Attorney discovering SEOThis post continues my series on how lawyers can build backlinks the right way. My first article provided an overview of the topics I’ll be covering and explained why the correct way of building backlinks requires effort but is worth it in the end. Before discussing specific ways to get links to your site it’s important to take a step back and understand why links are important to search rankings in the first place.

Right now you’re thinking “I know links are important, I don’t need to know the ‘why’.” The truth is that if you want your firm to do well you should understand the why. Just think of when you make an argument in Court – is it better to simply know what a statute says or do you prefer to have a deeper understanding of the subject so that you can argue plain language, legislative history, public policy, etc.? Hopefully you answered the latter. So if you want your firm to do well in search, and to ensure that you do well over your long and illustrious legal career, it’s important to understand why links matter to search engines.

Backlinks became relevant to search engines because they needed a way of understanding which websites were more important

I’ll start with an incomplete hypothetical. Before you waste your breath – your objection is overruled. Put yourself in the role of a search engine. Your sole job is to return users the most relevant results to their query; if you don’t provide people with relevant information then they are going to jump to another search engine. The problem with determining what the most relevant results are is that, in the early days of the web, there was little way of determining which pages were from the most authoritative sources. Google’s founders developed a formula based on the idea that if person A links to person B’s website it must be because A finds B’s content useful. The more of these backlinks that B has then the more authoritative B must be. This early algorithm allowed Google to determine which sites were the most authoritative on a given topic.

This approach has been greatly refined over the years. Many of these refinements have been to stop the game-players who are trying to rank highly without earning it. When people realized they could rank through getting links they began using tactics to artificially get links as easily as possible. This, for obvious reasons, goes against the idea of links being a sign of authoritative/useful content. Google constantly refines how it views links – some won’t count at all while some will be discounted. These refinements are part of the “algorithm changes” you frequently hear about. When you cut through all the B.S. the simple fact is that algorithm updates are how Google prevents people from ranking when they haven’t generated content that is actually worthy of links.

Backlinks will continue to impact your search rankings for the foreseeable future

While Google has greatly refined its algorithms, the fact is that backlinks still matter and will for quite some time. When you think about it – a link still constitutes an endorsement. The big G has gotten quite good, and continues to improve, at telling which links are legit and which ones are the spammy crap placed there by this guy:

Internet spammer wearing a mask

It’s not to say that Google won’t stop considering links at some point. They just won’t be making that switch anytime soon. Here’s a video Matt Cutts did on the topic in early 2014:

So you need to have a plan going forward on how you are going to get links.

Over the rest of this series we’ll discuss how you can get links the right way – by generating content that people will endorse because it is useful and authoritative. This is the approach we take for clients of our attorney website design services and they have done extremely well as a result. Taking this approach will provide you with backlinks that stand the test of time and you will start to see that your site does better with each algorithm update as you will be rewarded for doing it the right way.