5 Tips for Law Firms When Navigating Google’s December 2020 Update 

Date: April 14, 2021

Since the digital marketing landscape is constantly changing thanks to updates in best-in-class technologies and shifts in algorithms, every business with a web presence should be comfortable with being kept on their toes – especially when it comes to Google Core Updates.

What is a Google Core Update?

In a nutshell, core updates are when Google makes major changes to how its ranking algorithm works. These updates can significantly impact millions of indexed web pages. Based on historical data, Google typically announce and implement a core update once every couple of months.

Each time Google announces a new update, like the May 2020 update or most recently the December 2020 update, everyone from seasoned SEO experts to law firms, wait with bated breath to discover how it will affect them.

Google’s Update At-a-Glance

According to Google, the main goal of any of their core updates is to improve the quality of search results for – you guessed it – searchers. After all, Google is a search engine and its purpose is to present quality, relevant, authoritative information to its users.

Here’s a synopsis of the main takeaways from the December 2020 update:

  • Providing topic-relevant and authoritative content is paramount
  • User experience is more important than ever, and your website strategy -from SEO to general design – needs to be built with UX in mind
  • Resolving issues using technical SEO tactics will help give you a boost

5 Tips for Navigating the December 2020 Update 

Google’s advice for adapting to the updates? It’s pretty simple. 

  1. Make good quality content
  2. Use structured data to help search engines find your web pages
  3. Fix SEO issues that impact user experience

But the real question is, how do you make these tips actionable for your law firm? Here are five important things to focus on to get the best results for your SEO efforts. 

1. Make Sure You’ve Got Quality Content

Yes, just like Google said. But what do you need for Google-quality content? 

Your first step should be to conduct an exhaustive content audit, then review that content for E.A.T. factors. 

Expertise: Expertise means being able to correctly and efficiently provide information to your visitors. All of the content marketing on your website, from your blog posts to your practice pages, should be calibrated to answer your visitors’ questions. 

In short: be explicit, direct, and don’t bury the lede. Make your site usable. Make navigation intuitive, add useful links, and make it easy for visitors to contact you. 

Authority: For lawyers, this is especially important. Not just for Google, but your professional credibility as well. 

Your subject matter expertise needs to be reflected in all of the content you create including law firm case studies, social media posts, blogs, newsletters, etc. (And if you’re not creating content yourself in-house, you’re still responsible for making sure it meets the mark.) 

There are important elements to creating authoritativeness outside of using correct legal terminology and accurately citing case law. You need to demonstrate your authority through mentions, references, and links from other authoritative sources online. Additionally, you need to show your authority on-site by publishing case studies

Trust: This means more than having experts penning your (useful and usable) blog posts—although it’s that, too. It also means providing meaningful data privacy and security measures for your website visitors. 

One action item? Implement HTTPS on your site ASAP. And while you’re at it, consider getting your digital marketing up to speed with privacy compliance measures—à la the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act. While these measures don’t impact SEO directly, compliance is a big credibility boost for your visitors. 

2. Organize the High-Quality Content on Your Website

Your quality content is only going to take you so far if it’s not organized. That means you should take the following steps:

  • Review how your website groups its content by type and practice area
  • Make sure that you’re using appropriate keywords for pages
  • Set up URL structures that are short, simple, and keyword-rich
  • Implement a linking strategy so that Google can understand your website’s architecture

3. Double Down on Your Keywords

Although the most recent Google update focused on general quality, keywords are still a big part of making traction in search engine rankings. More specifically, you need to implement keywords that reflect user intent. 

An example: If you target the keywords “How to file a personal injury claim in New Jersey” as your main keyword, but you’re writing about how to file an insurance claim instead, Google is going to penalize you. 

4. Invest in Structured Data

Structured data is something that many sites don’t do, or don’t do well. But they should! Structured data, like Schema.org markup, helps Google better understand your site’s architecture so it can crawl it and rank it on SERPs. 

5. Fix Your Problems

SEO problems on websites abound, but they often get ignored or put on the back burner. Yet over time, these problems accumulate and make your website increasingly unfriendly to search engines. 

It won’t be long before a new Google core update rolls out—Google has already announced that they’ll introduce changes to their algorithm in May 2021. That’s right. Next month. 

This set of changes will combine Core Web Vitals and other user experience factors to rank for page experience. That being said, it’s hard to know exactly how results will play out. To avoid taking a hit, now is the time to refocus your SEO efforts. 

And as Google’s John Mueller points out, you don’t have to wait for the next update to see improvements in your ranking:

“Sites don’t have to wait for the next bigger update in order to start seeing changes. So from that point of view, I wouldn’t just, like, stop working on things once you think you’ve done the right thing, but I’d continue working in that direction. You should see at least some incremental improvements over time there,” he said.

Work with an Expert SEO Agency in New Jersey

Learning how to navigate Google’s algorithm changes can be challenging – but thankfully there are search marketing agencies that are here to help. At 9Sail, our team is ready to work one-on-one with you to build the right SEO strategy for your law firm. As a dedicated SEO company, we have years of experience and insight into legal marketing and the trends and best practices that drive the industry. Get started with a free site audit.