Algorithm Penalty Recovery Tips for Lawyers

| August 06, 2013

panda algorithm

Google’s Panda1 and Penguin2 updates have changed the way search engines function. Unfortunately, those changes may have also been accompanied by massive penalties to some law firm websites3; around 12% of all search traffic was impacted simply by Panda’s initial roll-out. If you are among the many that were or continue to be impacted by Panda or Penguin, you do not have to completely start over. The tips below can help you to recover from a penalty.

Identify the Algorithm Penalty

Your first step should be to identify if you have been hit with an algorithm penalty. Though one can always look to see if a drop-off in web traffic coincides with the date of a new algorithm change, there are tools that can be used to give users in-depth information. One great tool is Fruition Google Penalty Checker4, which can give you information on whether or not a penalty has hit your site.  Another amazing free tool which helps to determine if your website has been hit by a penalty is Barracuda’s Panguin Tool5.  It syncs your Google Analytics data with an algorithm release timeline which helps determine which algorithm penalty may have effected your site.


Identify Useless Pages

One of the major causes of the Panda penalty is having too many unnecessary pages. While the past versions of the search algorithms might have rewarded having more indexed pages, today’s version of Google wants only quality content for relevant search queries.  A simple way to identify which pages may need improvement is to access your Google Analytics and look at which pages contain bounce rates exceeding 80%6 and also the pages with low time on site numbers.

Check Your Website Speed

The loading speed of your website can also draw the wrath of the search algorithms. If a website page loads to slowly then it provides a poor user experience and it may cause the consumer to  navigate away from the site entirely. You can manage your website speed7 by figuring out how to optimize a number of aspects of the site (including image size optimization8, plug-ins and redirects9), but, nevertheless, you have to start by determining how long it takes your website to load.

Google provides a great free service for determining site load speed called Google PageSpeed Insights10.  In addition to measuring your website speed, PageSpeed Insights will also suggest things you may do to improve your speed.


Prepare New Content

Poorly constructed content is often a major cause of penalties. As such, it is important to make sure that you have new content prepared for your website. Such content may include basic legal articles or information about your firm, but it must be useful to your consumers.  Refreshing content can also be a good strategy such as updating articles, adding information or re-publishing content.

All new content should:

  • Be original
  • Be written with proper grammar
  • Be well-researched
  • Be long enough to provide your clients with valuable information

When you are working on new content, try to take some time to make sure that it is evergreen. Content that is quickly outdated is content that is of little use to clients, which might cause them to ignore the page or to leave it quickly. Take the time to look at your ad to content ratio as well; your ads should be unobtrusive, and they should certainly never overshadow your content.

Remove “Bad” Content

bad content

Low quality content comes in many shapes and sizes. You should always take a moment to view your content and ask if it will be useful to the reader. If the content is not well-written and well-researched, then the content should be earmarked for removal. Likewise, content that serves no useful purpose to your audience should be withdrawn as quickly as possible.

If you cannot judge the efficacy of the content yourself, you should then turn to Google Analytics for your answers. Check your content pages to see how often a particular page is visited per month as well as the bounce rate from the page. If the page is rarely visited or the content has a high bounce rate (fifty-five percent or above), it should be safe to remove the page or rework the content.

In addition to bad content, you should also be on the lookout for duplicate content. The algorithm changes do not look fondly upon duplicate content, and re-working each page on your site to make sure that the content is original may help you recover from the penalty. When working on eliminating duplicated content, try to stick with the same rules established above for new content.  For duplicate pages, canonicalization is a good way to go.

Check Your Links

The way links are set up on your site might also be an issue when it comes to algorithm penalties. The simplest fixes are often those that have merely gone without attention for too long. Take a few moments to make sure that your links lead somewhere other than 404 pages.  The sites you have linked out may have moved at some point, or you may have moved pages yourself.  In either case, it is important to make sure that you have no broken links on your site11.

Having bad backlinks to your site can also hurt you.  It is important to use tools like Link Detox to determine whether or not there are toxic links to your site. As we have discussed before, bad backlinks can be very harmful12 to your site. Clean up links from your site to less desirable sites, and make sure links from those sites to your site are taken down as well.

Use Relevant Tools

link detoxThere are quite a few tools you can use to aid in the recover from a Panda or Penguin update.  As mentioned frequently, the Google Analytics will be one of the most important tools that you can use. You can use Meta Robots13 to deal with indexing issues, while others like Link Detox14 can help you to deal with bad backlinks15. The important fact to remember is that you should not attempt to do all the recovery work manually; there are tools out there to assist you with your specific situation.

Put in a Reconsideration Request

Once you finish optimizing your page, you can always submit a Reconsideration Request16 to try to get your penalty overturned. It may take several weeks to get an answer but should your website contain a manual penalty it is worth a submission.

Once you begin to undo the harm caused by the penalty, your final step is to stay up-to-date date on the best attorney SEO practices17. Doing so should involve the help of an experienced and proven agency, especially one that knows how best to work with attorneys. If you need help recovering from a Google penalty or you want to avoid a penalty in the future, contact us at