Of all the factors that determine how a website will rank on Google, backlinks are one of the most important. In fact, Google was built on the concept of PageRank, a ranking score assigned to every webpage based on its links. This concept still lives on as a core element of Google’s algorithm, and links are also a great way to get your law firm’s name out there and draw in traffic from reputable sources.
In the competitive legal industry, links are a vital part of any attorney’s toolkit for ranking in the SERPs. To get ahead of the pack, you need to think strategically about what links you should chase and which ones you should ignore. Sorting through all this while handling your firm’s day-to-day tasks can be overwhelming, which is why you should discuss your firm’s link-building strategy with the digital marketing experts at SLS Consulting, Inc.
With over 20 years of experience, we have witnessed firsthand how Google’s attitude toward backlinks has developed. We know how to untangle the web of links that make up the internet and find the most reliable and valuable ones for your firm’s success. Call us at (323) 254-1510 or toll-free at (877) 248-3529 to learn more in a free marketing evaluation.
How Do Backlinks Affect Rankings?
As Google crawls the web, it maps how sites link to each other. These links help determine a page’s PageRank which, in turn, affects how the page ranks in the SERPs (search engine results pages). When one page links out to another, it passes along some equity, often called “link juice.” This can positively affect the scores and rankings of the page receiving the link. The more authoritative a page, the more link juice it can pass.
One of the jobs of an SEO (search engine optimization) expert is to collect link juice from other sites through the process of link building. SEOs must find authoritative sites and then reach out to these sites to request a link. This is made more difficult on account of the fact that there is no way to directly measure the authority of a given link.
As a result, link building is equal parts creativity, doing the work, and intuition.
Components of a Good Link
There are several myths surrounding link building and SEO that have permeated the marketing space for years, leading to a rise in ineffective and unreliable linking strategies. A few bad-apple marketing agencies have spoiled the whole barrel by advertising “link packets” that include affordable and quick backlinks. With this strategy, getting new backlinks seems easy enough at first, until you realize that Google is also monitoring the web for unnatural links, or those created to fabricate link juice. If Google deems a link to be unnatural, its Penguin algorithm will devalue the link – eliminating the potential benefits.
As a result, link building must be highly strategic. It is not enough to acquire links – these links must be intrinsically valuable.
Ideally, a good backlink will meet some or all of the following criteria:
- Descriptive anchor text
- Industry relevance (legal website or article)
- Authoritative domain
- Localized website
Backlinks, like any other aspect of SEO, require time, effort, and consistency. Legal marketing is never as simple as getting a handful of links and waiting for the cases to come in. You have to regularly review your website’s backlinks to make sure the source is still active, accurate, and useful to your firm’s efforts. You should also be on the hunt for new linking opportunities or work to develop your own through scholarship programs, charity events, and other local marketing campaigns.
Don’t Fall for Black-Hat Links
Unfortunately, linking is associated with all manner of scams – especially when attorneys are involved. Many people try to take advantage of attorneys through linking schemes. Don’t fall into their traps! Google has personally outlined the types of linking schemes that can be penalized in search results. Some common solicitations that your firm should avoid:
Reciprocal links were a very popular strategy for a number of years, especially among groups of strategic attorneys. While link swapping has died out for the most part, we still see sites trying to pass this off as a valid strategy. Not only does exchanging links not work, it also tends to come across as unprofessional.
Some attorney awards are valid indicators of a lawyer’s skill and experience; more often than not, however, these awards are thinly veiled attempts to take your money. Many of the links that come with these awards are as valueless as the plaques. We recommend consulting an SEO before you buy an award-based backlink, as there are some awards that can definitely benefit your firm’s success, while others can harm it. The most reliable award-based links are those that have a strong reputation in the legal field – Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, AAJ, and Top Verdict, just to name a few. There are also more local ones you should keep an eye out for, such as local magazines that have annual awards for attorneys and law firms.
At some point, you will receive an email offering numerous links at a low cost. These are typically associated with PBNs (private blog networks), guest blogs, and unsavory web activity. You can treat these tactics as get-rich-quick schemes and forward the emails to your junk mail. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s not worth it.
Link Building Isn’t Just for SEOs!
One of the most important ways you, an attorney, can help with your web presence is by networking. In some cases, a lawyer may be able to leverage their position within the legal community to connect with local businesses, schools, and institutions. A few often-overlooked linking opportunities are your local Chamber of Commerce and your state bar association. The links not only benefit your rankings, but they also outline your strong relationship with real institutions.
Your standing in your local community can also provide many valuable local links. Working on charity events with local restaurants, speaking at school events, partnering with non-profits that advocate for legal reform and public safety, and offering scholarships all help to expand your linking opportunities. While you should be mindful of the links you can acquire, the good press from working with local organizations can be just as valuable.
Another overlooked resource is journalists. HARO links, or Help a Reporter, are backlinks from respected and heavily-trafficked news outlets, magazines, and blogs. Journalists need expert opinions for hundreds of subjects, including the law, and they often reach out to local law firms for quotes and in-depth legal options. These links are the perfect chance to demonstrate your firm’s expertise, as well as get your name into the press. Becoming a trusted resource for journalists can draw in new and creative links down the line.
Marketing Does Not Stop at Links
Of course, links are only part of the puzzle. Content also plays a major role in determining rankings, as do factors such as location, machine-learning, and the user’s search history. This is one of the reasons we believe legal marketing should never just rely on one strategy. Your campaigns should be robust, efficient, and interconnected so that you are always maximizing your efforts and taking advantage of every resource available to you.
At SLS Consulting, Inc., we have seen every type of marketing strategy and backlink campaign imaginable since we started working with law firms over 20 years ago. Where other agencies fell by the wayside or let their techniques stagnate, we adapted to every change Google sent our way and helped our clients prosper in the digital age. Not only do we handle link-building campaigns in-house, but we also work with a dedicated team of SEOs, web designers, social media experts, and content creators to ensure every legal marketing campaign we work on is multi-faceted and adaptive. If you have questions about your link-building strategy, give us a call at (323) 254-1510 or toll-free at (877) 248-3529 to get your free marketing evaluation.