Where do law firms typically earn links from?  In this post, we'll dive into the backlink landscape of the legal space, and discover the top sources of links.

This study examined hundreds of Google My Business profiles and their websites to discover where their links are coming from.  I've written case studies that focus more broadly on GMB optimization, but in this post I'll examine link profiles specifically.

Organic vs. Google My Business Ranking

I should be clear about what we're measuring before jumping into the study. These case studies measure the rankings of Google My Business listings, as opposed to the organic results of the websites they are associated with.

In other words, we're measuring against what we see on Google Maps and on the Local Finder. Local and organic search each have their own Google ranking algorithm. While some of the techniques covered here apply to both kinds of search, some are only applicable to local.

Before diving into the details, I'd like to share a broad overview of the linking landscape in the legal sector.

For this study, I examined 282 GMB listings in the legal industry.  My link survey found 6,506 distinct referring domains for these listings.

What are the Most Common Referring Domains?

This is the first and most basic question I wanted to answer.  What domains are the most common source of links in the legal industry?

The top domains, such as justia.com and yellowpages.com, are probably not a surprise to anyone in the local SEO field.  In fact, the top 10 link sources are almost all directories, which are an easier type of link to acquire.

PRWeb was the first common non-directory domain to catch my eye.  PRWeb is essentially a paid backlink source.  For $100, they will publish a self-written press release with a dofollow link embedded.

The value of these links is dubious at best, and Google is very likely to ignore them entirely.  Domains with a very high number of outgoing links, especially when the target sites span a huge range of unrelated topics, will see the value of their links diluted.

Links from news publications are also an interesting trend in the data.  Aside from directories, news sites such as Huffington Post, Forbes, and NYTimes make up a surprisingly large percentage of the domains.

How Many Referring Domains is Enough?

More is not necessarily better when it comes to sheer quantity of backlinks or referring domains.  To explore that idea a little, let's take a look at how count of referring domains relates to Google Maps ranking.

I don't think I can spot a correlation there, no matter how hard I squint at it.  The number of referring domains alone doesn't seem very predictive of ranking lower or higher on Google Maps.

Common Referring Domains and GMB Rank

Comparing link sources with average GMB rank provides an interesting perspective.

The GMB ranks were determined with a geo-positioned grid search, providing a more accurate average.  The location of the searcher is too big a factor to rely on results from one position.

An example of geo-positioned search grid results.

We see news sources like Mother Jones, Axios, Charlotte Observer, and Christian Science Monitor rising to the top here.  

If you're wondering how to acquire links from news sources, checking out HARO would be a good place to start.

Domain Count Avg. Rank
howtodoweb.com157.60
motherjones.com218.19
ballotpedia.org168.25
axios.com168.25
charlotteobserver.com168.25
moz.com178.29
brookings.edu168.31
informationweek.com198.37
northeastern.edu168.38
csmonitor.com158.40
commondreams.org178.53
salon.com178.59
syracuse.com158.60
world-history-education-resources.com108.60
greentechmedia.com158.60
ibtimes.com168.62
www2.deloitte.com168.75
pymnts.com148.79
citylab.com168.81
greenbiz.com188.83
cmu.edu188.83
time.com198.84
eventbrite.co.uk168.88
unctad.org138.92
news.bitcoin.com138.92
aip.org138.92
careerbuilder.com138.92
papers.ssrn.com138.92
bloomberg.com138.92
politico.eu138.92
rochester.edu138.92
talkingpointsmemo.com138.92
simple.wikipedia.org138.92
texastribune.org138.92
vanderbilt.edu138.92
sec.gov138.92
freakonomics.com138.92
oecd.org138.92
globalresearch.ca138.92
expansion.com138.92
hackernoon.com138.92
faculty.washington.edu138.92
xing.com138.92
en.m.wikipedia.org278.93
newrepublic.com168.94
breitbart.com178.94
news.yahoo.com178.94
news.trust.org159.00
bna.com229.05
healthcareitnews.com149.07
pewtrusts.org169.12
thehill.com159.13
bu.edu199.21
americanprogress.org169.25
huffingtonpost.ca149.29
cio.com189.33
arstechnica.com219.33
fortune.com209.35
cinchlaw.com119.36
miamiherald.com219.38
nytimes.com259.40
theatlantic.com209.45
publicintegrity.org169.50
geekwire.com169.50
eweek.com149.50
aol.com249.54
slate.com219.57
myemail.constantcontact.com319.65
investopedia.com189.67
techdirt.com199.68
washingtonpost.com249.71
regonline.com149.71
huffpost.com339.73
natlawreview.com239.74
yahoo.com189.78
vice.com199.79
businessinsider.com299.79
techcrunch.com209.80
theconversation.com169.81
cato.org169.88
cnet.com189.89
politico.com219.90
mediate.com149.93
lawreferralconnect.com1710.00
zdnet.com1710.00
meetup.com1710.00
blogs.wsj.com1010.00
forbes.com3410.06
marketwired.com2010.10
law.cornell.edu1910.11
lexisnexis.com1810.11
nbcnews.com2110.19
elawyers.info2110.19
legalserviceslink.com1710.24
ask.com4810.27
prweb.com3910.31
money.cnn.com1710.35
huffingtonpost.com3010.40
en.wikipedia.org3910.41
archive.constantcontact.com2910.45
chicagobusiness.com1110.45
shrm.org1010.60
lexology.com3210.62
eventbrite.com4010.65
threebestrated.com3910.67
theguardian.com1210.67
bizvotes.com1710.71
law.com3410.74
lawyercentral.com1210.75
venturebeat.com1010.80
entrepreneur.com1310.85
familyattorneysnearme.com1510.87
wikihow.com1010.90
organicsearch.agency1310.92
medium.com2710.93
local-attorneys.com1510.93
americanbar.org3610.94
finance.yahoo.com1011.00
info.legalzoom.com1111.09
abovethelaw.com1011.10
lawyers.justia.com8811.12
yellowpages.com11411.17
kortalaw.com1011.20
grstllaw.com1011.20
mapquest.com3811.24
expertduiattorneys.com1911.26
martindale.com3611.58
golocal247.com2011.60
inc.com1011.60
mylegalpractice.com1711.71
lawyers.law.cornell.edu8311.80
cvent.com2211.82
lawyers.oyez.org5811.86
lawyerland.com3811.89
prnewswire.com1911.89
justia.com11011.94
dilawctory.com1911.95
expertise.com8011.98
legaladvice.com1012.00
lawlink.com1412.00
thenationaltriallawyers.org2412.04
lawyers.onecle.com2012.05
lawyers.com3112.06
lakeandlakelawfirm.com1312.08
legalink.org1312.15
listalegal.com3812.16
northstateyellowpages.com3012.33
find-lawyer.net4812.42
nolo.com3612.50
lawyers.usnews.com10112.59
iapp.org1012.60
profiles.superlawyers.com4912.61
101bankruptcy.com1412.79
pview.findlaw.com4112.80
lawfather.com1012.90
lawterritory.com1613.12
attorneys.lawinfo.com1413.14
bestlawyers.com3113.32
pagesbee.com1013.50
lawyer.com1313.62
101duiattorney.com1713.65
yellowpagecity.com2014.05
bestlawfirms.usnews.com1514.27
alphalegal.com1614.38
lawyers.techlawyers.org2514.68
courthousesquare.com1014.70
yellowbook.com1114.73
thalesdirectory.com1014.90
lawyers.findlaw.com1115.18
bufetesdeabogados.us1515.93
lawyer4criminaldefense.com1116.45
internetnetworx.net1617.56

Looking at some of the lowest rankings here, it's worth asking if some links are just not worth having, or may even be worth disavowing.

A quick Google search of internetnetworx.net seems to suggest that it may be malicious or at least extremely spammy.  Links coming from domains like this are probably doing more harm than good.

What's next?

I hope this breakdown of the top link sources has been helpful!  I'll be publishing more link breakdowns in the future, focused on other industries.

Local SEO Software

Most of the research for this case study was done using the Persuaded.io local SEO toolset. You can use Persuaded.io for hyper local rank tracking, spam busting, and much more. New users start with a credit, and you can try it without any signup required.