Google’s original ranking algorithm was based on links and keywords. Although they have introduced many alterations to that basic system over the years, links are still prominent in the Google points system. In fact, a number of ranking analyses published last year showed that links had actually increased in importance as a ranking factor. Links are never going to stop being central to ranking algorithms, but their influence does get tweaked from time to time. There is quite a lot of chatter about links on the SEO news sites this week, which indicates that it may be worth investigating the links that point into your law firm’s site, which are called backlinks. Search Engine Land has a lot of information on the topic right now, and you will also hear from Search Engine Journal in this trends round up.
As we reported in SEO Trends: Google’s Algorithm, Google seems to be focusing work on its two main “filters” – Panda and Penguin. Panda, which penalizes poor content, has been integrated into the main algorithm. Penguin adjusts rankings according to the “quality” of backlinks. The penalties it applies to pages and sites stay there until the filter is run again. So even if you clean up your link profile, you won’t see any immediate improvement in the rankings of your law firm’s Web pages. You have to wait until Penguin is reapplied, and it looks like that event is imminent. That means you have to do everything you can to clean up your link profile as a matter of urgency.
This article is interesting because it doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of its title. It doesn’t really mention links at all, but focuses on content quality. However, it is included here in our exploration of link power because it is full of the new jargon that covers factors that are supposed to have replaced backlinks in importance (but actually haven’t). In the old days, Google’s core algorithm was called PageRank. Every page got a score and that score was split up equally among the links the page contained and passed on. It still is. However, that score is now adjusted by filters such as Panda and Penguin. The buzzwords now are “authority” and “trust.” A page’s enhanced PageRank score is referred to as its authority and trust flows along the links in that page, delivering a score to the page pointed to – that’s what we used to call “link juice.” However, looking at the graphs in the article, a higher “authority” doesn’t necessarily get a higher ranking, which implies that this buzzword isn’t as important for your law firm’s rankings as the experts would have you believe.
This short article is very useful for understanding the difference between the “core” algorithm, and “filters.” It is particularly useful, because the Google boffin explains that PageRank is still the engine in the rankings. That means links and keywords are core and everything else is sprinkles. The pages on your law firm’s website may go up or down a position on Google’s results pages thanks to filters, but they still need to score with the basic PageRank methodology to get onto page 1.
This article is central to the message of this week’s SEO Trends theme – clean up your links. It explains that you used to be able to get links through sneaky methods, but all of those avenues have been closed off. Your main chance is to attract links through high quality content (link bait) and negotiation with the Webmasters of important sites. The section on monitoring your links is very cogent; because this is what you should be doing for your law firm’s site right now in order to benefit from the next run of Penguin.
Here is advice you can use to assess the backlinks into your law firm’s site. One thorny issue with relevance is its definition. The most relevant sites to you would be those of other law firms and legal professional sites. Only, those sources wouldn’t be any good to you – rivals won’t accept your links, most official court and legislature sites don’t carry links or advertising, and you really need to attract the public, not other lawyers. Also, reading the definition of low-authority sites, you would think that links from local newspaper sites would be included because they cover a wide range of topics. However, Google has worked out that anomaly, and newspapers and magazines are good sources for links. Basically, you should just avoid sensationalized sites, and particularly porn and gambling sites, as sources of backlinks.