Is Building Links Still a Viable SEO Strategy for Law Firms?
Remember 2008? Our phones barely could get email, and when we talked to them, it usually meant we were talking to another person, not Siri. We were all looking pretty cool in our cargo pants waiting by our mailboxes for our Netflix discs to arrive and trying to figure out why neither Blu-ray or bluetooth were blue.
The reason I bring up this great time was because linking was pretty awesome back then. We talked about inbound links, and linking, and link farms, and backlinks and links from pages with high page ranks and how great it was for your SEO. Big corporate legal marketing companies like FindLaw sold links, and then said they weren’t selling links. Then, websites that focused on linking started to disappear. A lot of money paid for the SEO that was a result of linking disappeared too. No one really knew what to do, because it wasn’t like the new benefit that had been obtained from linking disappeared, it was like the websites completely disappeared from Google. The phrase “irreparable damage” comes to mind….
Cool Story. So, Should We Get Links?
No. You shouldn’t. While there is very likely still some benefit from having GOOD inbound links to your site, don’t over do it, and don’t ever pursue a link just for the fact that it’s a link. My general rule is that links to your law firm website should only be placed on either:
- Websites that are very popular / legit / read (Social Media Sites, Large Directories)
- Websites that could possibly send you a legit lead (Legal Directories….maybe Chat rooms / forums where people have legal questions)
So….links for your cousin’s website? No. Trading links with another lawyer? No. A directory you’ve never heard of? No. If the only value is “it’s a link to the website” then avoid it. Every time you put a link to your website, especially on a questionable site, you’re creating possible liability for yourself in the future. Getting bad links down is really, really difficult to do. Sites get banned, or Google decides they’re problematic for some reason, and now you’ve got your cart attached to the wrong horse. Stick with sites you know, and that can viably send you traffic, the rest is likely NOT beneficial anyhow, and can create problems down the road.
So What Directories Should I Use to Promote My Law Firm Website?
One comment on all of the directories; they are not as important as the search engines, which have all integrated some directory feature into search results. If you’re paying for a directory, it should be a relatively small cost, and should be delivering visits at a cost roughly on pace of your targeted keywords on Google.
Legal Directories I’d Suggest
Basic listing at $195 per year allows you entry into as many practice areas as you’d like. So no paying for “divorce” and then more for “family law”. HG does a decent job of showing up on Google, but it’s also a totally legitimate legal directory, so a great opportunity to drive meaningful links, as well as traffic, to your site.
Again, you can be as engaged as much or as little as you’d like, but you need control of the account. If you take some time to provide some reviews and say something nice about a handful of friends you can hope they will return the favor. They will call you and ask you to advertise, I wouldn’t usually suggest it unless you are already ranked very high. Avvo has sort of created their own little market place with their 0-10 ranking system, and you sort of have to play ball by their rules to get ranked well. There is upside and downside, I’ll likely write up an article just about Avvo before too long…
Your city, county, metro, state bar associations
This may take time but it’s worth it. Not only for the links and citations, but there are still people who look first to bar associations when they are going to hire a lawyer. Almost every other site offers some opportunity to pay for premium placement, the bar association listing can provide a valuable chance for your firm to be presented side by side with the firms that spend thousands on their marketing.
Legal Directories I would Suggest you are very wary of and monitor closely.
There is a free listing opportunity that I would certainly take advantage of, but their paid listing starts at just under $200 a month. In some practice areas that may be a justifiable cost, but for a solo practitioner with a tight marketing budget I’d rather see that money put towards efforts of being seen directly on Google than on a third party site. Make sure you understand what you are buying and read what you are signing.
Their pricing is confusing. I’ve seen people paying as little as $300 a year and as much as $2,000 a month. Last time I tried, their new listing opportunities seemed to be tied closely to a sales channel, meaning, there is no way to work your way onto lawyers.com for free. That said, I think it’s becoming less and less relevant every day.
YellowPages.com, dex.com, other “local directories”
Most directories like this have lost more of their value and traffic. People can get this type of information directly from a search engine, so it’s become relatively clumsy to enter the site, select a category and location, and then scroll through the results, which will typically be organized in the least valuable order to you as the consumer, “who paid us the most money”. If you can get in at a very low cost, go for it. But again, monitor your results, and know what you’re getting for your money.
Questions about Legal Directories? I Can Help.
If you need help determining which legal directories make sense for your law firm, I can help. The fact is, the answer changes across a few variables, the most notable being practice area, geographic area, marketing goals and budget. Usually the best place to start is with your traffic report. To talk about how we can build a plan to leverage legal directories, call me at 651.271.8845 or contact me through my website.