Your Legal Blog & Google’s Freshness Update

On November 3rd, Google announced its most recent algorithmic update, “freshness”:

Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven or cool refreshing fruit on a hot summer’s day, are best when they’re fresh. Even if you don’t specify it in your search, you probably want search results that are relevant and recent.

And while this might not be as big of a “game changer” as say Panda, it does signal the recognition of a shift that is taking place on the internet, the expectation of searchers with regard to the freshness and “socialness” of search results. SEO by the Sea’s Bill Slawski articulates it best:

social media has changed the expectation of searchers. Searchers want fresher content, they want to see what their friends and contacts have to say, and they want access to experts and authority figures and their thoughts on timely events and news. Search engines have no recourse but to respond.

And while your first reaction to this update might simply be to conclude that you need to publish more frequently, I contend that there are more significant implications. Of these, the two most important are:

1. Shaping your content with timeliness in mind.
2. Becoming an expert/authority figure on your subject matter.

Timely Content

While post frequency is undoubtedly important to updates related to freshness, perhaps even more important is the timeliness of the subject matter you post about. No, I’m not advocating that you switch the focus of your law blog to a 24 celebrity gossip update site. However, I am suggesting that your content contains content that has a timeliness component. In other words, if you’re a criminal defense attorney, it will behoove you to write about current issues, news stories, legal precedent, etc, as opposed to outdated subject matter.

Becoming An Expert

Becoming an expert in your field will take a long time. However, the more specific and concentrated your practice, the more likely it is that the competition will be lower. Being a nationally recognized expert in criminal defense is a much more difficult feat that becoming a local expert on a very specific sub-category of criminal defense work. The content that you publish online should be designed to demonstrate your knowledge and experience on your subject matter.

Furthermore, just as the way that you tailor your content to account for this shift toward “freshness,” so to should you tailor other aspects of your web strategy. For example:

  • Organizing your site architecture with freshness in mind including using date information in your URL structure.
  • Focusing on developing new online connections with people.
  • Thinking about your firm as a social business as opposed to a faceless corporation.
  • Increasing your engagement with others in your field online.
With everyone shouting for attention online, those that are able to distinguish themselves, develop a loyal following, and provide timely and informative information will eventually rule the day.
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