Who links to your legal help website?
The more other websites that link to you — especially government or educational ones — the higher your website will climb on search results.
This is called a ‘backlink’ strategy. Search engines look to the web of who is linking to who to determine which sites are valuable, relevant, and authoritative. If a website ending with a domain like .gov, .org, or .edu is linking to a legal help website, these ‘backlinks’ make search engines more confident that your site is worthwhile & authoritative.
To that end, we encourage legal help website administrators to spend some time crafting a local Backlinks Initiative, to get more robust links among authoritative government and educational institutions.
Our cohort members had advice on how to make an effective backlinks strategy in the public interest space:
Backlinks Strategy for Legal Help Website
- Identify Your Regional Ecosystem of Legal-Related Websites. Who are the websites that are helping people with issues related to legal and court issues? You can map who is providing services generally, and also run some Google Searches to see what is showing up for people online. Some of the common actors in a local ecosystem will be:
- Governor’s office
- Mayor and/or City Council
- Attorney General, particularly the consumer protection division
- Legal aid providers
- Court main website
- Court self-help/ ‘for the public’ website
- Housing agency
- Consumer protection agency/division
- County law librarians
- Law school librarians
- Law school clinics
- Local news outlets
- Reach out to the Leaders & Web Team for each of these organizations. This could be an email or a call to the organization, in order to
- Introduce your legal help website & your team
- Ask if their team might be willing to link to your overall website, or even to specific pages within your website that might help their websites’ visitors
- Offer a link exchange, where you would post their website for your visitors who might benefit from their services
- Offer pre-formatted text or code that they can use right away. You can borrow from the text our Lab has already written that lists out & explains the legal help websites in each state.
Hopefully the teams will be responsive, and you can work with them to get the links set up. Ideally, they will not just be posting a link to your site, but also including text to describe it & its value to their visitors.
Here are some of the strategies & experiences that our cohort members reflected on about backlinks:
Do it early, but also refresh later on: Many websites do a backlink outreach campaign when they just launch. But it’s important to refresh both your landscape analysis & your outreach to get more links every year. Check in on where else people in your jurisdiction might be visiting, and approach these sites to link to you.
Be aware that some links may cause trouble: Your website might do a link exchange, where you are linking out to the organizations that link to you. Usually this is a net positive, when it comes to increasing your apparent authority to search engines. Sometimes, though, court or legal aid websites may have security flaws — like invalid security protocols — that makes search engines distrust them. If your site is connected to this site, the search engine might lower your rank. You can try to reach out to these sites to help them improve their security features, so this problem is resolved.
If you update your site, be sure to keep your previous URLs. If you are going through a site overhaul, especially when you are transitioning to new URLs for your content, you don’t want to lose out on all the incoming links you may already have. There might be lots of sites that are linking to your old URLs. That both drives users to your site, and it increases your authority to search engines. If you keep your old URLs intact, but then redirect through 301s to the new content/URL, you can preserve this authority & ensure that the old links don’t break.
You can also ask other sites to include your logo, and can give them pre-made code to help them do this easily.
Some possible partners, especially courts, might ask to see if your website is ‘unbiased’ and has resources for both sides of a conflict. They may only be willing to link to your site if it can demonstrate this lack of bias. Not all courts will have this requirement, but it is worth preparing for.
Getting links up can be slow, but if you are persistent, you can find the right person on the team who controls the website & then work with them to get it online.
Keep track on your data analytics! Can you confirm when the backlinks were put onto the site? Watch to see if your visitors or rank change in Google Analytics or Search Console. Then you can communicate back improvements to the partners, reaffirming the value of the backlinks & also decide where else you might do more links.
Prepare the right links for the right partner. For some backlink partners, you might just want their visitors to come to your homepage. This might be true for someone coming from a library or a general legal aid page. But if the backlink partner might have someone with a particular issue — like it’s likely the visitor has a debt, employment, landlord-tenant, or family law issue — you can ask if the partner will link to specific guides, FAQs, or media for this issue. That way the link could be more relevant to the visitor — so they go straight to the most helpful resource without having to navigate your site.