In the last year, Google has become very serious about cracking down on companies that are buying their links instead of building them with organic, white hat techniques. iAcquire, an agency that was suspected of accepting money in exchange for links, found itself completely de-listed on Google in May of 2012, and suddenly it looked like a much worse idea to buy inbound links. If you're still thinking about whether to buy inbound link traffic, you need this guide. You'll learn why it's still possible to buy inbound links without having Google notice—but also why these strategies may be risky in the future for lawyers.
Why Is It Important To Have Natural Looking Links?
Even if you do decide to buy inbound links, you'll want to make it look very much like they were never bought. That's because in their Webmaster Guidelines, Google makes it very explicit that it is not a permitted practice to purchase inbound links to increase your search rankings.
If you're unhappy with your search rankings, Google's suggestion is that you don't buy inbound link traffic, but instead work to build it yourself. There are many different ways to build inbound links naturally, but for many attorneys, they simply take too much time and involve too much uncertainty to be worthwhile.
This means that you can still buy inbound links today. Many services allow you to buy inbound link results that are in some way still able to evade Google's advanced detection algorithms. However, you don't just want to buy inbound links that work today. Any links you buy should work well into the future, and that's where it gets a bit tricky.
What Company Should I Buy Inbound Links From?
No matter what, you should never buy inbound link traffic from a company that is clearly using what could be described as “black hat” techniques or spam. If you see a company creating spam links in any way, shape, or form, you need to find a different company to buy inbound links from. Even if their spam techniques are one step ahead of Google's detectors for now, one day their luck will run out. Then, you'll wish you had chosen to buy inbound link traffic from a company that had avoided these techniques entirely.
Because a law firm is staffed by professionals, you don't want to look like your links come from the same place as links for erectile dysfunction pills and scammy work from home job opportunities. You should make sure that any company you choose to affiliate with is also working with other law firms or professional groups. If they're primarily working with industries known for spam techniques, you should buy inbound links from a different company.
The Difference Between Contextual And Non-Contextual Links
Today, you should only buy inbound link types that are contextual. If you buy inbound links that don't have any contextual relevance to anything that you're talking about on your website, Google will recognize that these are unnatural links and will penalize you accordingly.
Many services will advertise that they are specifically contextual link building agencies. When you buy inbound links from these agencies, they'll automatically put them on websites that are contextually relevant to you. Many of these services will only allow one law firm from a given geographic region to buy inbound link traffic from them, to take away any chance of having a conflict of interest. These are among the most reputable agencies to buy inbound links from. There is a very good chance that if you buy inbound link traffic using one of them, your links will be indexed quickly and will stay up for a long time.
Things That Look Unnatural to Google
If you want to build your own links or just evaluate which company to buy inbound link services from, you should know what Google identifies as a sign of unnatural linking. First of all, websites that have far more inbound links than would be normal for a website with their traffic level are usually considered suspicious. Usually the way that a webmaster would get such a large number of links to a low traffic website is through purchasing them—which, again, is forbidden by the guidelines.
You should also avoid any large quantity of links with identical anchor text, or links from the same IP address. Too many identical links or sources looks very unnatural. It's also very unusual for all of a website's links to be “follow” as opposed to “nofollow.” If you're not using any nofollow links at all, Google is likely to identify this as overoptimization.
Generally, you will not be de-listed completely from Google if you are suspected of link buying, but you will be penalized in search rankings. The only companies that get de-listed aren't the ones who buy links, but the ones who sell them.
I'm Overoptimized—What Do I Do?
If you've been sent an email message that says your links are unnatural or that your website appears to be over optimized, it's important not to panic. By doing some legwork, you can recover your place in the rankings. First of all, it's time to be honest: did you buy inbound link services? If you didn't actually buy inbound links or use unnatural link building techniques, you should alert Google right away. It's totally possible for the algorithms to make a mistake, and by bringing this mistake to their attention you'll not only get your rankings back, but also improve the algorithms so that they identify fewer false positives in the future.
If you actually did buy inbound link services, don't try to convince Google otherwise. They'll see it, and they'll know. Instead, you need to start asking for those links to be taken down. Whenever you buy inbound links, remember that there's always a chance of this, so only buy inbound link services if you believe you'll have the ability to request the removal of these links later.