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    Years of SEO Frustration


    Hello everyone,

    New user here, looking to hopefully learn a bit more about SEO and maybe get some advice or see what others opinions are at the very least. I work at a consumer law firm that handles a variety of issues, but mainly we are known for our lemon law practice. Our website of concern is www.lemonlaw.com and our main landing page is our home page.

    For many years, our law firm and website were recognized as leaders in our niche. Our website was ranked #1 overall for the term 'lemon law'. A lot of this came from our domain name being the target key term and this was also back in the days when keyword stuffing and reciprocal linking was a common practice.

    After Google changed how their algorithm worked, we found out the hard way that these techniques were being considered spam and also because Google devalued keyword domain names, hence we lost rankings. We worked to correct the issues using SEO firms, making sure our site was following new recommended guidelines, getting rid of reciprocal links, etc.

    In short, we tried our best to do the right thing and weren't ever trying to do the 'wrong thing', we just didn't know any better. We were still on the 1st page, but we often fluctuated between spots 3-8.

    Back in mid-2014, lemonlaw.com was hit with a major penalty after a series of Penguin/Panda updates and it was also around that time that we found out that we were being targeted by a negative SEO campaign (we believe we know who, but I can't disclose any of that ofc). We were getting spammed with thousands of links on porn sites, bookmarking sites and spam sites that had the same content on dozens of different domains.

    We found fake blog posts pointing links to our site, fake guest posts, you name it. I have plenty of screenshots and evidence to provide, should anyone like to see. Some of the issues were of our doing of course, but the penalties actually knocked us so far back that no one would ever find us and sometimes we wouldn't show up at all. We got messages in our Google Webmaster Tools about bad practices, etc.

    We hired an SEO firm who had dealt with similar situations and they introduced us to the Disavow tool. By using this, re-designing a good portion of the site as well as reviewing our own linking strategy, we were able to reverse much of the damage. Since that time we have battled with maintaining ranking on page 1, sometimes dropping down to page 2 or 3.

    We stopped working with that SEO firm and hired another, someone we knew personally who did a lot of great work, making our site mobile-friendly and working to implement tagging and meta data to provide the right signals to the SERPS. We saw some improvement but still had issues getting off of page 2 for our home page. Other landing pages were still ranking fairly well, mostly on page 1.

    After that SEO firm, we hired one more for a few months before the end of 2016 who made no real progress except for a slight traffic increase. It was around this time that we took their final suggestions, reorganizing the home page and rewrote some of the content. Our marketing director and myself, who are not SEO experts but we've learned a lot over the years, did the work following the SEO firmsí suggestions.

    Once Google crawled the new home page, it showed up at #3 for the term 'lemon law' and occasionally #4, but remained steady at those positions for a few months. That ranking would fluctuate a little, moving down to 7 or 8, but then moving back up. It was like that for around 6 months. It seemed like we finally hit a sweet spot of the right amount of content and optimization.

    We have not hired another SEO firm since and have not made any major changes to the site, only a few minor content updates and a few images. In an internal meeting, I stressed that perhaps we had been making too many changes to our site and that Google didn't know how to rank us, since we changed it up so often. My reasoning for this is that our main competitor remains ranked very high, sometimes at position 1 and hasn't updated his website in years, with the exception of very minor changes like copyright year, or updating the forms on his site to include the current year. Iím sure there have been a few minor tweaks but his site has been pretty static.

    Over the past few days we started noticing a dip in local searches in various cities and now, from our main office in PA, we dropped to the top of page 4 for our home page under 'lemon law' and since this morning, it dropped three more positions (currently 34). This always concerns us with what we've seen in the past, especially since all the other pages that were ranked right around us did not change very much, if at all.

    The reason why I wanted to make a post is to hopefully get some thoughts on what people believe to be our biggest issues or perhaps what we could do better. When it seems like we've overcome our problems, another one crops up and all of the SEO firms mentioned above struggled to understand exactly what those problems are. Obviously, itís not an exact science and no one can truly anticipate every change Google is going to make.

    We believe we have good content and have been recognized as industry experts.
    We often appear on news stories on TV as well as radio talk shows and other media outlets so we have all that backing us up, yet it seems like none of it matters, even though we've been told time and time again that Google does pay attention to these kind of things (signals).

    If anyone is interested in discussing any of this, I would be grateful for some insight, thoughts, and will be willing to answer questions and discuss some topics. This has been going on for years and weíre at our wits end. Thank you for reading and sorry for the 'book'!

    Jeff

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  2. #2
  3. Dinosaur
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    Chapter and verse eh

    I did a quick search for you and found you 58th position but I am based in the UK which would not have helped.
    Over the past 12 months or so Google have been have been giving small boosts to sites that are compliant and following their best practises, of course if some sites are getting a boost then that also effects other sites in a negative way even though they have not done anything wrong.
    The mobile update for example, Google gave a small boost to sites that where mobile friendly, which in turn the sites that did not follow the trend lost out a little.
    Your site is mobile friendly so I am not saying thats the cause its just an example of how google reward some sites.

    The same applies to having a secure site, (HTTPS) I notice you did not follow that recommendation as google sort of expect it now for any serous site. It would be worth while looking into that so that you get that ticked off the possible causes. Cloudflare do a free HTTPS plus also offers caching of your content so I would highly recommend looking into that as it has the added bonus of speeding up your site at the same time.

    There are also small things you can do onsite, I am not saying there is any 1 thing that is wrong but combined you could find they add up and you maybe able to reverse the downwards trend.
    For example your Canonical tag is wrong on the home page, it requires a forward slash on the end so "http://www.lemonlaw.com/"

    You need to reduce the number links on your home page,
    You need to add Expires headers
    You seem to have quite a lot of redirects on the site. These need sorting. (239 redirects)
    A few images need compressing but overall they are quite good.
    You are making a lot of HTTP requests which is slowing the site down.
    you currently link to 19 pages that are no longer there so giving a 404 error.
    etc

    I am not saying anyone of these things are the route cause but if you think of it that you score a point for each one that is correct overall your losing a few points.

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  5. Digital Marketing
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    2 words of advice is all you need. That's it. Sorry but Google is a company that is beholden to its shareholders. They work hard to make money and they make no money when someone clicks on your snippet. It costs money to play at your table. All these algorithm updates are there to make you pay to sit at the big boys table. The 2 words are paid search. Adwords. Stop beating your brains in and talk to someone who can provide you positive ROI with a paid search campaign.

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  7. SeoRaptor
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    Hi jehrmann.

    Hope you won't minde me saying this but when I loaded your site my first impression was : is this a real business website? I really thing you should change your site not the content (you say it's good) but the layout and presentation, this would surely help you make more money with the same trafic.

    As KernelPanic said, Adwords could be a solution to generate qualified trafic but make sure to be advised by a professionnal (certified professionnal) or you might just loose money.

    I'll take a deep look at your site this afternoon or tonight when I have some time and come back to you as soon as possible regarding your SEO.

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  9. Dinosaur
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    I did not comment on the design but pierre is correct, I would expect a legal site to look the part and above reproach, currently it looks very dated and not trustworthy But that is more about converting users once they are on the site, Often huge gains can be achieved by improving UX without any movement in SERPS.

    There was once a video on youtube (now deleted) that 2 guys did a talk on how they improved a sites conversion by over 800% simply by improvements in design, they also provided analytics data to prove the impact the new designs had. They did proper A/B testing and heatmap tracking to fine tune the final designs.

    Now following kernalpanics advice maybe perfectly sound but unless you are able to convert visitors into customers then I would doubt you would see a positive return on investment.
    You would need to sort the site out first then hire a professional who knows how to run a ad campaign who has a proven track record, else its going to be expensive.

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    • SEOToday agrees : Cool :)
    Last edited by Chedders; Apr 15th, 2017 at 06:40 AM.
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    As KernelPanic said, Adwords could be a solution to generate qualified traffic but make sure to be advised by a professional (certified professionals) or you might just loose money.
    Yes, Pierre is correct you should hire a professional and if Kernel panic agrees to work for you then it will be better option. So PM him and lets see if he has time to work on your account as you can find him
    at KernelPanic - KernelPanic Florida - SEO Chat Author Bio

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    You do your business I do mine because you are you and I am I If we meet it is nice.
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    Thanks for all the replies everyone. Sorry I haven't been able to get back to this post, I've been quite busy. I'll address each reply as best I can.

    @Cheddars - sorry about the long read, I wanted to give a good overview of what we've dealt with.

    On the canonical tag - interesting that you mention that. That was placed by an SEO firm that we worked with last year who seemed to be incredibly good at the technical aspects. They are the ones that made our site mobile-friendly and recommended a lot of technical changes. I'm surprised that they would get that incorrect (if it is indeed), but I never questioned them. I will check this out.

    On HTTPS - I agree that we should get this and I thought that might be one thing everyone pointed out. It's on my list to get setup soon.

    The 404 errors is an issue I should try to do a better job at keeping up with. When we used an SEO firm regularly with a monthly retainer, this task was kept up with.

    On the HTTP requests slowing the site down, I will have to take a closer look. We worked hard to correct this last year and we assumed our site was pretty fast. I will run it through PageSpeed Insights to see if we can improve some things otherwise.

    On the redirects, there's probably not a lot we can do here. We've restructured a ton of pages over the years (the site is more than 20 years old) and a lot of has been done recently. Too many SEO firms deciding what URL/filename they think is best IMO. Funny that each SEO firm we work with just wants to add more and rarely suggests cleaning them up.

    I've never worked with Expired headers on page. We did a lot of work last year to implement caching and expiration server-side.

    Links on the homepage: I'm having trouble with this one. We're linking to our own content mostly, driving users to content and rarely linking to outside sources. It doesn't seem close to excessive.

    ---------------------

    @KernelPanic and @Prof.stan - we've been running paid search for many, many years and this has been a major source of business for us. We're well aware of it and have been pretty successful at it. Whenever we have hired a "professional", they never could do as good of a job as our marketing director and he always took it back upon himself. We'll keep it in mind though.

    ---------------------

    @Pierre and Cheddars 2nd post - it's ok to give criticism, I'm not a fan of the design either tbh. I'm personally not a web-designer and it's not my design. I'm very good with coding websites with HTML, CSS, PHP and some Java, but the actual design aspects are not my forte. I'm more of an engineer and I actually run our IT department, handling everything from top to bottom. I simply don't have the time or resources to redesign the site myself and there's no telling if it would be considered "good" anyway.

    Thanks everyone for your input. I hope to check back and give a few updates or discuss some more things soon.

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    Originally Posted by Prof.stan
    Yes, Pierre is correct you should hire a professional and if Kernel panic agrees to work for you then it will be better option. So PM him and lets see if he has time to work on your account as you can find him
    at KernelPanic - KernelPanic Florida - SEO Chat Author Bio
    Thank you for the referral but I am not accepting new clients at the present time.

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  17. Digital Marketing
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    Originally Posted by jehrmann
    @KernelPanic and @Prof.stan - we've been running paid search for many, many years and this has been a major source of business for us. We're well aware of it and have been pretty successful at it. Whenever we have hired a "professional", they never could do as good of a job as our marketing director and he always took it back upon himself. We'll keep it in mind though.
    Fair enough, best of luck to you.
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    Originally Posted by KernelPanic
    Thank you for the referral but I am not accepting new clients at the present time.
    So, when you have room please let me know then i will start recommendation for you.
    You do your business I do mine because you are you and I am I If we meet it is nice.
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    I wanted to follow up on this thread after doing some digging into some of the things mentioned as potential issues, but also to highlight that I am seeing a lot of the old patterns of spam and junk links return. While we may have a few issues on our side of things, it's difficult for us to tell which is the bigger problem that is really causing such a big change. I'm going to make a new thread with examples and ask questions about what we should do and to get opinions on the spam.

    The other thing I noticed is that our blog posts are spread too far with categories and tags, where too many categories are being used that really aren't categories and are more like keywords that should be converted into tags. I think the blog getting cleaned up will also help with sending the right signals. I think this may contribute to what we're seeing now. Our 'about' page is now showing up on page 1 for our top term instead of our home page. It seems Google currently believes that our about page is more authoritative and since the about page showing up is a recent change, I'm wondering if a penalty of some kind was applied to just the home page, which first caused the ranking to drop to page 4, slowly work it's way back up to page 2 and now switched to another page entirely (this happened before as well), which is why I believe spam/negative seo is still an issue.

    Thanks again for everyone who offered some insight, I really appreciate it. You've given some things to learn!

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