Marketing A Law Firm? Be Careful Who You Hire
A few weeks back, one of my attorney friends told me about a “smart” outsourcing decision he made for his firm. Before I get into exactly what that decision was, the reader should know that this particular attorney is a very savvy marketer and a student of search. He also happens to be a sought after lawyer with lots and lots of work (i.e. more likely to be reading case law than SEO Moz), which is why he was making the following mistake on a monthly recurring basis: he was paying “some guy in Miami” to “build links for him.”
The Stakes Are High, Mistakes Hurt
I think it’s fair to say that, when I heard this, I freaked out. I raised the tone of my voice and began speaking with machine gun speed. Don’t do that! I know how much time and effort my friend puts into marketing his law practice. The last thing I wanted to see was his web presence lying bloodied and decapitated off to the side of the Google road, which is exactly what you’re risking if you’re “paying some guy in Miami” to build links for you.
Google’s Penguin Update
Perhaps it’s because everyone’s too busy actually practicing law, but word of Google’s Penguin update has yet to make its way through the legal community. Even many marketing savvy firms are still in the dark. For those of you who missed it, Google rolled out an algorithm update on April 24th of this year aimed at filtering “over optimized” sites out of the search results. I’m not exactly sure why, but the update was named Penguin. Among other black hat tactics, such as keyword stuffing and link schemes, Penguin punishes manipulative linking tactics. For example, if you hire some guy in Miami to build 50 links, with exact match anchor text, back to the homepage of your law firm website, on sites with URLs like www.buywebdirectory-links.info, you’re begging for this message to appear in your Webmaster tools inbox:
Dear site owner or webmaster of www.yoursiteaddress.com,We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes. We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines.
Translation: We think your site is spam, please remove all of the manipulative crap you tried to use to game the system or your site will never appear in search results ever, ever again. Ouch.
A few weeks back, I wrote about a colleague who received this dreaded message right before losing virtually all traffic to a site he relied on as an important part of his firm’s marketing efforts. He too, had paid “some guy” to “build links for him.” A review of the links that were built showed low quality sites and exact match anchor text. A Penguin penalty ensued.
While every established site will have some links in its portfolio that the webmaster is probably not proud of, and some link activity is beyond the control of site owners entirely, the practice of building large numbers of spam links with the goal of “shaping page rank,” is dead. Engaging in these tactics can hurt your business and permanently harm your website. If you would like to discuss ways in which your firm can engage in a link building campaign that complies with Google’s webmaster guidelines, give me a call or send me an e-mail, I am happy to help when I can.