Good things take time.

If they don’t take time, chances are they aren’t very good for you. Well, that principle applies at least when considering organic search engine optimization for law firms. When looking at search engine giants like Google, Yahoo, Ask, and Bing, they can be a bit like congressional government. No one over there likes things moving too fast, and they try and keep anyone from making a fast one on their search page results (SERPs).

These guys, and their algorithms, aren’t dumb. They know when you’ve skipped 20 pages in a day, cutting to the front of the line. If you are personally responsible for your law firm’s web site, you need to start asking questions if you are near the top of page 1 within a month. There is a chance that the web development group building your site, promising stellar search engine results, has done a few underhanded things to make that happen. In the SEO business we call this black-hat practices.

What might this include, you ask? Well, it can be anything from white text on a white background, to excessive keyword stuffing, use of shady link farms, or duplicate content. It may all smell like roses for the first few months but once the search engine authorities, the true gatekeepers online (Google, Yahoo, Ask, or Bing), catch up to you it can be game over – literally.

Consequences of black-hat practices

Well, there is an array of things that can unfold after a few months of illegitimately riding high on your search results. At the very least, a company like Google will eventually take full stock of how your site is manipulating their search algorithm and they will dock you accordingly.

Consequences may result in a sudden drop in the search results. We’re talking hero to zero. As fast as you rose, you can find your firm’s site right back there on page 20 of personal injury lawyer (insert your city or town).

In severe instances, a company like Google may even blacklist your site (and domain) from their search engine, entirely. Having your domain barred from a search engine is equivalent to ripping the sign off the front of your shop. Unfortunately, there are very few ways to get it back. For Google they refer to this as “the sandbox” or domain purgatory. Really, it’s just hell if you have other marketing dollars invested billboards, business cards, email, and other collateral rolling around with your web address on them.

Keep it white-hat

If you are currently involved with an SEO-based web company that is building your law firm’s next website, keep an eye on how fast you are rising and question the techniques that are getting you there. Inquire about how they are organizing your information, keywords, and in-bound links. Never be afraid to ask questions, and then ask some more. In the murky realm of search engine optimization there are a lot of bucks to be made, a lot of grey space to work within, and a great deal of brand equity on the line for your firm.

Posted on October 3rd, 2010