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:
- The website linking to your site gains the benefit of the informative content you’ve created, thus bolstering their offering to their website visitors.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
As mentioned earlier, you need to build quality backlinks or suffer the consequences. So what could happen when you build “bad” backlinks?
Simply put, low-quality backlinks can hurt your SEO. Not all backlinks are created equal. And if you aren’t working with a white label SEO company to develop a great link-building strategy, you could unknowingly be harming your business.
Low-quality backlinks, which often come from websites that aren’t seen as reputable in the eyes of Google, can actually make your own site look worse by association. In other words, Google will form a negative opinion of your website because of its connection to those other untrustworthy sites. It doesn’t even have to be a link farm or spammy-looking website to have a negative impact on your SEO; a link that’s added automatically that seems irrelevant could also hurt your strategy.
If Google decides — either through automated or manual review — that you have toxic backlinks, your site could receive a penalty. And while you can try to reverse the damage by requesting backlink removal or by disavowing links, it’s possible your search rankings could take a real hit.
To avoid this scenario entirely, it’s far better to make sure your backlinks are from authoritative and relevant websites from the start.
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.