Warning: I wrote this article in March 2012. I do not regularly check on the substance of this article to verify that it is still accurate.
I think an attorney that buys a listing in the FindLaw Lawyer Directory and has their listing link to the attorney’s website may cause their site to be negatively impacted in the search results. This is because Google’s guidelines do not allow a website to sell links that pass PageRank. I do not recommend that, if an attorney pays to be listed in Findlaw’s lawyer directory, attorneys include a link to their site in the directory. Google says:
“Not all paid links violate Google’s guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as:
1) Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the <a> tag
2) Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file”
I believe that the only possible way to have a link, on the main page of a practice area in Findlaw’s lawyer directory, is to pay for the link or to have Findlaw design/host your website. Last time I checked (which was probably over 5 years ago) Findlaw charged attorneys several hundred dollars to be listed on one of the top spots in a particular practice area. The source code for the main page of the Findlaw lawyer directory does not appear to designate a link (on an attorney’s profile) to an attorney’s site as advertising. According to Google:
“Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results. Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank.”
Attorneys with listings in the Findlaw lawyer directory directories may want to remove a link on these sites to their website because Google could negatively impact their website in Google’s search results. I think that most of the attorneys in these directories are not familiar with the concept of buying links that pass page rank.
Apart from the main page in directory for a particular practice area, Findlaw allows an attorney (on their profile) to add a link(s) to the lawyer’s website(s) or blog(s) for no charge. It is ok that this link passes page rank because Findlaw is not selling this link. Although Findlaw (and “link buyers” on their site) may be negatively impacted in Google’s search results, Findlaw is more generous than lawyers.com, hg.org, and nolo.com. None of the latter provide a free link (in their directory) to an attorney’s website. So far it doesn’t appear that Google has penalized Findlaw or attorneys’ websites that have a paid link (in their profile on Findlaw’s main directory page for each practice area) to the attorney’s site on either directory. But Google wants the best user experience possible and Findlaw is a “big fish” and an easy target. I would be concerned if I was Findlaw or an attorney who has paid to be included in Findlaw’s directory.
Do you think that Google will negatively impact (in the search results) attorneys’ sites that have a paid link, on Findlaw? Do you think Google will negatively impact Findlaw?