I’m always surprised at the extent to which attorneys’ websites are “spammy.” Right now you’re thinking “my site’s not spam. That’s not me.” Guess what? It may very well be. Web spam can take several different forms and the extent to which your site is spam actually slides along a scale. In other words, there are degrees of web spam and many attorney websites, which are ranking poorly in search, will often fall into one of the various levels of being web spam. Let’s look at what web spam is and three things lawyers can do to stop being a spammer.

Lawyers concerned about web marketing need to understand what “web spam” is

Attorneys I speak with feel they already know who the spammers are. They’re the trolls that sit in their parents’ basement emailing out pornographic advertisements.  They’re generally considered to look like this guy:

Internet spammer wearing a mask

The truth is that there is a difference between web spam and email spam. Web spam is:

 “Any deliberate human action that is meant to trigger an unjustifiably favorable relevance or importance for some web page, considering the page’s true value.[i]

Well that cleared things up – NOT! Put simply, web spam is an attempt to make a site rank higher in search than it really deserves. There are many different types of web spam. One of them is a website that adds a large number of low quality pages in an effort to rank higher. This is way more common for attorneys than many in the profession realize. The thing to understand is, these tactics won’t help you in search.

Google’s 2011 “Panda” update completely re-worked the search engine’s approach so that “thin sites,” which were filled with low quality content, would stop doing as well in search[ii].  Continuing efforts by the search engine are further weeding out web spam. To do well in search you need to make your content high quality, useful to potential clients, and unique. I discuss how to do so in our eBook Modern Marketing for Today’s Attorney, and will be blogging more on this subject in the future (so stay tuned). A big part of making sure your website is not spam is to avoid three common mistakes I have seen time and time again.

Three examples of web spam common to attorney websites

There are three common “spammy” techniques that attorneys engage in. If you are doing any of these then you are likely hurting yourself in search.

Stop focusing on the number of pages on your website This is a really common one. Attorneys will say “I want a website with 50 pages” or whatever arbitrary number they have chosen. Many companies that cater to attorneys push this approach by saying “well sell you a website with 50 pages.” This is  a backwards approach. If you start off with a number of 50 pages, even though you can’t write 50 unique pages on your firm and practice areas, then you’re going to wind up with pages that are duplicative or add little value to the web. Google talked about this in 2012.

Write as many unique pages, relevant to your firm, as you can. That will be the number of pages that wind up on your website.

Don’t have duplicate practice area pages – It’s common for lawyers to copy their practice area pages for different geographies. I live in the greater Las Vegas area, which is comprised of three cities (Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Henderson). Traffic tickets are governed by the same laws and procedures in all three cities. A traffic attorney should have one traffic ticket page and that page should say that the attorney services all three regions. It’s common, however, for an attorney in this situation to write a separate page for all three cities even though the content on all three will be almost exactly the same (save for the name of the city). If your practice takes you to different cities then don’t do a duplicate page for each city. This is low quality web spam.

Don’t block quote statutes, rules, definitions, etc. – Welcome to one of my pet peeves. It’s common for attorneys to create pages that are simply block quotes of statutes, legal definitions, or rules. These pages simply include quotes and don’t expand/analyze what the definition means or how it applies to anything. In other words, these attorneys are simply trying to add as much content as possible to their site even though this “content” is available from plenty of other sources. Guess what – these types of pages are low quality junk and lawyers need to stop doing it.

If you’re doing any of these three things then you’re not helping your site, you’re hurting it. You need to focus on creating unique and quality content rather than just trying to come up with as much content as possible. Taking this approach will put you well ahead of many attorneys in search because these problems are more common than you think. Focusing on quality vs. quantity will, therefore, change you from the spammer pictured above into someone who is doing very well.

What are some examples you’ve seen of attorneys flooding the internet with low quality content? Chime in through the contact form below.

[i] Web Spam: The Definitive Guide, accessed at: http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2010/04/28/web-spam-guide#.

[ii] Google Panda, accessed at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Panda