Why Law Firms Should Care About Google Passage Indexing
As though busy lawyers don’t have enough to occupy them every hour of the day, along comes Google with yet another update that could affect the performance of a law firm’s website. But this could be good news once you get the hang of the Google Passage Indexing Update.
While passage indexing is not expected to affect the vast majority of user queries, it will affect highly specific searches. For example, it may not affect a generalized query like “car accident lawyer near me,” but it could for a specific query like “attorneys in New Jersey who represent children injured in car accidents.” Google estimates that roughly 7% of queries will be affected as its increasingly sophisticated AI works harder than ever to find detailed answers to users’ queries.
Here’s what Google has to say about the passage indexing update:
“Very specific searches can be the hardest to get right since sometimes the single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page. We’ve recently made a breakthrough in ranking and are now able to not just index web pages, but individual passages from the pages. By better understanding the relevancy of specific passages, not just the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for.”
Quality Content is Essential For Law Firms
Headings and keywords have traditionally been some of the most important onsite signals letting Google know what information is on a page. While this is still important, Google is letting us know through passage indexing that content written in natural language text offering highly detailed answers to specific questions is likely to rank well in search results, even if the information is located on a page with a somewhat different topic. The content of individual passages can be much more useful to visitors.
In the world of SEO for lawyers, this means the quality of a law firm’s content needs to be top-notch and exceptionally well written. It also means that you might be wise to craft some of your content around very specific questions commonly asked by potential clients who call your firm. By doing this, your passages may have a better chance of indexing and ranking well.
This update is essentially about longtail or niche queries that require unique, not always readily available answers. Google is focusing on the content and meaning of passages on a page in these highly specific queries, not just focusing on the entirety of a page itself.
Here are some things to keep in mind when organizing content on your law firm website:
Some web pages with highly specific legal questions lend themselves to a Q&A format where you can immediately provide answers. From a design standpoint, this can often be handled with an accordion or collapsing design. On a car accident web page, such questions might include “How can I hire a car accident lawyer in Chicago if I don’t have much money?” “What is the average car accident settlement in Chicago when the driver dies?” and “How do you prove negligence in a car accident in Chicago if I’m partially at fault?” A Q&A format allows a reader to go directly to the question that most interests them rather than sifting through long blocks of text. It also allows the Google algorithm to quickly identify a highly specific topic and corresponding answer.
FAQ Page or Fact Sheet
An FAQ page or fact sheet may also be effective in providing detailed answers to complicated legal questions that potential clients typically ask. You will know what these questions are because they’ll be the same questions that potential clients ask when they phone your reception desk, especially if you are a niche attorney with a specialized legal practice. A fact sheet is particularly helpful to a reader who has several questions in mind.
When you’re competing against other law firms for passage indexing with Google, the algorithm is going to identify answers on its SERPs pages that include as much specific, well-researched information as possible. This means you want to eliminate the “fluff” in your content. Fluff consists of non-essential language–lots of adjectives, off-topic marketing lingo, random background info that is not pertinent, and long run-on sentences that are hard to decipher and could be stated much more succinctly.
Smaller Single-Topic Chunks
Rather than meandering and generalized paragraphs, try breaking content into bite-size chunks on a single topic with a sub-heading. This enables a busy reader to scan the web page and read only the section they’re interested in. It also signals to Google that a highly specific answer (without unrelated content) is located here.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get into the Nitty-gritty
Be sure to include in your content those explanations and definitions that are educational and informative. Cite relevant statutes or case law (with links to these) that allow a reader to drill down into the nitty-gritty of the law. Longer web pages may have an advantage with passage indexing, especially if the content is grouped around sub-headings that enable automated systems to easily identify specific and unique sub-topics or questions with links to the actual state or federal statute.
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Mistakes to Avoid
There are also things to watch out for and avoid when writing with passage indexing in mind.
Not All Content Lends Itself to Passage Indexing
Remember that Google says only about 7% of highly specific queries will be affected by passage indexing. That means you shouldn’t formulate an entire web page around a passage indexing format. Pick out only those individual and highly specific questions that potential clients ask and treat them with the above suggestions in mind. For the rest of the page, write content that is easy to read, informative, design/UX friendly, and more broad-ranging.
Detailed Doesn’t Mean Long
Providing nutrient-dense, detailed answers to a highly specific query doesn’t mean the answer needs to be 200-300 words long. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Here’s where you want to edit aggressively and only include the most vital details.
Don’t Try to Provide Highly Specific Answers to Non-Existent Questions
Not every web page needs to address passage indexing. It’s important not to overreach and create obscure legal questions that almost no client would ever ask so that you can provide an academic, highly detailed answer. If it’s a question that never gets asked in a Google search, then it doesn’t matter how good your answer is.
SEO for Lawyers Can Help Your Web Performance
If this is a lot to wrap your head around, then a law firm SEO agency may be able to help. SEO for lawyers is a complex, data-driven practice that can build your website and craft content in a way that best leverages the Google algorithm.