It’s a brand new year and a brand new algorithm. To unlock the potential of SEO in 2024, law firms must adapt and update their digital strategies to rise to the top of the SERP.
Google values content that serves people, not just search engines—and the search giant is better than ever at determining whether your content is actually helpful. You’ll have to forget about outdated practices like keyword density and prioritize authenticity and relevance instead.
Changing SEO dynamics are especially crucial for law firms in competitive markets. Whether you’re a seasoned player or new to the game, these changes are guaranteed to affect your online success in 2024.
Google’s algorithm is constantly updating, and you should, too
In 2022, Google updated its search algorithm over 4,700 times, averaging more than 12 updates daily. In 2023, updates were equally frequent—and among these, four were significant.
Two of these were core algorithm updates publicly disclosed by Google, and two are vital tidbits that should affect your SEO strategy going forward.
Update to the Helpful Content System
Google’s Helpful Content System, a crucial aspect of the algorithm, saw a notable update in 2023. Focused on rewarding user-centric content, this system emphasizes original and helpful content.
The goal of this update is to elevate pages where visitors find satisfying answers without the need for additional searches.
This update prioritizes content designed for people, aiming to create a positive user experience.
Notably, the helpful content update is weighted. Sites with a surplus of unhelpful content may face stronger penalties, whereas those primarily featuring helpful content stand to gain more benefits. While Google considers various signals to rank websites in a complex process, this update is significant.
Update to Google’s spam algorithm
In October 2023, Google rolled out its counterpart to the helpful content update: an update targeting spam in search results. It primarily focused on reducing visible spam, including issues like cloaking, hacked content, auto-generated, and scraped spam using automated systems and AI.
This update encourages website owners to comply with Google’s policies and avoid practices like hidden text, low-value content, aggressive monetization, deceptive practices, and redirects. It will penalize sites with manipulative language and unhelpful content.
Update to the Quality Rater Guidelines
There was also a critical update to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines in 2023, providing valuable insights into what Google considers to be high-quality content.
While not part of the algorithm, the updated Guidelines can help you understand how Google evaluates website quality for specific searches.
The guidelines transformed from E-A-T to E-E-A-T, adding Experience:
- Experience: Authors or entities should demonstrate firsthand experience in the discussed topic.
- Expertise: The author’s knowledge, skills, certifications, education, and credentials affect their credibility.
- Authoritativeness: Google gives more priority to sites or pages that are known authorities in their field.
- Trust: Accuracy, honesty, and content should have the reader’s best interest in mind.
For law firms, these guidelines are especially crucial. That’s because Google places law firm websites under rigorous scrutiny since they fall into the “Your Money, Your Life” category (aka they impact a reader’s financial or overall well-being).
In 2023, a noteworthy revelation came straight from the mouth of a Google engineer: clicks from Google Search are now officially recognized as a ranking factor by Google.
While clicks were suspected to be a ranking factor, it had never been confirmed. This insight is crucial for SEO strategy, as it sheds light on a previously undisclosed element in Google’s ranking criteria.
Artificial intelligence has impacted SEO, so it should affect how you optimize your website, too
AI is used by Google to assess your website, alongside real humans. The good news is that you can use AI to optimize your site, too.
AI for saving time on tasks
AI excels in automating SEO tasks to save you time for more important activities. For instance, you could use AI to generate titles and descriptions for new pages or to analyze your click-through rates for strategic insights.
AI for competitor analysis
AI can help you understand why your competitors are succeeding online. Analyze their content strategy, identify topics on a page, and look for content strategies you can borrow and improve.
AI for content creation
You can expedite content creation by using AI to help you generate topics in related clusters, create page outlines, and produce content for editing.
This can include generic content about your practice area, such as basic information about car accidents and personal injury that would be publicly available. AI can also help you create content with a unique spin in your specific brand voice—if you’re smart enough to train AI or prompt ChatGPT.
Google’s official perspective on AI content is that you will not be penalized for it as long as it’s high-quality and helpful.
Be warned: It’s critical to use human oversight whenever you’re generating content with AI. A human touch ensures that your content is accurate and strategic, which builds trust with your readers.
Tips, tricks, and insights for SEO in 2024
Now, let’s ensure that your firm’s digital strategy planning is properly accounting for these critical SEO changes.
Law firm content strategy in 2024 should be people-first
You must implement a people-first content strategy to succeed online in 2024. Content should be helpful for readers, rather than geared toward search engines.
- Audience adaptation: Tailor your content to audience expertise, adapting your language to their level of knowledge. No jargon.
- Unique value focus: Distinguish your firm by offering insights that emphasize your unique approach, especially if you can back it up with firsthand experiences.
- Ignore keyword density: Engage your audience naturally rather than stuffing content with keywords to satisfy the search engines.
- Search query satisfaction: Answer the user’s query fully and immediately, addressing the information they need promptly and thoroughly.
- Comprehensive pages: Create pages that encompass a topic in its entirety, eliminating the need for users to seek information elsewhere—especially for FAQ-based and informational search intent queries.
- Helpful beats trendy: Content should serve your audience’s needs, avoiding trends for the sake of traffic.
- Quality over quantity: Avoid rehashing content already covered by other sites and prioritize quality content, and be vigilant about overseeing any AI-generated content for accuracy and value.
Show your authenticity and relevance
Demonstrate your expertise to Google according to E-E-A-T, and it will give your firm a major SEO boost in 2024. Here’s how to accomplish this:
- Client reviews and testimonials: Collect and publish genuine feedback from clients to demonstrate your authenticity, being careful to protect their privacy.
- Earned media and backlinks: Be newsworthy and earn backlinks. Seek out journalists to get media coverage in your local community.
- Link to authoritative sites: When citing sources, link to experts to reinforce trust and accuracy. For instance, link to a .gov site when sharing statistics.
- Case results: Showcase successful (and shareable) case results on your website to establish credibility.
- Credentials and awards: Highlight any awards, success, and certificates you’ve achieved. This will demonstrate your authority to both clients and search engines.
- Regular updates: Keep your content accurate with constant updates. From your business hours to legal information on past blogs, ensure that you are a trustworthy source of information.
- Business details: Be bold about sharing your business details, like your address and your contact information for your brick-and-mortar office space. Use schema and structured data to help Google understand you better.
- Digital security: Use a secure site with HTTPS for user safety.
Bonus Tip: Wikipedia links are incredibly powerful in establishing trust with Google, but they can be very difficult for law firms to earn.
It’s a lot to take in, but the roadmap is clear.
SEO success in 2024 is possible with investment, persistence, and expert support for your law firm. If Omnizant can help your firm future-proof your SEO strategy, please reach out for a consultation.