One of the most controversial aspects of SEO is link building. While Google suggests that this should be an organic process, the reality has proven time and time again that to come across as authoritative to Google and other search engines, law firms need to work hard and spend big to generate links back to their website to stand out from the competition.

Ryan Klein from Market My Market joins Grace and Liel for a conversation on the value of backlinks and how to identify if a link is worth its asking price when a price is given. From finding valuable link opportunities within your network to auditing your competition and finding out who is linking back to them and why.

This is a conversation about demystifying link building and putting into perspective how much value you can expect from certain links and how to prevent this from becoming a distraction of other more valuable and controllable elements in your SEO strategy.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

About Our Guest:

Link Building Research Tools

Citation Building Tools

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Transcript

Liel: [00:00:00] Google doesn’t like link building yet law firms that accumulate links to better results. I’m Liel Levy, co-founder of Nanato Media, and this is In Camera podcast where we find out what links her worth your time and investment.

Liel: [00:00:45] Welcome to In Camera Private legal marketing conversations, Grace, how are you today?

Grace: [00:00:50] Great. How are you doing Liel?

Liel: [00:00:51] I’m doing great. Great. Thank you very much for asking. I know this is your second week back at the office. We had Memorial Day weekend in between. You had a good weekend?

Grace: [00:01:01] Yes, I did enjoy my weekend. It was. I’m in Florida, so I was actually able to go in kind of fourie out into the world for once.

Liel: [00:01:09] That’s great. How does it feel out there? I haven’t been out myself, to be very honest with you, in quite some time. Like keeping it very minimal, my interactions with the outside world. But I miss it. I must say that, you know, it’s getting harder and harder everyday to stay disciplined in this way.

Grace: [00:01:26] I travel with a mask and hand sanitizer. So that tells you something.

Liel: [00:01:30] You got it, Grace. We have today a really, really exciting conversation.

Liel: [00:01:35] You know for us, it’s so common to jump right back into SEO whenever we can because we love it. And so why don’t you do the honor and introduce our guest for today’s conversation

Grace: [00:01:49] Super-excited. So, guys, today we are thrilled to have Ryan Klein join us for a conversation about link building. So Ryan is one of the managing partners at Market My Market, which is an agency that helps law firms build and implement effective digital marketing strategies. Ryan is known for his technical expertise in SEO, which is search engine optimization, and consistently being up to speed with programming and automation, particularly on Web sites. You can learn more about Ryan and market my market by visiting marketmymarket.com. And he also has his own amazing podcast, actually has two. But for this purposes, I’ll mention the legal one. It’s called Legal Mastermind Podcast.com. Again, as you guys all know, you can always look at the show notes and you will find all of that information in there. Ryan, thank you so much for being a part of our podcast. Welcome.

Ryan: [00:02:43] Hey, glad to be here. Thanks, guys.

Liel: [00:02:45] Yes. Very excited to have you. Thank you very much, Ryan, for creating the time to be with us. And so let’s start with a simple question. Where have you spent the pandemic? Where have you been quarantined?

Ryan: [00:02:57] So I guess I had sort of the pleasure of being able to witness firsthand. Here in Seattle, Washington, as people know, that kind of made its way in through Everett and made its way down to Seattle. So we’ve been hanging tight for quite some time. Kind of seeing this how it panned out from the rest of the country. And we’re kind of taking it easy. Not much going on here. We’re not open just yet, but it’s allowed me a lot of time to catch up on plenty of projects, actually. Projects that dated back to last November, December finally caught up. So if there’s any silver lining, I’m pretty good to go with a lot of great things, so. Yeah.

Liel: [00:03:35] It’s great to hear that you’ve been well and safe. And when I hear Seattle, Washington, and particularly being the end of May, I can just kind of like grinch because in just a couple of weeks SMX, was supposed to take place there. Right. And as many of the other things that I got postponed, that was one of the things that we’ve had to scrap off the list, but very excited about the virtual event that they’re gonna be having later in June. So definitely that’s something that we’re going to be potentially talking about in this podcast. So, Ryan, let’s start a conversation on SEO link building with just revisiting how you guys experienced the latest core update that took place this month a few weeks ago.

Ryan: [00:04:22] Yes, it actually does for interesting when you mention the core update. And we’d be discussing that today because we keep tabs on our clients and we see what’s going on. Fluctuations, if anyone got hit, do a little bit of an audit, analysis. What’s different about them, why they get hit as opposed to someone else and really the people they get hit the most was us, to be honest.

Liel: [00:04:45] The agency.

Ryan: [00:04:46] Actually, I think we got hit the most. And I know that the focus of this conversation is pretty heavily link building. But from our standpoint and it’s, you know, a lot updates are up to interpretation a little bit. You have to take what Google says with a grain of salt. SEOs, no matter what experience level, kind of have their own, you know, insight into what caused it, what’s going on there. But for us, the pages got hit the most really out thinnest pages. So it really didn’t seem like it was following building standpoint. It actually looks like the pages that had a low word count, long load times for the Web site. Those are the kind of the first things we’ve seen. So we’re kind of like honing in on that specifically right now. So I’m not sure if that’s what you saw on your end.

Liel: [00:05:29] Yes. What we’ve noticed primarily and just talking very, very high level without getting too granular about specific sites or so we’ve noticed in the markets that we’re monitoring that a lot of Web sites and well, some, when I see a lot of, I mean Sites that used to sit strong on the first page of search results that were obviously showing, trends of black hat building in them got completely wiped off the first page. Like, not even to be found on page two or three. And I’m talking about sites that had 20 K plus links on them. And it was just very evident that things were not looking good. The other thing that we’ve noticed is that some Web sites lost ranking on the mobile in favor of directories, unfortunately. And we’ve also seen that reverse trend in desktop. So some clients got an increase in ranking on the first page over directories. So that’s kind of like the way we felt, that we felt that the winners are clearly directories. They’re establishing themselves more predominantly, particularly on mobile devices. And we saw that those who’ve been following black hat link building practices got penalized heavily, did not see much of an impact on speed. But again, right. I mean, you know, different cases, different sites, everything as you’ve said, you know, everything that Google does, you need to take it with a grain of salt and you will obviously feel it more on the areas that you know that you potentially had more opportunities. But it’s always interesting. Right. It’s always interesting.

Liel: [00:07:18] And with that being said and having spent so much time talking about how links have affected some or potentially benefited others, why don’t we go right into our first question on Grace?

Grace: [00:07:32] All right. So, Ryan. Yeah, we like to sort of open up things with mistakes, right? This is a no B.S. conversation. So what are the most frequent mistakes that you see law firms make with regards to the link building strategies?

Ryan: [00:07:47] Sure. So I think I can kind of preface this just a little bit because we are already establishing the concepts of black hat link building. Therefore, if there’s black hat, there should be, you know, the concept of white hat. So I think one of the first mistakes is kind of how people in general kind of view the concept of like building as a whole. So in terms of like Google standpoint, the whole concept in itself of link building and proactively getting links, Google would tell you all of that is black. So it’s kind of like in my circle of SEOs, the people that I interact with technically, that it’s just the action of link building in itself could be considered black hat. It’s like looking at Yelp. So Yelp goes to you and says if you solicit for reviews, they cannot be counted. So they have a very proactive terms and policies that say, you know, if you go for reviews, you know, that’s not what you should do. Google, kind of like in so many words, says the same thing. So I don’t know if it’s maybe necessarily a mistake. We’re going to definitely dive into actual, like, solid mistakes. But I think just even the outlook itself should always be like, if you’re gonna be engaging in link building, just know that inherently it can be viewed as black hat.

Ryan: [00:08:57] So I guess that being said, and just like get out of the way, as far as like the actual mistakes, people are most commonly able to make mistakes by just diving right into buying links. I think with that really vetting the sources and seeing where it’s coming from and then potentially over optimizing from those links. So maybe I can kind of like breaking down every aspect of that then. So I’d say the first mistake is when it comes to link building, if you do take an approach where you are able to acquire Lank, whether you do a link exchange or a guest blog or someone’s going to backlink to you and you’re able to kind of tell them, you know, there’s this page with this anchor text, anchor text being, you know, the text that’s actually, again, linked and going back to your Web site. People should be mindful of kind of what the anchor text is going to be to avoid over optimization. And the way that that can happen is, let’s say, you’re a PI attorney in Atlanta and you get back links and sometimes it’s good, you know, you have your firm name and then you have maybe your URL or maybe you have some of your generic terms, like check out my Web site or click here.

Ryan: [00:10:05] But when do you start having too many links if you’re taking this approach, if you have too many links that are saying like Atlanta Personal Injury attorney and lawyer and car accident and if it’s way too much that’s going to be absolute red flag. And we’ve already seen that many times where you can kind of over optimize like the links or the anchor text that you’re using. So I would say that’s the first. And then really next mistake, if people are engaging in more proactive purchasing the links, regardless of, you know, the. I guess. The consequences that could come with it. You just have to be very mindful of where they’re coming from. You know, they can back in the day. Link farms used to be really prominent. That’s how black hat, really just took off. Probably longer than when I started. I started doing this 10 years ago. It’s already been happening for 10, 15, 20 years. But, you know, link farms, not knowing where it’s coming from, from Web sites that have actually no content, no topic, no meaning other than to build links. I mean, those still exist today. So when people are out there talking to people about gaining links or you know, I can get you guest posts here, and blog here. Really just doing your due diligence and figuring out where the links are actually going to be coming from. So I’d say those are a couple of things. Hopefully it’s not too specific about because I know as far as like maybe the audience, people aren’t, like, really diving deep into specifically link building. But those are mistakes that stand out for me.

Grace: [00:11:28] Yes. I mean, it’s the same idea of, like, meta stuffing back in the day. Right. So, to over optimize something is the same concept. And I agree with you completely. It’s perfectly specific. It needs to be right. Because we are talking about something kind of specific, which is link building. And so I kind of feel the same way when you when the way you said how a link building in and of itself is considered a bad quote unquote thing from everybody, because in their mind, it’s like soliciting for links.

Ryan: [00:11:56] Exactly, this is what it is.

Grace: [00:11:57] So the way I conceptualize link building and tell me if you feel the same way is link building, if you create the content for the purpose of creating content to actually help, which is what we’re supposed to be doing as marketers and law firms. Right. I don’t consider it so much as link building. And so I guess that’s more of a gray area. You know?

Ryan: [00:12:20] You’re saying, like in every time you engage in like a marketing initiative, if you’re ulterior motive is like, I hope I get a link from this, then. Yeah, I’m not sure. That is when it becomes gray, for the sake of observing the black and white, I guess, that can be gray. That’s all thing. And I don’t want to get too many sidebars, but that’s like the whole thing with lawyers. One of the biggest things we’ve seen for link building for bigger law firms and by the past decade is the whole, like, scholarship approach, you know, and then they’re like, oh, it’s a great way to get links. And it’s like, is it a great way to get links or you’re helping someone go to college?

Liel: [00:12:55] Yeah. I need a U link, which is one of the most valuable things.

Ryan: [00:12:59] That’s very valuable. But that’s why it became like a very relevant approach to link building. And there’s dozens, if not hundreds of ways of obtaining links

Liel: [00:13:10] I totally agree with what you’re saying there Grace. It’s true. I mean, in the legal industry link building has become such a hot topic, because it’s very hard nowadays to really get to rank on the first page just by creating content and then hoping for everything to work organically and get to position yourself on page number one, just by having created and putting your heart out on blog content, on videos and all that good stuff. It’s really about building the authority and that’s what get you really on the page one. Not every industry, not every other sector has to go through these hurdles, quite honestly. Like if you do good on Site SEO, you’re done. That’s it. That’s all you had to do. You’re going to get to rank for whatever kind of content you’re creating. But for the legal industry has become a really, kind of like fierce arena to play in. And so that’s why the link building thing, I think it has become such a battle for people. And so going back to what you said, Ryan, there, you’ve talked about buying links, doing due diligence over optimizing your anchor text. Let’s take those ones and talk about the good practices to be followed for those things that you’re talking about there.

Liel: [00:14:31] So buying links, right? We’ve heard it many times. We all get the emails and the phone calls. I have one spot left for the top Orlando personal injury attorney. Whatever, you know, goes for one thousand dollars a month. Jump on it right in. What’s an attorney or a marketing manager at a law firm to do when these e-mails come through?

Ryan: [00:15:00] Are you saying paying that thousand dollars a month for, to rank for a keyword?

Liel: [00:15:04] Potentially. No, like being listed on their directory. Right. So all those e-mails that are selling you out, links in their directories, the listings, the top 10 attorneys in Orange County, the top 10 attorneys in Seattle, that sort of thing.

Ryan: [00:15:21] Yeah.

Liel: [00:15:21] And, you know, of course, they write down on all these e-mails how many visits they get per month, how much traffic and yada, yada, yada. But at the end of the day, you know, it’s all text on e-mail in front of you, are you to trust these as an investment?

Ryan: [00:15:37] Sure. Yeah. Yeah. When it comes to directories, there’s typically like a really simple vetting process that I advise my clients do. And it’s just like if someone comes to you and says, hey, do you want to be on this directories? Just do the searches in that area for those keywords and just see where the directory comes up. That’s kind of like the first phase of a vetting. That’s so like, you know, there’s directories like just super lawyers, and lawyers and all on all of those. And they don’t all rank, you know, top three in every single market. Sometimes super lawyers is top, sometimes Justia top. So it kind of depends on on the market. So the first phase of just like seeing if a directory is a good choice, is really just seeing where they’re positioned, if you want to maybe verify what kind of traffic they have. I use SEMrush to verify a lot of things, just a SEO tool that I rely on for different marketing tasks. I’m not going to say that their traffic projector is 100 percent spot on, but I’ve corroborated it with actual analytics data. And it’s not terribly far off. It’s a pretty good reference point. So, you know, between the costs and where they actually come up, seeing what position it puts you in the directory itself. So, you know, they have their own microcosm going on within the directory. It’s pretty much a search within a search. So, you know, if that’s platinum, you gonna be top three of its gold  you are the next three or silver, so, you know, you pay a thousand dollars a month for, like, their bronze and you’re the 15th down. I mean, they’re not gonna see you within that search. So it’s kind of just seeing, you know, what the position will look like, because if someone’s No. One like superlawyers is the right number one, you know, that it’s going to get maybe 20, 30 percent of the clicks for the search queries. And then within that, if you’re a top three, you could probably get a good amount of clicks within that. And then from a back link standpoint, you know, some directories that do have good metrics and authority, because the whole point of link building is getting the authority that passes from one website to your Web site. You’re gonna be doing a little bit of research to see if that’s an authoritative directory to begin with. So, you know, some people use different tools for kind of authoritative metrics. So I believe that Moz is on domain authority and page authority, majestic is citation and trust flow. And then SEMrush has its own. It’s just an authority score and so, on the surface level, you can argue that, you know, I want to link from a directory that has a, let’s say, domain authority of 50. It’s just, it seems like a reasonable number. It’s all relative to other Web sites. So you could argue that 50 is more valuable than a link coming from a 30. But then there’s other factors that come into play, such as what page it’s on and then possibly how many links there, how many Web sites are linking out to you. So there are other factors in vetting links.

Liel: [00:18:23] So, and I know it’s very hard to narrow it down. Right. Because as you’ve just said now, there’s so many factors that need to be taken into consideration to really come to a final resolution. But if we were to bring this down to a system of two or three steps to take in order to kind of assess whether this is something that is worth having a conversation with whomever is sending you the email or not. I think, one that is very clear is, of course, complete the searches yourself and see like where this site is ranking. And then you’ve mentioned some tools that honestly, if you’re doing SEO, whether you’re doing it through an agency or not, you probably should still have a membership, at least the basic one. The tools like SEMrush and such, not just not just because, you know, you want to have access firsthand to analytics yourself, that you want to be able to research on your own. But it’s also a great tool if you want to, if you’re doing some of the content creation in-house and so forth and so on, it’s going to be a great way to research keywords and so forth. And we’ve talked about that in other episodes. But if you don’t have access, right, to any of these tools, what should be then the follow up questions that you send back in, ask for these people? Because they really don’t give you that much information. They just tell you we’re going to list you on the first page of, you know, the top 10 attorneys in Dallas, Texas. So what? And so you search they’re somewhere in the first page position four position three, whatever. Right. What should be the follow up question that you’d want? Who got these kind of sellers?

Ryan: [00:20:01] Sure. Also, I mean, the good thing about directories is that they’re , either going to kind of work or they’re not. So you’re going to know, like, pretty quickly. So I guess other questions you would definitely ask, as far as directories go, you really want to cover yourself. So you always want to beat them up on price. There’s always that. So it’s like they say 500 hours a month. I guarantee you can get it for 250 or 300, shortening the length of the contract, saying, you know, in the past I haven’t had too much success with directories. Yours looks promising. Don’t lock me in for 12 months. That’s like, you know, that’s a long time commitment for something like that. Maybe you can get like a three or six month contract with an opt out and then saying, like, listen, if I don’t get any leads whatsoever and I’m gonna verify that, you know, it’s my own call tracking, your own dashboard, my analytics for referral traffic, you know, you should always have some sort of opt out and not be, like, locked in for something like Directory. Plus, one of the biggest things really is what we’re talking about with core updates that are huge. What happens if that directory ranks number one today and a week from now it gets hit because we didn’t know that all their links were trash. Then all of a sudden, you’re paying X amount a month to be on a directory on the fourth page. You shouldn’t be stuck in that situation. So it just kind of covering yourself would be the follow up questions.

Liel: [00:21:15] Yeah. That makes total sense.

Grace: [00:21:17] CYA.

Liel: [00:21:17] Yeah. All right. Excellent. Now that we’ve talked so much about directories, do they work? Are they worth the attention that we’re giving them in terms of the value they bring to SEO strategy?

Ryan: [00:21:35] I think that in most cases, some sort of directory plan is a good part of a marketing mix, because really it’s what you’re saying. There’s just all this favorite going that directories with every update I just see directory is just making a comeback. So really, since January, I’ve actually been personally following it pretty closely and just whatever they’re doing and we’ve kinda known what they’re doing. But Google just loves it, like what they’re doing. I mean, I know it’s heavily because of back links. If you look at and there’s a huge correlation and I’ve done this for justia and I did this for super lawyers and they were both confirmed. The second justia started jumping up a lot. You look at their back portfolio and their back links had gone through the roof. Same thing for super lawyers. So their prominence and results, I think, has an extremely strong correlation with their own back linking strategy. So because of their authority, of course, you get a link from them that passes on that authority. So I definitely think that directory should be a part of your marketing mix, especially if some makes sense in your specific market for practice areas. And then there’s plenty of directories out there. Is that just like the five or six or seven that we’re talking about. There’s over 100. So you can get on all sorts of different legal directories. Each one wants to be like the next lawyers.com. But each one is also a good way to get on, most times for free. You get the back link. You solidify your NAP, your name, address, phone and then Web site. There’s yeah. There’s plenty of lists out there. Just get on directories for free as well. And so I think people should definitely as much as they dislike a lot of them. I think that they still have value in a lot of situations.

Liel: [00:23:17] So, Ryan, yeah, absolutely. I mean, anywhere that is relevant to your industry that you can get a citation. You should go and list yourself there? Like, that’s a super no brainer. We’ve talked about that Grace in local search. We mentioned it every single time that we’re talking about SEO. Right. So that’s definitely of great value. And it’s important, particularly if you are after our local search strategy. Ryan, I want to dig a little bit deeper there, right. Because there’s a lot of listeners here that have no idea what directories are doing in terms of their link building strategy. So without naming any names here and without pointing our fingers as to who’s doing what, in general, why is it that directories are becoming so prominent, particularly when it comes down to legal search terms, high intent search terms?

Ryan: [00:24:07] Yeah. I think that there’s a couple reasons. I mean, one of the primary reasons is just based on what I’ve seen is that whatever link, I can’t think of exactly where the links were coming from, because a lot of these people went from like zero to thirty thousand links, you know, and it’s been three months. And you can imagine where they all come from, just every business related or legal related or resources that we’ve never heard of or even have access to. But basically, they’ve created an authoritative foundation with just a massive link building campaign. But I think another reason that they’re featured prominently with Google is I think that Google as a whole has moved in a direction where they want to kind of diversify the results they provide to people. So I think that it’s kind of I don’t know if it’s built into the algorithm or just pretty much how the direction they’re going in general, but I think that they proactively show different results to provide a better search experience. So they’re like, we can’t just show for this search query 10 lawyers Web sites. We want to show, you know, three directories and then four lawyers Web sites and maybe like a press release and maybe like an article, I think that they’re kind of diversifying that as well. And directories are just definitely on the forefront of that consideration.

Liel: [00:25:22] Yeah. Very good and valid points. The diversification of that first page. And it’s a fact, right? It cannot be, as you very well said, all actual listings of businesses. And that’s why, as we’ve been talking about and I’m not too sure, Ryan, what do you think about it? But Local search is such a massive component now for law firms and potentially the most valuable strategy that they can pursue. Right. Not only because the local pack is always showing above the organic search results or the organic search listing as we know them. But because it actually is about showing businesses and users are getting used to now more than ever, that if what they actually want to find is an actual business and not articles and not directories, they should focus potentially on what’s showing up on the local pack, plus all the additional information that the local pack is starting to include, such as review services and such. Right. That give you that reassurance that it’s actually very relevant to what you just search. What do you think about that?

Ryan: [00:26:27] Yeah. I mean, a lot of it has to do with local nowadays, especially because with the sense of like voice search and is like everything kind of catering to what people are kind of looking for an immediate area. I mean, legal services are absolutely contingent on it, on a geography. And that’s when this comes into play. Absolutely. So, you know, people are more on mobile. It’s kind of like honing in on their IP or with their location is maybe even in a creepy way. And so because people are on mobile and they’re moving around and they’re not like contingent on a specific area, there’s kind of like these areas in between the zips and cities that Google typically use. I think that the way that they cater and make the best search experience is what you’re saying. It’s just really pushing the local forward and then having those results, you know, above everything else. And that’s kind of the reason the directories work to I mean, the local focus, every single one of these directories. And it’s not just in the legal space, it’s pretty much in every industry. It’s not like the home page of this directory is what’s showing up. It’s the specific city page or the location page. And they’re doing plenty of variations of that. They might do as if they might do county, they might do a region city like everything. They got it all covered and they couple that with like practice areas or specific services. So these directories, you know, you take thousands of locations coupled with thousands of services. And I mean, these directories have millions of pages and they just blanket absolutely everything. So I think that’s another reason that Google thinks are relevant. It’s like they always have a page for this exact search. So why shouldn’t they show up? They all do it the same way.

Liel: [00:27:58] Yeah.

Grace: [00:27:58] I’ve also read that. And tell me if you’ve heard this before and then we’ll move on from here. But I’ve read that the directories people tend to like directories, like people, consumers themselves, you know, like when they’re looking for something, you know, a lot of them like the Yellow Pages, right. I mean, obviously not now. Nowadays, there are other kinds of directories and they are online. But like the Yellow Pages, you know, people would wait to get them and they would look through them, you know, and if they’re looking for something to go back to them. So I have heard and read in some research very, very thin, though. So, again, that’s why I’m asking you. Very thin research on this, where it does state that people like directories, which is why, you know, more clicks, less bounce rates. People started going through these directories and so they just keep kind of increasing.

Ryan: [00:28:45] Yeah. I would completely agree with that. People like their experience to be a little bit differently. Some people want to go to Web site and read about an attorney. And some people want to just see a list and then just be able to pick through the list. So and I think that’s a reason, another reason that directories might stick is because I don’t think that a lot of them do it, well it’s not really their fault. But there’s not bringing it to the level where people, the average consumers like I know what super lawyers is. They made over time doing research, but none of them ever really stuck out from like anyone that has never done legal search like pursued legal services. They’re not really familiar with the brands, but if they see it, they’ll probably know it’s a directory. And it’s like you’re saying. And I also agree with that because I don’t see this as much anymore. I see this more, but more like generic like landing pages where it’s like, well, we’ll put you in touch with the best lawyer for your case, you know, your paid campaigns where it was just like find a lawyer dot com. They don’t even list anyone. You know, it’s not a law firm, but it’s like a legal referral service, I guess. And then people like that experience because they’re like all sort of my information in this person’s for free is going to go and find the lawyer for my case. And as we know, they’re just finding the person that’s paying for the leads, but from a consumer standpoint, they like the idea of a service already being done to them for free. And that might be like the same mentality a little bit for directories.

Grace: [00:30:05] That’s kind of the feeling I’ve always gotten. So let’s move on to sort of another controversial, I guess, or not controversial subject about blogs and guest blogging. What do you think about that? You know, how can attorneys find guest blog posts? Should they. You know, where should they be searching if they should? You know, let’s talk a little bit about that.

Ryan: [00:30:27] So, yeah, guest blogging is an interesting one. So I think that it used to be when I got started and I was really diving into building or this came, maybe eight years ago. It was more like lawyers being in a network of lawyers and being like, hey, if I write a blog on your blog and get a link can I get it. And then there’s just all this documentation, I think even from Google that said reciprocal links are no. And then like kind over time looking back, I just am like, I don’t really know what the big deal is like. Well, people were really, like, afraid of doing it, because in my experience, I don’t think anyone got penalized for that. I mean, people linked to each other all the time, naturally. So guest blogging now has kind of evolved into a point where it’s more you can either do outreach or you can pay for it. And so have you guys talked about outreach link building on here before? I know that’s kind of its own thing and people see it a lot.

Liel: [00:31:24] We have not. We’ve talked, so basically what we’ve had a few months ago was a conversation on off page SEO. Right. And we’ve talked about many different aspects of off page SEO, of course one of them being link building. But we haven’t really talked about specific link building campaigns, right? And how to go about it and what our good practices and what aren’t, things to be avoided. So this is a great time to actually talk about what would be considered a good outreach strategy and what are things that and to get ignored or not acted upon.

Ryan: [00:32:01] Yeah. Sure. Yes. So, outreach, I don’t really see too many law firms doing it, but I think that there are companies out there that would do it on their behalf. And it’s basically, you know, going to a Web site coming up with like an e-mail campaign where you get a list of Web sites that you would potentially want to be featured on for one reason or another and then being, you know, saying, hey, I know you talked about this. I think that this blog would be a good feature for your resources or your blog or trying to kind of coordinate ways to write content for someone else so they link back. I think that it’s more done on a massive scale. It’s typically done for larger companies, not even really law firms. But there are agencies out there that would do that on their behalf. And it’s been around for a while, but apparently it’s still potentially can work. It’s just a lot of time. And people have kind of caught on to it, especially webmasters. So, you know, if you’re an authoritative Web site, you might get like one or two requests a day, like, hey, I think this content would be helpful for your Web site. So it’s a concept that I think maybe lawyers can consider like, oh, that’s kind of interesting. And maybe consider it. But it’s not something that I would ever advise doing internally because of the time and resources.

Ryan: [00:33:12] So then the alternative, of course, is just buying guest posts, which actually is a little bit more of a prominent, I guess, approach that some people are taking. And that has its own pros and cons. I think that the cons are that people commonly will, you know, how would they go about purchasing that approach? They can go online and look at forums or just Web sites dedicated to it or, you know, speak with SEO company to get a referral. But, you know, a lot of times they’re getting links back or they’re featuring their blogs and a lot of Web sites that aren’t even legal related. And I think that’s kind of like when the issues that come with guest blogging, because it’s very rare for people to get blogs featured on Web sites that are a legal resource or a legal Web site. You’ll see it happen and people do it inappropriately and they buy guest blogging. All of a sudden they’re in between a blog about how to fix your car and how to do yoga during COVID. So it’s just you have to be, I don’t know, I mean, this is just one of those things where, you know, people want to do it, but it’s really hard to do it right enough and find the right places to feature guest blogs.

Grace: [00:34:18] That’s definitely what I’ve noticed. You know, with the guest blogging, it’s somewhat difficult to find the right one. Sort of what you were saying, right. About domain authority and all this other stuff that you have to kind of consider before you want to put your name on that site. So, and particularly for law firms, right? I mean, they have other considerations. They have to think about, like, you know, where my information is listed. And is that, you know, who actually owns that guest blog? You know, you start looking deeper into it. Is it owned by some random company in the middle of, I don’t know, pick a country outside of the U.S., you know? So those are the considerations I’ve always had with blogs. So I appreciate, you know, the way you explaining kind of framed it. It’s helpful.

Liel: [00:35:01] How would you decide or vet on an actual Web site and say, I would want to be featured or as a contributor to that site. Right. What would be if someone is saying, well, you know what? I don’t want to give it a try. How? You know, because ultimately I’m not ranking other law firms around me, they are writing articles and being featured. How do you find out where they’re actually writing these articles and where they’re being featured? And from there, build a strategy to reach out to those Web sites and try to get yourself in as a writer or with a link?

Ryan: [00:35:41] To start, if there’s one piece of advice I can give that might be the most valuable for this entire podcast. As far as link building, I’m going back to the tool. Just do a free trial at the very least, maybe for a week and do a back link analysis of your competition. I think that’s pretty much how I learned how to do all the link building I ever did is by looking at law firms that are really killing it in their markets. They ranked number one for multiple keywords consistently. And they must be very authoritative. Most times in legal, as competitive as it is, there’s no way that people are ranking just because they have great content and great on page, there has to be some sort of link building strategy. So you do a bank link analysis. I mentioned SEMrush can do it. AHRefs can do it. Spyfu is great. And then you’ll get basically a great huge chunk of their back link portfolio and you kind of just go through and you’re like, this is where they are getting their links, and then from there you don’t necessarily have to get all the same links they’re getting. I’m sure there’s plenty that you can’t for one reason other, but it might kind of inspire you to pursue similar links. So, for example, it’s like, oh, this person has been getting a lot of links because they’re very charitable and they donate a lot to like Little League teams know, something random like that. You know, like we’re involved in this. Maybe we can donate. We have a great relationship. You know, it’s not the worst thing in the world to leverage some relationships and maybe get some back links in places that you very well could. So I think that you’re are doing a backflip analysis and kind of getting involved there is going to pretty much open up your eyes to all the ways that you can be obtaining links and building authority in your respective market. And then from there, you can do some sort of outreach. If there are places that you want to get a similar link, like, hey, my competition wrote a blog on this Web site, you know, about law, I can write about that topic, too, then, you know, do outreach there.

Liel: [00:37:39] Yeah. That actually I really love there, something that you’ve said which is leveraging relationships that you already have existing. And so, Ryan, what would you advise a law firm to consider? Like to look at their circle, their external circle and see, well, we may be able to get some links from our relationships we already have that we’ve helped contributed, supported whatever. Right. What could be some of those relationships that many law firms can potentially already have in place, yet they’re not leveraging. So can you give us a few ideas? I mean, obviously, you said they’re a little league, but what are others?

Ryan: [00:38:17] Sure. That one is very random. So I’ll talk about one that makes more sense. So when it comes to a law firm and multiple lawyers. I mean, as far as the ones I know, I mean, lawyers, I think are very involved in the community. A lot of times, at least the ones that we work with. So, I mean, bar associations, they do speaking engagements, publications. You know, if you haven’t gotten links from doing any of that, you know, if being featured on websites for anything like that, any sort of meet ups being a party or a local like, you know, commerce. And I mean, pretty much just like anything that you’re featured on. You know, from a professional standpoint, you’re like, OK, you know, where you went to law school, you know, read up something about, you know, where your family went to school, you know, get back links that way. So just, yeah, anyone that’s like involved in a community or just, you know, any step of the way with their contributions, I guess as a lawyer, it’s gonna be featured somewhere. And if they’re not getting, you know, the back link for it, I’m sure that opportunity is available.

Grace: [00:39:18] Yeah, definitely. I tell people that all the time. I’m like, if you were featured here and seen on CNBC on NBC and wherever you were featured, why do you not have anything linking to you, at least your bio on your Web site? I mean, if you’re not going to link it to the actual practice area page. Fine. Link it to your bio, you know, or a home page, which we know we don’t necessarily like because of different reasons but, you know, at least the home page then, you know. I mean, tell me if I’m wrong on that one.

Ryan: [00:39:47] Oh, yeah. I mean, at the very least and like you’re saying, like they’re attorney bio because like there’s a lot of times lawyers kind of do things without thinking about it, they might like, you know, go to the local bar and speak. And they were on the web saying they’re not even aware of it or someone they interviewed from the local news and they featured it, but they didn’t link to them at any point. Like what? We’ll, on the behalf of our clients sometimes, will we run Google Alerts for our own clients. So every single time there, we see them pop up for something. We can e-mail them and say, yes, I saw you on the news, that was cool. And they go, how do you know I was on the news? But that also works, you know, twofold. You go back and we look at the actual article and we will actually reach on their behalf and say, hey, by the way, can you link back to them? And they’ll do it like nine at ten times.

Grace: [00:40:29] That’s great.

Ryan: [00:40:29] Yeah. I mean, lawyers are for the most part, from what I see. They’re very active. They want to be a part of the community, want to give back. They want to be recognized. And then in doing so, the byproduct is their involvement. All these little things, they don’t think about that they could actually be, you know, links from. But that kind of goes back to the ulterior motive. I don’t necessarily encourage people to do things just for a back link. I think that everything that you want to happen will follow just by doing it.

Grace: [00:40:55] Right, by doing it right. And that actually kind of takes us to basically the end of our conversation. We would like to take three actionable takeaways that at the end of the podcast, people can actually do and do maybe now or, you know, with planning, maybe a couple things later, but three things that they can do right this second and you can use the last one you just said, which is about the, you know, reaching out if you have or setting up a Google alert if you’d like. You know, for your name or your brand.

Ryan: [00:41:24] Cool, then I only got two left then.

Grace: [00:41:26] There you go.

Ryan: [00:41:27] So there’s all sorts of ways to get a lot of links naturally without having to take the next level and then go on legit or conquer or fiverr and try to start figuring out how to get like all these crazy…

Liel: [00:41:41] Run away, run away from any fiverr listing on link building.

Ryan: [00:41:45] I think that I don’t want to put, like, the idea like anyone listening, say, oh, I can just buy links. That’s end of it. Let’s just figure out ho to do that because you’re typically not going to get the best links that way. And if anyone else got it, I mean, it’s going to be oversaturated. And then also the places you buy links to, the Web site can go down, they can bury the post, you can lose its value overnight. The whole Web site could be get a manual action from, you know, just for being in itself an iteration of a link firm. So you can’t really, it’s not sustainable. I don’t think maybe, you know, maybe for like a quick ranking there’s something, but it’s just not the best way to approach it. So the low hanging fruit for content is certainly content link building, citations. If you don’t really have citations set up, a lot of people get stuck with the X. I don’t want a bad mouth any company, but yext will remove all your citations if you don’t pay them every year. So I don’t typically encourage people to go with anyone that kind of holds anything hostage or reverses work if you don’t pay.

Ryan: [00:42:45] So alternatives are WhiteSpark and BrightLocal, for citations and that’s links. We mentioned about directories just going out there, there’s plenty of directories out there that don’t cost money and those are back links. And you know, if it’s relatively cheap relative being maybe 50 or 100 dollars annually, something like pretty modest you can get a pretty good back link doing that. And so those are kind of some ways to kind of build, you know, the foundational links. And then I guess maybe one last tip. We didn’t really talk too much about how content can actually generate pretty good back links on its own. So I know that’s kind of a separate conversation. But in some situations, if you write just really interesting content about a very specific topic, I have seen some pretty good links come from that, from people reading the article, And it just been really on point and being used as a reference and they can get links that way. It doesn’t happen all the time in legal industry, because it’s not very common for people to be like I’m going to link to a law firm’s Web site. But it can. And so I would encourage people to write content as if people would want to share.

Grace: [00:43:55] Yeah, I have seen that as well. That’s great.

Liel: [00:43:57] What kind of content you’re talking here that you’ve seen it happen before where something just took off organically and got links just because of its natural appeal. What was it? Was it an article? Was it an infograph? What was it?

Ryan: [00:44:13] Listen, in this situation, I can think of three. Fortunately, I would hate for you to ask and being like, I don’t know. So there is one. It was with like a ninja blender recall. And actually that was a page. Another two are gonna be blogs. So there was a page that actually got some back links. And most of time it’s because has national appeal. So if you’re talking about something like pretty specific, it might not have enough visibility or enough, you know, appeal nationally to really get links. So all these kind of I think that they were initially optimized for like kind of local, but then they kind of just hit a niche and just made their way. So one was for like your rights for gun restoration because “guns”. And then the third one was how to fight the breathalyzer in Florida. And that one probably got the most because that was getting shared on Reddit, and on other places where people are just like you know, stick it to the government. How do you fight this thing? So, you know, when you write about, like, you know, stuff like that, it’s like how to get your guns back and how to beat a DUI. You know, people find that stuff interesting. They don’t have to be a client. You know, it might not result always in clients, but it can position you as an authority and get links. So, yeah, there’s always that approach, too.

Liel: [00:45:32] Yeah. And so the next conversation has to be on how to find out what people are asking about, right? So you can write about it.

Ryan: [00:45:39] Yeah. And that’s a fun topic. Yeah it’s a fun one.

Liel: [00:45:42] I agree. Yeah. So Ryan, again, thank you so much. This conversation really passed by in a blink of an eye. It’s been so interesting and so informative. And we appreciate your time. And we hope to have you again back soon for another conversation. Who knows, maybe on finding the questions that people are asking now.

Ryan: [00:46:00] Excellent. Loved being on, I really enjoyed it.

Grace: [00:46:02] Thank you so much Ryan. Okay.

Grace: [00:46:02] Thank you very much, Ryan.

Ryan: [00:46:04] Thanks.

Liel: [00:46:10] Grace, what a great conversation. I’ve learned a lot. How about you?

Grace: [00:46:15] Me too. You know, I learned a few new things about back links that I thought I knew quite a bit. But, you know, Ryan definitely looked at it from a whole other perspective, and that was appreciated.

Liel: [00:46:26] Yeah, I learned that legal directories are not always playing fair, so. Yup. We have to keep that in mind and kind of like understand that there are not going to be going anywhere anytime soon or apparently it doesn’t point to that. So Grace, now, knowing those facts, what can we do in order to leverage good practices for a link building strategy? What would you say our takeaways should be? What would be your takeaway number one?

Grace: [00:46:56] So to me, the biggest thing and this is super important, guys, that you pay attention to this, don’t buy crap. What do I mean by that? Don’t buy back links just for the sake of buying back links. You need to vet everything you do, everything you look at, especially if you’re going to be attaching your name to it. So don’t buy crap. Don’t buy back links.

Liel: [00:47:18] Yeah. Chances are that if it’s being offered to you, it’s being offered to a dozen or 100 other law firms around you. And so potentially it may not have that much of a big effect. Ryan did a great job at explaining some tools that you can use to actually assist whether there’s any quality on that Web site. Where does is rank? And even if you don’t have access to the tools, whether it’s SEMrush, Majestic, whatever it is. Right, you can still just take out your phone, for God’s sake, and do a search yourself and see where they rank. Right. Because that alone, it’s already going to tell you where and how much of an impact you can have. But I think there are other kinds of listings and other kinds of links that are do worth investing time and maybe a little bit of money on, Grace. So should we make that our take away number two?

Grace: [00:48:08] Yes, I would say so. You know, I mean, like he mentioned a couple, right? Ryan said super lawyers. And, you know, justia. Yeah. And, you know, I can think of Avvo. I mean, there are a few of them. Right. So, I would say, list yourself on relevant directories. You know, if you buy a premium listing, you can. But just make sure you research and negotiate. Right. That’s what I took away from what Ryan said. You can always negotiate the price and you can at least with the terms. Right. The length of the term don’t get locked in because all of a sudden there’s an update and now you are no longer in the directory at number one and you’re not coming up anywhere. Right.

Liel: [00:48:42] My favorite part, Grace, my favorite part of all of that was just really measure it, right? I mean, if you were going to get a link, then make sure that you’re measuring traffic through analytics and then call tracking. Right. Depending on how serious the investment is, you may want to consider assigning its own dedicated call tracking number. And so, you know, very clear when are you getting calls from a particular listing. So it’s really not complex. You should you should already have call tracking for all of your other marketing activities. Just make sure that you are paying attention to that also, when you’re looking at reporting, again, we’ve said it many times before. The beauty about digital marketing is that there’s no guesswork. Everything is measurable and it’s all black and white. You can actually look at the numbers and let them do the talking and the decision making. So that, I think makes for a good second take away. Get yourself listed in all the relevant legal directories in the US. You cannot lose out of that, right, Grace?

Grace: [00:49:47] That’s right.

Liel: [00:49:47] Now, what would be your third takeaway?

Grace: [00:49:51] So if you like, number three would be when we’re talking about guest blogging, leverage your existing network to guest blog. You know, they’re not everybody or not every law firm or lawyer will be in the news 24/7. If you are set up a Google alert and make sure that the moment that, you know, if they haven’t already linked to you, that you ask them to link to your either bio, the practice area page and at the very least, your home page. If you don’t have that all set up, then leverage your existing network to guest blog, talk to people that you know, see if they’ll let you write an article on their Web site. And, you know, in turn, you know, these are things that are supposed to help each other and help other people. This is why we’re producing content. Obviously, the idea is not to search for back links just for the sake of getting back links. It’s for assistance to others. Right. This is why lawyers do content to begin with. So leverage your existing network to guest blog. And if you’re already mentioned in news a lot. Set up a Google alert and make sure they link to you.

Liel: [00:50:49] Yeah, absolutely. And honestly, like, if you get featured on the news a lot and you contribute to journalists and such. You should already have that set up as part of your agreement with them from the very get go. Right. Like, I’ll give you valuable information. I’ll give you inside, I’ll show up on your show, but I would kindly ask you to please always feature back at me in whichever way that you want.

Liel: [00:51:14] Right. And so I think that’s something that if you are going after a strategy of being a source of information for journalists and such, you should talk and express what is it that you would like to get out of that contribution? Right. Because most of the times you do these voluntarily, you’re providing information voluntary. Of course, it’s terrific exposure that you get. And as Ryan said, I mean, most of times they will actually have no issues whatsoever with giving you that link as well. And depending the publication on but honestly, almost every publication, the link is going to be valuable. So it’s really great. Right. I mean, local news, the links there are terrific.

Liel: [00:51:58] OK, Grace. So we have really good takeaways here. I think this was a really good conversation. We probably shouldn’t have these on a pedestal that we’ve kept that all of this time. Right. I mean, the goal of a Web site is to provide useful and valuable information to users. Do that right. And hopefully things will take off later on. It’s like what he said at some point, like he’s seen it with some articles. And you’ve seen it, Grace. And I’ve seen it is just about creating content that actually helps people and that answers questions that people want answers for. And so when you’re doing that and you’re doing it with a purpose and you’re creating quality, people will find out about you, will visit your Web site and Google will be watching and they will be acknowledging the value of your Web site and rewarding you accordingly. Grace, thank you again for another great conversation.

Liel: [00:52:59] And we’ll have another one next week, right?

Grace: [00:53:02] That’s right.

Liel: [00:53:03] OK. Excellent. Have a great rest of your week.

Grace: [00:53:07] You too, thank you, Liel.

Liel: [00:53:07] Thanks Grace.

Liel: [00:53:13] If you like our show, make sure you subscribe. Tell your co-workers. Leave us a review and send us your questions. Sad. Ask on camera podcast dot com. We’ll see you next week.

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