There are many SEO experts that like to dazzle clients with the information that there are hundreds of ranking factors that Google takes into consideration. That is true. However, the contribution that most of those factors add to a ranking is tiny. The big hitters are still the original ones – keywords and links. Over the years, Google has changed the way it processes these two factors, but they are still the main reasons that pages get to the top of search engine results pages. The layout of your site, the pages you attract visitors into and the way you connect the pages of your site together can enhance the points you get from backlinks pointing into your site.
The topic of this week’s SEO Trends report concerns how you help people circulate around your law firm’s site and how that menu structure can boost your rankings. You will hear from the Moz Blog, Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Journal, and Search Engine Land.
This article covers the crux of the issue of getting better rankings for your site with internal links on all your pages. The key take-away from this is always link to all your pages. Forgetting about secret pages or pages that are under construction, every page on your law firm’s site should be reachable through the menu structure. Wherever possible, have a link to all your important pages directly on your Home page and always have a link back to the Home page on each page. The author of this Search Engine Journal report recommends 10-15 links on each page. Don’t do that. Every link on a page gets a share of that page’s ranking passed on to it. So by keeping the number down, each link carries a larger ranking. As one of the links on each page points to the Home page, that means that the Home page acquires more and more ranking, creating a ranking feedback loop, which will push it up the results pages.
Although this report explains the strategy of a British newspaper’s website, it explains a technique that you should copy for your law firm’s site. You don’t want to overcrowd your Home page with links, but you do want people to get quickly to the area of your practice that interests them. Thus you create hub pages that group together all pages that cover a particular topic. The advantage of that is the hub page becomes a mini Home page. This also gives it the look and feel of a landing page, which attracts in links from other sites. Thus, the hub page starts to attract links rather than individual pages. You need to accumulate as many ranking points on a small number of pages to make them representatives for your law firm. Small rankings on a lot of pages don’t accumulate and don’t make those pages visible. You can direct visitors on to specific pages once they arrive at your site.
Developing that hub page concept, this article explains how pages on your site can become landing pages. A landing page should be a little like a Home page. It would be ideal for the surfer to hit straight onto an article that tells them all that they think they want to know. However, it is better to invite them onto a hub page instead. This article explains how to use hub pages as landing pages to attract local searchers for different office locations. However, the same formula can be implemented for different practice areas of your law firm.
Remember that every link on a page gets an equal share of ranking points. Therefore, you don’t want to share those points out with other sites. External links sap the ranking points that you could better use to boost the ranking of your law firm’s website Home and hub pages. A lot of SEO consultants tell you to put on that external link, but make it a nofollow, then you won’t lose ranking points. That is not true. Googlebots still divide the ranking points out equally and give the external link its share. However, if there is a nofollow on that link, it won’t pass on those points to the other site, but they are still lost to your site. The original maxim of website design was that every site has to have at least one external link pointing in to it and at least one link pointing out to another site. The news in this article explains that you no longer have to have any external forward links on your site. So remove them wherever possible.
This Moz Blog piece highlights another new trend in Google’s treatment of forward links. Google’s Penguin algorithm will give a penalty to your law firm’s site if another site, which is deemed to be spammy has a link pointing into your site. Now, it seems, you can get a penalty if you have a forward link on your site that is deemed to be of low quality.
This is currently being applied as a manual penalty. But it may well be that Google is delaying the release of Penguin 4.0 because it is trying to formulate these decisions into an automatic penalty. So, there is a lot of risk in forward links these days. It would be better to remove as many external forward links from your law firm’s site because the decision on whether a link is “unnatural” can be hit and miss, resulting in innocent sites getting penalties.