Beware of Backlink Schemes for Your Estate Planning Website

Let’s talk SEO — search engine optimization for your estate planning website.

More specifically, let’s talk about backlink strategies and LOCAL SEO.

What is LOCAL SEO and why is it so important for estate planning and elder law websites?

Here’s the deal: SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing a website for indexing by the search engines. There are lots of things that go into optimization – from how long it takes your website to load to how many people visit your site, and especially the actual content on your website.

In a nutshell, SEO is how we get your website found when people are searching online for an estate planning or elder law attorney.

However, it doesn’t do you much good to have nationwide or global SEO … because you don’t really care if people visit your site from a state where you’re not licensed to practice. In fact, it can be a little annoying to get inquiries from people you can’t serve.

What you do want is to rank very well in your local market. You want your website to show up for people who would actually become new clients. That usually means they are within driving range of your office – maybe within a 15- or up to a 50-mile radius around your office, depending on your market.  It’s really important that these people can find you when they are searching for an estate planning attorney or an elder law attorney.

That’s LOCAL SEO.

Now there’s not a high volume of search on these terms, but when someone in your local market is actively searching, it doesn’t take a high volume, because research shows they are ready to hire an attorney. They’re at that point where they’re deciding, so it’s very important for you to have great LOCAL SEO.

When we look at LOCAL SEO, one of the strategies that can be very confusing is what’s called a BACKLINKING STRATEGY.

Now many years ago, in the olden days of the internet (five years ago) backlinks were super important and it didn’t seem to matter where they came from. The more websites that linked to yours (and that’s what a backlink is — a link from another website to your website) the better you would rank.

That gave rise to a lot of these SEO companies that would specialize in buying backlinks, or setting up backlink farms that exist solely for the purpose of artificially backlinking to their clients’ websites.

Well, you can guess what happened next.

Google got onto this and now they will penalize your site if they detect these unnatural backlinks.

So, yes, backlinks can tank your estate planning website.

In fact, Google now advises against even implementing a backlinking strategy.

Instead of chasing a bunch of backlinks … to the degree they are still important to your LOCAL SEO, Google wants you to EARN BACKLINKS from local, authoritative sites.

A Sad Story

Let me just share a story with you about a client who got taken in by one of these SEO companies that promised to boost her website fast with a big backlinking scheme.

Her website was new and Google wasn’t sending her a lot of traffic yet.

If you’re in this position, remember that the best cure is just a little time. There are no shortcuts on SEO.

SEO is like a game of King of the Hill. There are only so many listings on page one, and they don’t expand the page for you. You have to knock somebody off … and it’s going to take some time for you to establish the credibility to convince Google your site is more valuable to their users than any of those sites that are already on page one.

So, if you’re in a competitive market, which this lady was, it’s going to take a little more time to overtake the competition.  You’re just not going to do that overnight.

But she was impatient.

So she hired one of these companies (against our advice, but hey, those guys are convincing!) and they started this big backlinking scheme.

What happened next is really sad.

Her site went from having a handful of visitors to almost 20,000 visitors in one month.

Sounds great, right? Looks like it worked!

But, remember I mentioned that pesky penalty Google imposes when they detect these artificial backlinking schemes.

As you can see from the chart – yes, she had a huge spike in traffic. Chart shows backlink disaster

But Google detected it and penalized her site.

Her traffic dropped off just as quickly as it had picked up.

This lady not only wasted her money on that SEO company, she did some serious damage that’s going to be hard to repair. Now she has to climb out of Google’s penalty box, and that can be very difficult.

I don’t want you to get hooked into something like that.

Don’t employ an SEO company to implement a backlinking scheme for you.

Here’s what you want to do about backlinks.

Earn your backlinks!

How?

  • Get involved in your local community.  Speak at local events. Join the Chamber of Commerce. Sponsor a local event or join a civic organization. Then, be a little bit savvy and ask for your new local “partners” to add a link to your website from theirs. Now you have an authoritative earned backlink. You can do this through sponsoring local events, through sponsoring local organizations.
  • Join business directories that are local for you.
  • Become a source for local media on financial, legal or even health care issues. When they quote you, ask them for a link to your website from their digital version of the story.
  • Consider publishing local press releases. They may not get picked up by your local media, but they will show up online and Google will recognize them (they have a short shelf-life, but every little advantage matters in the SEO game).

I know a lot of you already are active in your local communities: you’re sponsoring walks for Alzheimer’s, you’re sponsoring walks for breast cancer, you sponsor a Little League team or a hole in a local charity golf tournament. That’s all good stuff, but just start being a little bit savvy about it and ask for the backlinks.

Now in your local community, depending on the size of your market, there may not be a lot of backlinking opportunities. That’s okay.

Just remember that when it comes to backlinks, it’s not about the quantity.

It’s the quality of the linking organization that will help boost your LOCAL SEO.

 

Making Your Website Handicap Accessible

Handicap-Accessible Website
How can your ensure your website is handicap-accessible and ADA-compliant?

Is your website handicap accessible?

By now you’ve probably heard the news, but if you haven’t, I’m here to enlighten you. In a growing trend businesses, including small law firms, are being sued for the lack of accessibility on their website. 

So What’s the Big Deal?

You may be wondering if this is a ploy developed by your fellow attorneys or if this is a serious concern that you need to take action on.  The bottom line is yes, you should be taking efforts to ensure your website is accessible and complies with ADA guidelines. 

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However, before we can jump into what your law firm should do, we need to set the foundation for what the law says about ADA compliance online. 

Well, the actual law does not have a set standard or framework for what an ADA compliant website looks like. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not mention what is required of a business’s online property, but courts have interpreted Title III of the ADA to include websites and online assets.

Historically, Title III of the ADA applies to physical aspects such as having a wheelchair accessible entrance, altering the width of doorways, and other accommodations to ensure public premises are accessible to all. Now, the interpretation of Title III has expanded the stipulations beyond a physical location to digital locations as well.

So, what does your law firm need to do about it?

What ADA Compliant Looks Like

Having an ADA compliant website is all about ensuring that your website is accessible to all your online visitors. While ADA is the legal side of the issue, website accessibility is the technical and design side that allows visitors with sight, hearing, or mobility disabilities to peruse your site and take full advantage of all the site’s elements.

Now we are at the point where we dive into what an accessible website looks like (congratulations on making it this far!), especially when we don’t have a legal framework to follow. In recent rulings, U.S. courts and the Department of Justice cited the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA success criteria as the standard to measure whether your website is compliant. 

Here’s a brief taste of the WCAG 2.0 Level AA success criteria: 

  • You need to provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it may be adapted to different forms (e.g. large print, braille, speech, etc.)
  • Your content needs to be adaptable
  • You need to make it easier for your visitors to see and hear content
  • You need to provide ways to help your visitors navigate, find content, and determine where they are on your website (i.e. breadcrumbs)
  • You need to make text readable and understandable

Seems pretty simple, right? Well, there are 33 more guidelines provided by WCAG for you to follow.

Should My Law Firm’s Website be ADA Compliant?

With a foundation in ADA compliance and how it affects your law firm, what should you do next?

Well, the simple answer is – do something! 

Don’t sit around and wait until the daunting moment when you find yourself under fire for not playing by the WCAG rules. Take action now to ensure that your website is ADA Compliant. 

Taking action on this issue can help your law firm: 

  • Minimize Risk

Even though there is no written law concerning your website in the original text of the ADA, that fact remains that your law firm’s digital assets are being interpreted as a public resource for online visitors, thus holding you accountable to website accessibility standards. Nobody likes being sued, so minimize your risk by making sure your website is compliant.

  • Expand Your Reach

By making your website accessible, you are actually expanding your reach. First, you are able to reach a previously non targeted clientele that was previously unable to use your website. Secondly, having an ADA compliant website can also improve your SEO scores with the use of technical improvements (e.g. meta tags, alternative image text and video transcripts).

  • Boost Your Reputation by Doing the Right Thing

Not to be cliche, but do the right thing! When you take steps to make your website accessible, you are ensuring that everyone that comes to your site will have the opportunity to engage with your law firm and get the service they need. As an added bonus to doing the right thing, users will take notice of the steps you are taking, having a direct affect on your reputation.

Bringing It All Together

Are you ready to make your law firm’s website ADA compliant? 

You can use accessiBe, an AI powered web accessibility tool, to automatically transition your site into a completely accessible website. To see what accesiBe can do, take a look at our website and click on the accessibility icon in the lower left corner.

Is accessiBe for you and your law firm? Try the 7-day trial to see! 

Or, you can try to find an ADA  consultant to audit your website, tell you what needs to change, and then get a quote for what that may cost to update your website. 

Or, you can run the risk of not taking steps to become compliant. 

The choice is ultimately yours, but at Integrity Marketing Solutions, we are recommending accessiBe to our clients.

References

http://www.fox13news.com/news/local-news/owners-of-non-ada-compliant-websites-could-face-lawsuits

https://www.business.com/articles/is-your-website-ada-compliant-how-to-check-and-how-it-affects-your-business/

https://medium.com/@krisrivenburgh/the-ada-checklist-website-compliance-guidelines-for-2019-in-plain-english-123c1d58fad9

 

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