In the past, gaining high search engine rankings meant carefully manipulating on-page elements like META tags, keyword density and site structure. While these things are still important, top search engines like Google, Yahoo! and MSN are increasingly valuing off-page factors in determining which sites rise to the top and those that are effectively â€œdemotedâ€.
Two of the most important [tag]off-page factors[/tag] are the number & quality of websites linking in to a firmâ€™s site.Â Incoming links (sometimes called â€œ[tag]backlinks[/tag]â€) are essentially seen as a â€œvoteâ€ for the firmâ€™s site – the more â€œvotesâ€ a site receives, the more authority for a subject is conferred upon the firmâ€™s site.Â Bringing this full circle, when a site is seen as an authority on a subject, the search engines rank the site higher within its search engine results pages for related keyphrases.Â This is the ultimate goal of this type of search engine optimization: increase your authority and you increase your rankings.
Ways To Build [tag]Quality Links[/tag]:
One of the surest ways to get one-way, incoming links to your site is to develop quality content.Â Quality content brings visitors who, in turn, bookmark the articles, talk about them online and often create links back to your site in their discussions.Â Keep in mind that quality content doesnâ€™t have to be long, exhaustive articles about a subject (although this is the form it often takes). Quality content could be i) a topical blog; ii) an interesting game related to your practice area; iii) a light-hearted â€œtop 10â€ list related to your areas of practice; iv) a brief presentation of recent verdicts; v) a calculator or other â€œmath widgetâ€ related to your practice; vi) a reference list of popular online forums & resources â€¦ and the list goes on.Â Â Thereâ€™s a reason quality content is also called â€œ[tag]link bait[/tag]â€.
Taking the quality content idea one step further, the firm should consider posting articles to sites such as GoArticles.com, ArticleCity.com, ISnare.com and EZineArticles.com.Â Article sharing services like this allow authors to put a blurb about themselves (with their firm name and URL) in the footer of their article. These articles are, in turn, published by others on their website, complete with the firm’s URL.
Another good way to establish one way [tag]incoming links[/tag] to your site is to post press releases to free online services like PRWeb.com, EMediaWire.com and PRLeap.com.Â Anytime the firm hits a milestone, has an announcement or even a major verdict, they can publish to PRWeb and, from there, the press release is distributed and reprinted all over the web. This can be a very effective way of building one-way links. Whatâ€™s great is that most of these services are FREE!
It’s a good idea for attorneys to post to topical message boards and blogs, giving advice or just chatting about the topic.Â When they do, they should make sure they put their web URL in their signature line.Â This will establish an incoming link every time the attorney posts.Â Moreover, since the forum, blog or message board is topical, the incoming link will likely be from a site directly applicable to the firmâ€™s website content.Â This is even better than a simple link (return to the idea of quality instead of quantity of links.) This approach is often a very good way to get relevant incoming links online in the shortest period of time.
Another very, very important point: make sure the firm is listed in all of the local search databases – complete with their firm’s URL.Â (Go here for an in-depth discussion and local submission links.)Â These local databases are distributed to hundreds of directory and online yellow page websites and often supplement search enginesâ€™ â€œstandardâ€ natural listings.Â Local listings are a great way to get a jump over your competition and, once again, these are mostly free submissions.
Keep an eye out for non profit organizations with websites… a tiny contribution can sometimes be an easy way to get your firm’s URL on their sponsors page. Since .org and .edu domains are valued a bit more than .com, .net and others, this is a good strategy no matter your level of link development.
The items I list above are strategies for gaining one-way, [tag]non-reciprocal links[/tag] since they are valued more highly than reciprocal links.Â This doesn’t mean the firm shouldn’t/couldn’t solicit topical, related websites for a link exchange.Â Usually, a brief email message introducing your firm, what you liked about the website you’re viewing and a copy and paste version of the link code you’d like them to add to their site is a good way to cultivate these relationships.
Not all links are equal.Â Itâ€™s best to avoid â€œFree For Allâ€ (FFA) sites, link â€œfarmsâ€ (websites where there are nothing but advertising links) and services that promise thousands of links to your site within days.Â Aim for quality rather than quantity.
It is best not to buy or purposefully gain a large number of links within a short period (weeks).Â Search engines appear to have a â€œlink aging algorithmâ€ that watches for quick link building techniques and penalizes those sites perceived to participate. If you happen to have a large number of places ready and waiting to post your link, itâ€™s a good idea to implement these in stages over a few months.
With natural search engine rankings, there are no guarantees of the placement a website will achieve and there is no explicit control of what copy the search engines choose to associate with a websiteâ€™s listing. In other words, the search engines are ultimately 100% in control of these results. To a certain extent, you can craft your content and develop your links but will ultimately find yourself â€œat the mercyâ€ of the enginesâ€™ ever-changing ranking algorithms. Work diligently, continually market your site and relax about the rest.Â If a firmâ€™s site is relevant, contains good content and hasnâ€™t participated in any suspect SEO activities, good rankings will come in due time.