Case Study: AttorneyFind.com Cleanup

AttorneyFind.com, online since 1997, has consistently provided quality leads to private attorneys and law firms by way of their online visibility. Their search engine pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign and their natural search engine rankings bring constant traffic to their homepage search function, allowing visitors to freely search their database of listed law offices through a 3 step process, resulting in a short list of legal category specific lawyers that can advise on specific areas of law and provide legal services to the visitor. Perhaps the most important quality of their online attorney search is that visitors can designate their region, city or state, being as locale specific as they choose to find a local or regional a practice as they need or desire.

In August 2005, due to algorithmic changes by Google, the leading search engine both in terms of daily searches and traffic delivered to websites listed in their mammoth database of potential search results, AttorneyFind.com disappeared from Google’s index. Along with losing their natural search ranks, Google no longer reported that the AttorneyFind domain existed in their database of active websites. While AttorneyFind.com was still online, and had never ceased to function properly, the search giant no longer acknowledged their existence or experience in the market.

We became aware of this when we were contacted by AttorneyFind’s website administrator to provide an explanation and solution to their quandary. What follows is a report of what we determined to be the explanation for their disappearance, what we did to resolve this issue and what resulted from our actions.

What was wrong?

Google provides some explanation of what consists of acceptable and unacceptable activities and content for websites that want to be included in their online database of potential search results. These Webmaster Guidelines have remained fairly consistent over the years and can be reviewed here: http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html.

AttorneyFind had in the past worked with what, at the time, were the standard for search engine optimization practices. The additions they made to their website were intended to enhance their homepage as a prime destination for web users searching for law firm contact information. We analyzed the massive index of pages that had been generated to improve AttorneyFind’s search engine rankings and determined that they were now in violation of Google’s guidelines. Specifically, the AttorneyFind.com domain contained over 1000 pages created solely for the benefit of search engine software called spiders. Here are the 2 most relevant quality guidelines to AttorneyFind’s position:
1) Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
2) Don’t load pages with irrelevant words.

AttorneyFind’s homepage contained 30 hidden links targeting 25 pages generated to use Google’s algorithmic appreciation of anchor text, or clickable link text, to AttorneyFind’s advantage. The pages that were linked to from the homepage and the pages they in turn linked to were loaded with irrelevant words and links that in the past may have earned AttorneyFind.com a prominent place in Google search results for their relevant keywords and keyword phrases, but were now detrimental to their very inclusion in Google’s search index. 3Prime was glad to quickly address this situation and make a concerted effort to regain AttorneyFind’s valuable search engine real estate.

What we did

AttorneyFind needed to do all of the following, which we split into 3 distinct phases.

Phase 1: Site Cleanup – Rid the AttorneyFind.com domain of pages violating Google’s Guidelines.
1) Remove the hidden links from the homepage
2) Remove the 1000+ pages that violated Google quality guidelines
3) Remove comment tags containing keywords and keyword phrases
4) Remove unnecessary keyword density in HTML attribute tags
5) Replace hidden links with visible navigation text links

Phase 2: Search Engine Optimization – Optimize the website by replacing removed pages with pages that could be used to provide informational content to visitors and search engines.
1) Convert HTML pages to ASP for easier site maintenance and future enhancement
2) Consolidate JavaScript, which is not read by search engine spiders to supporting pages for improved spiderability
3) Ensure no broken links or images
4) Create 2 press releases to alert search and news engines to AttorneyFind’s revision
5) Generate an XML formatted Google-friendly SiteMap to alert Google to the removed pages and locations of new pages

Phase 3: Submission – Submit AttorneyFind’s new, cleaned up website to Google for re-inclusion using Google’s new SiteMap generation and submission function (Beta).
1) Submit the XML formatted document we created designating all the pages of AttorneyFind.com to be included in Google’s search engine index
2) Submit and distribute the 2 press releases as widely as possible.

It took 76 hours over 3 days to complete these tasks but all proved worthwhile.

What results were achieved

Our tasks were completed Friday by the close of business at 5pm EST. On Sunday, Google’s spiders revisited the AttorneyFind.com homepage and included it in their index of potential search results. AttorneyFind.com had earned back many of its natural search positions, with some reduction in ranking such as #1 to #3, and now had much better website architecture to move forward with in the future.

Interestingly enough, Google still reported many of the pages that were removed as being a part of their index. As the site is respidered, we expect these pages to be removed from Google’s index, and be replaced with the well-formed, search engine friendly pages that we created so that the website would be in a good position for future improvement.

Using search engine position monitoring software, we checked for AttorneyFind’s presence in all of Google datacenters and were proud to see that each Google datacenter had the same results. Our goal of returning AttorneyFind.com to the Google fold was achieved.

View our rankings results online at:
AttorneyFind Cleanup

Update: October 2, 2005

AttorneyFind.com is once again #1 in Google for their most important, highest traffic term, “Attorney”.

About 3PRIME

3PRIME, with operations based in New Haven, CT, offers search engine marketing services to small and medium sized businesses. Consisting of 3 experts, 3Prime can help your business earn prime visibility in the major search engines through a process of website goal analysis, strategic planning, aesthetic graphic design and layout modifications, advanced web programming and link popularity building.