SEO agencies and personal injury lawyers in California who pay attention to who is linking to them in Google Search Console have been discovering a huge surge in backlinks recently beginning in 2017. I believe most of this started around March and surged in June and July. As of August 7, 2017, I’m not sure if it is letting up or not.
The new websites may have been linking to other legitimate attorneys and law firms as a bizarre and useless ranking tactic or accidentally. The backlinks were placed within the site’s code and invisible to human visitors.
Who is doing this?
The new websites are privately registered and the hosting is hidden behind Cloudflare’s CDN. Since there is no actual plagiarism taking place at the moment it appears a cease and desist is not currently an option. There may be other ways to get to the bottom of who owns these sites, such as calling the phone # and posing as an injured client, although I have not explored all of these options. Maybe the Bar dislikes this form of advertising as well. I’m not sure.
This is what one of the landing pages looks like on these websites. Some of the sites consists of thousands of landing pages.
Will these links hurt me?
A law firm I work with contacted me asking if these links would hurt them or negatively impact their SEO. While it is possible an algorithm could lower a site in organic search rankings due to a tremendous number of low value links, I do not currently believe there is much to worry about. This is the Internet, and these kinds of things happen all the time.
A few points to consider:
- As of August, many of the sites in this network have pulled the links from the code (removing them).
- At this point (post Penguin 4.0), Google usually simply ignores crappy backlinks, making “toxic links” much less of a threat than they used to be. Honestly, most search engines have no choice at this point as there is so much scraping and stolen content on the web.
- A manual action would be close to impossible as any human reviewer would discover the spam.
- If you get penalized, so would hundreds of other law firms and it would be unprecedented.
At this point, I would not worry about it at all. Many of the sites I manage have had similar things happen over the years. I would not worry about a disavow file, either.
Here is a partial list of the domains. I quickly slapped this together, so there could be duplicates. If you feel like adding to it or cleaning it up just let me know! 😉
Have you seen these sites linking to you?
If you are getting linked to from these domains I’ve likely already seen your URL. If you have additional thoughts please feel free to express them below or shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to respond.