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SEO is Dead: Change My Mind

Written by Gary Honold on . Posted in .
Home > Blog > SEO is Dead: Change My Mind

Key takeaways:

  • Though many ask, “Is SEO dead?” there are plenty of reasons you can still bank on it.
  • Recent Google updates are impacting SEO strategies, and law firms must take the time to make updates.
  • We know what continues to matter with SEO and how to stay ahead of the competition — including how AI fits into the picture.
  • Array Digital is continuing to find success in creating reliable, custom SEO strategies for our clients that improve their online presence and their law firm brand along the way.

When there are technological breakthroughs, technology suddenly floods the market with the idea of “new.” We have seen it before with iPhones, wireless headphones, and laptops, but what about with something so important as Google? Should you adjust your current strategies to meet these “new” changes?

These top-ranked spots bring leads to your site via SEO best practices. Currently, Google, Bing, and others are making it easier for artificial intelligence (AI) to be helpful when incorporated into content marketing. Still, AI does not replace the need for human writers just yet. Continue reading to hear about the direction of search engine optimization, why it still matters even as AI plays a larger role, and how it (along with human writers) will still be relevant for years to come.

Recent Google updates that affect SEO

Google is always introducing something new, which often means you need to adjust your strategy to accommodate those updates. Google made a few major updates towards the end of 2023 you should know about.

August 2023 Core Update

Google’s Core Update was rolled out in August and brought with it changes to the search algorithm to ensure more helpful and reliable search results end up in front of searchers. Updates could have changed how your website ranks in the search engines.

If your website rank dropped, that could mean it’s time for a refresher. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your site. Still, it means it may be necessary to analyze how you can improve against the competition.

September 2023 Helpful Content Update

The previous update like this occurred in December 2022, so a new update was likely due. This time, the Helpful Content Update focused on how the system evaluates and ranks content. This was one of the most significant updates.

A part of this update was the release of an improved classifier, which aims to target what Google deems as unhelpful content, including content that involves machine-generated content, third-party content, or UX designs.

November 2023 Review Update

The next update focused on an area that’s quite important for law firm websites, and that’s the focus on E-E-A-T content for their websites. The November 2023 Review Update had several impacts on SEO tactics because it puts more emphasis on high-quality reviews and original content.

For a short refresher, E-E-A-T, which stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, is the algorithm’s way of determining just how worthwhile the content on the page is. It puts a heavy focus on content written by someone who should be writing it with the expertise and trustworthiness to communicate with readers in that topic area. As a law firm business owner or practicing attorney, your content should convey that level of expertise, experience, and trustworthiness.

Other Google updates that impacted SEO in the previous two years

For the past decade, Google has implemented several changes to how the search engine handles SEO. In the past year alone, however, they have made vital algorithm updates that will affect the future of SEO and its role in ranking your website or blog.

The Page Experience Update

Web core vitals for mobile phone

Google uses three metrics called Core Web Vitals.

  • Largest Contentful Paint requires loading the largest piece of content in 2.5 seconds.
  • Accumulate Layout Shift means that when a mobile device loads a site, the content must not shift as other content loads around it.
  • First Input Delay requires a site to respond to user input in less than 100 milliseconds.

Multitask United Model Update

Multitask United Model, or MUM, is a core factor of AI that understands and generates languages. It works with 75 languages and can perform many simultaneous tasks. This enables it to learn more quickly than any AI technology could before. It allows the search engine to make leaps of logic based on a simple query to provide more nuanced results and helps to remove language barriers.

Helpful Content Update

Before 2023, Google determined that AI-generated content was harmful to a site rather than beneficial. This means that until now, the service has heavily emphasized the human factor. With the latest rollouts, however, Google has recognized the advancements in AI and does permit AI-generated content so long as it has editing in such a way as to be genuinely helpful to readers.

Yes, AI is advancing. Yes, SEO still matters for law firms. Here’s why

SEO still matters in the coming months and years. The American Bar Association (ABA) estimates that there are over 1.3 million lawyers. In 2019, a reported 54,111 law firms existed in the United States. That number is four years old now, so there are certainly quite a few more. Your firm competes with every one of these, and the number grows daily. To be seen, you must put in the hard work, which is why SEO still matters.

Here is a deeper dive into the continuing importance of applying SEO to your website and blog.

Content > demand

When content exceeds demand (like it currently does), the surplus of information makes it easy for your site to be missed. Even the best SEO campaign cannot compete as there are just too many web pages on competitor sites working against you.

Your law firm must have new and creative content (the human factor) that permits your content to stand out. Just about every personal injury law firm, for example, has a blog titled “What to Do After a Car Accident.” What factors can you place into your blog that make it better than the competition’s?

Google wants to be helpful

The constant upgrades to Google search engine algorithms can be frustrating, but the platform is working to be more helpful as a search engine, delivering better results to searchers.

Google looks at the links that users choose the most and assumes that other users will want to see that content. It then uses keywords and familiar elements to find other similar blogs. That is SEO. Ultimately, this is what the algorithms are all about — using SEO to get noticed and have your blogs moved to the top.

Intention for your legal audience

Making the best use of SEO means it is vital to understand your target audience. Your page must reach the correct audience, or you will likely get negative feedback from people not getting the answers they seek.

For example, personal injury attorneys looking for significant cases do themselves no good by writing blogs on minor injuries. Such blogs do not draw in your desired audience. SEO allows you to target the right keywords for the right audience, the same ones your audience will use to search for answers.

Importance of a niche area of law

The need for high-quality content is greater than ever. You may practice many areas of law, but specializing within your practice areas is vital to drawing in your needed audience. Your content must be highly specific, too.

Someone searching for a niche topic (traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, for example) will not look for a generic law firm blog hoping to find some information. They will search for specific questions related to TBIs.

As ever, local search engine optimization (local SEO) is still essential to your legal business. Since comparatively few law firms are national, you do not want your results showing up to people who live across the country. Local SEO strategy allows you to reach a target audience in your state, where your legal knowledge is most useful.

Trend of Language Learning Models (LLM)

Machine learning is a concept that helps large companies apply AI to things like personalization, intent, and search. AI is slowly allowing machine learning to apply to SEO, which means SEO will eventually need to conform to and work with this new model. Because AI developments incorporate deep learning and natural language processing, they allow search engines to become more friendly and intelligent than ever.

This does not mean that AI can replace human writers, however. An issue might arise for your law firm because AI uses existing content to generate its own. This means it will source information from blogs in the same niche as your firm. If those blogs are full of errors and misinformation, your AI content will be, too. You may even find yourself the target of costly plagiarism claims.

Answer Engine Optimization (AEO) and how it impacts your firm

Answer Engine Optimization (AEO) takes search queries phrased as questions and then optimizes them to appear as a featured snippet or answer box displayed in Search Engine Results Pages or SERPs. This is vital as voice search and virtual assistants become more prevalent in how users interact with search engines. In short, you ask a question, and AEO looks for a way to phrase that question as an answer.

Use the questions you’re asked as an attorney to help build your SEO strategy. These will show up on the search engines, providing snippets of answers that help fulfill the searcher’s needs, driving them to click on your website. This can contribute to website traffic.

The future of the featured snippet

Google featured snippet

Did you know that out of all the search responses on Google, only 19% have a featured snippet? Featured snippets (also called position zero since they appear before standard search results) are special boxes in Google search results that reverse the format of a typical search result. They show the descriptive text first and show up in the “People Also Ask” boxes. Regarding question-based searches, you should always aim for position zero, which is not an easy spot to achieve. Featured snippets are essential to getting yourself up to spot zero. AI-generated content rarely (if ever) gives a solid featured snippet result.

Is your site mobile-friendly?

The rise of the smartphone in the past few decades has pushed the need for sites to use intelligent design and mobile-first, mobile-friendly approaches to content delivery. Your accelerated mobile pages, or AMP, will absolutely matter. Most users access the web through cell phones these days and are unwilling to wait for sites that take too long to load up the answers to queries.

In what areas will SEO change due to AI?

You cannot continue to practice the same way, or you will achieve poor or no results. You will always need to invest in marketing for your firm. In a law firm, ignoring changes to the law can be disastrous. The same concept applies to SEO. The original way SEO hit the scene decades ago no longer holds up to modern standards. While AI has not taken over SEO, its existence will influence SEO and can help with content creation, voice search, personalization, and efficiency.

  • Automated content creation: It will always be necessary to fact-check all auto-generated content, as even slightly incorrect information can be disastrous for law firm website visitors. AI can only use existing, already-created content to provide its answers, which can often contain many errors. Providing error-filled answers as a law firm is a recipe for disaster.
  • Voice search: As voice search becomes more prevalent with the proliferation of voice assistants and smart speakers like Google Nest, Apple Siri, and Amazon Alexa, voice search optimization will be critical to SEO. You must adapt your content to natural language queries, change your approach to link building, and use long-tail keywords to help you rank higher on voice search results.
  • Personalization: Searchers want to avoid generic results that have been shown to millions of other users. They want results that specifically answer the question that they asked. Many people skim past paid search results and look for organic search results that are high in website rankings because they trust those results more. A personalized approach is one way to achieve organic search rankings.
  • Improving efficiency: Your law firm should prioritize one specific practice area at a time. This way, you are building authority in a particular niche and providing a library of knowledge to the right kind of clients. Writing a slew of content in various niches is an inefficient strategy and will certainly slow your law firm’s growth.

Why the panic surrounding the life expectancy of SEO?

Technology advances at light speed these days. Every new day, there seems to be some major new development that leaves everything we thought we knew about digital marketing behind. Some worry that we are advancing faster than we can handle. All of this together has led people to believe SEO will die as well. SEO, however, is resilient. It will evolve, grow, and change to match the direction of technology’s growth and evolution.

Think again about what happens to your law firm when laws change. Does your firm become irrelevant because a new law appears or an old one goes away? Indeed, it does not go away or become irrelevant in any respect. Rather, you pivot to learn how the new law works, adapt to service it, and have it serve you. SEO is the same.

The way we write content or perform on-page optimization will likely shift in the coming years. That’s why agencies must be agile and well-informed; it’s imperative that despite rapid digital changes, we continue to serve our clients with the utmost care.

SEO will not stop growing just because of AI

Not only is SEO still alive and kicking, but it continues to grow and evolve, and it is estimated that SEO will be vital to 122 billion sites by 2028. The increase in online data, the rise and growth of e-commerce, the demand for increased personalization of the user experience, high-speed internet, and many other factors drive the SEO industry. The addition of AI and language learning models will shape the future of SEO, not end it.

SEO tactics that are still relevant in 2024

SEO tactics to use in 2024

Our team at Array Digital reacts quickly to Google updates to keep our clients’ sites relevant and to prevent any volatility with keywords and organic traffic that typically happens after any Google update. Here’s what we’ve found is still relevant in the new year.

  • Create original content

Google no longer uses E-A-T. It is now using E-E-A-T, as mentioned. That extra “E” needs to be a factor you consider in your content. Add in videos, build up personal stories on your website, and contribute high-quality content. You also need to ensure that you are matching intent. The content you promised in that link is what they received.

  • Build strong backlinks

Backlinks are one of many important ranking factors. They should be at the heart of your digital marketing strategy overall. They help to show Google that your site is worthy of another website linking to it.

  • Utilize live chat

Live chat on a law firm’s website empowers visitors to take action. It can also help SEO because it increases user engagement with your site. It’s a simple way to build trust and SEO.

  • Consider adding video content

You can add videos to your law firm website as an alternative method for visitors to absorb the information you offer. You can make videos about the legal process, your firm’s staff and values, and more. Smartphone cameras are powerful enough these days to record high-quality video, so you don’t need an expensive camera to get started with your own video content.

Why law firms partner with Array Digital

Array Digital brings experience and credibility to the work we do for our clients in all aspects of their digital marketing strategy. We create custom strategies to meet their needs. Consider a few reviews that showcase the work we do through our SEO services.

  • “Array Digital has built an awesome website for our law firm and has used SEO to move us to the top of the page on Google. Two of our best recent settlements were for clients who found us on Google, which is a direct result of the great work Array Digital has done for us. They are true professionals who know their stuff!” -James K.
  • “We’ve been happy with Array. They have an operation that can help smaller businesses–and particularly law firms–with their legal marketing. In our case, they helped bring over content from our old website while also putting together the structure for a new site. Their team included people with technical and marketing expertise. The website launched on time and looks great! We may also take advantage of some of the other marketing services, but we cannot speak to those at this time. Kevin Daisey took a hands-on approach, bringing us in and maintaining the relationship along with other helpful and knowledgeable team members. We’ve been really pleased.”-Jim C.
  • “Highly recommend Array Digital. Prior to bringing them on board, I tried to manage all the different marketing aspects of my firm by myself. As a result, my marketing was all over the place. Since hiring Array, everything has been under one roof and organized. They communicate very well and genuinely care about their clients.” -Chris S.

Frequently asked questions

If I already have Google ads, do I need SEO?

Google Ads are a type of paid lead tool. They work but are expensive and tend not to be the long-term solution. With good SEO, you’re creating a plan for long-term, reliable lead generation that will pay off for years to come. Combining the two strategies can increase your overall reach and lead generation.

Why do people assume SEO will die?

Is SEO dead? It’s a common question that we frequently hear, especially when Google makes changes to its algorithms. SEO is not dead and is still very relevant for law firms.

Will AI take over writing SEO content?

Google uses several ranking factors for websites, including originality and factual accuracy, which are not AI’s strong suit. So, if a website only uses AI to write content, it will likely not hold up well in the search engine results pages (SERPs). After all, if your site is just regurgitating what already exists, what incentive does Google have to rank you? In other words, don’t count on AI to lead to real results or fully accurate content you can put your law firm’s reputation on.

SEO is still alive and thriving!

Many sites are moving towards AI-generated content, both out of a desire to save money and because of the mistaken notion that SEO is dead. This critical error will damage site rankings, visitor conversion, and business success.

Content written by humans for humans will continue to be the most appealing and provide the best insight into the problems that prospective clients are currently facing.

SEO is alive and thriving as part of online marketing, and the personalized user experience demands the human creation of content. If you want to take your law firm to the next level, go with a company with proven results.

Array Digital will use our proven SEO tools and search marketing strategies to help your law firm be found first in search results above your competitors. If you would like more information on how our collaborative marketing strategies can help in multiple areas, including social media, SEO, and advertising, give us a call today at 757-333-3021 or fill out our contact form.

Written By Gary Honold
I am a digital marketer and SEO manager with 30+ years’ experience driving web traffic, leads, and conversions for clients in highly competitive markets.

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