This is a great question! The links on your attorney website definitely affect your Google ranking—but there’s a lot to know about what those links are, what they do for you, and how to use them.
There are a ton of elements that go into Google’s special sauce for ranking websites, and links are an often-overlooked piece of that puzzle. If you’re at all in doubt, you just have to keep in mind that the original Google “PageRank” algorithm looked almost solely at the way websites linked together—and that’s the foundation for the much more complex algorithms and ranking elements Google uses today!
In short, we might not always know exactly what goes into Google’s secret ranking algorithms, but we DO know that links matter—and they matter a LOT.
Getting Started: Three Types of Links That Affect Page Ranking
Since this is a big question that calls for a big answer, let’s get started with a simple breakdown of what we mean by “links.” There are essentially three types of links that you need to think about for your website:
- Internal links. These are the links on your website that link to other pages on your website.
- External links. In this context, external links are the links on your website that link to outside websites.
- Backlinks. These are the links to your website that come from other websites. You can’t totally control what sites choose to link to yours, but these kinds of links still have an impact on your rankings!
How you handle your internal links, backlinks, and external links can make a surprisingly big difference in your rankings—and each type affects the user experience on your attorney website in its own way, too.
So, with the basics out of the way, let’s get to it! Below, let’s break it down further by type of link and talk more about how each type affects your rankings.
1. What Internal Links Do on Your Attorney Website
Internal links are the links on your website that link to other pages on your website. For example, we might link internally from this FAQ to our attorney SEO services page—just in case this FAQ is motivating you to get on top of your link management!
Search engine crawlers can learn a lot about your site through your internal links, so it’s an important place to focus your attention if you’re concerned about your rankings. Internal links essentially point search engine crawlers to the rest of the pages on your site for indexing. They help crawlers establish a general structure and theme for the content on your website, and they help readers get to other pages that interest them. If you use relevant keywords as the anchor text for those links, it boosts that understanding even more.
With truly savvy internal linking, you can direct potential clients and search engine crawlers toward the most important landing pages on your website, as well as maintain a logical flow of traffic through all your individual pages.
And, if you get a really good link structure going, each internal link on your website that links back to a practice area page will give that practice area page a little more “ranking juice” in Google’s eyes. You’ll also constantly point readers back to top-level, action-oriented pages, which is great for garnering more leads and conversions.
Building a solid strategy for internal links on your attorney website isn’t easy, though. Some of it is in how your website’s basic navigation is designed and organized. Some of it is in how you use internal links in your blog posts, articles, FAQs, and other pages.
However, the guiding idea behind the strategy is relatively simple. You just want your internal links to make it as easy as possible for readers and search engines to understand and move through your website.
2. What External Links Do on Your Attorney Website
Unlike your internal links, which link to other areas of your website, an external link is a link to an outside website or page. For example, we might link to this definition of external link from PCMag’s encyclopedia.
Generally, you don’t want to overwhelm readers with a million links to websites you don’t own. If you already have—or can create—a piece of content that covers it, it’s typically better for you to link internally. However, sometimes someone else really has said it best, and there’s no reason not to send your readers there to check it out.
A lot of lawyers think that external links will encourage people to leave their law firm’s website or otherwise detract from what their website has to offer. However, there isn’t any real need to worry. Sure, you probably don’t want to link to a competitor’s website or some kind of spammy, sketchy page. But, as long as you choose external links with care and intention, it’s unlikely to harm you at all. In fact, using external links can help you by:
- Enhancing the user experience for your readers
- Encouraging links back to your content
- Possibly sending more positive ranking signals to Google about the quality of your website and content
But, again, you need to use those external links with purpose. Your main goal with external links is to enrich your readers’ understanding of a topic, issue, or term and improve the experience they have on your website. Any “ranking juice” you might get from doing so is just a bonus!
We’ll talk even more about this below, but we should also make it clear that you should never try to “game” Google by adding more external links to your site, and you should NEVER buy or sell links.
It’s also worth mentioning that, for external links, it’s much more important that the anchor text provides some context for the link and accurately describes what people will see if they click through. You don’t really need to worry as much about keywords here as long as the anchor text makes sense.
Again, everything about using external links well really comes back to providing a great experience for YOUR perfect clients! If you aim for natural, informative links to authoritative outside websites, and if you use them sparingly, it’s tough to go wrong.
3. What You Should Know About Backlinks From Others to Your Attorney Website
A backlink is a link to your attorney website from another website. For example, when we linked to PCMag in the section above, we gave them a backlink!
Updates to the Google algorithm over time have placed more importance on the quality of your backlinks. Google’s thinking is essentially that, if other great websites think your website is worth linking to, then it’s probably a quality website that’s worth sending searchers to. So, a great profile of backlinks from authoritative sites can have a positive effect on your rankings.
There’s nothing new about backlinks—they’ve been around for a long time. You might even remember when the process of obtaining and maintaining the backlinks to your website was called “link building” in marketing speak, but that term is a little out of vogue these days.
Instead, it’s better to think of it more as “link earning.” And, sometimes, it really does feel like you have to work to earn them!
You have to understand that Google isn’t looking for a certain number of links back to your website. In fact, going after backlinks too aggressively can backfire by actually harming your rankings AND your relationships with outside organizations and entities. You don’t want to engage in link schemes with other sites that are solely for the backlink, and you NEVER want to buy backlinks to your website. Ultimately, Google wants to see a backlink profile full of natural links from quality websites—and using link schemes or cheats clearly violates Google’s quality guidelines.
So, the real question is, how do you get great backlinks if you don’t control the pages that link to you and you can’t buy or trade links?
The key to earning great backlinks is really content, especially content that is written for your perfect client. Blog posts, FAQs, articles, and videos capture the attention of other content creators when they are fresh, unique, valuable, and highly relevant to your audience. You really just want to create content and videos that other people WANT to link to! If it’s compelling enough, and if people are seeing it, then those great backlinks will happen naturally.
If you really want to rev up your backlinks, you can also try just asking for them when it’s appropriate or you have an existing relationship—for example, check out these 9 ways to leverage PR for better backlinks and visibility.
The other side of the coin, though, is that any website out there can link to yours, and you don’t have much control over which websites do. A lot of lawyers see a bunch of junky websites linking to their pages, and that can wreck their nice, clean backlink profile—even though they had no choice in the matter!
However, while you can’t control who chooses to link back to your website, you can disavow links that are spammy, unnatural, or otherwise don’t belong there. If you try for great backlinks, and check in regularly to clean up low-quality links, you can build a backlink profile that shows Google that you have real authority.
Get Better Website Performance by Getting on Top of Your Links
There is no set number of internal links, external links, or backlinks you should use on your website—and there’s a good reason for that. Instead of asking “how many,” you really should be asking “why.” Is there a reason that link is there? Does it help your perfect client in some way? Does it direct people toward relevant information that clarifies or expands on what they’re already reading? If not, it probably doesn’t need to be there.
We’ll absolutely admit that getting the links on your attorney website “just right” is another one of those things that’s equal parts art and science—so don’t feel bad if it feels like there’s a bit of a learning curve! It’s worth it.
A solid linking strategy means that you’re not only giving off “good vibes” for Google, but also for your perfect clients.
And, of course, links and rankings aren’t the only things you should be thinking about. There are all kinds of ways that websites can be optimized for search engines and search engine users—and you need all those pieces to work together!
Don’t see your question answered here? Need a hand cleaning up your backlink profile or an expert opinion on how well your marketing strategy is working for you? Give the friendly FWM team a call at 888.886.0939, or join us for a legal website analysis that will give you HUGE insight into how to move forward.