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In Search of the Missing Links: How 30,000 links were lost then found.

In Search of the Missing Links: How 30,000 links were lost then found.

When a client with a robust link portfolio and growing rankings informed me that their links had disappeared, I almost dismissed it as another Google Search Console error.

The law firm's link portfolio has more than 30,000 links from about 400 domain names. Google Search Console generally reports about 350 of those linking domains.

They can also expect about 1,000 clicks each month to be reported in Search Console. You can understand why they were concerned when they logged in and saw that their traffic had plummeted.

chart showing drop in search traffic

When looking at their links, they saw just 105 links from 13 domains.

The Investigation

The first step when investigating a Google Search Console report is to check your analytics data. This will always be your prevailing report. In this case, we found that traffic was pretty much in line with the prior month.

The analytics review offered some comfort but we still had a big hole in their link portfolio.

Our next step was to identify the date when Google stopped reporting the links. Fortunately, we archive such data in the CLM Lounge so we were able to see their link portfolio from prior months.

A significant link drop happened between April and May. On May 11th, we see the start of their free-fall in Search Console's Search Analytics. We checked their account and saw that on May 1st, their law firm's website was converted to full SSL — that is, all of their pages load through “https.” Mystery solved.

Three is a crowd

Google Search Console looks at different variations of a domain as different sites. For example these are three separate sites:

  • https://www.customlegalmarketing.com
  • https://www.customlegalmarketing.com
  • https://www.customlegalmarketing.com

Generally, Google Search Console reports similar data for websites with and without “www.” But that's not the case with secured URLs. Once we gave our client access to their “https” version, they could see all of their links and more accurate search analytics. What Google was reporting was a drop in traffic and links for the unsecure URL. After the site was converted to full SSL, all of those links redirected to “https” and the pages that got displayed in search results were all pages that started with “https” and therefore they had little to report on the unsecured URL.

Link portfolio after adding https URL to Search Console

Google sees fully secured URLs as a quality indicator, which is why Custom Legal Marketing is converting their managed websites to full SSL sites. If you have recently done this and have seen your Search Console data drop, simply add the https version of your site and within a few days, you should see your missing links.

Jason Bland, co-founder of Custom Legal Marketing
Jason Bland is a Co-Founder of Custom Legal Marketing. He focuses on strategies for law firms in highly competitive markets. He's a contributor on Forbes.com, is a member of the Forbes Agency Council, Young Entrepreneurs Council, and has been quoted in Inc. Magazine, Business Journals, Above the Law, and many other publications.