Have you ever gone to a colleague’s or competitor’s website and clicked their resources tab? What did you find there? Links to relevant websites that contain more information on topics specific to the firm? Government websites where visitors can get more helpful information? Legal web portals? Usually not.
What you are likely to find there are around 30 to 50 links to other law firm websites with which the firm’s search engine optimization consultants also work. The intention is that by linking all these sites together, each site will gain a tremendous number of back links from a diverse number of “legally relevant” domains.
For the most part, we try to avoid debating the “ethics of seo”. In some ways, search engine optimization is about risk tolerance. Some clients want to “push the envelope” which may increase the risk of receiving a search engine penalty. Others may have a higher risk aversion and prefer to stay well-within webmaster guidelines. We believe clients should be given a good picture of the pros and cons of certain strategies so that they can make an informed decision with their own website. Generally speaking, we like to stick to what works. Which brings us back to resource pages.
It seems like everywhere you go, linking large numbers of resources pages is frowned upon by those in the seo business. For example SEOmoz’s Rand Fishkin says:
It’s not about the quantity of links that you get, but rather the quality. Sometimes a single quality link is worth more than 100 non-quality ones. Beware of SEO companies that develop hundreds of links every month from resource pages that have hundreds of unrelated links.
I had a client who was not happy with my link building. He showed me a list of links that his previous SEO company had developed. I had one look at that list and was shocked. All links were from crappy resource pages and each resource page had more than 500 to 600 links on them. Wow, if only link building was so easy.
I had to get all those links removed to keep the client site from getting penalized. Always remember, it’s not about quantity, it is all about quality when it comes to link building.
On the other hand, this strategy is working for several law firm search engine optimization firms. And admittedly, some of our clients have opted for this strategy. So what are the risks?
Well, the most severe (and least likely) risk is that the search engines view this linking strategy as a link farm and either penalize your site or even de-index it. The less severe (and more probable) outcome is that these links will eventually be discounted. So, as long as you aren’t relying on this strategy as your sole source of links, it’s probably more a question of efficiency and effectiveness.
What do you think? Do you currently link to several other law firm websites through resource pages? Are you aware of the risks? Does your seo company encourage this technique? Is it working (probably more difficult to answer)?