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Outbound links are an important part of SEO. However, the strategy for a professional service provider is different from a traditional blog. Instead of trying to load up on citations and other outside resources, you’re demonstrating that you have the knowledge yourself. With that in mind, here are the things you should consider when adding outbound links to your blog.
You Are the Expert
The first thing to remember is that clients come to you because you are the expert. They expect you to know your field. Citing every fact or rule with an outbound link like a Wikipedia article or college paper is not expected and can hurt you if it creates the perception you didn’t know this basic information on your own.
Generally, avoid citations unless you find it particularly useful to link to a specific portion of a statute or case. In those cases, always try to use the official, government-provided primary source. Neutral, authoritative sites, such as Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, can provide a reasonable backup. Avoid links to paid research platforms, such as Westlaw or LexisNexis, because your clients won’t have subscriptions.
Avoid Secondary Sources
Competitor websites, similar practices in other jurisdictions, FindLaw, Nolo, etc. are all great resources. They give you a starting point of what information other people think is important.
You can then think about how to present that information better and what insights you can add so that you can position yourself as the go-to expert.
Never link to these competitors. While this might be obvious to you, if you hire an outside SEO firm or content writer, they might not realize that a seemingly authoritative site is your direct competition because it’s funneling its readers to other firms. Always check their work before it goes live.
Don’t Trade Links
“You link me, I’ll link you” used to be a decent SEO strategy especially when both websites were strong. Google now punishes sites it thinks are trading links just to boost their SEO rankings.
The only exception is if you have a truly complementary relationship with another firm. Perhaps you do general business law, and another lawyer does estate planning. If you send referrals to each other and you have an article that mentions business estate planning, providing a link to the estate planning lawyer’s more detailed article on business estate planning is helpful.
When to Use Outbound Links
When deciding what to link to, think about what you want your clients to know and how the resource you’re linking to will help them. The standard advice of .gov and .edu sites generally being more reliable applies, but this doesn’t mean never use .com or other sites if applicable.
Common outbound links include:
- IRS resources— where to pay, how to sign up for an installment agreement, more detailed info you don’t plan to blog about, etc.
- Courthouse information— hours, what floor to go to, overviews of certain processes, where to get records, etc.
- Government forms— from courthouses, state agencies, the IRS, etc.
- Important statutes/rules— don’t cite them all, but include important ones where it can actually be useful for your clients to read the text.
- Self-help— post links to things like your Department of State’s incorporation filing page. It can help give clients an overview of the process and show them how complex it is to do it on their own. You can nudge them by also linking to your blog post on why they might still need a lawyer or accountant and what can go wrong without one. If they still decide to do it on their own, they probably weren’t going to be a profitable client.
Your Ultimate Goal
Your website’s ultimate goal isn’t only to sell, sell, sell. You want to become a helpful resource so that when people do research, your website comes up higher in more searches. When you do this, the people who do need a professional will think you’re the one to talk to since your great resource came up first, and the sales will come naturally.