Build Quality Links or Suffer the Consequences

Most website/business owners build a website for a specific purpose. It could serve simply as an online business card, it could be designed to generate revenue, like an e-commerce website, or it could be a website meant to generate leads directing website visitors to call the business or complete a website contact form.

Most law firm websites fall into the latter category, meant to generate leads and convert those leads or prospective clients into actual clients. There are many moving parts in a detailed and comprehensive law firm internet marketing, or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plan, but none are more important than a detailed, well thought out linking strategy.

Links are connections between pages within your website (internal links) or connections between your site and another website (external links or back links).

  • Internal links help Google better understand the content on your website and how your content works together to provide web searchers with answers to questions and a quality user experience. Internal links also help Google better understand how to navigate your site. Website navigation is a very important user issue, so Google needs to confirm that your website can be easily navigated and that website searchers can easily find every page of your website.
  • Back links are proof that your website contains information/content worthy of reference from other, relevant websites. Google uses the number and quality of your back links as a part of their ranking algorithm, which determines what website will rank on the first page of Google for any given search word or phrase. Think of back links as an affirmation that your website is worthy of ranking on Page 1 of a Google search.
  • There are good links and there are bad links. When building a linking program, it is important to focus on building back links that will bolsters your overall E-A-T, or expertise, authority, and trust and to avoid the links that may result in a Google penalty. A bad link is any link that either has a negative impact on your site’s rankings, or indirect issues with your, or indirect issues with your site’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) performance. When building links, you need to keep Google’s Webmaster Guidelines regarding link schemes in mind. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines describes link schemes as “Any links intended to manipulate Page Rank or a site’s ranking in Google search results”.

Creating an effective linking program requires careful planning and consistent execution. Your actual link building strategy should be quite simple – “Develop content that is worthy of links”. The planning and execution of the tactics within your link building strategy is a little more complicated. The first tactic of your link building strategy is the foundation of your link building program – Create high quality, well written content.

In our previous article, Website Content – The Difference Maker, we discussed the importance of creating quality content. Well written content is a very important part of attracting traffic to your website. If your content is authoritative and addresses questions that web searchers are seeking answers to, then it is highly likely that other website owners will want to link to your content so they can provide your answers to their website visitors. The benefit of this is two-fold:

  1. The website linking to your site gains the benefit of the informative content you’ve created, thus bolstering their offering to their website visitors.
  2. Your website gains additional evidence that you are a subject matter expert, proving to Google that you deserve to rank higher in organic searches.

Well written content is the foundation of your SEO effort. Using a quote from one of my favorite movies as inspiration – “Write it and they will come”.

Another tactic you need to include in your link building strategy is guest blogging. Writing content for other authoritative websites within the legal community can provide quality back links to your website. Where this effort can provide valuable cache for your site, the work effort necessary for success can be substantial. The steps involved in a successful guest blogging campaign are:

  • Find a site or sites where you’d like to post your guest blog. Criteria for these sites will be – sites that publish legal content, sites that Google considers relevant and sites that do not contain too much promotional material.
  • Contact the owner of the sites you’ve chosen and “pitch” them on the idea of posting your content.
  • Draft your content/blog. Create content that fits the theme of the site where you want to post your content but is still true to your business goals and your practice areas.
  • Follow up with the site owners.

This process needs to be a part of your ongoing SEO effort. Posting your content only on sites that Google considers relevant in the legal marketplace and adding a link back to your website is a slow and steady way to build quality back links. A calculated and sustainable approach is necessary in order to avoid suffering a penalty from Google.

There are other ways to develop quality back links for your law firm website:

  1. Become active in your community. Support a local charity, sponsor a local sports team, or promote an educational event. Beyond the obvious benefits of giving back to your community, sponsorship opportunities often result in a mention on another web property. With this mention come a back link to your website.
  2. Build robust profiles on directories. There are many different types of directories on the web. Some are free, some cost money. Some focus specifically on law firms/attorneys, some focus on any type of business. Directory listings can provide valuable back links to your website.
  3. Get noticed. When you receive recognition for your work it may result in a back link. If you receive a mention for a large settlement or you are selected as one of “100 Best” for a legal publication, then your name and/or your firm’s name may be prominently displayed the company’s website. With this mention you may receive a back link.
  4. Get published. If you draft an article for a legal website, you may receive a back link from the article to your website.

Earning links needs to be the foundation of your link building program. Simply purchasing links is no longer an acceptable practice. You must make sure that your link profile is as natural as possible.

You need to have a long-term outlook on link building. It is an ongoing project that will evolve over time. Any short term, quick fix schemes may work near term, but eventually will result in Google penalties.

If you have questions about building a comprehensive link building program Sundown Marketing Group specializes in helping law firms review their current internet footprint, developing a comprehensive internet marketing plan and implementing every aspect of that plan, including link building. Contact us today for a free website evaluation and a no obligation assessment of your internet marketing plan. Call us today at (800) 864-1764 or online at Sundown Marketing Group.

A website is just a piece of an overall law firm internet marketing program. In fact, it is probably the most important piece, as it serves as the hub or foundation of your internet marketing program. A website could serve a number of different purposes:

  1. Online business card – Displaying a professional image for the firm across the internet
  2. Brand sharing – A tool to “get the word out” and develop familiarity with the firm in the community
  3. Online lead generation resource – A tool to drive potential clients to the firm

The first step any law firm should take when reviewing their online presence is to complete a review of their website, and this should start with three questions:

  1. Is your website getting any traffic or visitors?
  2. Is your website creating leads?
  3. Is your website converting those leads into clients?

If your website is getting traffic or visitors, but the phone isn’t ringing or the calls you get aren’t good quality calls, then improvements need to be made to your website to improve conversions.

If your website isn’t getting any traffic, then you have a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) problem, which is a topic for a later article.

Improving Website Conversions

Improving your website’s ability to convert visitors into potential clients is a complicated undertaking. Building conversion elements into a new website presents a best-case scenario, but most of the elements we will discuss today can be integrated into an existing website.

The overall appearance of your website is a good place to begin when reviewing your website’s effectiveness. A carefully planned, well-structured, professional website is a must if you expect your website to convert. A website visitor (aka potential client) must be convinced that your law firm is capable of handling their legal issue. 

Once you have an attractive, professional website, you need to consider these 11 elements to help improve conversions:

  1. Consistently Add Content to Your Website – Google has made it clear that in order to rank well, a website must have authoritative and relevant content that is regularly updated. When you think about it, this makes a great deal of sense. Google’s mission is to provide the best results possible to their clients, web searchers, when they perform a search. In Google’s world, “best results” are measured by the quality and relevance of the content on your website.
  2. Build Links – Create a detailed, well thought-out link building strategy. Along with content creation, building links from your website to high domain authority, relevant websites, is one of the most impactful SEO tactics you can employ.  
  3. Add Video – Google’s acquisition of YouTube several years ago signaled their commitment to video and the trend since that acquisition has been a consistent increase in video consumption on the web. HubSpot recently released a report showing that the average person watches 1.5 hours of video per day and 6 out of 10 people prefer online video platforms to live TV.
  4. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Ready – Over 65% of web searches performed on Google are done on a mobile device. Google recently announced that they are transitioning to a “mobile first” index, meaning that Google is more concerned about the appearance and effectiveness of the mobile version of your website than the desktop version.
  5.  Utilize Keywords Throughout Your Website – In order to convince Google, and inevitably a website visitor, that you are worthy of hiring, you must first share with them what you do. This is done by creating good quality content written with keywords that describe what you do and how well you do it. But you must be careful not to overuse keywords or else you risk a Google penalty.
  6.  Tell a Story on Your Homepage – Everyone loves a good story. Face it, there are a lot of good lawyers and quality law firms that do what you do. What separates you from your competitors? Why should a website visitor consider hiring you? Offer answers to these questions in the form of a story on your homepage. You probably tell this story several times a day to potential clients and other attorneys, put it into words and strategically utilize it on your homepage.
  7. Utilize Paid Advertising – Combining paid advertising with your organic SEO program will improve your conversion rate.
  8. Review and Track Your Google Analytics Data – Reviewing and tracking your Google analytics data will help you gain an understanding of how your website is performing. It will tell you who is visiting your website, where those visitors are from, how they arrived at your website, how long they were on your site, etc. This data is the foundation for your conversion upgrade, as it provides you with a snapshot of the current health of your website, but more importantly, it helps you track the performance of the changes you make to your website.
  9. Check Page Speed – The time it takes to load a page from your website could mean the difference between a website visitor contacting you or moving on to a competitor’s website. Also, page load time is an important element in Google’s page rank algorithm.
  10. Work with a Professional Web Designer – Just about anyone can build a website today. There are number of quality website building platforms on the market, but in order to have a professional website with all the necessary conversion elements, you really have to work with a professional web designer.
  11. Increase Client Reviews – It wasn’t that long ago that “word of mouth” was the only way to uncover details about a law firm’s reputation. Today, there are countless websites devoted exclusively to client reviews. And, everyone reads reviews. It is imperative that you have an assortment of positive reviews about your firm. Good reviews can mean the difference between a client and a disinterested website visitor.

In summary, it is important to develop a comprehensive internet marketing plan and focus on conversions. Any one of these items may have a minor positive impact on your ranking and conversions, but integrating most or all of these elements will most certainly improve conversions and increase the number of phone calls your firm receives.

Sundown Legal Marketing specializes in helping law firms review their current internet footprint, developing a comprehensive internet marketing plan and implementing every aspect of that plan. Contact us today for a free website evaluation and a no obligation assessment of your internet marketing plan. Call us today at (800) 864-1764 or online at Sundown Marketing.

All SEO’s have, at one time or another, asked themselves “Which is better – Content or Backlinks”? The SEO team at Sundown Legal Marketing recently conducted a study comparing the effectiveness of adding quality backlinks versus adding relevant, robust content. The team selected three client websites for this study and tailored a unique SEO plan for each.

The team applied the following SEO plan to the three selected websites:

  1. For website A our strategy was to add backlinks only.
  2. For website B our strategy was to add content only.
  3. For website C our strategy was to add a combination of content and backlinks.

The SEO work for the three websites selected for the study was done during the same time period: February – April. Let’s take a look at the results for each website.

Work Completed for Each Website:

There are many other factors that go into Google’s algorithm (beyond links & content) that impact website traffic and organic placement, so our SEO team tried to keep everything else as close to uniform as possible. For example, the SEO team continued their SEO efforts with all three websites, which included siloing the pages on the main menu and correcting any 404 errors found in Google Search Console.

Website A (Backlinks Only):

In addition to the normal SEO tasks performed on all three websites listed above, the team created 5 separate and unique backlinks from industry related websites back to Website A. Each of these links had domain authorities of between 30 and 40.

Timeline:

  • These backlinks were obtained during the month of April.
  • There was no content added in the months of February, March, and April.

Looking at the weekly organic traffic for this website there was a spike toward the middle of April, but it was not sustained. However, overall traffic increased, and plateaued at around 80 sessions per week. Before the project began the traffic had plateaued at around 65 sessions per week.

Interesting to note here is that there was content added to the site in January, and that could possibly account for the slight increase of traffic in February. Also, this website plateaued at around 75 sessions/week during February and March (with one slight dip in early March), before spiking up after the backlinks were realized. This tells us that there’s a strong correlation between the backlinks being realized (picked up by Googlebot) and the increase in organic traffic.

Website B (Content Only):

Again, the SEO Team continued their normal tasks that we provide all of our SEO clients, which includes fixing any onsite health issues that are found, but in terms of backlinks, they added absolutely none. Instead, they only added content to this website – lots of content. In fact, during the months of February, March, and April they added close to 20 pages of additional content, each with an average of about 850 words. Here are the results:

Timeline:

  • These articles were added throughout the study February -April.
  • No backlinks were created during the study time frame.

There was a slight rise in organic traffic during February, but then a slight decline in March, then a gradual increase in April, and a huge boost in May. What did the Team do in April and May? They simply went back to adding content, but this time, it was their regularly scheduled 2-3 articles per month. It seems that Google slowly rewarded our content efforts by showing this website higher in the SERP over time. Indeed, here is our average position for relevant keywords we track for this website:

There is a great deal of volatility in the chart above, but at beginning of April, right after we finished adding the large volume of content pages, Google moved the average position of the website from about 21 to about 18.

During this time the Team did not add any backlinks to the website and only did the same amount of maintenance (fixing crawl errors, broken links) that we do for all our other clients, including the other two websites in this study.

Website C (Combination of Content and Backlinks):

You would think that a combination of the above two strategies would be the best strategy – and you would be right! For website C we added substantial content, and obtained substantial backlinks.

In March we obtained 5 backlinks, and throughout the course of March and April we added seven articles to the website, each with an average of about 850 words.

Timeline:

  • These backlinks were obtained during the month of March.
  • The content was added to Website C in March and April.

It seems that Google rewarded this website a little bit in March, and a lot in April and May. The weekly organic traffic plateau went from about 60 to about 100.

After reviewing the results of our study, it became apparent that in order to successfully rank a website, you must institute a broad-based SEO program, applying many different techniques.

We hope this has been an insightful look into the work of a digital marketing firm. If you need any assistance with generating more organic traffic, and being found by your target audience, contact Sundown Legal Marketing for a free consultation. We can be reached at (800) 649-1764 or by using our website contact form.

It wasn’t that long ago that internet marketing success was solely based on a few things:

  1. A website with a lot keyword content crammed into every page
  2. Tons of links to other websites that may or may not be relevant, but received a lot of traffic

Today, success in internet marketing is impacted by a great number of factors and involves a lot of moving parts.  With all of the changes that Google has made to their algorithm (Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird) over the last few years, the path to internet marketing success starts with two simple factors:

  1. Creating relevant and authoritative content
  2. Delivering relevant and authoritative content to potential customers/clients

Creating relevant and authoritative content allows a website owner to convey subject matter expertise.  Consumers utilize the internet to find information and, dependent upon their needs, will work diligently to find a website/business that can provide them with the expert answers that they need.  Subject matter expertise provides a consumer with a sense of security, allowing them to comfortably make a decision to buy, not to buy, act or do nothing at all.  With those thoughts in mind, it is easy to understand why Google now demands that websites provide their customers with good, quality content.

The second point above, delivering relevant and authoritative content is just as important as creating the content in the first place.  Without a mechanism to deliver the content, no one will ever see it.  Here is a list of some of the most important tools for delivering content:

  1. A website
  2. A blog
  3. Social Media

The first tool for delivering content is always a website.  A website is typically the first stop a consumer makes when searching for information online.  A good website will have a number of good qualities (good color palette, uncluttered, call to action, etc.), but the single most important quality will be great content.

Another tool for delivering content is a blog.  A blog allows an author to convey timely subject matter expertise.  A business should blog as often as they can and dependent upon their area of expertise, 2-4 times monthly should fit the bill.

Lastly, utilizing social media as a content delivery mechanism is becoming more and more important and businesses who effectively utilize social media are recognizing the benefits.  Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest to name a few) allows a business to connect with the community.  A community which is made up of potential customers/clients.

Each of the elements above are important on their own, but become incredibly valuable when they are part of a holistic approach to internet marketing.  Bringing consumers to a website from a link on a well written blog, driving potential clients to a blog through postings on social media or pushing potential customers to social media profiles from well displayed icons on a website.  Tying all of these elements together, as a part of a well thought out, well planned internet marketing program is the only way to succeed online today.