When our parent company, Adviatech, was formed in 2005, the internet looked considerably different. Websites were narrower, animation and slideshows were limited to search-engine-discouraged Flash elements, and the Google's search results were becoming excessively gamed and ugly.
It was a common practice in those days to set up directories and landing pages for each and every keyword. Google actually rewarded the hard work of spammers by ranking keyword-stuffed landing pages, rewarded businesses and law firms that setup multiple domain names for every practice area, and positioned the directories of companies higher than actual company websites.
The result was bad search results. Since then, Google has stepped up the enforcement of authentic landing pages, the elimination of duplicate content, and the removal of spam with crippling accuracy. But one item remains -- directories are coming back and ranking higher than business listings.
In 2006, we saw directories get favorable listings and worked hard to move our clients above them. We saw great improvements in positioning, once directories were bumped down and business listings via Google Local started dominating the first page of search results. However, due to last year's Google Penguin and Panda updates, we are now seeing directories coming back to once again claim high positions, which is bad your law firm and ultimately bad for Google's users.
Placing your website in relevant directories is encouraged by Google and offers a lot of benefits. But when a user is searching for an attorney, a directory gives them an added layer to navigate. If you are looking for anything, an Italian restaurant near your office, for example, and Google displays directories of Italian restaurants, that is giving you an added layer of listings to sort through. That's not why you went to Google; you went you there to find an Italian restaurant, not a sea of dining directories.
Right now, many highly and even moderately competitive legal markets are seeing directories claim the top first and second positions in Google's natural links. We are currently organizing some reports to see if this is hurting or helping our clients' click-through rate. If consumers skip the directories and go to a real lawyer's website, perhaps Google's future changes will reorganize the way they position directories. Until then, the search results page is looking a lot like 2006.