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What Lawyers Need to Know about the March 2024 Google Core Update

On March 5th, Google announced a core algorithm update intended to reduce low-quality, unoriginal results. The move is almost certainly in response to a rise in AI-generated content that led to a noticeable degradation in the quality of the results Google was providing users. The search engine announced two key changes:

Algorithmic changes to its core ranking systems will reduce unoriginal content in the SERPs
Updated spam policies

The fallout of the update has already started, with some websites being completely de-indexed from the search engine. To be clear, de-indexing is not a loss in rankings – it is being completely removed from the Google results.

While the update is affecting the internet as a whole, lawyers and law firms who engage in online marketing need to be aware of how this update may affect them. In addition, the update may provide some opportunities to stand out from the competition as Google removes what it considers low-quality websites and content.

Creating Content at Scale Can Cause Problems

It’s pretty clear that this update is in response to a flood of content created by generative AI models like ChatGPT. In its announcement regarding the update, it identified “scaled content abuse,” or creating content at scale in an attempt to manipulate the search engines. Interestingly, while the policy was originally intended to weed out content generated at scale when there was clear automation involved, they have since changed it to address any form of scaled content abuse, including human-generated content.

Today, scaled content creation methods are more sophisticated, and whether content is created purely through automation isn’t always as clear. To better address these techniques, we’re strengthening our policy to focus on this abusive behavior — producing content at scale to boost search ranking — whether automation, humans or a combination are involved. This will allow us to take action on more types of content with little to no value created at scale, like pages that pretend to have answers to popular searches but fail to deliver helpful content.

If you ask me, this is a tacit admission that Google cannot identify AI-generated content. As a result, it’s shifted its focus from penalizing content that obviously came out of a content spinner to sites that are adding massive amounts of new content that doesn’t add any value to readers.

This Doesn’t Mean “Don’t Use AI

Importantly, this does not mean you should not use AI when creating content for your website. It means that you should not use AI to create unoriginal, low-quality, and generic content for your website. Google does not have a policy against AI content, and it has been explicit about this fact. 

What you should not do is ask ChatGPT to write a “1000-word blog about truck accidents” and directly post it on your site without any further steps. AI can be a great tool in the content creation process, but its output is just the first step in crafting compelling, helpful, and quality content that ranks well (and doesn’t result in a penalty).

Be Careful Where You Post Content

Part of Google’s update also involves cracking down on “site reputation abuse.” Site reputation abuse occurs when a third party publishes low-quality or irrelevant content on another site with the goal of improving its rankings. So, if you are a law firm working with an SEO agency that wants to get you backlinks by publishing content on various non-legal sites that have nothing to do with your practice, you should probably get a new agency.

It’s More Important than Ever for Your Content to Demonstrate E-E-A-T

These updates make it clear that content creators need to publish high-quality content, especially if you are in a “your money or your life” industry, like law. But what makes content “high quality” in the eyes of Google? Fortunately, Google makes it clear that high-quality content demonstrates experience, expertise, authority, and trust (E-E-A-T).

Fortunately, as a lawyer, it’s not hard to have your content demonstrate E-E-A-T. It just takes time and effort (or money). Here are some ideas about how you can demonstrate each element:

Experience

Highlight your credentials, experience, and any specialized training or certifications you possess. Discuss past case results (if your state allows), education, publications, speaking engagements, or media appearances.

Expertise

Provide in-depth analysis and insights into legal topics relevant to your practice area. Showcase your knowledge through well-researched articles, case studies, or whitepapers. Offer practical advice and solutions to common legal issues faced by your audience.

Authoritativeness

Publish content on reputable platforms such as legal journals, industry publications, or your own professional website. Share case studies or client testimonials that demonstrate successful outcomes from your legal expertise.

Trustworthiness

Maintain transparency in your communications and avoid using legal jargon that may confuse or mislead your audience. In addition, be sure to link to authoritative resources for any assertions of fact or law you may make. For example, if you cite a statute, link that text to your state’s .gov website that publishes the code.

If you create content that addresses these issues and is helpful to your audience, your site should be rewarded by Google’s update. If you need help doing so, reach out to the team at Lexicon Legal Content to get started.

The post What Lawyers Need to Know about the March 2024 Google Core Update appeared first on Attorney at Law Magazine.

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