As an attorney, you’re likely receiving pitches from SEO companies making bold promises to help your firm achieve top rankings in Google. The problem is – they’re so full of SEO jargon that it can be difficult to understand what they’re really promising.
While there are several red flags to be cognizant of when you talk to a legal marketing agency, our best advice to attorneys is to develop an understanding of common SEO terminology so that you can make more informed decisions about where to spend your law firm’s marketing dollars.
In this post, we’ll break down a commonly used and often misunderstood metric: domain authority.
It’s likely that you’ve seen this phrase (or similar phrases: domain rank, trust flow, citation flow, etc.), and have been told that you need to increase yours. You may have also received a sales pitch where you pay for links of a certain domain authority (which you should never agree to.)
So, is it true that you need to work on your law firm’s domain authority? The answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.”
Domain authority (DA) is a metric developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank based on the quantity and quality of links pointing to that website. A new website will start with a domain authority of 1, and that number will grow as the website acquires more links. Last month, Moz announced that they will update domain authority to make it “a better, more trustworthy metric than ever before” by updating the algorithms behind the metric.
While Moz’s domain authority has become one of the most commonly-used link metrics, other tools have their own calculated metric. For example, aHrefs (another popular SEO tool), has developed its own scoring system to evaluate a website’s overall link authority.
It’s important to understand that domain authority is not part of Google’s algorithm. Google’s algorithm is comprised of over 200 factors, and they do not use a single “authority” metric. If you achieve a certain domain authority, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will suddenly see higher rankings.
Rather, domain authority it a predictive metric that indicates how likely your website is to rank in Google’s organic search results. It’s a well-calculated estimate, but it’s important to remember that it is an estimate. Many SEOs believe it’s a distraction, as people get too caught up in chasing a number, and don’t focus enough on developing their SEO strategy.
At Postali, we agree that chasing a number isn’t the best approach. However, we also believe that when used properly, domain authority can be a helpful tool to use as part of your SEO strategy.
Simply put, links are one of the most important ranking factors. Google’s algorithm evaluates the websites that are linking to your firm’s website. If your content is being linked to from highly reputable websites, this signals to Google that your content is valuable, and gives them a vote of confidence that may result in your website appearing higher in search results.
The links from other websites that point to your firm’s website are considered your backlink profile. The stronger your backlink profile is, the more likely you are to perform well in organic search. It follows that your law firm would want to continuously improve its domain authority.
The concept of strengthening a backlink profile leads many SEOs to engage in spammy practices (known as “black hat” SEO) to gain more backlinks. We see this frequently with law firm websites that try to take advantage of the system to gain higher rankings.
Domain authority and other link metrics are designed to reflect Google’s policy on links, which is that quality matters more than quantity. Having a high number of links from low-quality websites will not help your SEO, and in fact, can even harm your rankings.
Moz and other link analysis tools will gauge the quality of the websites in your backlink profile in order to determine your authority. A law firm website with 100 links from directories or spammy sites will have a lower authority than a law firm with 50 links from relevant, high-quality websites such as a legal publication, local news story, or bar association website.
It’s common for marketing companies to try to sell backlinks. For example, you may receive an email that for a certain amount of money, a company will acquire 10 backlinks from websites with a domain authority of 50+. Sounds like a great deal, right?
Wrong. Paid linkbuilding violates Google’s guidelines and can result in a penalty. The best approach to linkbuilding for law firms is to focus on content development that will naturally earn links from reputable and relevant websites. You should also focus on tactics to build your law firm’s reputation, such as being a source for reporters who are writing news stories about relevant legal topics. They’ll often link to your website if you’re a source in the article.
Because of the importance of links, marketers may try to convince you that achieving a particular domain authority will lead your law firm to success. This isn’t always the case. Domain authority should be used directionally to help inform SEO decisions for your law firm.
Achieving a particular domain authority should not be a goal of your SEO strategy. Rather, focus your goals on more tangible KPIs such as website traffic, ranking, and calls to your firm’s office. Domain authority is best when it’s used as a tool to help create a linkbuilding strategy that will help you reach those goals. We recommend using domain authority (or another reputable website authority metric) for the following:
Many attorneys will ask us what a “good” domain authority is. The truth is that this is relative. When we work with a new law firm, often one of the first tasks we perform is to assess the competitors. What law firm websites are ranking well for your target keywords?
You can view the domain authority for any website with Chrome’s MozBar extension, so it’s important to understand what your competitors’ DA is. This will give a benchmark for where you need to be to compete in your market. Again, it’s important to keep in mind that links are one of many of Google’s ranking factors. However, it would be difficult to outrank your competitors if your domain authority is 10, and the average score for local competitors is 60.
A new website starts with a domain authority of 1. If you are engaging in ethical SEO practices, you should expect your domain authority to grow over time. This should be gradual.
We recommend keeping an eye on your backlink profile and all associated metrics monthly. You should not see sudden spikes or dips (unless the metric itself is being re-calculated.) A law firm SEO strategy is poised for long-term success when your domain authority is consistently growing, and you’re avoiding unethical practices.
You can also use domain authority to gauge how beneficial a link from any website would be for your law firm. For example, let’s assume you are featured in an online article from your state bar association and they include a link to your website. You don’t need a metric to help you understand that it’s a beneficial link to have, as it’s a very relevant source.
But let’s say you’re a personal injury attorney and a parenting blogger reaches out about collaborating on content about child safety. You can view the blog’s domain authority and backlink profile to help assess whether or not this is an opportunity worth pursuing.
Keep in mind that several factors are important when evaluating link opportunities for your firm’s website. Trust your intuition, but use domain authority and other link metrics to help guide you. If you’re a law firm, a link from a high domain authority website that sells shoes is not likely to benefit your SEO. While the website may have a high domain authority, it’s not relevant to your business. On the other hand, if a local blogger’s website doesn’t have a high domain authority, it may still be beneficial to work with them if they have a local audience that you want to reach with your law firm’s message.
Understanding domain authority and how to use it is a crucial component of your law firm’s SEO strategy. If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to Postali. Call us at (800) 667-3612, or send us a message through the online form to learn more about how we can help.