If you've been paying attention to recent Google updates, you'll know that link building strategies have changed for good. Now that Google bases much of its weighting for inbound links on whether those links are from good quality web pages, you may be considering your options. Whether it's hiring an effective link building service or doing it yourself, 2012 and 2013 offer a huge range of choices for law firms that want to engage in quality link building. Keep reading to learn more about those choices and whether your firm is link building aggressively enough for the current market.
Why Links Aren't All the Same
Not so long ago—in fact, as recently as the beginning of 2011—Google didn't take quality into account when looking at your backlinks. The more backlinks you had, the better your search engine results would be, even if those backlinks were from very low-quality websites.
The problem with indexing search results in this way is that the system was rewarding people for making the web look and work worse. Any marketing company could become an effective link building service at that time, because it didn't take much: all you needed was to spam copies of articles and links on as many pages as possible. It wasn't quality link building, but it did the job.
Why Google Penguin and Panda are Good For Lawyers
If your marketing practices are ethical, there's no reason that you should be afraid of the new Google updates, Penguin and Panda, that changed how links are weighted. Instead, law firms ought to generally be pleased with how these updates have worked. They mean that if one of your competitors is spamming instead of using quality link building, they won't appear near the top of search engine results.
While some link building services with low quality links are still hanging around, it's now much easier to find an effective link building service that is focused more on helping you with directory listings, networking with peers, and getting your voice heard by social bookmarking sites. All of these things are possible to do with quality link building, and none of them require any kind of spam methods to make them work.
Are Paid or Reciprocal Links Quality Link Building?
Google's webmaster guidelines, which govern all websites indexed by Google, explicitly prohibit webmasters from paying for links. Paid linking is actually a reportable offense, and if someone (like one of your competitors) figures out you're doing it, you could be busted and see your pages de-indexed.
Excess reciprocal links are also frowned upon by Google's search engine robots. Why? Because it's simply too easy to do this kind of quid pro quo with another person online, all without even really knowing (or caring) what the content actually looks like.
While it's certainly fine to link to some websites that also link you back, this should generally be limited. You should only engage in reciprocal linking when your firm has a genuine connection with another person or company's website, not just because they said they'd give you a link back in exchange.
Signs That Your Existing Links Are Low Quality
Unfortunately, if you hired what you thought was an effective link building service even just last year, you may have found your SERPs dropping precipitously after Penguin or Panda came out. If this happened to you, that's one of the best signs that you've done low quality link building. An effective link building service can help you turn this problem around, even if your pages have plummeted in the search results.
Another indication that you may have low quality link building is if your links were very, very easy to come by. Quality link building takes time and consideration—you simply can't do it effectively when you're trying to build hundreds or thousands of links in just a few weeks.
Quality Link Building: Easier Than You Think
The fact that no effective link building service can do your link building overnight may seem like a disappointment. However, even if you're working on getting backlink traffic without any help from a service, it's possible to do quality link building.
Some of the easiest link building you can do that is still considered legitimate involves directory listings. While some directories (typically those that accept literally any website) are considered low quality link building, many are high-quality websites in their own right. For example, you should try to be listed on DMOZ, as well as avvo.com and your state bar association's website (if it offers backlinks to firm websites).
If you already spend time on social bookmarking websites and already know the lay of the land on one or more of these sites, you can do quality link building there. Similarly, even if you don't already have a blog, you may want to ask someone who runs a popular blog whether you can do a Q&A session or a guest blog entry. If you're lucky (and good), these kinds of posts can even end up shared repeatedly in social media feeds all over the web.
Hiring an Effective Link Building Service
Today, finding the right link building service can be tricky. Because the recent Google updates are so new, many of these services are scrambling to find new strategies that work. Usually, the most effective link building service will be one that didn't have to scramble, because it was already dedicated to building quality, reputation-enhancing links rather than creating spam.
An effective link building service can help you to get the best inbound links possible by looking at who you're connected to and how. What's more, because there are so many different kinds of link building activity to engage in, you can augment these efforts with your blogging or social media updates without overlapping. An effective link building service will look at what you're already doing well and where you could stand to gain the most with the least additional work.