By Justine Daley
Let’s get right to it because I’m not going to sugar coat this. Link building is important and that is a fact that isn’t going to fade away.
Why? You read in last month’s newsletter that age of domain affects ranking. And the way to overcome age of domain is by building links, creating consistent, targeted web content, and so on.
Despite Google’s many algorithm updates and numerous predictions that link won’t be as important in the future, high domain authority websites with numerous high quality backlinks still consistently own that coveted page-one real estate.
So while we’re at it, let’s get another fact straight: building links takes work.
Link farms and syndicated press releases are no longer easy wins; they are, however, an easy way to drive down the road toward your next link detox. Hey, we’ve been there, along with most experienced digital marketers.
But it is through our experience, and through our work with law firms who come to us with thousands and thousands of toxic backlinks that we know for a fact that the only way to build beneficial links is to do it the right way. And the right way takes work. This is why I have come to think of it more as as link earning.
You need to invest time and money. You have to do something to get the link. You need to earn it.
So How Do Law Firms Earn Backlinks?
Enter Lawyer A: healthy website and consistent press coverage. High authority news sites frequently link to their website, signaling to search engines that they have authority and are a credible enough source that top-level news sources are crediting their website with certain information.
The solution—do something worth mentioning. Provide information worth crediting. But in this content-saturated day in age we can’t all be Lawyer A.
There are a two glaring flaws in this approach:
1. Just because you do something worth mentioning, or write something worth referencing, doesn’t mean someone is actually going to mention it.
Being mentioned or referenced by a high authority news site isn’t as easy as syndicating a press release. Thousands of blog posts are published every day; millions of social media posts are shared. Cutting through the noise to make your self and your content standout is a huge hurdle that every marketer is facing.
2. Even if you are mentioned in an article doesn’t necessarily mean that will give you the link (or the right kind of link), even if you ask.
Let’s say that you recently won a big case and you were interviewed for several news sites. As a link building minded marketer, you emailed the reporter afterward asking them to provide a follow link back to your website. Seems easy enough for them to do, but how does taking that extra step benefit them? Well, it really doesn’t. So much of the time, they won’t do it.
Here at GNGF, one of our most consistently offered link earning strategies is our scholarship campaign, and it is because it solves for those two above flaws. We’ve talked about these previously, and so have our competitors, and we all offer them because they work. Schools, especially colleges, with .edu domains typically carry high domain authorities. And links to your website from sites with high domain authorities are positive signals to search engines.
By providing a scholarship, you #1 provide something worth mentioning, and—if you do the work—are #2 likely to have schools link to it.
Why? Because a core fundamental of link building is reciprocity. Reciprocity is the when you exchange things for mutual benefit.
When you provide a scholarship, and ask a school to link to it on their website, you each receive something of value. You’ve helped the guidance counselor or college advisor do their job; you’ve sent them information about a scholarship that will be beneficial to their students. And they, in turn, have provided a high quality link, directing traffic to your website.
Scholarships aren’t the only ways to earn links, but it is an example of how reciprocity increases the chances of earning links when you ask for them.
The value of reciprocity isn’t the only thing we’ve learned through our experiences with scholarships. Here is are a few things we’ve confirmed about link building through managing scholarship campaigns for law firms:
More outreach = more links. We saw the largest spike in links when we dramatically increased the amount of initial outreach and follow up to schools.
Outreach is key, but only if you’re contacting the right person. You can send email after email, but if it isn’t to the right inbox, you’re wasting your time. This is why calling people is 9 times out of 10 the best form of communication. While you might not get the link over the phone, you will at least determine if you are communicating the information to the right person, increasing your chances of earning the link.
Paid social media is not link building. This should go without saying, but these two are still commonly confused. While paid social media promotion could increase your visibility of the scholarship and increase likelihood of applicants, it doesn’t directly translate to links. We use paid Facebook ads as a part of our strategy, but to increase visibility for the lawyer’s audience, not to increase the amount of links.
Keep the scholarship, keep the link—and earn more. When your scholarship is over, the links go away, unless you do active PR outreach after the campaign to earn news mentions. You need to maintain the investment to keep the rewards.
For more information about scholarship campaigns and other link building opportunities, and whether or not it could be a good strategy for your law firm to implement, talk to your Account Manager during your next strategy call.