By Matt Green
Forum spam has a long history with SEOs. For years, spammy link builders nuked forums in every corner of the web with spam accounts and spun comments.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Not at all.
I am talking about driving relevant traffic to your client’s site, enhancing their online professional reputation, and building authority links that improve rankings, by participating in forum discussions on targeted threads.
The goal here is to find forums threads that relate to your client’s practice areas.
When I give away my lawyer link building tactics I always use personal injury as the example practice area because I consider it to be the most difficult type of law to market online. If you can build links for personal injury lawyers, you can build links for any type of lawyer.
Step 1: Advanced search operators in Google
Here are the kinds of search operators that I use to find forum threads around personal injury topics:
- “powered by vbulletin” + “injured” + “accident”
- “powered by phpBB” + “auto” + “accident” + “sue”
- “powered by vbulletin” + “can i sue”
Check out the opportunities that these kinds of queries yield:
These are exactly the types of questions that personal injury lawyers (your clients) are most qualified to answer!
There are a few questions that you should ask yourself when prospecting:
- Is the site an authority?
- Is the forum thread relevant to your client’s services?
- Is the thread still able to be commented on?
- Does the forum allow links in posts?
- Does the forum allow links in signatures?
Step 2: Organize the prospects
If you can answer “yes” to each of these questions, you should add the individual forum threads them to a master list to be addressed by the client.
Because I love you, I’ve created a template that you can use for this. Here it is.
Step 3: Create a profile on each forum
I suggest that you register with forums that you’ll be commenting on as soon as you find them. I’ve found that this appears more natural to moderators than submitting your comment immediately after registering.
Pro Tip 1: Don’t be lazy with filling out the forum profile. If you can, upload a head-shot of the client who you are registering as, and complete the fields in the profile to the best of our ability. Be authentic. Use the attorney’s real name (the attorney who will be answering the question). Also, keep in mind that you can actually drive referral traffic and leads from this campaign, and accordingly, you want to provide as much information about the attorney who answered the question as possible in their profile (background info, links to social profiles, etc.).
Pro Tip 2: I always create a LastPass account for every client. Before you create your profiles, login to the client’s LastPass account so that you have all your logins saved in one place.
Step 4: Ask the client to answer each question
Now for the hard part; you need to get your client to write-up answers. As marketers, we know that some clients are quick to provide us with what we need and others are not.
It is our job to eliminate barriers in order to make it as easy as possible for the client to complete the task we are requesting. Here are some items to consider when asking the client to provide these answers:
- Is the client old school? Do they like to write things down by hand and fax them over? If so, don’t fight that. Send them each question in a Word Doc or PDF that they can print out and write on.
- Is that client good about getting back to you on quick, small items, but much slower when you ask for something that requires a bit more time? If so, consider sending them just one question per day until you get all the answers you need.
- Does the client prefer phone calls? If so, schedule a call and ask the client each of the questions over the phone. Record the conversation and have her answers transcribed.
Step 5: Submit the responses and drop those links
Now that you have all the responses from the client, it’s time to login and post them. There is really nothing to explain here. Just log in to the account you created and post the response.
What may not be so intuitive is how to naturally drop a link to the client’s site in the response.
My favorite method is by dropping a link to a related article or piece of content at the end of the answer. Here is an example for one of my clients who specializes in reckless driving defense:
If this is not an option for your specific situation, another effective method is to create a forum signature, and drop the link there. Don’t get spammy here; resist the urge to point the link to some deep page that needs links. The link should be pointed at a page that will give the reader information about your client. I suggest the homepage or the attorney’s bio page.
Forum Link Building Case Study
Ok, so we’ve gone over how to execute a legitimate forum link building campaign for lawyers and law firms. Here is an example of how well this can work:
In a post-Penguin world, marketers are often hesitant to pursue link building activities that have been deemed “spammy”.
While it is true that using forums to build links is typically associated with old school SEO spam, when done tactfully, the strategy can produce an enormous ROI for attorneys, not only in terms of increased rankings, but also referral traffic which can convert directly into leads.