The importance of topically relevant links and strategies for a holistic link-building approach

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Inbound links from topically relevant websites in the legal industry are very powerful for an attorney’s SEO strategy. Google’s engineers have worked hard to extract topical relevance signals from links to determine what websites are about and how they contribute to the sites they link to. There is no shortage of legal-specific websites, but lawyers must be cognizant of the fact that they need to find the right links to improve their overall link portfolio. To get the most out of their optimization efforts, lawyers must also approach their link building with a holistic methodology.

Benefits of getting links from legal industry directories

Topical relevance

Websites that have similar content to those they link to are said to have topical relevance. Google has been known to use this information as part of its overall ranking strategy. When you think about it, if a web page about a specific topic is linking to another page on a different website, there is a good chance that the destination page has something to do with the content.

Beyond search engines, links on legal industry websites can also give users topical relevance cues. For example, if a person is looking for legal information on Avvo and he or she sees a link to a blog post with further reading on a particular legal topic or issue, that is a good indication that the source is relevant to the legal topic the user is already interested in. On a more general website, it may be less likely that the audience is interested in legal services.

Direct lead generation

Links are not only for SEO. Real people actually follow links to other websites. For lawyers obtaining links on legal-specific directories and websites, the majority of the traffic seeing those links falls within the target market for legal services.

Should a user follow those links, that traffic to an attorney’s website can result in direct lead generation. Conversely, links on more generic directories and websites may have a more general audience and might therefore be less likely to lead to a client phone call.

Long-term relationships

Some directories designed specifically for lawyers allow for regular contribution in the form of guest posting. This can be a huge win on many levels, especially if the directory is authoritative.

By contributing on a regular basis to a legal directory, lawyers can get in front of an audience of people looking for legal services. If users see the directory as an authoritative source of legal information, they will also see the contributing attorney as a trustworthy source.

Lawyers may also have the opportunity to build highly relevant links back to their own websites. For example, in the directory below, this guest author placed a highly relevant do-follow link with specific anchor text to her law firm website.

On more general directory sites, you might not get to choose how your link appears, the anchor text used, or the position of the link on the page, all of which are important factors in determining how the link benefits the destination site.

Social proof

Trust is huge for consumers. Lawyers can rank on page 1 and bring all the traffic they want to their sites, but if they do not appear trustworthy, that traffic will not convert to actionable business. Legal-specific directories are sometimes known for offering social proof badges that lawyers can display on their websites.
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A badge may not seem like much, but to consumers researching legal services it can signal that they have found a lawyer who values his or her reputation. Badges can reassure visitors that the attorney they are looking at online is someone who can be trusted.

Strategies for getting a link mix from legal-specific and non-legal-specific domains

Lawyers need to take a holistic approach to building links. They should be looking for a mix of link sources from both general directories and legal-specific properties. Here are some strategies for doing just that.

Look for high Domain Authority sites

Lawyers can use Domain Authority to find viable link targets for their own websites. Domain Authority, a metric developed by Moz, gives a snapshot of how authoritative a domain or page is. In other words, a site with a high Domain Authority is a site you want linking to you.

The best way to do this is to download Moz’s toolbar for Chrome or Firefox. Once the toolbar is enabled, run a search for websites you are interested in building links on. In the search results, you will be able to see the Domain Authority and Page Authority of the page and website.
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Use this to develop a list of targets that you can reach out to for linking opportunities. It helps for lawyers to have an idea of sites to target, and they can use search operators to narrow results.

Link piggybacking

Another strategy lawyers can use to find good link targets is to see what their competition is doing. Link piggybacking refers to a method of finding link targets by looking at links leading to other websites. Typically, the strategy is used on competitor websites in search. For instance, lawyers might see who is ranking well for a particular phrase they want to target and see what domains are linking to that site.

Ahrefs is great for this sort of analysis. Simply take domains that rank well for keyword phrases you are targeting and paste them into the site explorer.
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The software will list the websites that are linking to that particular page. The main website should also be analyzed because there are usually more links pointing at a home page than sub-pages. Ahrefs can be used for free on a limited basis.

Conclusion

Links from topically relevant legal directories and websites are extremely important, but so is having a diverse link profile. Lawyers should put together an SEO strategy that includes targeting both types of link sources. The strategies mentioned above can be very useful for finding both general and legal industry-specific link targets that may help attorneys’ websites perform better in search.