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Attorney Website Design Blog

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Did Your Site Get a D? The Dangers of Automated Website Graders

Every so often, we get a panicked call from one of the attorneys we work with. Our client has been contacted by an online marketing company who ran his site through their “industry leading website grader” and his site got a failing grade of a D. As you can imagine, our response is one of less concern and reassurance that the site is not in any way a failure. After all, we’ve been doing this for years and we know how to develop an effective website.  So what’s the deal with these automated website graders?

As you might have guessed, most of these “assessments” are simply sales tactics – let’s show you how bad your website is so we can come in and fix it. When unsolicited, you can be certain that this is not an unbiased review of your site.  

Most of these reviews allege to have analyzed your on-site optimization, structure and content. In reality, most are simply automated reports that are used for attorneys across the country (often just swapping out the name on the top of the report). Here are a few of the major inaccuracies that we’ve identified with these reports:

The site in question never has a sitemap.
Just about every report we’ve ever read claims that the site has no sitemap (which is essentially a road map for the search engines).  When we see this, we know the report is in no way accurate. We develop and submit a sitemap for each and every site we develop.  We suspect that they ring the alarm by claiming this element is missing because most professionals aren’t sure how to check on whether a sitemap is in fact present on their websites.

The keywords rarely reflect the objectives of the firm
Since most of the companies who run these website graders have never spoken with the firm whose website they’re assessing, it’s impossible for them to understand the practice’s business objectives. Often their claim that the keywords on your site are poorly structured has less to do with your site and more to do with the fact that they were looking for keywords that your website was not actually optimized for.

They make totally bogus claims that can be identified with a quick review of the site
We understand that most attorneys can’t necessary verify that the meta tags of a website are properly optimized or that a sitemap has been updated, but these reports often contain major red flags that our attorneys spot after closer inspection. Just last week, one of our clients received a report of this nature from one of our competitors and understandably, he was concerned. As he read through it, he found that the report gave him a poor grade for not having a blog. He does have a blog (which is quite prominently highlighted in various spots throughout the site). The attorney is also an active blogger, meaning he writes a new post at least once per week. With this error, it was plain to see that this company (or a real live human at it) hadn’t actually taken time to review the site they were grading.

Now this isn’t to say that all website assessments don’t have merit. In fact, we regularly perform website assessments for attorneys but when we do, it’s an undertaking that we take quite seriously. With these reviews, an experienced member of our team carefully assesses each page, looking at both the front and back-end. We then have a one on one conversation with the attorney to address any concerns and offer suggestions for improvement. If you’ve received an unsolicited website assessment or have simply submitted your URL for an automated assessment, proceed with caution and be sure to take nothing at face-value. Inaccuracies run rampant in these reviews. 


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