Google’s Traffic Light has Always Been There – Now It Has A Camera

BY Jason Bland



The recent updates in Google’s algorithm have led to a number of search marketers to fall to their knees, face the Google in the sky and ask, “What do you want from me?” Marketers are feeling a little misguided. We have been told for years that quality links and hyperlinked keyphrases were the way to improve rankings.

Then we were told that quality content was the way to improve your position in Google and other search engines. Then we were told not to exchange links. After that, not to buy links.

If none of that sounds new, that’s because nothing has really changed, save enforcement. The traffic signal has been there in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, showing yellow and red lights and cautioning us of adverse reactions to a detailed list of dos and don’ts. Search marketers and their clients have been zipping through the red lights, sometimes hitting marketing-motorists who are lawfully following the signals and throwing them off course. The lights are still there and the basic rules haven’t changed.

But now that enforcement is automated and a few thousand websites have become examples of Google’s wrath, the proverbial motorists are starting to yield. That’s not to say a turn lane or two hasn’t been built. While the core rules (quality links from quality websites, unique quality content, don’t use link exchanges, don’t buy links, keep your website fresh with new content, etc) are the same, a few dos have been added.

  • Social networks. Be social and stay active. Social networks will become a growing influencer of search engine rankings. Build your following now for a strong foundation.
  • Mobile. Mobile-friendly and responsive websites are a must to compete in the growing world of mobile searchers.
  • Animate at will. With HTML 5, you can tuck away content, create slideshows, make content move within pages and not fear Google’s ability to read it. They can. Such elements are simply part of a marketing channel that relies on evolving technologies.

The rules, while fairly unchanged, do require some different forms of compliance. Perhaps the biggest change comes in the form of how and from where your website is being linked. To seek out a more natural link portfolio, your website need not always use a keyword.

Realistically, a natural link comes in many forms. For example, if the Washington Post was talking to attorney John Smith of Smith & Smith, are they going to hyperlink a phrase like “Washington DC pharmaceutical lawyer” or a more generic phrase like “Smith, Smith & Smith,” “click here,” “learn more,” or “attorney?”

Google has decided the later is more likely.

However, hyperlinked keyphrases still tell Google a lot about what your website is saying. What they are looking for is diversification. About 5 percent of your hyperlinks should be “click here,” “[your law firm’s name],” “[your URL],” or other generic terms that Google considers “white noise.” Then 25 percent could utilize full keyphrases like “Boston divorce attorney,” “Cleveland business lawyer,” etc.

The remainder could be “lawyer” or blurbs from content like, “among the lawsuits filed in Boston” or “many have filed complaints.” The over usage of keywords on your website is another way that compliance with the rules has changed. Simply scale down on keyword usage to improve quality.

This, like mobile and social, is not so much a new rule but a new idea based on technology advancements. Using Google+ Local, Google knows your law firm is in Boston, Chicago, Tampa, Washington D.C., New York, or Anytown USA; you no longer have to tell them multiple times within your content.

Google is not so much changing the rules as much as they are enforcing the guidelines they have published over the last decade. In fact, they are paring this enforcement with more guidance on what exactly they want out of a website and what exactly quality means. However, the traffic light has always been there.

Jason Bland

Jason Bland is a Co-Founder of Custom Legal Marketing and a regular contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine. He focuses on strategies for law firms in highly competitive markets. He's a contributor on, is a member of the Forbes Agency Council, Young Entrepreneurs Council, and has been quoted in Inc. Magazine, Business Journals, Above the Law, and many other publications.


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