Submitted for your approval, a Twilight Zone version of Super Bowl XLVIII: It’s the second quarter. Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith picks off Broncos QB Peyton Manning’s pass on the 31-yard line. Sprinting to the end zone, Smith’s 69-yard distance suddenly becomes 89 yards, then 113 yards, then 146 yards.

Someone, or some thing, is moving the goalposts, creating a test of endurance and stamina of Sisyphean proportions. What originally required a reasonable sprint now requires a completely new strategy.

As it turns out, truth is just about as strange as fiction, when, last week, Google moved the SEO goalposts – again. Now, guest blogging will no longer have any value as a link building initiative.

As a law firm marketing professional or an attorney who takes an interest in SEO, you’re most likely aware of the importance of search engine optimization for increasing your law firm’s visibility in search results. You may have engaged an SEO agency or educated yourself on best practices over the years. Many readers are probably a bit confused over the mixed messages that spew from the SEO world over time.

Well, the goalposts have been moved once again. In a January 20 blog post, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, states that “if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.” In case that isn’t clear enough, Cutts clarified Google’s announcement with this statement: “Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.” (See his video announcement below.)

Seriously?

Guest blogging refers to the common link-building practice where someone posts an article to a blog written by an author who is not a regular blog contributor. In the article, the guest author includes links pointing back to his domain.  Those links can add value to the domain on the receiving end, thus improving the guest author’s website.

This was once a very respectable SEO practice tied to a solid content marketing strategy, but guest blogging spammers have sprung up like noxious weeds. Low-quality bloggers and blogging sites offer little value to the user; therefore, Google is stepping in to take action on guest blogging activity altogether. From now on, guest blogging on all blogs will produce no SEO benefit – that is, links in guest blog posts will have no algorithmic value.

Low-quality blogging sites that publish guest blogs, for the sole benefit of SEO, will potentially be penalized. In theory, this will make for a better search experience, as Google will sift through the content pollution and deliver better-quality content in search results.

How will this affect your law firm SEO strategy?

Scratch guest blogging from your SEO list of tactics. But don’t abandon guest blogging altogether. It’s still a valuable tactic in a law firm’s digital marketing strategy. Refocus your law firm’s SEO strategy without relying on guest blogging, and, instead, concentrate on the following tactics.

  • Create an amazing user experience on your website, i.e., understand what your visitors want and how they behave. Then deliver that experience creatively, intelligently and in the fastest time possible. Consider developing a responsive website to further enhance the user experience.
  • Provide thoughtful, relevant, user-driven content on your website – regularly. Make sure to optimize for achievable keywords.
  • Develop a presence on social media that fosters content sharing and allows you to engage with your target audience.

Where does that leave guest blogging for lawyers?

Even though guest blogging may not provide direct SEO value, there are still plenty of reasons to include guest blogging in your law firm’s marketing strategy.

  1. Guest blogging can increase relevant traffic to your website and expand your online exposure.
  2. Authoring guest blogs establishes attorneys as authorities in relevant industries.
  3. Publishing content on high-quality sites magnifies your law firm’s presence in multiple online communities, not just in your own domain.
  4. Guest blogging can improve brand awareness for your law firm in targeted industries.
  5. Guest blogging creates online content that can be shared on social media, thus sending positive social signals to search engines.

To reach these goalposts, make sure to source out relevant and high-quality blogging sites; then provide relevant and high-quality content in your guest blog. If you have questions or concerns about your law firm’s guest blogging strategy, shoot me a line at mtrudeau@jaffepr.com or look for me on Google+.