In our last blog post, we discussed the best way to use anchor text for external links. Like many legal issues, the answer began with “well, it depends.”
The linchpin in this case, though, revolves around whether your law firm’s website is considered “reputable” by search engines.
Here are some clues you can use to measure your law firm website’s reputability in the eyes of Google, Bing, or other search engines.
Search Engine Reputability: What Is It?
The reputability of your law firm’s website is different than its ranking, though the two are correlated: Sites that search engines see as disreputable almost never rank well.
Correlation does not necessitate causation, though, and reputability and rankings are another prime example. While rankings revolve around a site’s relevance and importance for a given search query, reputability has more to do with whether your website has been penalized by search engines for cheating on the SEO front, and whether other sites think your domain is worth the visit.
Therefore, putting a “reputability score” on your website is impossible. However, you can get a basic understanding of where your law firm’s website stands by noting several factors.
Factor 1: Ranking
The most basic factor to look at to figure out whether search engines think your site is reputable is to see where it is ranking for targeted search queries. We recommend looking at your rankings in vanity searches (a combination of your location and practice area) rather than long tail searches or branded searches – rankings for long tail searches are notoriously fickle, while branded searches should show your firm near the top of the results. Vanity keywords, on the other hand, are often very competitive.
The rule of thumb is simple: Google your location and your practice area. If your law firm is competing in your market – on the first page for smaller locales, or on the first three pages for highly competitive cities – then your law firm’s website is not disreputable. If your firm’s website is ranked lower than that, it’s not reputable.
Note the terminology we’re using: “Not disreputable” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s reputable, it just means that it isn’t actively frowned upon by the search engine gods. The converse applies to “not reputable.” It doesn’t mean that your site is disreputable; it just means that it isn’t in high regards.
Factor 2: Ranking of Backlinking Sites
Search engines judge a website by the other sites that link to it: Websites that are linked to by reputable are far more likely to be reputable, themselves.
You can get ahead of this game by monitoring where your law firm website’s backlinks are coming from. Running a backlink audit on your site and scrolling through the results can give you the gist – if you see nothing but websites that you don’t recognize, it’s a sign that your site is being pulled down by other sites of ill-repute.
There are plenty of free backlink auditing tools out there for you to use, like:
Factor 3: Surprisingly Weak Rankings
Finally, if you have put a lot of time and effort into your website and are still seeing weak results, there is a strong possibility that your site has been penalized for one reason or another. Whether it is because your site has thin content or has been flagged for copyright infringement, the search engine penalty also taints your site’s reputation in the search engine world.