Google Update Impacts Legal Content Marketing

Google Update Impacts Legal Content Marketing

google update impacts legal content

Google recently updated its Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which will likely impact your law firm’s content marketing strategies. These guidelines help raters assess page quality. The focus is now on E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness). Your law firm’s website must demonstrate these qualities in its content.

In 2024, Google added “experience” to E-A-T, reacting to AI-generated content like ChatGPT. For legal content and SEO, staying updated and collaborating with an SEO-savvy legal content provider who understands E-A-T and YMYL is crucial. Working with professionals pays off.

Google Update Impacts

The Shift in Direction

Google has shifted focus from YMYL topics like News, current events, Civics, government, and Law to assessing specific content categories for potential harm. According to the quality rater guidelines, content gets labeled YMYL when it poses a high risk of causing damage to readers or others affected. Pages are classified as YMYL if they could significantly impact health, safety, or financial stability due to dangerous topics or unreliable information. Law firm websites must have high-quality content to avoid search engine penalties, as well-written YMYL pages have better chances of ranking well.

EAT, YMYL, and Lawyers

When it comes to legal content, it’s not a stretch to say that inaccurate information can prove harmful to readers and society at large, which makes focusing your efforts on Google’s updated guidelines paramount for law firms and other companies in the legal services space. To begin, the information you share can be actionable, which means it has the potential to guide readers’ behaviors and, thus, has the ability to do harm or cause significant impact – if the content is not carefully considered, accurate, and clearly written.  

Google advises that – even when minor inaccuracies could lead to harm – YMYL is likely applicable. Further, if the topic isn’t one that most people would be comfortable seeking guidance from friends or family, it’s more likely to fall into the YMYL categories. Legal content very likely checks both of these boxes. Finally, the more closely your content identifies with YMYL, which is gauged on a spectrum, the more important E-A-T becomes. 

A High-Quality Focus on E-A-T

Google considers a variety of factors when it determines the quality of the content of a page:

  • The topic and purpose of the page guide the necessary level of E-A-T, amount and quality of main content (MC), and level of information about the MC’s creators. When it comes to YMYL topics, a higher standard for all three is required. 
  • Some factors that can make a page low quality – regardless of its purpose or topic – include having a mixed or mildly negative reputation regarding the website or the content creator or having a shocking or otherwise exaggerated title. 
  • Any type of website can have pages that are identified as low quality, including government and academic websites, and low-quality pages can be about virtually any topic. 

The pages on YMYL topics require more careful scrutiny in terms of factors that are indicative of low quality, and it’s important to note that even one low-quality attribute can push an entire page into a low-quality rating.

The Topic and the Purpose of the Page

The necessary level of E-A-T, as defined by Google, is driven by the page’s topic and purpose. Whatever kind of law you practice, your pages are almost certainly intended to inform readers about important legal matters that could lead to significant actions and profound effects. As such, the very topics of your pages – because the information has the potential to cause harm – are likely to place them squarely in the exacting sights of quality raters, who are required to evaluate the topic when determining page quality. 

A Lack of E-A-T

Google has tweaked its definition of what it means when a page lacks the necessary E-A-T to bypass a low-quality finding by adding a bullet point that states the following – Informational [main content] on YMYL topics is mildly inaccurate or misleading.

Other common examples of pages that are ranked as low quality due to a lack of necessary E-A-T include:

  • The MC’s creator doesn’t have the necessary expertise in the topic at hand
  • The site – although it may be authoritative – is not an authoritative source for the topic at hand (a legal website that offers medical advice, for example). 
  • The MC itself does not inspire trust.

While some pages need no formal expertise to write, it’s critical for the purposes of YMYL topics, which makes it critical for your law firm’s website content. The idea is to highlight the level of legal experience, insight, and skill you have achieved and to ensure that this colors your content. If a page you publish lacks the E-A-T necessary to support its purpose, which is to inform readers on a topic that has the potential to have a significant impact, other factors, such as reputation, cannot save the page from a low rating.  

Do No Harm

Google’s quality raters are trained to recognize that even the most authoritative and generally helpful websites can include pages with harmful MC that are deserving of the lowest ratings. As such, they are called to carefully evaluate each page in terms of its own merits and challenges. Before moving on to any other page quality characteristics, quality raters are required to first check for the following:

  • Untrustworthiness
  • Deception
  • Spam
  • Harmfulness

In its quest to update and upgrade search quality ratings, Google also put out a clear overview of the process involved in the search quality evaluator guidelines. As a provider of legal information, providing informative, well-constructed, compelling YMYL pages is key, which makes focusing on the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of the legal content at hand instrumental to offering readers the information they are looking for while remaining in Google’s good graces.

FAQs

What is E-A-T, and why is it essential for legal content?

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. Google uses these factors to judge the quality and reliability of information. It’s important because it can impact readers’ lives, finances, or safety.

How can a law firm demonstrate expertise in its content?

Law firms demonstrate expertise by providing detailed legal knowledge, case studies, and practical legal advice highlighting their attorneys’ qualifications and experience.

What gives legal content authority?

Legal content gains authority through credentials like memberships in legal associations, awards, recognitions, and years of experience. This assures readers that the information comes from a credible source.

How can trust in legal content be maintained?

Trust in legal content is maintained by ensuring accuracy, transparency, and reliability. Avoid sensationalized or misleading information, clearly cite sources, and present balanced and factual information.

Why is YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) important in legal content?

YMYL topics, including legal matters, can significantly impact a person’s finances, health, or safety. To protect users, Google requires such content to be accurate, trustworthy, and high-quality.

What pitfalls should be avoided in legal content marketing?

Avoid providing inaccurate or outdated information, lacking precise citations or sources, using overly promotional language, and neglecting to update content regularly to meet current standards.

Final Word

Law firms must create high-quality legal content that adheres to Google’s E-A-T guidelines. Focusing on expertise, authority, and trustworthiness can enhance their online visibility and establish them as dependable sources of legal information.