Law firms have undergone a profound and rapid digital transformation. In the last five years, this traditional industry has moved away from paper-based filing and record-keeping to a predominantly online operation. The pandemic has only exacerbated this further. Consequently, law firms need a strong digital presence, including a robust website. This should answer user questions clearly and coherently, and provide ample opportunities to convert users into prospects or leads. However, this is only a small part of the technical optimisation required for a good legal website. Search Engine Optimisation is paramount. This refers to a number of steps that ensure which websites perform best within search engine rankings. One of the less heralded but equally important aspects of SEO is the number of backlinks for law firms.
Backlinks for Law Firms: An Introduction
Before looking at the importance of backlinks for law firms, it’s worth defining what a backlink is. A backlink is an incoming hyperlink from one web page to another website. This shows the other web page felt the original website had something of value to their users. It’s best to think of backlinks like reviews, or recommendations. Every time you collect one, someone is recommending your content.
Backlinks are important for two reasons. From a user point of view, they direct you to additionally desirable information. This can help you make more informed choices. In the case of backlinks for law firms, they may point to key legal legislation or information. If you have a clear, concise landing page explaining the divorce process, for example, it will be more valuable than a jargon-heavy page that explores divorces in excruciating detail. A divorce-support website could choose to link to your website and thusly create a backlink, as they are endorsing your content.
Secondly, backlinks offer an overall determination of page quality and value to the search engines. Originally, the rule of thumb was the more backlinks, the more authority a site had. In the legal market, this often led to directories taking the top rankings, which actually extended user journeys. It also resulted in some law firms engaging in malicious link-building practices, such as having a prevalence of spammy backlinks. In order to combat this, backlinks are instead now evaluated on a number of different industry factors.
Evaluating Backlinks: The Key Criteria
In order to successfully build backlinks for law firms, it’s important to have good content that encourages a varied link profile. Although it’s great for law firms to be consistently getting backlinks from other firms, it’s even better if you can get backlinks from other industries. This cross-industry endorsement marks your law firm out.
Some of the top-level indicators of backlink quality include:
- Referring domain: If the referring domain has a high or low level of authority, this will impact the amount of ‘link juice’ the relevant backlink provides.
- IP Address: It’s good to get multiple backlinks from one site, but eventually, it can actually be harmful if it originates from spammy behaviour.
- Country of origin: Websites from certain countries are more or less dubious, depending on the location.
- Top-Level Domain type: Domains from ‘trusted origins’ such as ‘.gov’ or ‘edu’ tend to hold very high link authority. In contrast, a top-level domain that looks suspicious, spammy or contains illicit content will have a negative effect on your site authority.
How do backlinks contribute to Search Engine Rankings?
Although it’s impossible to know exactly how backlinks affect search engine results, we do know the following factors contribute to it:
- Currently, higher rankings are associated with more backlinks, but this is becoming a lesser factor. Instead, a higher ratio of quality backlinks is becoming the dominant factor.
- Anchor text used to be important to backlink building, but it continues to diminish in value.
- Pages on the first SERP tend to have a significant number of links from industry news domains, as current content ranks well.
- New and lost links are playing a part, with the top 4 ranking URLS statistically on average relying on significantly older links. They tend to not accumulate huge levels of new links on average.
- When building strong backlinks for law firms, a few high-quality links can have a massive difference.
Backlinks for Law Firms: Key Dos and Don’t
Developing a consistent backlink strategy is like gold dust. Unfortunately, it’s also not easy to do! Many law firms fall into pitfalls with backlinks and end up actually negatively impacting their overall SEO as a result. Some key things to remember include:
- Build relationships with relevant legal directories or communities and see if webmasters will provide a backlink to your site. These can be hugely valuable due to the levels of traffic they attract.
- Encourage other lawyers and industry peers to cite your work and thoughts, especially on relevant and hot topics. If you can stay ahead of an industry trend and accumulate a lot of backlinks for your law firm, you position yourself as the authoritative voice in the industry.
- Regularly review your backlinks in Google Search Console. This allows you to see who is linking to your site and where from. It also allows you to disavow spammy or malicious backlinks that actually negatively impact your site SEO.
- Ensure backlinks look natural and are not forced, or constantly from one specific piece of anchor text as this can appear spammy.
- Pay for links! Unless you specifically have sponsored content (which must be clearly defined and labelled as such), you are breaking Search Engine rules and can face severe SEO penalties if caught.
- Add your law firm to random online directories. Unless they are industry-focused and credible, they are unlikely to have an benefit to you.
- Spam legal industry webmasters with generic outreach asking for backlinks. Firstly, it reflects poorly on your legal brand. You haven’t taken the time to research why a backlink from them specifically could be mutually beneficial. Secondly, it could result in you getting reported to Search Engine webmasters for spammy practises.
- Ignore monitoring your backlinks. It’s important to verify properly if outreach is working, and failure to monitor them properly could result in a glut of spammy, irrelevant backlinks that could massively harm your law firm.
Concluding Thoughts: Backlinks for Law Firms
A strong and robust backlink strategy for law firms is often going to be the decisive factor as to whether you do or don’t take those coveted high ranking spots. In an industry where credibility is extremely valuable USP, backlinks serve as a definitive endorsement for your legal brand.
Consequently, developing backlinks for law firms is an extremely valuable way to generate positive SEO benefits, even if it does take some time.
For more advice on how backlinks for law firms can be a critical part of your law firm’s SEO strategy and for other digital marketing advice, contact BOSS Digital today.