Attorney SEO No Redirect Penalties

Attorney SEO Update: No More Redirect Penalties

301 Page Redirects No Longer Pose An Attorney SEO Problem.

I’ve found that technical SEO is something most lawyers find counter-intuitive, because what’s good in a traditional marketing sense isn’t always good in attorney SEO.

I recently had a meeting where a lawyer proudly told me that he gets his articles published on many different websites, and I naturally asked how much traffic those links are generating. He looked at me funny, and explained he gets the article published – not a link.

While more exposure seems great from a traditional marketing perspective, the duplicate content problem is a huge mistake when it comes to attorney SEO.

I’m guessing page redirects are equally counter-intuitive to many attorneys, particularly those who wonder what they are and why they matter. So, let’s quickly go over them, and discuss what’s recently been changed.

What Are Page Redirects? Why Do They Matter?

Page redirects are a simple concept: If someone clicks to visit a page on your law firm website named “best-ever-attorneys.html”, you can automatically redirect them to a different page named “best-ever-employment-attorneys.html”. There are 3 different ways of accomplishing a page redirect:

301 Redirect. This denotes that the redirection is “permanent”, and that the old page is gone for good.
302 (or 307) Redirect. This denotes that the redirection is “temporary”, and that the old page will return at some point in the future.
Meta-Refresh Redirect. This isn’t a true redirect, as the “old” page still exists but simply contains a coding method that forwards the user to the “new” page. Similar results can be had using a script, such as JavaScript, but there’s honestly never a good reason to use these methods on your attorney website.

Why would a law firm ever want to change the name of a webpage? Well, there’s actually lots of very good reasons. Perhaps you need to optimize the page URL for better attorney SEO. Perhaps a partner has left the firm, so you’re moving to a new domain name. Or, you’ve decided to implement a SSL certificate on your law firm website.

Why do redirects matter? Let’s say you’ve got great content located on “best-newport-beach-divorce-attorney.html”, and that search engines and other websites may have linked to it over time. (If you’re doing attorney SEO right, you’ll also have linked back to this content on your own law firm website.)

Suppose you then move your practice to San Diego, and rename that page “best-san-diego-divorce-attorney.html”. Without a page redirect, you’ll break all the links to the old page – damaging your attorney SEO in two big ways.

[RELATED: 3 Common Law Firm Internet Marketing Mistakes]

First, you’ll lose any potential client who clicked the link only to get a 404 error (the “page not found” error). Second, you’ll destroy whatever PageRank value the “old” page had before you moved it, torpedoing your attorney SEO efforts.

So, page redirects are a necessary attorney SEO tool whenever a page URL is being changed.

Until Recently, 301 Page Redirects Damaged Attorney SEO.

You read that right: Despite the fact they were a necessary attorney SEO tool, page redirects nonetheless used to cause damage to your attorney SEO. How? Because of how Google’s PageRank algorithm used to treat redirects.

[RELATED: 3 Reasons Real Estate Law Firms Need Legal Digital Marketing Right Now]

Until very recently, a 301 redirect would result in a 15% hit to the affected URL’s PageRank score, and a 302/307 redirect would completely bomb it (100% loss). Meta-Refresh and similar scripted solutions would also be a total PageRank mess, plus they’d come with serious downside risk to your domain scoring.

This reality is why good attorney SEO agencies would only move URLs when the benefits of doing so were calculated to outweigh the penalty of doing so. In some cases, moving a URL and doing a 301 redirect was a good gamble, while in others it was not.

301 Redirects Now Preserve PageRank, With No Attorney SEO Damage.

The curious thing about Google’s PageRank penalty on redirects was that Google was also pushing for websites to implement SSL certificates – and provided a (small) PageRank boost for SSL websites over their non-SSL competitors.

But, moving a law firm website from non-SSL to a SSL version would require 301 redirects, thereby incurring the 15% PageRank penalty sitewide. This consideration made it very tough to consider upgrading any law firm website to a SSL implementation, absent other business reasons beyond attorney SEO.

[RELATED: Law Firm Internet Marketing – 3 Digital Rainmaking Tips for Attorneys]

Fortunately, Google recently came to its senses and has updated the PageRank algorithm so that 301 redirects no longer come with any PageRank penalty at all, and it also appears there is no PageRank penalty on 302/307 redirects either. (Meta-Refresh, however, remains as verboten as it did before.)

With Google’s recent changes to remove any PageRank penalty from the 301 redirect, lawyers should now be free to consider moving, optimizing, and renaming pages in their law firm websites without having to weigh the attendant attorney SEO damage.

We’ll still close with two recommendations here: We suggest relocating content only when it is being done permanently with a 301 redirect (and shying away from temporary 302 or 307 redirects), and we also believe law firms should now strongly consider migrating their websites to a SSL implementation (taking advantage of the PageRank boost for attorney SEO purposes).

Of course, if you have questions or need help with your law firm website or your legal internet marketing, we’re just a click or call away.

Scott J. Jackson, Esq.

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