When it comes to better search result placement, links are important. A website with a strong backlink profile is in a much better position to outrank its competition than a website with a poor backlink profile. But what exactly makes a strong backlink profile? Is it quantity or quality of links? Is it free or paid links? When you get solicited by another marketing company attempting to sell you a link-building package, what exactly does that mean? Let’s break it down! That way, the next time you get solicited by a company trying to get you to focus on links, you’re better equipped to weather the sales pitch.
Q: Do more links lead to better rankings?
A: Specifically, NO, but generally YES, they might. Allow us to explain…
When it comes to link building, quantity takes a backseat to quality – ALWAYS. If you’re able to obtain a high-quality link, it likely took time and a lot of effort. High-quality links are more difficult to obtain for those very reasons and are rarely the types of links that most marketing companies are able to slap a guarantee on. On the flipside, low-quality links are easy to get. The Internet has no shortage of website directories, and each one of those directories likely has a place for your website. Remember though, the easier it is to get a link, the less valuable the link is. Let’s examine some of the more common types of links that companies tend to sell unsuspecting lawyers:
Free Directories (General) – Anyone can submit their business website to a directory like this. These websites are easy to submit to, but don’t typically rank for competitive search terms.
Translation – No one is going to see your listing because no one (other than marketing companies) is aware these sites exist. From Google’s perspective, these websites receive little traffic, and therefore pass no value onto the website being listed
QUALITY SCORE = 1 out of 10
Free Directories (Lawyer-Specific) – Only law firms or solo practitioners can submit their business website to a directory like this. These websites are easy to submit to and may rank better for competitive search terms than a more general directory is able to. However, “better” is a relative term here.
Translation – Few people, if any, are going to see your listing because there are very few legal directories that rank well for competitive search terms (and we’ll discuss those later in this article). From Google’s perspective, many of these websites receive little traffic, and therefore pass no value onto the website being listed. The one saving grace is that these directories are industry-specific, and often feature keyword phrases throughout that the law firm is likely trying to rank for.
QUALITY SCORE = 2 out of 10
Paid Directories (General) – Anyone can submit their business website to a directory like this provided the submission fee is paid. These websites are easy to submit to, the only roadblock being the money required to secure the listing. While these websites are more exclusive and may rank better than non-paid sites, they likely don’t rank well for competitive search terms.
Translation – Buyer beware. If you’re going to spend money on a link, you need to think about the ROI you’re potentially going to get back from that link. Is a person who’s in need of a lawyer likely to trust a general paid directory to supply them with the best attorney? It’s possible, but also extremely unlikely. From Google’s perspective, a paid directory is only a slight step above a free directory. Paying for links is expressly discouraged by Google, so relying on these types of links to better your overall search placement isn’t the best approach.
QUALITY SCORE = 3 out of 10
Paid Directories (Lawyer-Specific) – Only law firms or solo practitioners can purchase links on these types of directories. They’re more exclusive than any of the other link types we’ve discussed so far because websites hoping to be listed need to meet two specific criteria: they need to be a law firm and they need to pay a listing fee. However, while being more exclusive is certainly a good thing, it doesn’t necessarily translate to better search rankings all the time. Some paid attorney directories are valuable, but even more of them are not.
Translation – The majority of these paid lawyer directories probably aren’t going to rank very well, but there are still some sites that will show up within the first few pages of a Google search. While a lawyer likely isn’t going to obtain a steady stream of leads from directories like this (unless more money is spent on site-specific advertising campaigns), you can never completely rule out that possibility.
From Google’s perspective, these sites don’t necessarily represent high-quality link building. While the benefit they pass on to your website is typically going to be more valuable than that of non-paid directories and free lawyer directories, these types of paid links are still easy to obtain if you’re willing to pay for them. Not only are these types of links industry-specific, but some of them rank well enough that they could have a positive influence on overall search placement.
QUALITY SCORE = 4 out of 10
Sponsorships (Local and National) – An annual fee or other type of monetary commitment often accompanies these types of links. Unlike a more general paid directory, these sponsorship websites generally maintain a connection to the local community in some way and are thus much more valuable when it comes to improving local search placement. Because these types of links are almost always tied to a legitimate cause and the requirements for sponsorship involve more than just uploading website information, Google tends to look more favorably on these websites.
Translation – These types of links are more valuable because they’re more difficult to obtain. Unlike various types of directories, these websites often involve contacting an account manager or webmaster in order to properly place a link on the site.
QUALITY = 6 out of 10
Organizations (Local and National) – These types of websites are similar to local sponsorships, but often belong to more easily recognizable organizations that Google has a favorable viewpoint of. Because these types of websites often carry more legitimacy than your standard sponsorship website, obtaining a link requires contact with the site’s webmaster.
Translation – The value of these links may vary from website to website, but they’re generally just as valuable as sponsorship links. They might not necessarily have anything to do with practicing law, but these links will help strengthen a law firm’s backlink profile. They’re more difficult to obtain and come from more legitimate websites, so they’re valued more by Google.
QUALITY SCORE = 6 out of 10
News Links (Local and National) – You generally cannot buy these links, which inherently makes them more valuable than your typical directory or sponsorship links. Google knows this, and rewards websites that obtain news links by considering these links more valuable than any of the other links previously mentioned on this list. It should be noted that some larger news organizations do offer paid link options, but they’re often very expensive and, while they do improve a website’s backlink profile, they typically don’t provide the type of return on investment that might justify their purchase.
Translation – These links are difficult to obtain because it’s up to the discretion of the news website whether they are granted. When it comes to link building, the more difficult it is to obtain the link, the more value Google places on said link. For law firms that are involved in higher-profile cases, there tend to be more opportunities to secure these types of links, or, at the very least, “mentions” on news websites. It should also be noted that local news sites have the potential to be even more valuable than national news outlets, particularly since the news site’s target audience is the same audience that may potentially retain the services of the law firm. As a bonus, these links do generally pertain to the firm’s practice in some way unlike your typical organization or sponsorship link.
QUALITY SCORE = 8 out of 10
Universities and Schools (Local and National) – Obtaining these links isn’t as simple as just filling out a sponsorship request form and providing a check to pay for the link. In order to obtain a link from a “.edu,” you’ll need to provide the educational institution a reason to link back to your website. The most direct approach is offering a scholarship. Keep in mind that while offering a scholarship on your website creates the opportunity for “.edu” (and “.org”) backlinks, it’s very important that you follow through and actually award the scholarship to a deserving student.
NOTE: Some websites are leery about businesses offering scholarships in exchange for links and then failing to deliver to the students. To help curb this practice, especially among law firms, some websites maintain a much stricter review process prior to awarding a link.
Translation – These types of links are very valuable, especially if they can be obtained from local educational institutions. They’re much more difficult to obtain than a directory or sponsorship link because there’s more work involved in setting them up and properly executing the campaign. However, the work required to launch successful scholarship campaign is well worth the backlink benefits that your law firm will receive, not to mention the additional scholarship content your firm will acquire to help expand its digital branding footprint.
QUALITY SCORE = 9 out of 10
Government Websites – These types of links are generally the most difficult to obtain. Local government links are especially valuable when attempting to rank a website for the respective geographic region and can make an immediate impact on search placement.
Translation – The harder it is to obtain a link, the more valuable the link is. Google recognizes which links are easier to obtain and “grades” those links accordingly. And as far as “grades” are concerned, one high-grade link is worth far more than multiple low-grade links. Remember, when it comes to link building, quality is what matters most, and higher-quality links should always be sought before time and attention are given to low-grade links.
QUALITY SCORE = 10 out of 10
A lot of marketing companies out there sell link packages to unsuspecting law firms. The important thing to remember about links is that there’s never a guarantee when it comes to obtaining certain types of high-quality links. Some marketing companies, like SLS Consulting, Inc., have tried-and-true methods when it comes to soliciting links, but we never offer a guarantee because we know that securing these high-quality links depends on a third-party website that we have no control over. So, think about this…
If those other marketing companies are selling link packages, that means, at best, they’re guaranteeing that your law firm is going to walk away with a certain number of links for payment. Any marketing company that offers packages like this is most probably just acting as a middleman, offering lower-quality, cheaper links in exchange for a marked-up price because those are the types of links that can be guaranteed.
Furthermore, don’t be fooled into thinking that quantity ever trumps quality when it comes to links back to your website. One high-quality link can be worth 1000+ lower-quality sites, so don’t be tricked into thinking that you’re getting a bargain when it comes to link packages. If anything, low-quality links pointed at your website can have a negative impact on your search placement.
Remember, unless the marketing company’s success is tied to what matters – your ROI and case intake – everything else is just bells and whistles. At SLS Consulting, Inc., we focus on link-building strategies that matter. If it impacts your ability to show up in the SERPs more often than your competitors, we’re focusing on it. If it doesn’t, we’re sure you can check your inbox for a spammy email solicitation that’s offering guaranteed links for a low, low price. Now that you know the secrets behind link packages, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about your digital marketing strategy.
For more information about maximizing your advertising budget, give us a call at (323) 254-1510.
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