Is google ruining the legal information resources in it’s index ?
Online legal resources, like almost everything else online, provide an excellent free resource. Legal information historically had been the preserve of weighty legal tomes, almost indicipherable to someone not a trained and experienced lawyer, but the importance of the internet as a marketing tool has changed everything.
Many law firms have realized that the internet is an incredibly powerful and important way of communicating with potential clients. Those potential clients are generally not all that interested, if at all, in in-depth academic explanations of law or the latest legal nuance or case. Typically, those searching on the web for legal information want an overview, a guide which enables them to gain some understanding of the topic or the legal issue they are facing, whether this may, for example, relate to a situation where they are an employee with a possible unfair dismissal claim, a business which needs a shareholder agreementor you have lost a relative and need to apply for probate.
There are now a wealth of excellent resources on the web along the above lines, which are really helpful to non-lawyers and enable them to make more informed choices. So what’s the problem ?
Google is the dominant force in search, with over 90% of the market, and, as things stand, no viable challenger. As those who follow search engine marketing will know, google has gone on the rampage over the last 3-4 months, downgrading many thousands of sites due to what it claims is an attempt to clean up the web from spam. Many doubt this explanation – by shaking up the search results so much, with many sites penalised, this has the result of these sites that have lost traffic deciding to do more pay per click, and who benefits from that – google !
The problem is, as we see it, watching the legal search results daily, that for many legal search terms, google search results have regressed or deteriorated hugely in the last few months. It has replaced and downgraded many of the better sites, albeit some of which have not stuck strictly to google’s rules, and replaced them with largely academic results, which google trusts more, simply because they are academic institutions.
The above is disappointing – google should sort this out out it many well start losing some of it’s domination if it’s search results remain so poor.