This is #6 of the in-Depth versions of the 7 Key SEO Ranking Factors
When it comes to SEO, link building is an effective strategy that helps you improve the authority of your site.
Link building is the process you take to generate links from other websites back to your own. However, there are good and bad techniques for acquiring links. An effective link-building strategy allows users to navigate between different pages of content on the internet relevant to their needs. When crawling your website, search engines also look at the links present on each page.
In this section, we look at the importance of high-quality links, how to acquire them, and what to do if you start generating bad links.
What to do before you start link building
Before you start building links to your website, you need to make sure you have great content that other websites will actually want to link to.
The issue is this: If you get links from sites that aren’t relevant to yours, people might click on the link and immediately leave your website when they realize it offers no value to them.
When this happens, your ranking is affected negatively. In an ideal world, if you want to see SEO success from link building, you want to build relevant, valuable links from trustworthy sites.
When it comes to the type of law firm content people want to link to, it falls largely under the category of “usefulness.” This could include anything from checklists, tip sheets, and other resources or lead magnets people to want to share with their own audience.
Evaluating current links
When it comes to looking for opportunities for link building, there are a number of different strategies you can implement to generate links. However, you first need to check the value of a link.
Search engines are very clear when it comes to link building: They want it to happen naturally and organically. Therefore, it’s critical that you check just how valuable your links are, not just for Google’s sake, but because you don’t want to spend unnecessary time building links for your law firm site when they are useless.
Start by checking who currently links to you and whether or not those links are bad, or even worse, harmful to your own SEO ranking. You can use a number of tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to check which sites are currently linking to your own website’s content.
The great thing about these tools is that they show you whether or not the links will hinder your SEO efforts. The SEMrush backlink audit tool will also give you a rough indication of which backlinks you currently have that you should consider removing.
What to do if you find bad links
If you use these tools and see that there are a number of harmful, toxic websites linking to yours, it’s time to do something about it. For the most part, Google is quite clever about identifying which links are toxic and ignoring them.
However, sometimes that isn’t the case, and you may find your rankings increase if you remove these low-quality links. But remember these are other people’s websites linking to yours. You don’t have access to their websites, so just how do you remove the link?
The first step is to find the website owner and reach out to them via phone or email to see if they’ll remove the link. Often, this doesn’t work, which is where Google’s bad link disavow tool comes into play. Disavow links is a feature of Google Search Console that helps you reduce any harm from unwanted links pointing to your site. You can access the tool by searching for Google disavow tool or by logging into Google Search Console.
Please note that Google does offer a warning with the disavow tool. They explicitly say that it’s an advanced feature that should only be used if you have a considerable amount of “spammy” or low-quality links to your site and you know they’re causing issues. If you have only a few spammy links, you can likely ignore the tool, as Google is clever enough to understand and assess which links to trust.
If you’re unsure whether your bad backlinks are harming your SEO ranking efforts, consult with a specialist before you use the disavow tool.
Initially, you want to use the tools listed above to find all the backlinks linking to your website. You then want to list each of these sites and where it links to.
It can be helpful to use a spreadsheet to organize all your data. I like to use Ahrefs and export the information into Excel, then sort it by Domain Rating high to low and investigate the lowest quality links.
When you have a list of all the URLs linking to your site, visit each site and decide whether you should keep the domain linking to you or add it to your disavow file.
When it comes to evaluating each domain, ask:
- Does this link have anything to do with the legal content I put on my website?
- Would I be worried if someone from Google saw this link?
- Was this link created with SEO in mind and not the user?
For example, if your law firm website has a baby toys website linked to it and there’s absolutely no relevance, it will harm your SEO.
Once you have created a list of all the sites you want to disavow, put together a disavow file. List the disavowed websites in this format: domain:website.com. For example:
Save this list as a .txt file to upload in Google Search Console. Remember, if you’re struggling with this, or unsure at any point, reach out to an expert.
You should see immediate results from your disavow efforts after you file your document. Google will now consider those as “no follow” links, which pass no positive or negative ranking energy to your website.
You may or may not know that Google continually releases different updates that can affect your law firm website’s SEO.
One such important update is Google Penguin. The update helps Google find websites that are trying to generate links in an unethical way to increase their search engine rankings.
When Penguin was launched in 2012, all kinds of problems arose for search engines. People even started the “SEO is dead” debate. Eventually Google provided the disavow tool to help website owners sort out problems from bad links, and today you likely just have to do some routine maintenance.
On the other hand, if you see a warning in Google Search Console, you need to address it immediately. The same is true if you have a large number of low-quality sites pointing to your site.
Be diligent in deleting bad links, but also make sure to look at sites before you delete them as some that get flagged as “bad” by tools may actually be good and some that are not flagged may be bad. So it’s part art and part science.
Types of links
By now, you understand that, before you start building links, you need to have solid content and you should evaluate your current links. Before you start implementing a strategy to generate links, it’s useful to know what type of links exist.
There are two core types of links:
Naturally, when you insert a link to your website, the default will be a dofollow link.
<a href=”https://www.lawfirmwebsite.com/”>Law firm</a>
The dofollow link tells search engines that the site you’ve linked to is valuable and should be given credit for it. This will increase your search rankings.
A nofollow link looks like the one below:
A nofollow link tells search engines the website in question doesn’t want any “link juice” to be carried over to the linked site and to ignore it.
Google is very strict about how you generate and give out links, so if you have experienced any of the following, it’s good practice to make the link nofollow.
- If you were paid to provide the link
- If you received a product for adding the link
- If the link will earn you affiliate revenue
In September of 2019, Google implemented two new link attributes, in addition to the “nofollow” attribute. Combined with “nofollow”, these are the 3 link attributes now:
- rel=”nofollow” – for general use in linking out to untrusted links
- rel=”ugc” – for links from “User Generated Content” such as blog comments and forum posts
- rel=”sponsored” – for paid links, such as ads
Check out the McDougall Interactive blog for some important things to know about the , in terms of how they might affect you and your site:
And, if at any point you’re still unsure, use Google’s support guides, which will walk you through when you should and should not use the nofollow or default follow link.
Outreach to find missed linking opportunities
Often, there will be an opportunity to link to your site that you have missed. In these situations, search for instances where your website has been mentioned but a link hasn’t been used.
Buzzsumo.com is a great tool to help you identify when your brand name has been used without a link.
Using Buzzsumo.com sets up an alert for your brand name, and you’ll receive a notification every time your brand name is mentioned online without a link. You’ll also see the domain authority of the site, so you know whether it’s worth pursuing the link or not.
If you determine the link is worthy of finding out more, then find the owner of the website using a tool like hunter.io and email them to let them know you’re pleased they mentioned your brand and ask whether they’d mind linking to your website. If there’s a specific (relevant) page you’d like them to link to, make it easy for them to do so by providing them with the link.
We’ll turn next to a number of different strategies you can use to start generating valuable links to your law firm’s website.
Building links with guest blogging
One of the best ways to generate links from authoritative sites is through guest blogging. When you guest blog, you offer valuable content to other people’s sites. Because you’re writing the content for their site, you are usually allowed to include a link back to your own website.
More important is that you are getting in front of a larger audience and building a following that leads to other natural links. So even a basic author profile link or nofollow link is okay if you build brand buzz.
When you reach out about guest blogging opportunities. make sure:
- The site is one that allows guest blogs from law firms like yours,
- You can pitch a good idea that will benefit their audience, and
- Your idea follows the theme of the content your law firm currently produces.
I constantly find big sites like Forbes and a variety of other blogs ranking for keywords our legal marketing clients want to rank for. When you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Well, let’s rephrase that as get on these sites so you get in front of a larger audience while also ranking and building your own audience.
Building links with social sharing
Another method you can use to build links to your law firm’s website is through social shares. Although social shares don’t directly affect your ranking, they indirectly help you widen the reach of your content.
The more people who decide to share your content on social media, the more people will see it. And if people are seeing your content, it’s likely they will also link to your content, too. If you analyze your current content, you’ll see that the content with the most social shares usually has the most links.
If you run your law firm website on WordPress, you can add social sharing plugins to encourage others to share your content if they find it valuable.
Orbit Media did a blog survey of 1000 bloggers and it made them famous in the content marketing community. If you do that type of survey and actually email hundreds or thousands of people and get them to fill out a survey form, you can create stunning blog content, a downloadable guide, and an infographic. All of this content will make it much more likely that you will get featured by journalists and that people will link to your website.
Did you know that you can use Google consumer surveys and for as little as $500 ask a question to some hundreds of people that relates to your topic? If you think surveys are out of your reach, you might consider this tactic. Given how hard it is to get attention for your content, doing something more dramatic like an industry survey can be a game changer, especially if you do it yearly.
Although building links to your law firm website is a great way to increase search rankings, you should do it with caution. Make sure you don’t buy or sell links, offer excessive link exchanges, or generate links from irrelevant sites. Doing this will hinder, rather than help, your search rankings.
However, as we’ve outlined above, there are many ways to monitor your links and generate new ones if you want to become successful.
See the section on link bait to learn more ways to get .