Search Engine Roundtable reported last week that Google insider, John Mueller, has started to give very heavy hints that the release of Penguin 4.0 is on the horizon. This is both good news and bad news for all you SEOers in the legal world.
You probably remember that Penguin is Google’s “filter” that penalizes what it terms as “spammy” links. Once you have a Penguin penalty on your rankings it stays there until Google runs Penguin again. Even if you do all the right things to clean up your link profile, you won’t get any benefit for your hard work until Penguin comes around again. Google hasn’t run the Penguin filter for 85 weeks. On the other hand, if you have been taking risks with the quality of links you have pointing to your law firm’s website, you have very little time left to get on the right side of Google law before Penguin comes around. So, everyone focus.
The easiest way to get rid of bad backlinks is to use the Google Disavow system. Unfortunately, you may have tried this and encountered problems getting the system to accept your file. If you have had that kind of trouble, you are not the only one. Here is a quick tip on getting around the problem. Apparently there are certain characters that the Disavow system has problems with and if one of the URLs in your file contains one of those characters the whole file gets thrown out. If that sounds similar to a problem you had submitting a file for your law firm’s site, try submitting the URLs one line at a time.
This study raises two worrying aspects behind link perception. If backlinks are assumed to be paid for, users won’t click on them. Web surfers are notoriously resistant to advertising. The second problem is that paid links are one of Penguin’s targets. These are classified as “spammy.” As any lawyer knows, sometimes perception is more powerful than reality. The rankings of many Web pages have been hit as collateral damage, not because they have done anything wrong, but because the tricks they used to attract ranking points sailed dangerously close to actual contraventions of Google law. If you get a backlink on someone else’s site and they make it a nofollow, then you won’t get any link juice passed to your site, and the link will be worthless in terms of rankings.
Let’s move away from the troubling topic of Google penalties and think happy thoughts. If you are worried about any dodgy link-building tactics that a hired hand may have performed on behalf of your law firm’s site, then maybe it is just better to go back to the drawing board. If you paid someone else to create a link profile for you, try planning your own link building strategy. Once you have your goals in place you can check through your existing back links and disavow any that don’t fit into your new plan. Google always states that the best way to keep on the good side of Google law is to create genuine, targeted, trick-free marketing strategies for your website. If you do that, you should be safe from Penguin.
Once you have your law firm’s strategy in place you need to identify the appropriate, relevant sites where you want links from. Then you’ve got to persuade the people that run those sites to actually give you a link. This is easier said than done, particularly when you consider that Google law says you can’t pay for those links. Actually getting the right link on the right page of the right site is a stumbling block that most link builders come up against. This article gives some tips on overcoming that strategic obstacle.
Here is news of a cheat that seems to be working very well. This strategy could easily be implemented for a law firm. For example, you could write about 10 different sites about your practice area, by focusing on different types of clients. Then, you would give mutual links across all your sites. However, this is a dodgy strategy that might get hammered by Penguin 4.0. Hold off on trying anything like this until Penguin has been around. Given that it has been 85 weeks since the last Penguin run, you are likely to have plenty of time to experiment with cheats once Penguin 4.0 has finished its rounds.