Getting Rid of Bad Backlinks for Lawyers
Chris Dreyer | July 24, 2013
A standout link profile is at the heart of legal search engine optimization. This sort of online networking not only aids in the connection to related sites, but it also satisfies Google’s search algorithms in a manner that significantly boosts your website search rankings. Unfortunately, a poorly maintained link profile can cause a significant damage, rendering your site difficult to find and causing you to waste part of your firm’s marketing budget in recovery. If you find yourself hit by bad backlinks, you must identify and remove them as quickly as possible.
What Are Bad Links?
Bad backlinks are, by definition, links that cause Google’s search algorithms to view your site or a page on your site negatively. These links can come from a number of sources, some of which are innocent and others of which are malicious. Most commonly, the source of bad links is a link-spam site, usually poorly made SEO websites that seek only reciprocal linking relationships in order to boost their own ranks.
Other bad links can come from sites identified as being of poor quality; this identification is often due to thin content, bad ad-to-content ratios or other issues that have been frowned upon since the Google Panda1 and Penguin2 updates. Malicious updates might come from competing websites seeking to lower your rankings on purpose, usually through the use of illicit tactics or simple link spam (a tactic known as negative SEO3). Regardless of the source, these links can ruin the visibility of your website.
Identify Bad Links
Your first step will simply be to identify harmful backlinks and their potential source. You may not always be able to tell how or why a link was built but that won’t stop you from removing or disavowing it.
Lawyers can identify bad links using any one of many free and/or paid tools on the market. Some examples include Google’s free Webmaster Tools interface, Ahrefs4 paid link analysis service and Link Detox5; a link clean up service that lawyers can use to audit their backlink profile.
Note that no tool will show you all possible inbound links to your site (let alone all the bad ones). The tools mentioned will give you a pretty good idea of what is out there attached to your website.
Third party services like Link Detox will give you an idea of which domains linking to a website are sinister however other tools require knowledge on the part of the user to be effective. For those using a free tool like Google’s Webmaster Tools, crawling through and looking at websites manually will be required to find all the bad ones. Using a tool like Ahrefs will help narrow down the search.
In general domains that look spammy, irrelevant or otherwise questionable in terms of linking to the target site should be removed.
Removing the Links
Removing the links to your website is not quite as difficult as sending a cease and desist on the part of your client, but it does require that you use some of the same tools. First and foremost, you will need to identify the person or entity responsible for setting up the toxic links to your website. If the person is identified as the owner on a website, you should have all the information you need. If not, you can set up a simple WhoIs Lookup6 to identify the person who registered the domain name.
Once this information is accessible, a simple e-mail or phone call will usually suffice to get the links removed to your site; most site owners do not want confrontation, and even fewer want to talk to an agitated attorney. Should this fail to work, you can try sending out a cease-and-desist letter. The odds of this working are not quite as high as in the typical business world, but it also is not overly time-consuming on your part.
In reality, it may take some prodding to get website owners to remove the links. It’s typically less about a malicious intent on their part as it is about it being a low priority for them. Sooner or later they will get tired of hearing from you and fulfill the request.
Should you fail to have the links removed this way, you can also make use of Google’s Disavow tool7 (which more information can be found here8). This tool should help to ensure that Google ignores the toxic links, but it is always a tool of last resort. The tool simply instructs Google on which links to ignore and it isn’t ideal. While the Disavow tool does at times work, it is not something upon which you should depend. The best course of action is to get the links removed.
Managing the links to your site is imperative if you want to succeed at legal SEO. Staying on top of every toxic link can feel like a full time job, but only performing cursory checks can lead to your site tanking in the rankings.