ve seen it so often is that, until very recently, the spoils of SEO went to those who took major risks and engaged in bad practices. When search engines weren’t as smart as they are now, blackhat SEO practitioners found ways to bend the rules and reap the rewards.
But things are different now. Look at Google from a business perspective for a moment. Google built its empire by giving people what they needed – relevant answers for the questions that they have in the form of search engine results pages. There’s a reason Google has the leading market share: among search engines, Google is the best at returning the results most relevant to user queries.
So then, it makes sense that Google is particularly interested in stopping untrustworthy websites from dominating the first pages (or any page, for that matter) of the search engine results. And that’s why Google has worked so hard to create algorithms that fight webspam as well as creating a strict set of guidelines for webmasters to adhere to.
Let’s consider the earlier situation again. If the SEO companies your law firm hired were knowingly or unknowingly engaging in practices that violate Google’s guidelines, you may want to consider starting your website over from scratch.
I recognize that can be a difficult thing for an attorney to hear, especially after having invested so much money in the first place. When an attorney asks me how long a demoted site takes to recover, it’s a hard question to answer. It’s also an open‐ended question. If your law firm’s website was demoted as a result of having thin content, spammy links or otherwise, and you’ve begun fixing things by adding high‐quality content, it may be possible that Google’s Panda or Penguin will improve things– especially since we expect a real‐time Penguin update soon.
But that’s a big maybe. It’s not a given that Google has to include your law firm’s website in their results pages. Inclusion is a right that has to be earned through adhering to best practices. Some websites end up being restored in the rankings, and some never do.
For those who have experienced these sorts of problems, sometimes the right answer is starting over with a new website. It’s not always the right decision, but in a situation where your website is no longer ranking and there isn’t an obvious path to restoration, starting over with a new site may be your best bet.
At LawLytics, we often take over websites from other providers and platforms, and we work with attorneys who are in one of these two situations: either they hope we’ll be able to set things straight with their current website, or they’ve come to us for a fresh start. We’ve had success with both scenarios, though I often find myself having discussions with attorneys who have invested a great deal in their current website, yet currently have little to show for it.
In that case, I recommend one of two options:
The first possibility is to import the current site, start strictly following Google’s guidelines and take a wait‐and‐see approach, hoping your site will be restored. The second option is to start from square one with a new website that doesn’t have a negative history, follow Google’s guidelines, and build your website from the ground up on a solid foundation.
From what we observe, the second option not only has the potential to be faster in terms of restoring your site and your reputation on the web, but it’s also a much more permanent solution.
Here’s another hypothetical that nicely illustrates this point:
Let’s say you’ve chosen the first option because you’ve already sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into your site over the past few years. You want to give the site a chance to flourish. It’s apparent to you that the site has been demoted for particular reasons pertaining to Google’s guidelines, but you run into a problem: you’re not sure what other SEO‐related issues your site still faces as a result of your previous providers. And that’s a problem for the future of your website – even if the site manages to recover, there’s a real possibility that the website is built upon a shaky base.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to have that difficult discussion with yourself – the one in which you admit your law firm’s old website is a sunk cost with an uncertain – and potentially expensive – future, there’s hope. Surely, your goal for your website is to create a web presence built on a solid foundation; to have a website that is predictable and cost‐efficient. If you’re willing to have that conversation with yourself, you may decide that, logically, it’s time to start with something new.
The attorneys who seek our assistance have other websites on other platforms, and they’ve spent thousands of dollars on their SEO and marketing. And yet, by adhering to our guidelines and using our system, attorneys who start with LawLytics have seen major ranking improvements in just a few months. Best of all, they manage to completely outdo their old site, because they’re creating a lasting, appreciating asset that’s built without trying to “trick” search engines.
Your law firm’s website should be an appreciating asset that builds on itself. But when websites are done wrong, even if those mistakes were made long ago, what you can end up with an asset that’s toxic to your law firm, your financial security, and your future.
While there are no shortcuts to doing things the right way, the good news is that getting your website to be a maintainable and prosperous asset – one that will nurture your firm – isn’t nearly as hard as you’d think.