What’s an Outbound Link Penalty and Why Should A Law Firm Care?

Many years ago, companies popped up seemingly left and right offering linking strategies and targeting many businesses, taking their first dip into competing in the online space for search engine rankings.

Law firms became primary targets for these link for things like linking parties and those offering link building strategies because of their desire and need to compete in the specific geographic market and with highly competitive keywords. Most law firms already recognize that some of the spammiest of tactics will only cause further problems, but it is important to understand the potential for an actual penalty associated with outbound linking strategies.

Some strategies, like linking parties, can be very harmful to your own rankings.

What’s the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Link Penalties?

You already know that you don’t want other poorly ranking websites or spam links pointing to your own site, but your website could be penalized by search engine rankings like Google for how you use outbound linking strategies. This is known as an unnatural outbound link penalty and can be applied to your entire site or to only portions of your site.

Google webmasters will actually reach out to owners of websites stating that they have detected an unusual or unnatural pattern of linking from your home site to other sites. Google views this as attempting to artificially boost the rankings of other sites in Google search results. Google will manually discount the trust in links on your own website if this applies to you- but you should at least get a head’s up in a message about the situation.

How Can I Avoid A Penalty for Outbound Linking?

It goes without saying that outbound links can still be a great way to grow the quality, trust and overall relevance of your law firm's website. But it’s important to choose the right content marketing partner to work with and to avoid using SEO agencies that promise the world but simply can’t follow through. Make sure you always look at the quality of a link before using it.

 Some of the easiest ways to avoid outbound linking penalties include:

·     Not allowing any links in user generated content.

·     Avoid linking to any low quality or spam websites and explain the quality of sites you wish to have linked to, to your team of freelance legal writers.

·     Don’t link out to sites that are paying you for doing so, such as any reciprocal link scheme.

·     Create guidelines for content managers and individual writers to explain how links should be used and examples of poor links.

What Can I Do If I Think I Have Already Been Penalized for Outbound Links?

Whether or not it was on purpose or by accident, it’s important to take corrective action if you have been hit with an outbound link penalty as soon as possible. Audit any links that might not meet Google's guidelines. You can create external reports using Screaming Frog to see outbound links on your own website. Google search counsel will also enable you to submit what's known as a reconsideration request.     

Stuck on the right way to handle content for your firm? Reach out to a trusted partner in me- I’ve been a legal copywriter for seven years and know the ins and outs!