Link building is a crucial search engine optimization (“SEO”) tactic that will help increase your firm’s ranking on the search result pages. If you’re aiming for Google’s first page—and who isn’t aiming for Google’s first page?—you’ll need a strong link-building strategy to outrank your competition. In fact, according to Google, links are one of the most important factors in any SEO strategy, like the ones we develop at our agency.
Backlinks from trusted, high-authority domains will send traffic to your site. Perhaps more importantly, those same backlinks demonstrate to Google that you’re a trusted information source. This gives you a powerful SEO boost as a result.
Link building takes time and effort, which is probably why many law firms abandon—or neglect altogether—this core piece of most successful search marketing strategies.
In this post, we’re going to look at what exactly your link building strategy should accomplish, and seven different tactics your law firm can use to create a strong backlink profile that will benefit your SEO efforts across the board.
The Key Principles of Competitive Link Building for Law Firms
First, let’s get on the same page about “backlinks.” It might sound like a fancy SEO term, but really it just means a link to your website from another website. The “better” the website that links to yours, the higher quality and more powerful the link is in Google’s eyes.
Your goal for link building is to make sure backlinks to your site appear on many different high-authority domains.
Authority is critical. A domain’s authority impacts how much Google values the backlink and, in turn, how much the link impacts your SEO and your ranking. There are two very reliable metrics for measuring a domain’s authority:
- Moz’s Domain Authority: A scale from 0 – 100 where the higher the DA, the more authoritative the site. You can sign up for a free account with Moz here and check up to 10 domains.
- Ahrefs’ Domain Rating: A scale from 0 – 100 where the higher the DR, the more authoritative the site. You can check Domain Rating on Ahrefs.com for free here.
More authoritative sites beget more powerful SEO boosts. High-engagement, high-traffic sites that are recognized as leading authorities in a particular industry are ideal starting places.
Understand that high-authority sites often have high barriers to entry, so it may be difficult to get published there. That’s ok! The degree of difficulty means your competitors probably won’t bother. And when you get backlinks that they can’t (or won’t), you’ll increase the odds that you’ll outrank them on those all-important search engine results pages.
Because the majority of your competition won’t be able or willing to track down these high-quality links, you should see improvements and protect your rankings when you’ve reached the top.
Tip #1: Submit Your Firm to Legal Directories
You can submit your firm’s website to many law firm directories. Each one gives you more visibility with potential clients who are searching for you (while snagging a few low-hanging backlinks).
There are hundreds of law firm directories out there. Not all of them are good ones (we publish a well-vetted list here). Each typically requires you to submit a form that takes about two minutes to complete. Some directories are free and others require payment.
Here are the top 10 to get you started:
- Avvo (Free/Paid)
- Findlaw (Free/Paid)
- Justia (Free)
- Martindale.com (Free/Paid)
- Nolo.com (Free/Paid)
- Lawyers.com (Free/Paid)
- Mediate.com (Paid)
- HG.org (Free)
- Lawyer.com (Free/Paid)
- Jurist.org (Free/Paid)
Tip #2: Appear as An Expert Source
Appearing as an expert source lets you demonstrate your expertise and collect links without doing the heavy lifting some other strategies require. When you answer calls from journalists or bloggers to give a quote for articles or roundup posts, you’ll often earn a backlink to your site.
To find opportunities to appear as an expert source, you can:
- Sign up for HARO as a legal expert and look for pitches that demand your particular experience.
- Join ProfNet, which works much like HARO.
- Follow relevant journalists or bloggers on Twitter and watch for calls for sources there.
Tip #3: Write Guest Posts
Don’t just write for folks who need your advice and wait idly by as they decide whether to reach out to you. Take things into your own hands and submit original content to high-authority blogs and publications. Many will give you at least one link back to your site in the byline, and some may let you link to a non-promotional post within your site. In these cases, you’re getting two great backlinks from one article. (In the interest of full disclosure, publishing this article on Lawyerist is a great opportunity for everyone, us included. We earn a backlink or two, and you get our best insight into how you can do this yourself.)
It’s worth noting that guest posting (if done wrong) can actually raise red flags with Google. Here are some behaviors to avoid:
- Don’t submit guest posts to guest blog networks.
- Avoid low quality (read: “low domain authority”) sites.
- Avoid acquiring links on (too many) sites that aren’t relevant to your niche.
- Avoid using exact-match anchor text in your links (like “personal injury lawyer” or “criminal defense attorney”). Use your law firm’s name, a generic URL, or a simple phrase instead.
Here are some things you should do:
- Collaborate with other non-competing attorneys to publish premium, user-focused content.
- Reach out to industry-relevant sites like Lawyerist to offer valuable, user-focused content.
- Get involved with other business owners and collaborate on content together.
When writing guest posts, you can obviously write for law publications other lawyers read (and that may be a great strategy if you’re trying to build out your referral network). But you can also write for publications that your intended client audience might read. A business lawyer, for example, might submit articles to sites like Forbes and Entrepreneur. A family lawyer might see good results by writing an article about divorce for Psychology Today. Remember to check domain authority before submitting so you can prioritize publication on the right sites.
Tip #4: Diversify Your Backlink Profile
It’s important to note that while a sheer volume of backlinks is helpful, they need to be diverse, too. When you’re creating your link-building strategy, focus on earning links in many different areas.
Google values diversity, so a broad domain profile helps maximize your new links’ impact. When Google’s algorithms uncover your six backlinks from one site, they’ll be less impressed than six backlinks divided up between five or six different high-authority sites. Your goal is to show Google that your content is trustworthy and valuable. Our algorithmic overlords will register more trustworthiness and value if many great sites link to your site (instead of just one or two).
As you’re building your backlink profile, monitor your progress with backlink tracking tools to keep it as diverse as possible.
Ahref’s backlink tracking feature (pictured below) is our favorite. It shows you sites linking back to yours, the sites’ domain rating (which is Ahref’s version of domain authority), the anchor and backlink, and more.
Tip #5: Leverage Your Education
All lawyers have been through the educational ringer. Your extensive education makes your various institutions of higher learning great sources of high domain authority links.
If you can leverage that authority to your advantage, do it. Many universities regularly publish newsletters, articles, and featured highlights of successful students and alums. Use schools’ unquenchable need for valuable and uplifting content build out your link portfolio. You may even “earn” a link by simply making a small donation to your school’s alumni association (which you were going to do anyway, right!?!?). Many universities have high domain authority and rankings. Entice their interest in you and your firm to scoop up some high value .edu backlinks.
Remember: the .edu domain isn’t “better” than a comparable .com or .org. University and college websites have, however, developed natural authority that tends to make them more valuable link partners.
Lawyers interested in exploring this approach who are unsure where to start can look at their schools’ websites to see what content gets published there. Research your general university’s website and the law school’s site, too. Track down a favorite professor or the alumni association to see if you could earn a featured article.
Tip #6: Create Hyperlinked PDFs
Many lawyers create free resources to help their clients, including ebooks, slideshow presentations, and case studies about what a client can expect. Create them with PDFs featuring in-document links and publish them broadly online. You’ve just put a few more links back out into the world.
Examples of sites where you can share hyperlinked PDFs include:
Tip #7: Maximize Your Firm’s Online Presence
Law firms are full of diverse, interesting, and often ambitious people doing many great things at any one time. Use every single opportunity possible to boost your firm’s online presence and reputation to snag a few more links.
If you’re making meaningful donations to charity, for example, you undoubtedly have your own good reasons that are probably tied to making the world a better place. That’s excellent (full stop). It can also help you to get links back from those sites that thank you for your generosity.
Try to uncover every content-related stone that you can. For every piece of content you’ve created, and for every podcast, video, or CLE in which you’ve been featured, you can mine your backlinks. If you’ve authored books, link back to your firm’s site from your author page if at all possible. Similarly, use podcast appearances to earn links and maximize your appearances’ impacts on your search rankings.
Be creative here. Think outside the box, and look for every possible opportunity to earn links distributed across the internet. Here’s a brief list of opportunities that may apply to you:
- Amazon.com Author Pages (here’s an example);
- Podcast preview pages (pictured below); and
- Local charities like the American Red Cross or Relay for Life.
The takeaway is this: leverage every existing opportunity you have on other websites to get a link back to yours. Of course, it’s always best to strive for the best links. But if you already have a relationship somewhere, go grab your low-hanging fruit first.
A strong link-building strategy is, simply put, one of the best things you can do to improve your ranking on the search engine results pages. In turn, your law firm’s visibility improves, which gives you a direct edge over your competition. Focus on creating a diverse backlink profile with links from a number of high authority sites. You’ll get results that will be difficult—if not impossible—for your competitors to replicate.