As a lawyer, you probably have to grapple with all the technical issues relating to creating a Web presence for your law firm. Techie tasks such as buying a domain name, getting hosting, uploading Web pages and inserting pictures into text are difficult enough, without going into the details of the code behind the screens. However, small tweaks and little cheats can give you a ranking boost over similar pages. If you have looked at the sites of your rivals and can’t work out why their pages place higher in Google than those of your site, it may be that they have made the investment into technical ranking boosters that you have overlooked. Now is the time to look at these factors. This week’s SEO Trends round up focuses on the structural factors that internal links create that will give you an easy ranking boost. Search Engine Roundtable is the go-to site for technical issues, so you will be reading advice from that source today. This round up also includes articles from Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land.
Here is a fairly simple technical task to get you started. A site with a lot of dead links is losing out on rankings and losing out on potential customers. You may have links to background information on other sites, and not realize that those resources have been moved. If you decide to rename a directory that contains a lot of pages for your law firm’s website, all the links in the rest of your site pointing to that page will break. Any small change in a file or directory name will lose you links. So, first of all be very careful when handling file names, and, secondly, check all of your site periodically for broken links.
Here is an example of how the structure of a website can enhance your ranking points. Internal linking is often overlooked. However, if you take two websites that have exactly the same content, but attract all backlinks to a top-level page on one (preferably the Home page), that site will have a higher ranking than the one that gets backlinks pointing all over the site. Similarly , you should push outbound links as low down in your website’s hierarchy as possible – don’t rely on “nofollow” to try to preserve your link juice. Getting all your backlinks pointing to the Home page is frowned upon by Google. However, the concept of hub pages, outlined in this article would work well for a law firm. You could have a hub page for each practice area and attract all the links there.
Backlinks, which point into your law firm’s website carry votes with them and those votes convert into your ranking. Outbound links (also called “forward links”) do not enhance your rankings. You pass your points on to all pages linked to from a page in your site, however, so the fewer links you have out to other sites, the more ranking gets channeled back to the other pages on your site that you link to. Managing the recirculation of ranking points around your site is one of the most powerful technical methods available to a Web designer.
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Search Engine Roundtable has another article on the topic of internal links this week. Overall, you shouldn’t bother with nofollow for internal links. All nofollow does is it tells Web crawlers to ignore a particular link. You get more of a ranking boost if Google sees all of your internal links and follows them. It used to be assumed that putting nofollow on all external links prevented the link juice of a page from leaving the site. However, Google counts the number of links in a page (including the ones that have nofollow) and divides link juice by that figure, so you lose link juice through external links even if they have nofollow on them.
This article contains a very interesting insight into some changes that have occurred in Google’s ranking algorithm. It used to be that all links on a page were given equal weighting when gaining a share of the link juice that page has to pass on. It seems that links in headers, footers and side bars have less weight than those in the main body of the page. You can use this to your own advantage by putting internal links in the body of your law firm’s Web texts and putting external links, such as to the courthouse, or professional bodies in footers and site-wide menu bars.