Episode 4: What is the Google Medic Update?

This a Broad Core Update. Meaning that it is a substantial update as opposed to the small daily updates Google routinely makes. These updates are typically only made a few times per year. In years past, these Broad Core Updates would cause businesses and agencies to jump through hoops to try and get their rankings back. (Or rejoice at the unexpected boost.) But we have grown accustomed to a more stable algorithm over the past several years. In fact, most SEOers believe the last update of this size was Penguin back in April of 2012. It is possible that this update will become as well known as Penguin or Panda.

Why is it named Medic?

Initial analysis showed that medical type websites showed the largest movement in rankings. This is largely believed to have been caused by YMYL requirements. (Your Money Your Life) This is a categorization that lawyers belong to as well.

The legal directories seem to be the biggest winner. But for the more competitive keywords, like car accident lawyer, there are still a large number of local firms ranking. This is likely because those firms put more energy into those pages than the other practice area pages. This is good news, because it means the local firms can compete, but they need to make changes to their websites.

How do you recover from Medic if you were affected?

According to Google, “There is no fix,” webmasters should remain focused on building great content and overtime that content may raise in the rankings.

Obviously this is a rather frustrating reply for law firms that rely on the internet to provide business. While Google won’t provide much direction, this is what we have found so far.

  • Google provided an enormous hint, which has largely been their favorite hint over the years. Create great content.
    • Ask yourself this, what is different about your competitors individual pages that are outranking you?
      • Google looks for pages that required time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill to create.o
    • Make sure you focus on the individual page. So if your rankings for car accidents went down, look at your competitors car accident pages.
    • After you have made some notes on what your competitors are doing different, adjust your content to be on par and then better.
    • Pay attention to both the words on the page and the design of the page.
      • The words are important and according to Google, it doesn’t matter where on the page those words are. Google does not weight the content at the top any different than the content at the bottom. Are your pages providing a more complete picture that is helpful to your potential clients?
      • The design of the page is largely about usability. Does the design of your page help people read the content and find what they are looking for faster?
    • I am less confident that Google can measure usability to the degree that I originally thought. I saw a lot of great pages with great designs go down in the rankings. From a subjective standpoint, this should not have happened. But the pages that took those higher rankings had something that the algorithm deemed important. I think Google has a broad idea about what an individual page should look like and then objectively looks for pages meeting those ideals. (As opposed to analyzing an individual page and its metrics.
    • I found a good number of websites that are ranking without the use of Google Analytics. Because of this, I don’t think Google is factoring in any real on-site metrics.
    • YMYL is real, but how do lawyers separate themselves? – I think that is very tough to do. There just isn’t much out there for law firms to differentiate themselves. With that said, these are my thoughts about YMYL optimization for lawyers.
      • Make sure your content is accurate. Use references that support your statements and are from a recognized authority. Also keep those references up to date.
      • Get as many basic links from law specific sites as you can. AVVO, FindLaw, Bar Associations
      • Try to get awards, whether you must pay for them or not. Google does seem to value these.
      • If YMYL was as accurate as possible, we would not be seeing law firms rank across the country. YMYL only wants licensed professionals to rank. So, when a lawyer ranks outside of a state they are licensed, this is against YMYL. I expect this to be corrected eventually, and we won’t see local law firms ranking across the US. But who knows if that is going to be months or years.
    • I also checked the load times of well ranking and poor ranking websites. Oddly enough, the websites that were slower ranked better. My belief is that Google looks for a certain benchmark to be met, and if your website meets that benchmark, you won’t get dinged. Site speed is not ordinarily going to be a differentiating factor when it comes to ranking for competitive keywords.
    • And on a more general note, this is a great reason to have multiple hooks in the water. Have an SEO campaign, it produces great results. But in times like these, it is also nice to have a functioning PPC campaign and a functioning brand awareness campaign if you can afford it.
PPC For Lawyers - Podcast
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