Many major SEO publications suggest that we're on the verge of a Penguin 2.0 update. Many of us are still hoping that this is the "big one" that knocks down some of the most common link spam techniques used by lawyers across the web. While the first penguin update undoubtedly "shook things up," as evidence by the uptick in calls and requests for audits that we've received, some of the most egregious forms of spam are still working for some firms.
But the point of this post isn't to rant about how Google isn't perfect. It's to help you prepare for this, as well as, future updates.
In Penguin 2.0 Forewarning: The Google Perspective on Links Stone Temple Consulting's Eric Enge discusses what he believes Google wants a link to represent:
Links Must Be Citations
This is the core concept. Just like the professor's research paper, which lists other research papers referenced by the professor in creating their paper.
The professor only lists (links) to the other papers most relevant to and most important to to their paper. You can't buy that, and never occurred to researchers to try and do that with each other. This system was pure at its heart.
Of course, many of you will call b.s. on this. You've seen link spam work. You've seen your competitors outrank you with shoddy links. Heck, you've benefited from them yourself.
And no one doubts that crappy links have worked, and to some extent, might still work. But that's not really the issue here.
The main issue is that you're always going to find yourself at odds with Google. You're always going to be vulnerable to more sophisticated future versions of the algorithms.
Now this might not be problematic for you. Perhaps you don't heavily rely on search traffic for new business. Perhaps you don't have a problem making short-term gains in search, getting penalized and starting over on new domains. Maybe you're not really concerned about your reputation or your ethical obligations as an attorney. That's your bag.
But if you're looking to build a long-term stronghold in search, here's what Enge recommends you consider when building links:
1. Would you build the link if Google and Bing did not exist?
2. If you have 2 minutes with a customer, and the law required that you show a random sampling of your links to customer prospects, would you happily show the link to a target customer? Or would it embarrass you?
3. Did the person giving you the link intend it as a genuine endorsement?
4. Do you have to make an argument to justify that it's a good link?
Of course, some of you will say, "that's impossible! No one wants to naturally link to me."
But who's fault is that?
Doing real law firm stuff that earns real attention is hard. That's what makes it valuable. That's what drives search engines to evolve to distinguish between valuable web assets and spam.