5 Paths to SEO-Boosting Inbound Links for Attorney SEO Marketing
You may already know that a greater number of inbound links (hyperlinks back to your attorney website from outside sites) can help your webpage rank higher on search engine results. But did you know that it’s not all about numbers when it comes to inbound links? Amassing a ton of mediocre links is not likely to achieve great results and could actually damage your attorney SEO marketing efforts.
Rather, use the following strategies to achieve a higher number of valuable inbound links to your attorney website—quantity and quality—and improve your SEO.
- Assess resources
High-quality inbound links come from high-quality sources. When building your stock of inbound links, assess the resources at your disposal and work up from there. What other firms or businesses are you connected to? Do you belong to any legal associations, community organizations, or volunteer groups?
All of these connections can open up dozens of websites that link to your attorney website. For example, if you contribute a post or column for your local legal organization’s blog or newsletter, you could ask that alongside the article they feature a brief author biography containing a link to your firm’s website, or your firm’s logo in the sidebar linking back to your webpage.
- Make and use connections
Inbound links from small attorney sites can help improve your ranking but they’re not as beneficial as larger, more highly ranked sites. Don’t be afraid to think big and go after links from more established sites with thousands of visitors. For example, a criminal defense firm in Los Angeles, California could seek inbound links from the Los Angeles Times by lending their expertise on a story published on the newspaper’s website, and hyperlinking back to their attorney website.
Cultivating those relationships with media contacts, in addition to associations and organizations you may already belong to (see #1 above), can do wonders for not only link building, but branding, marketing, and lead development as well.
- Guest post
While not as effective of an SEO solution as it once was thanks to Google algorithm updates in recent years, guest posting on other blogs can push traffic toward your website while also delivering value to readers and potentially capitalizing on existing audiences. Don’t rely on guest posting as your number one link building strategy, but there’s nothing wrong with implementing it alongside other options for some free advertising.
In addition to guest posting, try bartering or exchanging with other sites for a mutually beneficial relationship. For instance, offer to feature their webpage on your attorney website if they return the favor.
- Create first-rate content
One of the best and simplest ways to grab more inbound links is to create sticky content that people want to share and link to. The more “shares,” the greater the number of links directed toward your attorney website. Switch it up with articles, interviews, infographics, images, and videos to see what appeals most to your audience.
Google’s ranking algorithm uses more than 200 factors when scoring your law firm’s website pages. Some of these factors are off-page attributes, and some are even off-site. Although you can try to manipulate other sites to try to benefit your own rankings, ultimately, those sites belong to other people and their actions related to your site and the relative power or insignificance of those sites will all have an impact on your Web page rankings. This week, the SEO Trends report looks at how others can help or harm your rankings, and what you can do about that. You will read about advice currently posted on Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Watch.
Backlinks are probably the most influential tool a third party site can use to influence the rankings of your law firm’s Web pages. Links are one of the biggest factors in the Google ranking algorithm and you get an adjustment score applied to your rankings by the Penguin filter. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about the links that influence your rankings because the links you post on your pages out to other websites have little to no influence on your rankings. It is the links other people post on their sites that point into your site that either enhance, or destroy your rankings. Penguin targets spammy backlinks and seriously downgrades the rankings of the pages they point to. So if you hired someone to soup up your rankings, and they were cheap, they may have just posted lots of links to your sites on link farms, which will drag you down. You need to investigate your backlink profile before Penguin is run again.
Here is Search Engine Journal’s take on the Penguin update. Google’s ranking algorithm runs all the time, so any SEO improvements you make to the pages of your law firm’s website will show up in a ranking adjustment fairly quickly. Filters are different, however, and Penguin is one of these. Filters are run infrequently and they calculate an adjustment to any score the ranking algorithm may calculate in the future – resulting in a permanent ranking downgrade until the filter is run again. So even if you get the bad backlinks into your site removed, the minus mark from Penguin will remain and drag down your rankings until Penguin is updated and the penalty is removed.
This article covers a range of tactics that suit different marketing strategies. The section that makes it relevant to this week’s SEO Trends theme is the discussion on Barnacle SEO. You don’t have to just sit in your office and hope that other sites will sprinkle some good SEO fairy dust on your law firm’s Web pages. You can actually go onto influential sites and drag some of their points towards your site. The easiest way to do that is through reviews, and the Barnacle concept discusses that strategic tool.
This article is quite technical and you may find the topic difficult to understand. For the definitive explanation of Robots.txt files, see Robotstxt.org. This file tells Webcrawlers not to index certain pages, or directories of pages on your site. Unfortunately, this file is accessible by anyone and can be manipulated. In this case, an agreed partner of a site – a Content Management System hosted by its provider, habitually edited their client’s robots.txt file and damaged the visibility of a lot of that site. You should check the robots.txt file of your law firm’s website periodically to make sure no one is fiddling about with it and damaging your rankings. The article explains how to do that.
The previous article explained how partner software can inadvertently damage you law firm’s site by some procedural programming error. However, external forces can also clobber your search engine visibility intentionally. The astonishing part in this article is the statistic that 10,000 websites get removed from Google’s files every day because they have been infected by malware placed there by hackers. That is a big number. You should take steps to make sure hackers don’t get your site blacklisted.
The Searchmetrics Ranking Factors study and the Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015 report from Moz were both published this month and both highlight the importance of backlinks as ranking factors. Although many SEO consultants like to downplay the influence of links on rankings, these two reports show that the influence of backlinks is actually increasing and not decreasing. The important aspect of links is their source, so you should look for quality sites to get links from. However, how do you judge what qualifies as “quality?” Your assessment of site quality, as a lawyer, may be completely different from the opinion of Google’s algorithm programs. As Google doesn’t publish lists of high quality sites, it is difficult to know which sites to approach for backlinks. Also, if everyone finds out about these quality sites, they are probably bombarded with link requests and might not get around to linking to your law firm’s site.
There are a few types of sites that Google categorizes as quality sources of links. Anyone can access these sites and post links there, so you don’t have to wait for a programmer of the linking site to write up a new link to you. Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Journal have some advice this week that will help you get access to the right sources for backlinks for your law firm’s website.
The number one easiest source of “quality” backlinks lies in review sites. They have become so important as sources for link juice that even a bad review can boost your rankings. This Search Engine Journal article runs through the categories of review sites that you can register your business on to get reviews that will put links through to your site. Initially, you could get a satisfied client to give you a review. Sit with them immediately after winning their case and run through the review process with them, to make sure you get a good review. As an ongoing strategy, build a quality survey into your client-handling procedures to try to make sure everyone you work for gives you a review.
Facebook “Likes” and mentions provide a good source of links into your site and also offer a good way to get your law firm noticed by particular sectors of the public. People who use your law firm’s services are likely to have friends in similar circumstances, who also may need to hire you. This report shows that not only will links from Facebook boost your rankings, but offer a better source of site visitors than a high ranking in Google’s search results pages.
Pinterest is a dark horse in all types of search, not just mobile. However, this report proposes that Pinterest links have some sort of edge in boosting your rankings in search results offered to those searching from their mobile devices. Pinterest is a “curation” service, which means that people present collections of sources. Essentially, each Pinterest page is just a page full of links and is not intended to contain original content. As Pinterest content is driven by images, it is difficult to imagine how this type of content could be used to present a law firm. However, if you can crack that problem, your rankings will fly.
Google seems to be hammering Wikipedia at the moment. The amount of traffic the site gets from Google is in decline. However, in this report from Search Engine Journal, it seems that Wikipedia staff are not that worried – they get a lot of traffic from people typing in their address rather than people searching for a topic in Google and getting forwarded to them. Wikipedia is a great source of quality backlinks that few understand how to exploit. In order to benefit from ranking-boosting Wikipedia links, post a very factual article on your law firm’s website that covers a particular aspect of your law specialization. Register as a volunteer on Wikipedia, find a page that covers that aspect of the law and edit it. Put in a reference to the article you posted on your site, providing a link. That will get your Google rankings a boost.
Here is some general advice on how to structure your link building campaign. The example given in this piece covers a food website which posts recipes to attract links. Obviously, that strategy would not be a good idea for a law firm. However, it illustrates how you can use advice pages on your site to pull in links from other sites. Once you have those factual advice pages on your site, you then promote them through Wikipedia, Facebook and Pinterest pages.
The easiest way to get two SEO consultants to argue with each other is to raise the topic of links. Some will tell you that links have absolutely no relevance any more, while others will insist that links always were and always will be the bedrock of Google’s ranking algorithm. It’s a hot-button issue. Search Engine Land has a new version of its Periodic Table of SEO out this week and you will see that links are listed there as an SEO factor. Search Engine Journal andSearch Engine Watch also have some interesting tips on links this week. Read through these articles about links to decide whether you are part of the pro- or anti-link tribe.
Search Engine Land first came up with the idea of representing SEO factors as a periodic table in 2011. The infographic was so successful that they have revised it every year to keep it current with Google’s algorithm changes. Follow the link in the article to get a PDF version of the table that you can download. If you print out the table you will be able to study it when you feel like a break from your legal caseload. You will see that links occupy an entire column of the table and there are negative factors as well as positive.
You may have worked hard on the SEO factors on your law firm’s website, only to find that a rival firm with a rubbish website ranks higher than yours. It is annoying when that happens and this article by Neil Patel explains the reasons behind it. It could just be that your rival accidentally hit on some factor that got them raised in the rankings. Reasons 3 and 4 in Patel’s list cover links. He very smartly matches the factors that appear in the links column of Search Engine Land’s periodic table: quality of the source is most important, followed by the text around the link.
Now let’s hear from the anti-links camp. The main argument for those who don’t rate links as a worthy SEO factor starts off with the fact that Google now includes hundreds of other factors in their algorithm. This is true, but not all factors have the same magnitude and probably about three quarters of them can be ignored because they have far less influence than links. The fall-back argument of the antis is that “Google will soon be dropping links as a factor,” and here’s one of those stories. Although Google changes its algorithm frequently, links are still a strong contributor to rankings, so it is worth planning a linking strategy for your law firm’s website to deal with Google’s current algorithm.
SEO guru, Chuck Price nails his colors to the mast as a pro-linker at the beginning of this article, which appears in Search Engine Watch. Price stresses that links are still important, but shouldn’t be the only focus of SEO work. You will find this article a useful guide in your link-building efforts for your law firm’s site because it contains a concise list of things not to do when acquiring links.
Chuck Price’s list of link-building no-nos gets expanded out in this Search Engine Journal article and includes positive alternatives to the bad linking techniques. One reason some SEO professionals may like to write off link building could be that it has become a difficult job. You should avoid paying an agency to build backlinks for your law firm’s website. It is a job that you should do in-house. This guide should give you some ideas of how to go about that task.
Google’s original ranking algorithm was based on links and keywords. Although they have introduced many alterations to that basic system over the years, links are still prominent in the Google points system. In fact, a number of ranking analyses published last year showed that links had actually increased in importance as a ranking factor. Links are never going to stop being central to ranking algorithms, but their influence does get tweaked from time to time. There is quite a lot of chatter about links on the SEO news sites this week, which indicates that it may be worth investigating the links that point into your law firm’s site, which are called backlinks. Search Engine Land has a lot of information on the topic right now, and you will also hear from Search Engine Journal in this trends round up.
As we reported in SEO Trends: Google’s Algorithm, Google seems to be focusing work on its two main “filters” – Panda and Penguin. Panda, which penalizes poor content, has been integrated into the main algorithm. Penguin adjusts rankings according to the “quality” of backlinks. The penalties it applies to pages and sites stay there until the filter is run again. So even if you clean up your link profile, you won’t see any immediate improvement in the rankings of your law firm’s Web pages. You have to wait until Penguin is reapplied, and it looks like that event is imminent. That means you have to do everything you can to clean up your link profile as a matter of urgency.
This article is interesting because it doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of its title. It doesn’t really mention links at all, but focuses on content quality. However, it is included here in our exploration of link power because it is full of the new jargon that covers factors that are supposed to have replaced backlinks in importance (but actually haven’t). In the old days, Google’s core algorithm was called PageRank. Every page got a score and that score was split up equally among the links the page contained and passed on. It still is. However, that score is now adjusted by filters such as Panda and Penguin. The buzzwords now are “authority” and “trust.” A page’s enhanced PageRank score is referred to as its authority and trust flows along the links in that page, delivering a score to the page pointed to – that’s what we used to call “link juice.” However, looking at the graphs in the article, a higher “authority” doesn’t necessarily get a higher ranking, which implies that this buzzword isn’t as important for your law firm’s rankings as the experts would have you believe.
This short article is very useful for understanding the difference between the “core” algorithm, and “filters.” It is particularly useful, because the Google boffin explains that PageRank is still the engine in the rankings. That means links and keywords are core and everything else is sprinkles. The pages on your law firm’s website may go up or down a position on Google’s results pages thanks to filters, but they still need to score with the basic PageRank methodology to get onto page 1.
This article is central to the message of this week’s SEO Trends theme – clean up your links. It explains that you used to be able to get links through sneaky methods, but all of those avenues have been closed off. Your main chance is to attract links through high quality content (link bait) and negotiation with the Webmasters of important sites. The section on monitoring your links is very cogent; because this is what you should be doing for your law firm’s site right now in order to benefit from the next run of Penguin.
Here is advice you can use to assess the backlinks into your law firm’s site. One thorny issue with relevance is its definition. The most relevant sites to you would be those of other law firms and legal professional sites. Only, those sources wouldn’t be any good to you – rivals won’t accept your links, most official court and legislature sites don’t carry links or advertising, and you really need to attract the public, not other lawyers. Also, reading the definition of low-authority sites, you would think that links from local newspaper sites would be included because they cover a wide range of topics. However, Google has worked out that anomaly, and newspapers and magazines are good sources for links. Basically, you should just avoid sensationalized sites, and particularly porn and gambling sites, as sources of backlinks.
The links that lead to your website pages from other sites are called “backlinks.” The links on your site that point to other pages are called “forward links.” Getting backlinks is a major part of SEO. The difficulty of link building is that you need to get other people to place links on their sites to point to yours. Why should they? Google has a lot of criteria about what constitutes a good link source, and paying for links is one of the biggest errors that you can make, so you have to find other incentives to get links from authoritative sites into your law firm’s website. Search Engine Land, the Moz Blog and Search Engine Watch have some interesting features on linking strategies this week.
A great starting point to find out good sources for backlinks is to find out where competing law firms get their links from. This article runs through a method of investigating competitors’ links. The examples given in the article focus on using the tools offered by Majestic SEO.
The competitors that have great links that you can learn from might not be exactly the same form of business as your own. In this article, the idea of examining indirect competitors is raised. The example of indirect competitors given here is one of a business selling pet food looking at other pet related services, such as pet insurance. The definition of an indirect competitor for a law firm is not so easy to pin down and the types of business you might need to analyze would vary widely depending on your practice specializations. For example, a firm specializing in immigration law might benefit from the links that feed into sites offering interpreting services.
After keen research you will end up with a list of great sites that you want to get backlinks from. However, this is where the difficult part starts. Why should those sites link to you? This article covers the difficulties of small businesses, such as small law practices, and attracting links from prominent websites. Google frowns on any incentives you could provide to that site, such as payment or mutual links. The general advice from Google is to put up great content that will earn the admiration of others and encourage people to link to your site. However, as this article points out, you have to make the Web community, and particularly your target link source sites, aware that your content exists.
You need to draw attention to your site in order to attract quality links. In this article, PR guru Ken McGaffin illustrates the efforts of one company to draw attention to itself during the launch of a product. This is what McGaffin terms “an event.” He stresses that it is important to attract links before the event occurs so that you gain maximum attention for your services at the point that the event is current. In the case of the legal profession, an event would probably be a change in the law that impacts your practice areas. So you could alert the world to this change as soon as you hear that a new law is being considered and post analysis on the possible consequences of that law if it passed. By the time the law comes into force you should have attracted enough relevant links on the topic to make your site rank well for that area of legal practice.
As has already been explained above, just putting up great content and hoping someone notices is not a winning strategy for small businesses, such as local legal firms. This Moz Blog post explains ways to establish contacts within key organizations that run the sites where you want your backlinks to appear. Ultimately, a person will decide whether or not to link to your law firm’s website. You need to find out who that person is and make him like you.
The World Wide Web is formed by HTML documents. HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. The term “hypertext” refers to the ability to embed links between documents. The links on a page are the key elements that create the Web and your law firm’s site needs to contain links to other sites in order to become a part of it. A link on a page pointing to another page is called a forward link. A link on another page, pointing to your page is called a backward link, or “backlink.” It is the backlinks pointing to the pages on your site that will bring you visitors and also get you a ranking on Google. During the last week, Search Engine Watch was particularly rich in advice about winning and monitoring backlinks. In this review of backlink articles you will also be directed to information currently appearing on Search Engine Journal and the Moz Blog.
Reading this article on the basics of link building will give you grounding on the concept of backlinks and where to get them. You have to be very careful that the sites that link to your law firm’s Web pages are relevant to your business. This article starts with the outline that link building is all about finding sites you want a link from and then persuading whoever runs the site to link to you.
In this Search Engine Watch article, Julie Joyce reviews some advice she wrote on link building back in October 2012. The rules that determine whether a link is good or bad for a site’s rankings in search engine results pages change constantly. So if your law firm’s website is more than a few years old, you may benefit from reading through Julie’s assessment to see whether the assumptions that drove your original linking strategy still hold true.
A link to one of the pages on your law firm’s website can either help or harm its rankings. The relevance of the site that links to you with the respect to the topic found on your page is very important. Just as relevant links will help, irrelevant backlinks will harm your website’s rankings. This article covers categories of backlinks that you need to get removed.
A linking strategy includes a phase of looking for sites that would be good sources for your backlinks. You may instinctively know which sites you want your law firm’s website associated with, however, there are a number of tools that can help you find out where your competitors get their links from. Open Site Explorer by Moz includes link analysis tools and this article by Rand Fishkin explains a new intersect methodology that Moz has just added on to its Link Opportunities section.
If you are comfortable with a blogging strategy for your law firm’s digital marketing plan and unsure how social media marketing can complement it, this article would be a useful read. There is not much practical advice in this piece, but it gives an overview of how different strands of digital marketing can work together to boost your marketing return on investment. If this strategy interests you, follow up by reading through the related articles listed in a feature box on the page. Fishkin explains how to use the tool to find what backlinks different sites have in common and what links point to one of more sites but not to others. This can help you work out which backlinks give your rivals better rankings than your site.
Read this article from Search Engine Watch without the idea of following the exact example it explains. A website needs to attract links from other sites, and this article explains about getting links from other sites by putting up a page explaining what cookies are and how to remove them. The backlinks this advice attracted came from a wide range of sites, so it is not a very good example of attracting links with relevance. However, law firms can follow this strategy by putting up a page of information relevant to their legal specializations, perhaps just explaining certain legal terms, or outlining the average time each type of case takes to resolve.
Link Profile Tactics
We have covered links in a large percentage of the SEO Trends posts so far this year. This is because the SEO news sites seem to be returning to this topic a lot. That is probably because Google’s focus on getting good mobile sites over the last year has forced everyone to take their eyes off this key topic. Now that the dust has settled on getting your law firm’s site mobile-friendly, it is worth examining the backlinks pointing to your site and focus on improving your link profile. We have some good guidelines on this subject for you and we found them all in Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable, Moz Blog and Search Engine Journal.
Google doesn’t like people paying for links. So everyone will tell you that the only way to get backlinks is to write “link bait content” for your site. That means that you should write articles to post on your website that attract the attention of sites frequented by your target market. You may be wondering how on earth you should know what content attracts links. This article shows you how to research good topics for link magnet content. This is a paid insert into the Search Engine Journal site, but that isn’t a detraction. You will see a step by step guide on how to use the Ahrefs tools to work out subjects for posts to your law firm’s site.
This SEO Trends post isn’t about promoting Ahrefs. Just to prove that, here is an explanation on how to use two other research tools that will help you boost your link profile. In this article, you will learn that not all link sources are equal. You will find out how to look for good sources for local SEO, and particularly directory sites. However, the most useful part of this guide is how to work out which backlink sources will gain your law firm’s site more points to boost your rankings. This goes on a concept called “domain authority.” You will see how to work the Open Site Explorer from Moz (which is free to use) to see which sites have a lot of link juice to pass on. The second method relies on using Google Analytics to help you see where your current traffic comes from.
A perennial problem with link bait content is how to get those sites with high domain authority to notice you. This is the topic of this Search Engine Journal article. Influencers are people with a lot of followers on their social media profiles, people who run sites that attract a lot of your target market, and people who write to a general audience in your local area, such as journalists on your local newspaper. So, you need to work out what content will interest people, then find out who are the best people to get to link to that article, and then you need to establish a rapport with those people to make sure they pay attention to your law firm’s site and link to it.
This Moz Blog article covers the topic of PR. You can use a number of PR tools and sites to communicate with your target influencers, and also cast your net wider. If you post your law firm’s news on social media, scheduling tweets and messages for release during the hours that your influencers are likely to be watching is a good idea. Posting news on press release sites is also an effective method. You present your purpose in easily usable and repeatable chunks in a press release, and then email a link over to your dear old influencer, along with a personal message to remind them of how close you are and nudge them to post a link to your new content.
This is a very short article that is included here because it refers to a creaky old directory system that a lot of people have forgotten about – DMOZ. Back in the day, getting a listing on a couple of directory sites, such as Yahoo Directory and DMOZ was all you needed to get to the top of search engine results pages. SEO has moved on a long way since then. However, DMOZ still has a lot of influence, and Google routinely refers to it. So, it is worth getting a listing for your law firm on there and getting a link through to your site. The only problem is that DMOZ is run by unpaid volunteers, who aren’t really properly equipped to keep up with demand. So, it might take a while before your entry appears on the site.