We see this happen a lot. A letter addressed to our clients, or us, by the first name. In the letter, a statement, “I liked your blog article (citation of the article), would you be open to sharing our content?” The request takes other forms, of course. Sometimes the requestor wants a backlink or to share backlinks. Other times, they have a nifty guide they want to piggyback off your consumer base with.
So, should you connect with them?
What do SEO best practices say?
What about common sense?
Answer 1: It’s Not Necessarily a Bad Idea
The best way to thoroughly answer this question is to cover when and when not the backlink or shared content solicitation could benefit your law firm website. In the grand strategy of SEO under the category of building backlinks, your goal is to get any authoritative reference to cite your website as a subject matter expertise or, at the very least, add your site (via backlink) to their list of resources or references.
In this case, a backline, perhaps of high domain authority, is being delivered to you on a silver platter. That sure makes things a hell of a lot easier. Often, backlink building looks one of two ways.
1) “Oh gosh that backlink came from nowhere because I’ve been building this excellent repository of knowledge on my subject.”
- + Excellent backlink
- + Contextually relevant
- + Natural segue from whatever topic is being cited to wherever the link land
- – Very slow
2) “Take my money and my soul, answer my cold connect e-mail, I am grinding to build great backlinks, this shouldn’t be so hard!”
- + Very good backlink
- + Contextually relevant
- – Less Slow
- – Much Dedicated Effort
Now you’re getting the best of both: a quick, low effort, backlink. Heck Yeah! But wait. Is it contextually relevant? Why does that matter?
Remember that Google and all other search engines want(s) to answer peoples’ questions. If they are asking, “how long will my disability appeal take?,” then landing on your article, ostensibly because of great SEO and a content marketing strategy, you now have to deliver the goods. Google is watching. Google wants to know that once someone visits your page, they get the answer to their question. No answer = maybe another firm answered it better in their blog, and the page-rank shuffle begins.
Long point short – only consider responding for genuinely helpful and relevant content. Keep your clients’ sales journey paramount. Does a backlink, no matter how juicy, benefit them? Does it add value to your content? If the answer to either of those is, “No,” then eventually search algorithms will pick-up that the link results in high bounce rates for their clients that visit you, or your clients that visit them. The likely culprit of the high bounce rate is that your businesses are too dissimilar, and the link itself is quickly thrown away by the visitor as irrelevant.
Answer 2: It’s Just Spam, Don’t Consider it At All, Here’s Why
Pascal’s Wager. The idea that when thinking strategically, you should never wager big for a small gain. Or, if you are going to wager anything, try to focus on the small wagers (low risk) that return the highest value. If this sounds somewhat familiar, perhaps you’re thinking about our approach to keyword strategy. When we work with law firm clients – we focus on building super-strong content for high return – low competition keywords and phrases — < a Pascal’s Wager, of sorts.
So, how would this apply here? What benefit are you going to be gaining from a backlink delivered to your inbox? Likely, very little. Disregarding a solicitation that is obviously contextual (see the end of the article), any other cold-open email request for backlinks will not harm you at all to simply ignore. And if you do accept and place the backlink on your site, you have now opened yourself up to the risk in this equation.
Don’t worry; you’re not going to lose all your traffic because you have one spammy backlink. However, the spammy backlink may result in somewhat of a less optimum link situation on your article, page, or wherever it’s posted. You’re fighting for first place here. Why take the risk of losing it, just barely, because of a janky link? More to this point, applying a little bit of game theory – who is the one that has taken the most risk in this transaction, you or the backlink builder? (you)
So, What You’re Saying Is…
Here’s the TLDR (too long didn’t read) synopsis:
YES: If it’s contextually relevant. For example, say you’re an Estate Planning Attorney – A divorce article backlink could potentially be entirely proper. Or you’re a Social Security attorney, adding in a VA claim backlink is a natural transition. There is very little activity in SEO & Search Engine Marketing that compares to link-building. But good sense should not be thrown out for seemingly easy benefit. Always focus on the consumer experience. Only build links that improve the consumption of your content.
NO: If it’s not contextually relevant.
Spotting A Form Email
First, it’s not our opinion that a form letter is inherently evil. There can be excellent products pitched via these outreach methods. However, it’s essential for you not to be swayed one way or the other about the personal investment placed in each letter. If you knew the SAME message was sent to 150 other attorneys the last hour, how bad would you feel ignoring it? Whereas, if you had the impression that someone took a great deal of time getting to know your business and drafting a thoughtful engagement letter to you, and only you, directly – you might have more hesitation before “round-binning” that sucker.
Here is a handy infographic that will take you through the typical form letter.
Should You Be Developing Your Backlink Strategy?
Now that we’ve discussed whether to accept the invitation from someone else regarding backlinks let’s talk briefly about your strategy. Yes, you should be executing a backlink strategy. If you don’t have a backlink strategy, you need to start developing one ASAP. For this, you have several options.
Option 1: Figure out how to build a backlink strategy on your own.
Option 2: Give us a call or fill out our contact form below.
Option 3: Download our free e-book: The Path: A Step-by-Step SEO & Search Engine Marketing Guide for Law Firms – where we provide you a step by step approach to backlink discovery and strategy. And we also provide you the tools to build your roadmap for backlink outreach.