A 2019 study conducted by Backlinko and BuzzSumo found that only approximately 6% of all internet content has one or more backlinks. That means that 94 percent of online content gets no backlinks. Backlinks are a top ranking factor for Google’s search algorithm, so the fact that so few pages receive backlinks indicates that the process of obtaining those links is difficult and has an overall low rate of success for most attorneys. To become a part of that elite six percent of backlinked content, your site needs to stand apart from the masses.
In this chapter, we will cover what link building is, why it’s important, and how to build a strategy that will increase your chances of gaining high-quality links.
We’ve referenced link building numerous times so far throughout this guide, but it is so valuable to search engine ranking and success that it deserves its own chapter and how-to guide for you to use.
Link building is the practice of gaining links from external websites. These are links that point people to your website on other websites.
Some of these links you can create yourself. For example, you can create links to your site by creating your Google Business Profile. If you use legal directories like FindLaw, AVVO, and Justia, those will help to create some backlinks to your site as well.
Other types of backlinks take a bit more work. Still, they are worth it. For example, guest publications and interviews for reporters on sites like Help A Reporter Out (HARO) can also help you. Still, others come from creating content that other people want to use, such as linkable assets and informative blog posts. You certainly have a lot of tools available to help you to do this.
One key topic to understand is what a referring domain is and how that plays a role in the value of any of these backlinking opportunities for a law firm’s website. The referring domain is the site that will place a link on their website that takes a person to your website.
Here’s an example. You contribute a great article on Forbes that relates to your area of business, like personal injury. Forbes agrees to publish that article with a link to your firm’s website on it. Forbes is a well-recognized and trusted website. It has a high domain authority, which means Google recognizes the value of the content on this domain and ranks it higher.
So, because Forbes has high domain authority, that backlink to your website shows Google that your site is also trustworthy and provides high-quality content. Google, then, places it higher on the search engine results page (SERPs) to reflect the value your site offers.
Keep in mind that this type of content marketing and the process of building backlinks like this involves no money. That is, you’re not paying to have your article added to Forbes. You’re not paying for ads. That’s what makes it even more valuable in ranking your law firm’s website through this method, along with search engine optimization (SEO).
Let’s talk a bit more about that value. From guest posting to using free directories, the process still takes time. As a result, you want to make sure it is the right decision for your firm.
There are two main purposes to building a link-building profile for your law firm: client-focused and SEO-focused. Both are valuable and are necessary for attracting potential clients.
Link building brings in clients by generating awareness of your firm. It helps to establish your authority. Whether they are searching for legal services through one of the legal directories or reading articles that have anchor text that includes a link to your site, users who find you online can follow these links to get to your firm. That brings them that much closer to converting to leads.
Links are one of the foundational factors for Google’s algorithm. By building links with reputable websites, you reinforce your site’s authority and expertise. These backlinks can drastically improve your site’s performance in search results. They are extremely valuable to pursue.
Having a good link, and many of them, can help your website to rank better, help your target audience to find you, help you to gain their trust (and that of Google), and help you to see conversions. Again, there’s a time investment, but you can work to develop these link-building tactics yourself without paying anything for this marketing strategy. The key is doing it right.
Not just any link provides these types of benefits. In fact, it is very common for some links to lead to no positive improvement because they are inferior low-quality links. Low-quality links, like those considered black hat tactics, are not worth your investment in time and can backfire. This includes leaving spammy comments in links on message boards and forums or purchasing backlinks from unauthorized services, or using link exchanges with irrelevant sites that are more likely to hurt your SEO efforts than add any long-term value.
High-quality backlinks come from reputable websites. These are sites that have content on them that is in some way related to your own and are extremely useful, as well as sites with more general content but an extremely high domain rating, such as respected news sites.
Any time we are working with inbound links, we want to think about who will read the content and if they are worth the referral to your site. When we have sites with a high domain rating, these are trusted by search engines and users. These backlinks are essentially a vote of confidence from a trusted source. These make a difference.
Creating a link-building campaign allows you to tap into a number of different methods of building links for your website, building the attention that your website gets from Google. The following tips can help you to find relevant websites to provide quality content to in an effort to develop beneficial hyperlinks to your site.
This is the easiest first step that every attorney can do right now. It is a low-value link, but not irrelevant. That is, it should be one that you take advantage of if not for the page rank benefit but for the simple fact that you want your clients to find you. It also helps with SEO strategy and gaining website traffic through search.
How do we do this? You can use as many legal directories as you like (they are often free websites where you can find your law firm referenced. Go into the site, create an account or profile with the site, and then claim your directory listing. Some examples of the most used legal directories include:
To be clear, we are not saying you should purchase ads through these services (skip it, we’ve got better SEO strategy tools for you!). But you should claim these listings because it takes very little time and guides people who are using those directors to your site.
Also, you should claim the law firm’s listing. Then, have each of your lawyers claim their individual listing.
Some of these are do-follow links. Many of the directories use nofollow links. That means they will not contribute any authority to your site. However, Google still uses nofollow links as a hint about your site’s link profile, making them still worth taking 10 minutes to update.
The next step in this component of your digital marketing strategy is to find publications that cover topics in your service area. Many of them will have the option for professionals — like licensed attorneys — to contribute guest articles. Guest posting like this is well worth the effort and doesn’t have to be challenging.
To get started, find the contact page or a “submit an article” page on your site of choice. Then, learn about the requirements for contributing to a specific publication.
Once you understand what they are looking for, you can then start to create a topic that you believe is important and valuable to both your practice area and to the audience of that website.
Some examples of publications that you may be able to do this with now include:
Both of these sites have high-authority domain ratings.
Another option is to sign up for HARO, as mentioned earlier. Get added to their email list.
It costs you nothing to do so.
Then, HARO will send you a daily list of the requests they have from journalists who need an expert contributor to help them with a story or specific topic. If you respond quickly and then write what they need fast enough, they will put your quote or information into their article, allowing you to easily add to your backlink profile.
Be sure to read through the email list daily. Make any note of requests that may fit your service area specifically — there’s no benefit to reaching out to the wrong audience just to get a link out there. Respond to these requests in a timely manner. That link helps to reinforce your practice area authority and connects you with potential clients.
Tip: When you publish an article, you can usually add a link to your own firm’s website. Instead of linking to your firm’s homepage, link to the relevant service area page. That helps to make the reader’s journey from that news publication to your services easier, converting them more naturally.
Also, share these articles! Do so on your social media account, for example.
Many other online types of online content would benefit from your extensive legal knowledge. That includes podcasts, webinars, and video content.
One method to finding creators of this type of content is to simply follow them. Find content creators on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms that create content related to the legal industry. You can contact them directly to ask if you can help or, if they put out a request for help, respond quickly to it.
Here’s one way to do this. Search Twitter using the hashtag #journorequest. This will help you find journalists looking for sources. You can then respond to any that fit your knowledge area and legal practice area. Media sites are always looking for these types of opportunities.
Alternatively, you can create your own posts under the @journorequest hashtag and offer yourself as a resource regarding your practice area. You can also reach out directly to journalists to try to establish a working relationship with them. Networking is always a good way to build natural links. When there’s a need later, they know where to come to get the citations they need.
One of the best ways to build organic traffic using backlinks is to create your own original graphics, calculators, infographics, and other useful, linkable content.
It’s very common for an owner of a site to look for something visual, interesting, and different to use on their site to stand out from the crowd and pull in people. Creators are searching for useful information to use in their own content. If you offer that content, you can use it and link to your website as citations without you putting in any networking effort.
You can do this in many ways. Consider compiling a handy list of statistics, case studies, reports, and other relevant information that you know can help others and place it on your site. This minimizes your link-building efforts, putting other people to work linking to your site.
It’s certainly worth doing some outreach in your community to raise your brain awareness overall, but it can also help you with getting some natural links out there. For example, you can sponsor a charity, race, sports team, or local event. Whether it’s a community holiday festival or a citywide rummage sale, the key here is to get your name out there.
This can be more expensive, but your law firm can sponsor a scholarship for a university or college as another option. This can generate backlinks from .edu domains, which are well-trusted by Google and, therefore, extremely valuable to your domain’s reputation. Do some local outreach to your own college to get listed on their website.
We already mentioned a bit about community outreach, but there are so many ways to do this well. This is one of the best ways to garner name recognition, a positive local reputation, and local backlinks to your web pages. Most importantly, these types of links can help you to become a known name in the legal industry locally, helping you to become the go-to provider when someone needs legal assistance.
Don’t neglect the impact of local link-building. According to a FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey, approximately 71% of people looking for legal services believe that it is important to find a local attorney.
Local news outlets and business websites may have a lower domain rating than national and large-scale businesses but can have a large impact on your firm’s name recognition for locals.
#7: Connect with your alma mater
We mentioned this a bit, but if you want to get a boost to your Google rankings, don’t overlook the opportunities with your alma mater. Backlinks from .edu sites are highly valuable, as noted. To gain some .edu backlinks, connect to your alma matter in various ways.
For example, many colleges and universities have an alumni success story page. That’s an easy way to get on their web pages and generate that link to your law firm. Reach out to them to ask them to profile your law firm.
You can also consider reaching out to the college’s newspaper or blog to offer yourself as a source for legal knowledge and tips. Do some guest blogging on their site to talk about what your educational experience was like and the value it brought to your life.
Law firms benefit from establishing a social media presence. Use your social media platform to connect with your community, facilitate local partnerships, and engage in link-building. Link to your own website from the social media account. This encourages users to click through to your site when they find you on social media. It also creates a backlink that Google trusts, especially if it is Twitter or Facebook.
Create interesting, shareable infographics and other content assets. Then, share those on your social media platform. This helps to get your content in front of a larger audience of clients.
Not every social media platform is worth pursuing, though, and they can be a time drain if you’re not careful. There’s no value in turning to Snapchat, for example, which has millions of users, though most of them are teenagers. That’s not where your target audience and prospective clients are likely to be found.
The internet contains billions of web pages. New pages come daily, and older pages often become inactive, neglected, and disused. Sometimes a disused page will have backlinks. If so, those links become broken links, as they are no longer redirecting to active pages.
You can take advantage of broken links. Conduct some broken link research using a tool like Google Analytics or Ahrefs. Claim those broken links by reaching out to the webmaster of the site with the broken link and offering your own content as replacement.
Link reclaiming is the process of finding mentions of yourself or your firm online and reaching out to the webmaster to gain a backlink.
This tactic is quick and effective since most reputable websites will happily link to something they reference. However, it does require enough name recognition and reputation that other sites mention you. If you don’t have that yet, this is something to think about down the road.
Interesting, well-made content that your users want to read is valuable to you. It generates excellent backlinks on its own. Be informative, speak to your audience, and present your content in a way that is easy to understand and visually pleasing.
Having quality content like this helps you to attract bloggers and others who are looking for great content to cite.
Don’t make these mistakes. They are a waste of your time and could cost you dearly.
Google will penalize a site that uses subpar backlink practices. If you are purchasing low-quality or bulk backlinks, it will cost you. Don’t use any site that advertises links for sale, especially if they are cheap. Purchasing quality backlinks, on the other hand, is very expensive. Remember – if it’s too good to be true, it is.
There are some ways to purchase quality backlinks that won’t get your website in trouble with Google. For example, you can outsource your link-building process to a third party, like an SEO marketing firm. You can pay them to do the work we’ve talked about thus far in creating backlinks to your site elsewhere.
If you don’t know how to ensure you’re buying quality links, it’s best to let a pro handle this for you instead.
Community message boards and sites like Reddit can be valuable places to advertise your services and engage with potential clients. Get your phone number out there to encourage people to contact you.
However, subreddits like r/LegalAdvice have strong policies against the advertisement and linking to law firm websites. Doing so can result in a ban from those subreddits with little to show for your invested time. Before you provide any link, then, be sure you’ve read the rules and understand the limitations. And then, only mention your firm’s site when there is an allowance for doing so.
What if a low-quality website links to your law firm’s website? This could lead to Google penalizing your site, lowering your rankings, and ultimately dropping your traffic metrics.
To find out who is linking to your site, check your backlinks on a consistent basis. If you find any that you think to violate Google’s quality guidelines and risk punitive actions against your site, you can disavow them using Google’s disavowal tool.