By Michael P. Ehline, Esq. – Many law firms out-source web design and marketing, since lawyers are often short on time or can’t seem to get with the times. In some cases the websites designed by the All-in-One marketing/web design companies are decent in terms of value. One problem is that some companies like to put their “do follow” links in the footer of the attorney sites they optimize, to boost their own keyword rankings and traffic. It begs to wonder how many of the law firms hiring these companies, realize what they are doing or how significant it can be.
An educated guess, says that the law firms this is happening to, probably don’t know the importance of marketing company links on the website footer. Their clients typically are greenhorns who do not realize this is going on, or what the effect is going to be on their own website. Google has made it clear with Penguin and even prior to that, that an unrelated sitewide footer link must be a rel no follow link, or both sites could be flagged as spam. It started with paid links. But the whole concept on a link is that it is supposed to be a vote. It is not a vote, if it is being added by a web developer. It is simply a fake link. Heck, it isn’t even about the law, so it only helps the people selling their SEO services. A big no no.
Google Says Sitewide Footer Links Have The Footprint of a Linking Scheme
“Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that violate our guidelines:
… Text advertisements that pass PageRank
. . . Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites” (Source.)
A sitewide advertisement in a footer for some SEO company clearly is what Google is talking about here. When one of these marketing companies is contacted and asked about this practice, it will be doubtful if they will reply. Law firms should be aware of this practice and ensure the SEO design company discloses any type of activity and their reason(s) prior to hiring them. Most of the legitimate SEO companies ended this practice long ago. You will no longer see Findlaw, or Scorpion placing footer links to their SEO lawfirm marketing sites, on attorney client sites. These types of sitewide links to unrelated, or even somewhat related sites have long been condemned by Google as spam, and clearly have zero value to a law site.
This is another reason why lawyers need to follow the Google Quality Guidelines and get involved with the Circle of Legal Trust. If you don’t understand SEO and its pitfalls, your doomed. In house SEO people are usually clock punchers. Beware. They can never care as much as you about your own site. You must learn this stuff and then you can direct your in house people. Otherwise, there is always PPC.
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- Building Meaningful and Effective Web Content
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