There is no good way to tell what percentage of law firms are displaying a natural link structure today. However, many of the firms that are relying exclusively on organic links aren't actually doing any kind of real natural link building. They're spending their time hoping for links, but not working actively to get them. In this guide, we'll explore how to create a natural link structure with a combination of wholly organic links and links that you had a hand in building. When done right, your link pattern will look exactly like natural link building and won't incur any search engine penalties.
Why Do I Want a Natural Link Structure?
It's important to have a natural link structure, or at least the appearance of one, if you want your law firm's website to be displayed prominently in search results. If Google or other search engines detect that you have an artificial link structure, you could find that you're suddenly penalized and your site no longer is in the top five or ten pages.
That's not the only reason that a natural link structure makes sense. Natural link building simply looks better to potential clients, in a big way. If you're seen as a spammer posting artificial links all over the web, that's a terrible professional image for an attorney who wants to actually build up a client base.
Getting Started With Natural Link Building
First, let's talk about the very basics of natural link building. If you had a 100% natural link structure, you'd just be dealing with links given to you by other websites that happened to find yours, and they'd link to you however they saw fit.
You can do a great deal of natural link building just by making sure that people know about your website and/or your blog or social networking presence. Some public links on a Facebook page can make a big difference in creating a natural link structure from scratch. These links will be totally organic, but keep in mind that when doing this kind of natural link building, you won't be able to dictate your anchor text or what is said about your site.
Signs of a Natural Link Structure: Links From Many Sites
One of the biggest signs that someone's doing natural link building instead of creating artificial links is that their links will be all over the web. Natural link structure involves a very wide variety of websites, from big social networking hubs to tiny blogs, without an overwhelming focus on any particular genre of site.
When these links are contextual—that is, when they occur on sites that are about similar topics—you'll get even more link juice because Google views this as another sign of natural link building. Your natural link structure's diversity is one of its greatest strengths: it prevents any one change to search algorithms from affecting a significant portion of the links you've worked hard to build.
Signs of a Natural Link Structure: Slow, Steady Progress
When you do natural link building, you'll get links a handful at a time, not in a giant downpour. Natural link structure will almost always show slow upward progress, with links that keep pace with your overall traffic numbers. If you show a giant upswing in link numbers followed by tumbleweeds and crickets, it's very unlikely that any search engine will think you have done natural link building.
Even if your link building isn't really 100% natural, you should try to emulate a natural link structure by slowly adding inbound links and tiering those links—linking to the pages with your backlinks. This will get your new links added more quickly, and as long as you do it in a way that seems like natural link building, you'll have an easy time rising in the rankings with this strategy.
Signs of a Natural Link Structure: Anchor Text Diversity
The anchor text of a link is the text you actually click on to go to a new URL. Natural link building usually won't involve a whole lot of exact keyword anchor text, and tends to be much more diverse than artificial link building efforts. Keyword variants appear in the anchor text of links in a natural link structure, and some of the links' anchor text may just be very generic words—things like “these guys” or “here.”
If too much of your anchor text is identical, an algorithm called Google Penguin will notice it and penalize your rankings. This is to cut down on the number of people using fully automated link creation software that games the rankings and creates millions of pages that are little better than garbled, smashed together links.
Signs of a Natural Link Structure: High PageRank Links
If you're really working on your natural link building skills, you can start accumulating links from websites with a high PageRank value. This is a number between 0 and 10 that Google uses as an approximation of a website's authority and popularity. Websites with a PageRank of 10 are extremely rare (there are only about two dozen), while many more have lower ranks.
A ratio that includes both low and high PageRank links tends to be a sign of a natural link structure, while artificial links tend to be mostly from the very low end of the PageRank spectrum. If too many of your links come from unknown or just created blogs, it's very likely that Google will sandbox your site as it has done to so many others like it.
Signs of a Natural Link Structure: High Quality Content
Finally, you can never forget to have high quality content. You'll never be able to do true natural link building unless you make a conscious decision to keep your quality level high throughout your website. Other people won't link to you organically if your website is just one big advertisement. You need to give away information and commentary, and you'll have a much better chance of actually getting the link building opportunities you need for your website to prosper.