Chapter 7: Attorney Link Building
Links are perhaps one of the most important factors in ranking web pages. They are at the very foundation of Google’s algorithm and are the key method of navigation from website to website all over the globe.
In SEO, there are numerous different ways to acquire links. Some strategies do not involve a lot of effort, whereas others require significant amounts of time, effort, and ingenuity (although they offer big rewards).
This post is a compilation of sixteen proven attorney link building strategies, along with best practices and implementation tips for each one.
What is link-building?
At the most basic level, link-building is the practice of obtaining links from external websites that lead to a target website. A link (or hyperlink) is typically text wrapped in an HTML anchor tag with an “href” attribute.
Links can also be images, or entire block-level HTML elements.
Lawyers can place links manually on other sites they own, on social accounts, directories, forums, and other sites that allow for direct access to place links.
More sophisticated link-building involves generating content that compels other site owners to link to. It may also involve clever strategies for creating scenarios where other site owners must place a link to an attorney website.
Link Building Tools
It also helps to know which tools are helpful for link building campaigns. If you’re at a loss as to where you should start, check out this post on the best link building tools by Wendy Dressler of Outreach Mama.
It gives a pretty good snapshot of all the link building tools worth knowing about on the internet.
#1: Guest Posting
What is Guest Posting?
Guest posting is a strategy where attorneys can publish content on another person’s website and obtain a link in the process. It may involve reaching out to and/or collaborating with other attorneys, other business owners, or industry associations and groups to land guest-posting opportunities.
Guest Posting Best Practices
Guest posting has been in the spotlight as being negative for link-building. Lawyers need to be careful not to overuse the strategy. Follow these best practices for a good experience with guest posting:
- Only publish content on reputable websites.
- Look for opportunities with people you already know.
- Do not use the same uncommon anchor text phrase too much (site owners do not naturally use target keyword phrases that a lawyer is trying to rank for, and they definitely do not do it over and over again).
- Try to get links placed in the body of a published post as opposed to the footer, blog roll, or byline.
Contrary to what you might think, the first step in guest posting is finding an audience for your content; that is, identifying a website accepting new content/guest submissions whose audience mirrors your own. Start with your own sphere of influence – for example, associates, other firms you might refer cases to or get cases from, other business owners, etc.
You can use simple Boolean queries to aid in your search (note: “lawyer,” “legal,” “attorney,” or another appropriate related keyword can substitute for “law firm” in the examples below):
law firm ”write for us”
law firm ”write for me”
law firm ”contribute to”
law firm ”submit” + inurl:blog
law firm “submit a guest post”
law firm “/guest-post/”
law firm “guest post”
law firm “guest post by”
law firm “accepting guest posts”
law firm “guest post guidelines”
law firm “guest author”
law firm “guest article”
law firm “guest column”
law firm “become a contributor”
The best way to do outreach is to email your contacts and offer to collaborate on content. In any form of collaboration, there needs to be a mutual exchange of benefits. Obviously, no one knows your network of contacts like you, so this will require some judgement on your part. Just bear in mind that cash is not the benefit I’m recommending, but it can be something like collaborative content.
Remember to choose the sites you guest blog on wisely. Check out their backlink profiles, DR (Domain Rating), DA (Domain Authority), indexed pages, organic traffic, etc. If possible, publishing content with the same topical relevancy (i.e., other law firm sites) is ideal. However, if you can naturally link to an internal resource (such as car accident statistics on a car safety blog), that approach will also work.
Here’s a simple framework to follow when producing your content, whether you are having someone produce it for you or doing it on your own:
- Consider your audience: Lawyers should remember that any content produced should answer some consumer intent. After all, most searchers will arrive at your content with some question in mind (even if it’s hypothetical), so the content needs to address that query in some way to be of use to them.
- Content should be in-depth: Do not just submit guest posts that are low quality. Google now considers metrics (such as traffic from the originating source), so if content is of low quality, the authority of the link may be minimal. Look at similar pieces of content on the web and enhance yours with many more resources, angles, arguments, and other elements that make it truly useful to your audience.
#2: Lawyer-specific Directories
What are law firm directories?
Directories are basically listings of websites, similar to the Yellow Pages of days past. There are numerous lawyer-specific directories on the web; they vary, from subscription-based, free, or even one-time-fee based services.
In terms of links, some legal directories are extremely authoritative. They often have areas for firms to submit names, phone numbers, practice areas, links to social profiles and, of course, links to websites. Lawyer-specific directories are topically relevant links for attorney websites.
Lawyer directories are one of those linking opportunities that are relatively easy to obtain but also easy to get into trouble with. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Look for directories that have a high DR and/or DA (Domain Rating from Ahrefs and/or Domain Authority from Moz)
- Find directories that are actively being curated. If you see missing images or broken links, beware.
- Decide if a directory is reputable before listing your website. If it looks low-quality or suspicious, it’s probably not a good idea to list your site there.
The type of directory determines the process for submission; however, every directory is different.
Paid Directories: Typically, there is a review process for websites. Lawyers have to fill out a form, submit a payment and then their site will be published after a brief review process by the directory owners. Sometimes, however, all lawyers need to do is fill out a form, submit their payment – and that’s it.
Free Directories: The standard for inclusion in a free directory is generally a bit more lax. Lawyers merely need to fill out basic information, add their website, and submit. There may also be an approval process.
#3: Scholarship Programs
Editor’s Note: John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, has stated that this tactic has been abused and Google is devaluing links on financial aid pages. See John’s comments here. That said, I want to bring your attention to the word “devaluing,” as this doesn’t mean “without value.” Think of video games: if you have a weapon in a competitive game that’s overpowered, the developer may “nerf” it…but that doesn’t necessarily make it useless, just less useful than it once was.
What are they?
This link building strategy involves creating a scholarship, then contacting university financial aid departments to have the scholarship listed on their site. In return, you receive a source of .edu links (still authoritative, even if they are somewhat devalued), as well as the positive PR from philanthropic work.
As mentioned above, digital marketers have really abused this tactic and these financial aid pages now contain thousands of scholarships, where they once held dozens (at most) only a few years ago. This, in turn, dilutes the value of the authority from the page.
Here are some tips to use as a guide for starting a scholarship program for link-building:
- Create criteria for application to the scholarship.
- Build a page on your website to promote the scholarship.
- Generate a large list of schools you can contact for outreach.
- Customized outreach converts better than a generic broadcast.
This one will require a relatively minimal financial investment, as well an investment of time for outreach to colleges and local communities.
Step 1: Create a Scholarship
Come up with a scholarship that has a name, an award amount, rules or criteria for applying, and a submission and review process, as well as a page on your website explaining all of this. Creating a scholarship that speaks to a hot-button social issue is a great way to gain more traction.
Step 2: Create a Page
This is the page you will ask schools to link to. It should contain all the information about your scholarship, including what it is, how students can apply, deadlines, application materials, etc. This page should live on your attorney website and be linked to all other pages on the site.
Step 3: Curate a List of Schools
Attorneys can use search operators to find lists of schools in search engine results pages. Simply type in site:.edu “Keyword” + “resources” or site:.edu “Keyword” + “scholarships”. This will produce a list filled with .edu domains that have scholarship pages or resources pages (which typically contain links to financial resources for students).
Use a tool like SEO Quake or another tool to export search results from the SERPs. Once you have all those sites in a spreadsheet, it’s much easier to manage them and add contact information.
Step 4: Getting Contact Information
In the next step you’ll be doing outreach, contacting these institutions to tell them about your scholarship. It will be at the discretion of these universities to decide if they will post your scholarship on their financial aid site.
The key component is not to ask for the link, but rather to provide value to the university and their students. By offering tuition assistance to students, the link should follow organically. Again, this is an exchange of mutual benefits.
Step 5: Outreach
The final step is actually sending emails to schools to telling them about your scholarship, where to find it, and how students can apply.
Portions of your email can be templated, but you’ll have better success with a personal touch. Be sure to thoroughly explain the scholarship and provide a link to the scholarship landing page.
One common misconception is the idea that .edu links inherently carry more authority than .com, .net, etc. The reason .edu links are typically more powerful is that many universities, through marketing and prominence, have authority generated by the number of links pointing back to them. Smaller universities (i.e., those who do not market themselves heavily) are not necessarily all that authoritative.
#4: Link-Building on Reddit
What is it?
Reddit is a very active social forum with all sorts of different topics (including law-related ones). Link-building on Reddit involves building a profile as a trusted account and consistently placing links to your website’s resources (where applicable). Lawyers can either submit links or text posts (with hyperlinked text in them) on Reddit, but there is a specific strategy that should be followed.
The one thing you should avoid is just showing up and posting links. Even if those posts are helpful, lawyers need to first become a helpful member of the community. To do that:
- Interact with other members without posting links first.
- Find and respond to legal questions at least a few times per day on Reddit.
- Participate in other discussions that may not relate to legal-specific posts.
- Comment on other member’s posts at least a few times per day.
- For every handful of posts you respond to, you can then post a link to your own website.
- Be careful, as the community is very sensitive to spammers and you can find yourself banned quickly for posting too many self-promotional links.
I’ve mentioned this previously, but again, consider the mutual exchange of value. By helping consumers (in this case, Reddit users) solve problems, you can strategically incorporate links back to your website’s resources in a natural way. This lends itself to a more evergreen (permanent) type of link vs. jamming in links that will eventually be filtered and removed through moderation.
The first step is to create an account on Reddit. Once you do that, fill out your profile on the site by creating a user name and setting your preferences.
For the most part, lawyers can just begin reading and posting. As time goes on, you may develop preferences as to how you like content to appear or how you want to configure notifications, for example. Other than that, the main thing to keep in mind is to not be a salesman on the platform.
What are They?
An infographic is a graphical representation – such as a chart or a diagram – of data. They are essentially big images that combine otherwise data points (that may be dry to read in text form) into a visually appealing and interesting piece of art. Infographics inform people about a topic, but do it in a way that makes it entertaining and easy to digest.
Some infographics are interactive, while others are just static images. They can be posted to pages, blog posts, or social-media sites.
Here are some tips:
- Find data that is appealing to your audience. For example, here’s an infographic on car accident statistics.
- The data used in the infographic should be interesting or helpful.
- Use a designer to help you or one of the many tools available to generate infographics.
- Keep your topic simple and focused.
- Use as many visual representations of data as you can.
- Promote your infographic aggressively in social and on your website and/or other’s websites.
- Make it a reasonable length (do not make a huge image 10,000 pixels long).
- Add adequate spacing so that the information is easy to digest.
- Craft a catchy headline for the top of the infographic to grab the reader’s attention.
- Ensure your data is accurate and up to date.
- Cite your sources at the bottom of the infographic.
The first stage is gathering data and creating your infographic. Lawyers have access to lots of data in a variety of different places. Here are some sites where you can mine information for your infographic:
- American Bar Association
- Governmental agencies, such as the Department of Transportation
- Northwestern Law Legal Research Center
Lawyers may also have access to their law schools’ research library and/or databases. These are treasure troves of data that can be used for infographics.
We mentioned some infographic creation tools earlier and those are great for creating an infographic yourself. For lawyers doing it on their own, it’s best to use one of those services unless you have a knack for design.
The best route is to have a designer do the work for you. It will save time and come out looking much more professional.
Once you have your infographic, it’s time to promote it. The first place attorneys should place it is on their website or blog. After that, it’s just a matter of sharing the link for the infographic.
Encourage people to share the infographic and try to get it placed on other websites. If you have the image on a page of your own site, you can place embed code so that people can easily paste it into their own websites.
#6: Link-Building with HARO
What is it?
HARO is an acronym for Help A Reporter Out and is a free service in the North American market. It helps reporters get content and leads for stories and also helps users get publicity. HARO is owned by Cision and content sourced by the service is used by the AP, American Express, Gannet, Fox News, and other major news outlets.
Lawyers can use HARO for building both links and authority online. News stories submitted through HARO get distributed all over the web, helping attorneys get exposure for their firm or private practice. They can also include links in content that takes readers to their site.
The key to HARO is submitting references from a unique perspective. At the end of the day, HARO is trying to create content that engages the audience, so offering dry quotes gives you a very small chance of getting quotes. Being interesting and offering a fresh point-of-view is the best way to stand out in the crowd and have your quote used.
You can sign up for HARO here.
#7: Testimonial/Review Link Building
What is it?
Remember that exchange of value that we’ve mentioned several times? Businesses need social proof to aid in their conversion efforts and one strategy for acquiring links is to write reviews or testimonials for products and services that you actually use. Oftentimes, the company will link back to the attributing source. Not all websites allow this, but many have a field where a reviewer can leave a URL as a reference for their testimonial. An ancillary benefit of this tactic is that even if they don’t allow a link, the good will engendered may make them receptive to future collaboration.
Virtually any service a firm uses can potentially be a target for this strategy. For example, office supply, staffing, and cleaning companies (or any other services a firm uses) usually love getting reviews.
- Reach out to any service company or affiliate the firm uses and see if a review can be left on their site.
- Use a link to your home page. Links to other pages may look questionable to site owners, so they may not want to post your review.
- Consider the unique selling proposition or value that you received from the service (not just how great they are) and incorporate that into your review/testimonial.
Link Building for Small Businesses: 7 Tactics That Really Work
What is it?
A blog is an online publication (typically conversational or informal), focused on a specific set of topics. Blog topics may range from the general (sports) to the very specific (just curling). You are reading a blog right now.
For lawyers, blogs are positioned to attract inbound links, build a brand, and support social engagement/community-building. Attorney blog content is frequently supportive of the top of the funnel (e.g., “Steps to Take After a Car Accident,” “Car Accident Safety Tips,” etc.).
Blogging for your firm should be tailored to your audience as well as the firm’s business objectives. Here are some high-level best practices that should apply to most blogs:
- Content should be posted consistently, in terms of both scheduling and quantity.
- Write about information that is helpful to your target audience.
- Blog posts should be long enough to support your topic and to cover it with sufficient depth.
- Posts should link out to external resources when necessary to validate information.
- Posts should link internally to other posts or pages on the site where necessary for maintaining reader engagement or helpful for answering user intent.
- Blog posts should be easy to read and scan. Formatting (headings, short paragraphs, and images) should be used to break up the content and make it more digestible.
So, how should attorneys be blogging? Brian Dean (of Backlinko) says:
From Brian Dean of Backlinko
“Your best bet is to create content in a Shoulder Niche.
Most attorneys that I’ve worked with create content strictly about what their law firm does.
And it leads to boring content that no one would ever actually read (like: “5 Tips for Finding the Right DUI Lawyer”).
Instead, you want to find content in a related niche that people would want to share and link to. In other words, “Shoulder Niches”
For example, let’s say you run a law firm that specialized in DUI cases.
Related shoulder niche topics include:
-A compilation of drunk driving statistics
-Data on DUI cases by state
-A guide that includes DUI laws in different states
When you create content that provides value (and promote it), you can find yourself with high-quality backlinks, which help ALL the pages on your site rank.”
Regarding implementation, Harsh Agrawal has a great comprehensive resource on starting a blog that you can read here.
#9: Local & Citation Directories
What are they?
Local/citation directories are websites designed to provide website and other related contact information for local businesses to a local customer base. These directories are not specific to law practices. Even though a directory may have a national presence (such as Yelp or Yellowpages.com), they deliver localized results for users.
Local directories serve an important function on the web. They are often some of the first websites people see when searching for local service providers like attorneys. They often have elements like reviews, navigation, descriptions and contact information that make locating local businesses easier. In fact, Google specifically calls out directories as a means of improving your local rankings.
- Join as many high-quality location-based directories as you can find.
- Fill out profiles completely with contact info, biography, images, keywords, video, etc.
- The key here is to make your profile strong (so that it has the ability to rank); this, in turn, improves the authority of the page and the quality of the link.
Go after the well-known local directories first. They include:
- Apple Maps
- Google My Business
- Bing Places
- Facebook Business
- Merchant Circle
- Better Business Bureau
#10: Legal Article Contribution
What is it?
Legal article contribution is the strategy of creating content to answer specific queries of consumers, providing a resource for learning about specific legal issues. Many popular legal directories offer this service. However, only a few (e.g., lawyer.com, lawguru.com, personalinjury.com) allow you to include a dofollow link back to your website. Again, beware: some sites (like Avvo, Nolo, HG.org, and others) allow you to contribute legal content, but do not provide a dofollow link back to your site.
One strategy that I highly recommend is linking to the most topically relevant article on your site. For example, if you’re contributing content on legal implications of car accidents, link to a car accident landing page. I regularly see attorneys link back to their home page; this is a mistake, as linking to a relevant page is more helpful to the consumer.
- Perform a “submit legal articles” (and other similar variations) search to identify outlets that accept contributions.
- Once you identify a candidate that accepts legal content, evaluate previous submissions to see if they allow backlinks to be included.
We’ve referenced this article previously, but our Legal Directories post contains many sites that will accept legal content contributions.
#11: Sponsorship Opportunities
What are they?
Law firms and attorneys can sponsor organizations, events, sports teams, charities, and/or foundations. These entities often have websites where links can be placed. This is an example of an existing relationship that can be leveraged for SEO purposes.
Here’s an example of an extremely authoritative sponsorship opportunity. It’s not for the faint of heart (at $10000/year), but the link itself is a powerful DR 94.
Here are some tips when looking at sponsorship opportunities for linking:
- Look at your existing relationships first.
- Make your linking strategy with sponsorships part of a broader branding campaign.
- One word of caution: this link building practice can be seen as toeing the line between white and black hat SEO. A donation is typically to support a cause, so I don’t see this as an exchange of goods, but you could make an argument that this qualifies as a link scheme (which Google prohibits).
#12: Crowdsourcing & Legal Roundups
What is crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing involves using the internet to generate buzz and solicit support from a large number of people. Fundraising platforms (like GoFundMe) are a good example of crowdsourcing, but it can also include sites that have nothing to do with raising money.
A personal favorite of ours is bountify.co. All questions are indexed and promoted to receive crowdsourced replies; any URL included in the body of the question is a dofollow backlink. If you’re bottlenecked with a web development issue, you can get assistance with the problem, as well as a nice backlink for your trouble.
Lawyers can leverage crowdsourcing websites to get links in a couple of innovative ways: they can insert links on crowdsourcing sites that call on a community to answer questions or use crowdsourced content to get links. An example of this would be a legal roundup.
What is a legal roundup?
A legal roundup is a post that gathers input from professionals in a given field on a single topic. They are meant to provide varying viewpoints on a popular question that a consumer might have.
For lawyers, content roundups can help portray their firm as an authority in its space. Legal content roundups can be about virtually any topic, from when you should hire a DUI attorney to how assets are split during a divorce.
Case Study: The Dolman Law Group Content Roundup
The Dolman Law Group is a personal injury firm in Clearwater, Florida. Ranking for car accident-related terms has proven extremely competitive for law firms like theirs, so it can take a creative approach to SEO in order to get them ranking on the first page of Google.
So how do we do it?
We reached out to numerous attorneys asking them to participate in the roundup and answer this question:
“When do I need to hire a car accident lawyer?”
Here’s a sample of a similar email that we used to reach out to these attorneys (thanks to Shane Barker for the modified content).
After compiling and formatting those answers, we assembled them into a blog post, then promoted it in collaboration with Dolman Law Group.
Legal roundups are a great link building tactic, because they promote trust with website visitors, create useful content that visitors actually want to read, and encourage links from contributors and other site owners.
One hypothesis that I have in regards to why this post performed so well is that Google is actively seeking experts on a topic. What better source could you find than having 16 qualified experts weigh in on a given topic?
Here are some additional tips from Josh Fechter on how to gather participants for a legal roundup:
From Josh Fechter, of BAMF Media
“A law firm should focus on collecting relevant emails of potential prospects using LinkedIn. Rather than scraping, they should connect with their prospects, then export their emails from their LinkedIn settings. They can then use these emails for remarketing purposes across Facebook, Quora, and Instagram to help generate brand awareness.”
#13 – Publishing Books
Does book publishing garner links?
Writing a book opens up linking opportunities on sites where you can submit your book as well as third party news recognition.
Obviously, writing a book simply to acquire some links is a poor use of your time. However, if it’s something you’re already doing or have done, you can leverage that content for links.
Case Study: The Hackard Law Firm
Michael Hackard of The Hackard Law Firm is an experienced elder law attorney. He wrote a book on the subject and featured it online and on Amazon.com.
Submitting to Amazon
Amazon.com is a great place to get links after submitting your book. As a part of this process, you can create an author profile.
Authors can submit Author Updates on the platform; these are direct links to their website, including blogs, practice pages, and other content.
These are high-quality, do-follow links from an extremely authoritative domain.
As a side effect, attorneys can also get natural links from media sites based upon the value that they provide to consumers. If your book addresses or solves a problem (particularly one of timely importance), then links from media sources should naturally follow. Check out the link earned below for Hackard’s site on Foxbusiness.com.
More than any other tip, I can’t stress enough how valuable a PR specialist will be in garnering media attention when you begin outreach for your book.
You also should have a landing page that discusses your book. This will allow media sources (such as those who interview you or promote your book as part of your PR outreach) a place to link, rather than simply sending consumers directly to Amazon’s listing. The key here is you want the media to link to you, not Amazon.
#14 – Podcasts
What is podcast link building?
Producing a podcast is a great marketing strategy for lawyers. In addition to that exposure, you can earn a link for your site. There are two primary methods of acquiring links from podcasts: 1) from podcast hosting companies/profile pages and 2) from podcast blog transcriptions.
Podcast Hosting Companies/Profile Pages
There are many podcast hosting companies on the internet. When you create an account, you’re typically allowed to make an author profile page, which you can link to your website.
Here’s Lawyerist’s podcast page on iTunes:
Podcast Blog Transcriptions
Many podcast owners actively promote their blog by transcribing interviews into content for their site. Frequently, they’ll include reference links back to the interviewee. Here’s an example of a popular podcast utilizing this tactic:
#15 – Ultimate Guides
What is an ultimate guide?
As you might expect, an ultimate guide is a piece of content that is all-encompassing on a subject. They’re typically over 10000 words and cover the subject matter in a very thorough manner.
Ultimate guides are great for link building because of their versatility in a marketing space. In other words, they can be used in a variety of different scenarios and re-purposed over and over to promote a law firm.
They are also excellent for ranking web pages for highly competitive keyword phrases: these phrases often need something that sets them apart from the other pages ranking for those terms. One of the main benefits of an ultimate guide is that it naturally includes related phrases and synonyms (for which you can rank). This creates a natural incentive for sites to link to you (because of the added organic reach). Simply put, more people will see the post and have the opportunity to link to it.
Many times, these are repurposed into ebooks and downloadable guides. In those situations, you can submit ebooks and PDFs to their respective directory type.
“Here’s how it works in a nutshell:
- Find a relevant piece of content with lots of backlinks;
- Create something way better;
- Ask those linking to the original piece to link to your superior content instead.”
An attorney’s ultimate guide should:
- Be at least 10000 words.
- Incorporate related words and phrases into the subject matter.
- Cite sources.
- Answer common consumer questions.
- Include some element of additional navigation (e.g., a table of contents).
An ultimate guide needs to be just that: the ultimate, all-knowing, final say on a topic piece of content.
#16 – Legal Awards & Associations
How can legal awards and associations help your SEO efforts?
Frequently, legal awards or associations will include a profile page for their recipients and/or members. The criteria for inclusion varies: some are peer-nominated, others are based upon years of experience, and even others are gleaned from minimum case values (such the Million Dollar Advocates Forum). These can be great links because of their topical nature, but they also improve website conversions due to perceived value derived from social proof.
- When you’ve identified a quality legal award, nominate your peers and let them know of the nomination. Without asking, this may be a method of naturally getting reciprocal nominations or setting up future collaborative opportunities.
- There are many legal award scams out there. Do your due diligence to evaluate the quality of the link and its legitimacy…unless you’re Zippy the Chicken, of course.
Here are a few legal directories and associations:
- National Trial Lawyers Top 100
- Million Dollar Advocates Forum
- American Association for Justice
Chapter ROI by Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
Links are one of Google’s most important ranking factors. Imagine Google’s rankings are an election. If you want to win an election, you need more votes than your opponent. In SEO, links equal votes, so if you want to “win” the first page of Google, you need quality links.