SEO Ranking Upheaval

While there’s no official word yet – SEO nerds around the world are chattering about two large algo updates happening right now.  And I’ve fielded no fewer than three chats/emails/phone calls  from lawyers wondering whats going on.  So what’s going on?

The two different algo updates are impacting both natural and local search (and these two are driven by mostly independent factors.)  In the organic search world There’s speculation if this is a Penguin update, or the core algo update – and again, no word from Google confirming anything.  On the local side – and this is a bigger deal for lawyers – the overriding sentiment is this is a move to combat what has become a heavily spam laden channel.  You’ll remember we reported on the adult webcam site showing up in local for “Seattle DUI Lawyer” not that long ago.  And anecdotally, from the inquiries I’ve received, the changes to the local results have negatively impacted spammed locations.

KelimeInterestingly, at Mockingbird, we’ve been watching an (almost) across the board, significant increase in traffic for our clients over the past month. Among our larger clients – this has been an average 22% increase in just the past 4 weeks.  While this might be a seasonality issue (i.e. people getting back to serious business at the end of the summer) – it does make it hard for us to monitor these changes – but we’ll see what the results look like at the end of this week.

 

 

 

 

Google Core Algo Update this Past Weekend

Looking for patterns in web traffic for law firms between November and February is extremely hard given the natural fluctuations drop in lawyer interest that occurs over the holidays and the spike that occurs in January (and for divorce – sadly around Valentine’s day).

It just got harder.

Google confirmed that a core ranking algorithm update was pushed out over the weekend.  SEO nerds around the world are calling this “massive”.  Of note – this is NOT Penguin related.  So strap in, check your GA numbers and see what the impact is to your business.
John

 

Linkwheel Spam, The Truth Network and Judith Swift

The purpose of this post is to demonstrate just how far the search engines have to go in combating spam.  (Alternatively, its a callout to force the issue for law firms to make a very careful decision about where you want to stand on the black hat vs. white hat tactical spectrum.)

Mockingbird sees a lot of legacy spam tactics; in fact a large portion of our engagements start with what we internally call Janitorial SEO – cleaning up the messes generated by previous agencies to regain lost business. Every now and then we see one of those ancient tactics that still seems to work. What follows is a Link Wheel case study – a tactic that could have generated manual penalties back in the 2010-2012 era and should have been obliterated during the multiple Penguin updates, starting in 2013.  (And no, I don’t have a Dallas bankruptcy lawyer looking to burn this firm.)

First, let’s start with what looks to be a rudimentary implementation of a linkwheel.  Check out the Copyright notice in Judith Swift’s footer:

CopyrightOr should I call it the C o p y r i g h t (complete with spaces)?   Roll over each of those letters individually and whoo hoo…. its links to some new content on Judith’s page.  [And let’s ignore the geo spam while we’re at it, although I have to call out the spectacular brazenness of the “SEO by TheTruthNetworks.com” sitting right next to this.]

Linkwheel 2

Wonder what happens when I click through….

Linkwheel 3

That, my friends, is an old school linkwheel – a series of sites literally linked together in order to drive search engine traffic. Enjoy the disclaimer which includes “the links are provided solely as a convenience to users of this web site.”  Right, because someone looking for a bankruptcy attorney in Texas, might simultaneously be looking for a new home in Toronto, or a photographer in Colorado, or an English bookshop in Tokyo, or “premium virgin hair extensions”, which makes me wonder what non-premium, non-virgin hair is.  But I digress.

Of course, none of this matters – perhaps we’re really just looking at a dated legacy site – if the site doesn’t perform.  But we find that not only does it perform, it performs really well….

.  Linkwheel

That’s a pretty strong showing for Judith Swift – 2nd ad, 2nd local result and 2nd natural result.  So… is this really an active, functional linkwheel?  Are there unrelated sites propping up judithswift.com?  Let’s see….

Here’s one from a Canadian bridal boutique…

Linkwheel 6

And a retirement home directory…

Linkwheel 5

A Floridian patio furniture retailer…

linkwheel 4

My favorite is the UK based eyeglass retailer who includes the following disclaimer on their page:

The following links are not recommended or approved by us.  They are simply members of the same programme to help encourage visitors to each others sites…

Linkwheel 7

All in all, hundreds and hundreds of domains with these links – and you could suggest that perhaps they’ve gone through a disavow process BUT – the linkwheel is still alive and kicking on judithswift.com.

Summary

I don’t know Judith and I don’t have any clients in Dallas – for all I know, she knows nothing of her marketing tactics. I’m simply trying to demonstrate a) how very far the search engines have to go and b) that black hat tactics really do work – even tactics that should have been burnt years ago. This is why by-the-book SEO can be extremely expensive.

8 Questions to Determine if your SEO Expert is… an SEO Expert

bambino con baffi fintiWhat follows is an admittedly arrogant post.  And I’m transgressing on a principle I teach my kids – you can’t build yourself up by knocking others down.  BUT… I keep talking to law firms, flummoxed by the lack of results from their SEO experts, only to find some really rudimentary mistakes.  What follows are a few questions to suss out just how expert your SEO talent really is.

1.  My site was hit by a Penguin Penalty – how do I get my traffic back?

Platitudes around the disavow process are often the answer to this question – and while disavow is important (and easy, if not tedious) – it is NOT sufficient.  A Penguin Penalty recovery involves not just removing the offending links, but replacing the value they had previously delivered to your site with new links. White hat linkbuilding is the hard, creative, uncertain, expensive and most valuable thing SEOs can do.  In fact, it is so difficult, that many “SEOs” don’t even try.

2.  How do you use Screaming Frog?

Screaming Frog is an extremely flexible tool used to scrape and analyze key elements of a domain at the page level.  It can identify everything from your duplicated title tags to broken links on competitors’ pages.  As analytics rock-star, Annie Cushing said,

“if you aren’t using Screaming Frog, you aren’t really doing SEO.”

Wait for the awkward silence when you ask this question…

3.  What are the last conferences your staff has been to?  Have you spoken at any?

Technology is ever changing – and agencies have a responsibility to keep up with those changes.  Reading Search Engine Land is a good starting point, but ultimately there is nothing to replace being in the middle of the action, interacting with the experts at geek-centric conferences such as SMX, Mozcon, and Pubcon.  Ideally your SEO expert has spoken at some of these conferences (and I don’t mean pay-for-shill talks, thinly veiled as legal marketing conferences.)

4.  We’re writing about 4 blog posts a week, should we keep it up?

SEO “experts” often quote the tired “Content is King” refrain to answer this question and perhaps delve into the vagaries of long-tail theory.  The reality is, vomiting out more low quality content does nothing more than convince the search engines that your site is full of… low quality content.  This problem was greatly exacerbated by web marketers between 2012 and 2014 who did little more than parrot “Content is King” at legal marketing conferences.

The, “should I keep spewing out more content?” question is best answered by using Google Analytics to review your posts for traffic and links.   If you find that 90% of those pages have no inbound traffic, very few pageviews and that no-one has linked to your rewrites of local car accidents thinly copied from the local newspaper, you might want to switch up your content strategy. Conversely, if you find all of your content is seeing action, then by all means, keep writing.  Read more here: SEO Regicide.

5.  We use Yext, so we don’t worry about NAP consistency.  Right?

Yext is just one tool in the NAP consistency fight (NAP – Name, Address and Phone Number) and while Yext handles roughly 50 major second tier directories, it does NOT manage the top 4 data aggregators; Moz’s Local product does.  Therefore, if you’re relying on tools to improve your NAP consistency, it’s important to utilize more than one — both Moz and Yext, for example.  Additionally, both tools need to be proactively monitored and managed to have a real impact – especially if you are dealing with a name change, address change, cleaning up geo-spam or eradicating poorly implemented tracking numbers.  Finally, neither Moz or Yext handles legal specific directories such as FindLaw or Avvo.  Solid legal SEOs have a list of legal specific directories that require manual management as well.

6.  Are heading tags built into my site’s template?

This is a question you can diagnose yourself.  Just because someone can (poorly) code a website, does not make them an SEO expert.  Review the heading tags across your site to see if a lazy or uninformed web developer has used them to style the template.  We had one site with the H1 tag copied across every single page of his site.  Oh – and it read “original text”.  This issue seems so simplistic, yet I see it repeatedly.  To do this, you can view source and search for H1, H2, etc., install SEO quake into Firefox and use the Diagnosis button for a page by page review, or if you are feeling ambitious (and have a site with fewer than 400 pages), use the aforementioned Screaming Frog.

7.  We want to launch a new website focused on <insert specific practice area>.

This is a favorite request for website developers who pretend to be SEOs.  They’ll churn out “SEO optimized” websites upon request and delivery of a nice fat check.  Of course, they are missing the aforementioned difficult part of SEO: linkbuilding (see question #1).  The reality is, from a linkbuilding, NAP and citations perspective, marketing two sites is more than twice as expensive as marketing one.  And if you go off the deep end with a full blown multi-domain strategy, you’d better have a very deep bank account.  Multiple domains can be appropriate for a firm with disparate practice areas – say DUI and Family law – but note that you’ll be investing extra marketing dollars to push both of them successfully.

And for my bonus question, we get #8 about social media…

8. Will you help us get more Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers to help our SEO?

This goes back to another SEO theory that has been dead for at least 3 years – that social media popularity drives search results.  Multiple spokespeople from The Google have been crystal clear that this is NOT the case.  Note that there can be a correlation between the two – with savvy content marketers using their wide and active social network to push great content to key influencers, which drives links, which drives traffic, but… ignore the social media marketers parading as SEOs who suggest the key to ranking for “Atlanta Divorce Lawyer” is a few thousand more twitter followers from Uzbekistan.

Except for Pinterest.  You totally should do that.  Really – it works.   Trust me, I’m an SEO Expert.

What to do When FindLaw Pulls the Plug on Your Website

Want to see the world’s ugliest law firm website?

404 Coffman

That’s what Kendall Coffman’s FindLaw website looked like on Tuesday.  What follows demonstrates how Kendall was able to get his site (admittedly stripped down) back up and running with 21 hours.

1:27 PM Tuesday

I receive an email from Kendall.

I have been in a dispute with Findlaw for several months now, and Findlaw has decided to “take down” my website.  My site was www.sanmateobankruptcylawyer.com, and if you go there, you will see nothing except maybe error messages.

2:02 PM Phone Call

I give Kendall a call – what follows are my notes from the call:

Kendall is locked in to a long term contract with FindLaw after moving his website from a self made 1&1 website. He’s become increasingly concerned over the decline in performance of his FindLaw site – and has been in an ongoing dispute over the fees he’s being charged and the site’s underperformance. Now I think that part of Kendall’s problem is entirely exogenous to FindLaw – as the real estate market and economy have picked up, the demand for his specific practice area has declined. But, Kendall is concerned that his site was hit by Panda 2.4 in September 2011, but unfortunately FindLaw hasn’t installed Google analytics on his site – despite his bringing up the issue – so this is just conjecture at this point.  He’s also concerned the backlink package he purchased from FindLaw has resulted in low quality links which may be impacting the site negatively.  However, it seems that FindLaw has viewed his inquiries about his site’s lagging performance as an upsell opportunity.

“When I ask for help, Findlaw tries to sell me something to cause my bill to go up.”

We go over the services Kendall is receiving.

His monthly bill is $1,519.44 and includes FindLaw Premium Profile ($59.40), FindLaw Firmsite 333 C Website Package ($628.95), Findlaw FS Web Advantage Starter Plus ($348.36). At one point he was sold on blogging and added FindLaw Post Plus Firmsite and FindLaw Blog Service Starter FS ($433.60 for 2 blogs a month).

So after ongoing billing and performance conversations, without any warning, FindLaw pulled the plug on Kendall’s website. (Note that it is particularly dangerous from an SEO perspective to do this as search engines are particularly loath to send traffic to an empty, broken, dead, error page.)

2:31 PM Pull the Fire Alarm

Occasionally at the agency, we “pull the fire alarm” – essentially everyone drops everything and jumps on a project where time is of the essence.  We’ve done this in the past, when a client’s host went AWOL, we’ve done it in response to news events in the mass torts space and yesterday we pulled the fire alarm for Kendall.  The goal was very simple: get a placeholder site up as quickly as possible.  Instructions to the team:

FindLaw has pulled Kendall’s current website and it is currently returning an error. The site, unfortunately is registered to 1&1. Our immediate goal is to get a barebones website back up and running.  We’re going to launch a very simple, scaled down version TOMORROW.  On our plate: build out a  5-6 page WordPress website from existing template; hosted on WPEngine.  Redirect old pages (there are 93) to homepage.  We think Kendall does NOT own any of the content, so he is going to have to rewrite it within our shell – we’ll need to provide him with the WordPress Guide.  Kendall is sending us information on his 1&1 logins.  We do NOT think there is an existing GA account – so should probably set that up as well.

3:46 Infrastructure

Kendall sends us log-ins to 1&1 – to which his domain is registered.  Fortunately 1&1 makes it easy for us to access these records.  (Note: good thing Kendal had an initial site through 1&1 – while he doesn’t technically own his domain – a big no no – 1&1 has made it easy enough for him to control what goes on that domain. His worst case would be if his vendor actually registered the domain and owned it – which has been known to happen.)

5:25 PM Creative Done

Mockingbird Design and Development used a preferred WordPress Theme and applied an existing basic design template. Utilizing the Wayback machine they were able to view Kendall’s FindLaw site (prior to the plug being pulled) and reviewed the general layout, imagery, content map, color schemes, logo and vital content like address, phone numbers etc.

Instructions emailed to Kendall along with the site and log-ins.

I would also suggest not to edit anything if you are not sure what that edit will do. With that said, I have set up some basic menus and pages for you to see how WordPress works. Attached is a basic WordPress Editing guide. This should help you create and edit pages.
Good luck!

Below are the old and new sites.   I might be a little biased but I think the new one looks just a little better.

Kendall’s New Site:

Kendall's New WordPress Site Kendall’s New WordPress Site 

Kendall’s FindLaw Site

Kendall's FindLaw site Kendall’s FindLaw site

11:36 PM Content Loaded

Kendall has written and uploaded content into the site and sends a few requests:
  1. Replace the FindLaw tracking phone numbers with his primary number.
  2. Add a Better Business Bureau badge
  3. Change the email address on the contact form on the site.
  4. Add ApexChat functionality.

9:31 AM Wednesday

Mockingbird Design & Development completes requested changes and modifies 1&1 registrar records to point to our WP Engine hosting solution.

10:11 Site Live

21 hours after Kendall discovered that FindLaw had pulled the plug on his website – he’s back up and running. You can now see it here: site. Its admittedly a stripped down version from a content perspective; but professional, functional (responsive) and much better looking than a 404. A few search queries and it looks like the downtime hasn’t decimated his search engine performance.  Over the next hour, we finish the process of redirecting the old URL’s.

Now, because the site is built on the ubiquitous and easy to use WordPress platform, Kendall can add much of the content himself without being beholden to a vendor’s proprietary platform. And if he wants further help on it, he can contract with one of the tens of thousands of professionals who work on WordPress throughout the US.

Ruminations

I started working directly with law firms precisely because I hated seeing small businesses going through these types of horrendous experiences. This may be naively idealistic and my MBA brethren would certainly scoff, but I’d rather foot a client’s hosting bill than deliberately hurt their business by leaving them naked and flapping in the online wind.  (Granted our hosting is only $29 monthly, but I digress.)

If you are concerned about your own FindLaw site, download the FindLaw Jailbreak Guide to carefully plan your escape.

Its Here – Penguin 3.0 (and Webinar for Law Firms)

It’s been a busy weekend on the Internet. Friday, internet-dwellers became aware of a long awaited Google algorithm update, Penguin 3.0. Mockingbird Marketing will be hosting a Webinar, Tuesday, October 28th at 1:00 PDT to help you self-diagnose if Penguin 3.0 has impacted your site and what to do about it if it has. Webinar Signup: Penguin 3.0 Diagnosis for Law Firms.

Penguin Refresher Course

Google told us this was coming (we wrote about it last week), and here at Mockingbird we’ve been anxiously awaiting it’s arrival. Penguin is an algorithm update first released in 2012 that aims to put the hurt on sites with spammy backlinks. It’s a particularly interesting update because it appears that if Penguin has penalized a site, no matter how much backlink cleanup you do, the site won’t be able to recover until the next update. Considering the last update was over a year ago, a lot of sites have been sitting in limbo for a long time.

How to Tell if You’ve been Penguin-ed

We ran a quick study this morning on our clients, looking specifically at our top 20 clients with the most traffic. To see how Penguin affected our clients, we compared the natural traffic average of the four weekends prior to the natural traffic this past weekend.  If this pattern holds (and thats a big if – we’re dealing with just two days of data here) – 25% of the sites saw a increase of more than 15% and one got hammered.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 3.43.43 PM

[Note: we are by no means suggesting this is 100% accurate data. Two days worth of traffic is hardly enough to perform a complete study with – but this methodology should serve you well in diagnosing the impact of Penguin 3.0 on your site’s traffic once another week or two passes.  We’ll walk you through this process step by step on the webinar.]

In any case, this is what we found:

For the most part, to our delight, our clients faired well – with a quarter seeing a large boost and only one getting hit. A few clients experienced a huge increase in traffic. Uncoincidentally, we’ve spent a ton of time cleaning up the spammy efforts of previous agencies to sanitize the backlink profiles of these sites.

To see the effect of Penguin 3.0 on your site, we recommend following the same steps:

  1. Filter your Google Analytics data to only show organic traffic.
  2. Get your average traffic for the past four weekends (or if you can wait until Friday, the past four weeks).
  3. Compare this number to your traffic this past weekend. Take it all with a grain of salt, and consider what else is going on. Did you just re-launch your site? Have you been experiencing a steady decline in traffic for a while? And also remember – your best bet is to wait for at least a week to see a clear picture.
  4. Cheer, cry, or shrug, depending on your results.

Still confused?

If you have a website and you or someone on your behalf has ever done less-than-white-hat link building, keep a close eye on your traffic. If it takes a turn for the worse, there’s a good chance you are feeling the force of this Penguin smack down.

If you want to learn if the Penguin update affected your site, tune into our Webinar Tuesday, October 28th at 1:00 PDT.

The Attorneys ATM – SPAMMY SEO Marketing

I was doing a backlink check on a law firm site today and ran into link SPAM at a level so rudimentary and flagrant that I was incredulous that it was still around. This SPAM is so basic, it might serve as a good lesson on how SEO’s manually diagnose toxic links . . . .

I found a a link to a DUI law firm’s site . . . on the domain CaliforniaSpinalInjuryLawyer.com.  As the frim was neither in California nor in spinal injuries, this started to smell a little fishy – as did the Title Tag, which had nothing to do with California or Spinal Injuries:

DUI – DWI, Criminal, Personal Injury, Accident, Bankruptcy, Divorce, Workers Compensation (workers comp) Immigration Attorneys Lawyers

Hmmm – looks like a low end directory – linking out primarily to a small number of DUI lawyer websites. ATM CA Spine The Footer tells me this a directory from a company called The Attorneys ATM – who provides “law firm internet marketing” (nice anchor text), but apparently didn’t know how to remove the placeholder text for Example Website Article 1 and 2. ATM info

Let’s click through and discover more . . . Well, lookie here – some information on backlinks and how to rank in very high in the search engines: backlinks This isn’t going to blow you away, but the anchor text heavy links in the directory all pointed to clients of . . . .

wait for it . .  .

don’t tell me you guessed already . . .

The Attorneys ATM.   How do I know?  Because the footers say things like this:

Guaranteed Law Firm Internet Marketing by The Attorneys ATM

A little more sleuthing and I found another Lawyer Directory by our friends at The Attorneys ATM, and then another and another and another . . . I could go on:   The Lawyer ATM

Fake Backlinks and What This Means for “The Attorneys ATM” Clients

If you don’t understand the significance of what I’ve described above let me simplify:  Search Engines use links as an indicator of quality content and therefore rank sites with lots of links well.  Fake links (also called toxic links) like the ones above are used to artificially boost search engine rankings.  When the search engines discover these toxic links – they may chose to not only ignore them but actually demote the site – causing inbound traffic to crater and inbound phone calls from prospects to essentially disappear. Toxic links are the primary target of the search engine penalty called Penguin.  The example above is so egregious – a bunch of copied sites with instructions on the importance of backlinks all linking back to a single provider – that I’ll buy you a steak dinner if the clients of The Attorneys ATM haven’t seen a huge drop in traffic due to Penguin. Unfortunately, recovering from a Penguin penalty is expensive, uncertain and takes a very long time.

My industry has done a good job earning its place at the bottom of the ethical barrel. Unfortunately it is frequently our clients who suffer. Caveat Emptor.

Legal Marketing in 2014: The Only Thing You Need to Know

Now is the time of year when professional predictions, resolutions and prognostications appear across the legal marketing blogging landscape.  In the ever-changing SEO industry, correctly guessing the newest new thing is very effective.

As far as I’m concerned there’s only one thing you need to know about online marketing in 2014:  Matt is mad.

In 2013, the head of Google’s anti-webspam team (and unofficially, chief industry PR spokesperson), Matt Cutts, hammered the SEO industry with anit-spam algorithm updates.  And while Google started sharing these algo code name updates back in 2011; through 2013 we saw these names go from project code names whispered about at geek conferences into brand names, with careful, proactive PR launches.  Pandas and Penguins and Hummingbirds.  Oh My!

Traditionally, Google’s anti-spam PR approach has been to single out individuals – JC Penney’s, BMW etc. – and make an example of them.  And while there will continue to be individual examples, what we are now seeing is much more widespread.  This accelerated towards the end of the year with widespread algo changes and very public warnings about guest blogging, thin authorship and a litany of link scheme busts.  Here are some (non-animal branded) announcements from December 2013 alone:

Google Has Officially Penalized Rap Genius for Link Schemes

Matt Cuts Implies Google is Aware of SEOs Bribing Bloggers

Google Reduces Authorship Rich Snippets in Search Results

Google Squashes Backlinks.com – Another Link Network Outed by Google

Google’s Matt Cutts: Guest Blogging Abuse SPAM on the Rise

Google Busts Yet Another Link Network – Anglo Rank

Google’s Matt Cutts: Stitching Content is Bad SEO Quality Content

Google Mindset Shift

Most interesting was a shift in mindset publicly espoused by Google. Generally, given their vast reach and power – we seen amicable Matt speaking reasonablly gently about these issues. So I was very surprised to run across Cutts in a December 4, This Week in Google video, in a carefully worded statement saying:

“We want to break [spammers] spirits.”

Barry Schwartz has a detailed review of the video on Search Engine Land – here are some of the key excerpts:

“If you want to stop spam, the most straight forward way to do it is to deny people money because they care about the money and that should be their end goal. But if you really want to stop spam, it is a little bit mean, but what you want to do, is sort of break their spirits.”

SPAM and the Legal World in 2013

Aggressive and enterprising lawyers tend to be some of the more aggressive spammers – rivaling offshore porn, pills and poker.  In 2013, the third largest legal industry centric link buying scheme was quietly taken down (interestingly – to the best of my knowledge this hasn’t been reported anywhere.)  I don’t know if that was a manual change made by Google or if it was caught up in a larger algo update.  And remember lawyers – I’m talking to more and more of you coming up with various office sharing schemes to try to artificially expand your footprint in Google local results.  If you want to stay around for a while, open up a real office.  David Mihm’s 2013 Local Optimization Ranking Factors Survey identified the number one negative ranking factor:  Listing Detected at False Business Location.

So – Atticus’ predictions for 2014?

As a whole, the legal industry will experience a heavy shake-up with regards to who generates business from the web.  “Penalty Recovery” will become a staple of the legal SEO agency world as law firms flee the large spammy, legally focused SEO agencies/consultants/website providers.

 

SEO Regicide: Content the King is Dead

Content content content.

“You need more content.”

 “You need to rewrite news articles every day!”

“You need to blog more.”

“Publish or perish.”

“Google launched Hummingbird – you need to write FAQs!”

Psssssst . . . . lawyers . . .  all of the SEO experts are telling you (and all of your competitors) the same thing.  And like compliant lemmings, you are all doing the same thing.

Psssssst . . .  It doesn’t work anymore.

The Rise and Fall of the Content Dynasty

The genesis for the focus on content began about 5 years ago.  Changes in consumer search behavior gradually took effect – whereby users began looking for increasingly specific answers with increasingly granular content pages.  The “long tail” of search became the industry’s hottest new buzzword.  SEO experts, ninjas, and mavens started churning out pages with very subtle differences –  “Best Seattle underage DUI Attorney”, “Top 10 Settle teen DUI Attorneys” “Great Seattle Drunk Driving Lawyers for drivers under 21” ad nauseam.  The industry adopted the boorish practice of rewriting news stories and vomiting them back onto blogs that quickly became poorly written rehasings of yesterday’s news.

And for a while it worked (at least in generating traffic for the SEO consultants to return triumphantly with “success metrics” for their misguided clients – the fact that the phone never rang didn’t seem to matter – but I digress, that is a topic for another post.)  The legal industry became publishing sweatshops – with individual firms churning out hundreds, even thousands of articles a month.

Eventually, the search engines, as they always do, caught up with the SEO spammers.  Penguins and Pandas and most recently, Hummingbirds were let lose on the algorithms.  Content, the King, was under attack.

Content is Dead

The Succession of the King:  Quality Content

The search engine talking heads defended their King – retreating back to the ever-popular refrain – “write quality content and we will reward you with a bounty of traffic.”

So the SEO experts and mavens and ninjas did as they were told . . . infographics and guest blogging were born. Top 10 Lists proliferated like bunnies on a steady diet of Viagra. In time, most legally focused news stories was dissected and built into beautiful graphical statistical displays.  Guest blog brokers were born.  Just like with King Content, the disciples of his son, Quality Content initially did very well.  But as others caught up, they became increasingly less effective. Because everyone was doing it.

So the search engines sent warnings about guest blogging.  The cycle repeated itself again.

Quality Content is NOT Enough

This death of King Content and his prince son, Quality hit me square in the face a few weeks ago at Webcam –  a small but amazing conference in Bend Oregon.  Marshall Simmonds, who used to be the in-house SEO for the New York Times  (arguably one of the most high quality original content publishers) heralded the end of a dynasty:  Content is no longer King.

Eu Tu Simmonds?

And he’s right. We are now at a point in the evolution of the web where generating quality content is no longer sufficient for success. There’s frankly just too much of it.  The trick, the real hard part of marketing, today’s unscaleable solution and the successor of the crown is marketing content.  And by “marketing content” – I don’t mean “content marketing” – the aforementioned practice of vomiting out hoards of webpages.  I literally mean undertaking marketing efforts to promote your quality content.  This can take the shape of many different channels – social media, networking, the dubiously named “author rank” or even the marketing pariah of the SEO world – Public Relations.  Marshall’s pronouncement was utterly confirmed for me when I looked at the referring traffic for some legal sites and found that Press Release providers (PRWeb etc.) frequently showed up as the #1 referring site. For years, I have mocked the press release tactic as a dying relic of yesteryear  – but I’ve been wrong – because now, the genuine distribution of content is what makes the magic happen.

The reality is that the Quality Content mantra assumed that when you have quality content, links are going to happen.  This is no longer universally true – especially in hypercroweded content landscapes like legal.  To be successful, you must embrace proactively marketing that very good, high quality content.

Content is dead, long live Content.