In its official statements, Google doesn’t seem to be in favor of link building, but at the same time, law firms with a strong link building strategy perform better in their SEO.
Search Engine Optimization for law firms is a complicated task that takes time, requires commitment, and significant investment. In previous articles, we’ve explored the value of content management for law firms (especially amid COVID-19), and we’ve explained that content is king, but most of the time this isn’t enough to succeed in SEO. No matter if Google has been monitoring link building strategies, and often discouraged certain practices, we’re able to tell that law firm websites with strong, and valuable links perform better. Today, we’ll dive into the world of useful links, and we’ll give you tips on where to find them (plus what to avoid by all means).
- What is link building?
In simple words, link building is the process of getting other websites that are relevant to your industry to link back to your law firm’s website. That way, users will be able to navigate through websites of relevant content, and at the same time, the search engines will crawl the webpages and will attribute links between the websites.
- Why is it important?
First, we need to mention that it’s critical to discover new pages from a user standpoint. Let’s consider that you are a Personal Injury attorney, and you are related to a healthcare professional who owns a relevant webpage. If the doctor decides to add a hyperlink to your website, the visitors of this website will have the chance to click on it and land on your PI law firm’s website to educate themselves and potentially call you or fill a form for additional information.
The second crucial part you need to remember is that when Google crawls new and updated pages to be added to the Google index and then ranks them accordingly, it doesn’t only look at the content, but also at the hyperlinks that are pointing to a specific website and/or webpage. Some people (we hesitate to call them SEO professionals) go only for the number of links, concentrating their efforts on the quantity, disregarding quality, and often even content. This used to be a technique that yielded results in the past, it might shortly work nowadays as well, but Google hates bad links and will penalize you for getting in the grey areas (or practice what is called black hat link building). Let’s identify the DOs and DONTs of link building for your law firm.
Link building goes hand in hand with content marketing:
- How to plan your law firm’s link building strategy.
To begin with we need to split backlinks into two initial categories. First, come the so-called follow links. These are the links that can count towards your law firm’s domain authority score, giving you points that help your page rank. This is ultimately going to help your law firm website rank higher in the SERPs. The second category consists of the no-follow links. These are hyperlinks that don’t give you points towards a better SEO performance and don’t transfer domain authority from one website to another. These are often blog comments, forum posts, guest posts signatures, editable wiki pages, and guest book comments.
Tip: Don’t overlook no-follow links. Sometimes, they can contribute to your organic traffic with valuable referral clicks.
Let’s move on to identifying what is a bad or good link, what adds value and contributes to your law firm’s SEO strategy, and what can potentially put you at risk. Google doesn’t want to mess around and prioritizes penalizing any efforts to manipulate the algorithm and gain ranks from links that you don’t deserve. That being said, we have to mention relevancy. Good links are those that provide relevant linking between pages sharing some common characteristics, cover similar subjects, and the visitor can get a better experience when clicking on them.
Let’s explain this with an example. If you are a bankruptcy attorney and you are investing in your SEO, you will be able to provide the searchers and the search engines with unique and relevant content. This is the first step towards success, but you also need others to link back to you. What kind of websites would you want to be related to you? It could be financial services, economic news outlets, or similar pages. These could be valuable partners to your SEO efforts.
But it’s not only about relevancy. Domain authority also matters, as it shows the website’s reputation on the internet, and with the search engines. Think it as your reputation, would you partner for external consultation with a reputable financial risk professional, or with someone who is unknown and can’t showcase much experience in related matters? On the other hand, a bad link is anything irrelevant to your law firm’s content. Even if the referring domain authority seems tempting, we’d suggest you not opt for links from sources that don’t relate with you. Why would a Personal Injury attorney get a link from a basketball-related website? You need to be careful, as no matter if these techniques can work a limited time, they will eventually backfire and it gets harder and harder to recover penalized websites.
Tip: Technical factors also matter. They matter a lot. When reviewing a link, go over the website, browse it from desktop and mobile, evaluate its user interface and experience, and pay attention to the loading speed.
- How will my law firm get the backlinks it needs?
The ideal scenario is to create such amazing pieces of content that everybody will want to read and link back to your law firm’s website. This, however, sounds more like a science-fiction scenario than reality. No matter how good you become, it might take years before you get noticed simply by creating legal content, or it might never happen. What is your choice then? Outreach, but not in the form of forced or purchased links. Most lawyers, just like you, happen to appear on the news, contribute to charitable or cultural events, and participate in multiple other initiatives. All these have websites, and often promote the events, or even send out press releases. Is there any reason for not adding your link? Right, you’ve earned it, and if it’s not already there, you can pick up the phone and politely ask. Another tip we want you to consider is to use your network. Are you working with other fellow lawyers that work on other practice areas? Use it as a chance to get in touch, strengthen your relationships, and boost your SEO.
Below, you will find an actual email we received today, from a “professional blogger” offering paid guest posts. Why do we show this here? This is what you need to avoid by all means. Do not buy guest posts from databases and website lists. If someone is offering it to you, they are offering it to a thousand other companies, note that we said companies, not just attorneys. This can put you in a situation where the best-case scenario is that you will pay for a post and a link of no value, while at worst case, Google will understand what has been going on and will penalize you. As we stated earlier, Google cares and monitors links and corresponding strategies. Even if a domain shows high authority, it doesn’t tell much if it starts being used for guest posting. The search engine will crawl all the irrelevant subjects that don’t connect well with the website and each other. Soon, Google will flag it and potentially penalize you and all links that fall under that category.
As Jim Boykin said during SMX Next in June
I’m amazed that people still buy links from databases.
Remember: If you are working with an agency, or plan on working with one on your law firm’s SEO, ask them about the link building strategy they’ll follow. Do not sacrifice your law firm’s digital future for untrusted short term results.
What are the key takeaways?
- A successful SEO strategy can’t consist only of content; your law firm needs to look into link building as well.
- Google is strict on its backlink policies, and therefore you need to be careful about your strategy.
- Outreach for link building is not a crime, but it needs to come naturally and not in a forced or paid way.
- Do not buy links from databases. They provide no added value in the long run, and they can harm your law firm’s future with organic traffic.
If you want to learn more, or you have questions about your attorney SEO strategy, don’t hesitate to contact us.