Last time, I discussed how to optimize your firm’s SEO practices. As a law firm, the usual standards for blogging don’t apply to you. Of course, interesting content and catchy imagery are still appreciated and a necessity, but there’s more to blog about than the everyday hustle and bustle of legal life. I have talked about blogs a few times, both in relation to online marketing and in relation to content strategies, but what I want to talk about today is how you can make your blog a living part of your practice.
Making A Mark On Your Niche
A blog is a tool but it is also a means of communicating, not only with your clients, but also with your community and the other legal minds in your field of law. Now, if you have been reading along, you will remember my article from the 21st, titled, “Building Your Brand By Becoming An Authority.”This was all about how becoming an authority in your field can increase your chances of being recognized as a firm and as an individual. Well, you can begin building an authority in your blog. Shout Me Loud says:
Every day thousands of Blogs and micro blogs are added and almost 90% of them you will never hear. Reason being, the way they start, it’s the same way they extinguish. Even Google has understood the importance of a Blog Credibility and they started pushing the credible blogs in search engine ranking.
Rather than simply using your blog to add a higher word count to your website and be noticed by Google and other search engines for new and relevant content, try to make that content count toward your firm’s credibility in terms of writing something that is worth publishing in a legal magazine or book.
Use The Authority Of Others
Still in keeping with the theme of authority, creating a blog that contributes to the life of your business means not only proving that you know what you are talking about, but that you are interacting and taking the advice of others who are also authorities in your field of law. In other words, by linking yourself to “celebrities” in the field of law, you can endorse your firm, the same way that a cereal brand makes itself more appealing by putting a professional athlete in the box. Mashable.com states:
Blogging is all about networking, not marketing. Be it interviews, quoting the work of others or even comments, use the blog as a way to introduce yourself to new people.
It is important to make sure that this information being shared is still genuine and credible. It is nice to have a well-known figure to reinforce your own brand, but it will count for very little if the content being shared doesn’t keep with the theme of your business and the rest of your blog. Remember, we aren’t trying to market; we are trying to network.
There are a number of blog tips to be found online and through marketing firms, but be sure that the tips you take are going to propel you forward in terms of what benefits your clients, not just your financial ledger. Blog content doesn’t need to be highly intellectual, but it does have to reflect subjects that new and current clients might be looking to learn more about. Use your best judgment when choosing stories to publish, quotes to include, and even photos and videos you post.
Nothing goes unnoticed on the internet when it comes to building a blog, even those early updates which you are sure nobody took the time to read. If a client should go back and check on earlier subjects, you could get caught with some spam in your history that could create negative associations for your firm.
Recently, we discussed the importance of preparing for the next trend in search engine optimization. We cannot sit back and expect that everything will go smoothly even if we’ve covered all of the basics. But it always helps to go back to the basics from time to time to make sure that everything is on the right track.
While anyone who has been concentrating their efforts on online marketing understands that without good content, you’re pretty much ‘dead in the water,’ there is much more involved in moving up the search engine rankings than having good content. Your goal may be to bring in more organic traffic, but to do that there is a lot of background work that must be done. According to SearchEngineWatch.com,
Creating a great piece of content that will perform well in search engines can be a time-consuming task. To ensure that your content will drive organic search traffic to your website, you must optimize it from start to finish, inside and out.
This fact may be of major concern to many lawyers who may not have the expertise to handle content marketing well, but there is a way to simplify the process. By using several tools found online, even a novice at content marketing can find success.
How to Come Up With Content Ideas
Some may not be intuitive enough to come up with useful ideas for content on their own. Because of that, more than likely when it comes to creating content, they’ll delegate that responsibility to someone else, usually a marketing team or professional on their staff. While these professionals certainly have something to contribute to the task, there are many things that a lawyer can do to create valuable content without having to go outside of his comfort zone.
One way to do this is by establishing yourself as an expert in your field, not your company. By using this information to demonstrate your unique blend of knowledge and expertise you can make sure that your firm gets the kind of attention it needs. As they explain at Slaw.com,
Too much of marketing is still too promotional and too focused on the firm, rather than on the audience the firm is trying to reach with its marketing. The lawyers in your firm are the subject matter experts. The lawyers are the ones involved with clients daily; answering their questions, solving their problems and advocating for their interests.
When you are creating content for your blog or site, rather than hiring someone to talk about you and your talents, instead you can share your knowledge with the consumer directly, creating a bond that will build up their trust in you and your talents.
Consider the Value
The secret to success in boosting your online rankings is to help the consumer to see the value in your services. Unlike retail businesses online where they have a product to promote, lawyers have to promote their thinking ability and expertise. These are not always easy to show a potential client without the use of content.
The fact is that many lawyers concentrate their efforts on social media. This can be a very effective approach to bringing traffic to your site. However, it should not stop there. As they explain at Good2BSocial.com,
Law firms need to understand that social networks are content distribution channels where you can begin to form relationships and influence. However, if your firm is looking to develop trust, then the firm’s website and micro sites are the critical place to focus your efforts.
Marketing is not the same as advertising. In order for you to be successful at online marketing, you have to think beyond the basics. There are countless tools, strategies, and techniques you can use to draw traffic to yourself. However, by learning how to effectively implement your content, you’ll be adding another level to how well you’ll do in your business rankings.
Previously, I provided more tips on SEO. Meanwhile, as a lawyer, it’s important to show authority in your field of law, and although I have talked about blogging in the past as a general subject, I really want to get into how blogging can do more than compliment your website. It can also build authority for your firm. Gaining credit where credit is due can be difficult through word of mouth alone, but by implementing a few tips and tricks you can turn your blog into the perfect brand builder and put your firm on the map locally and within your legal niche.
If you aren’t already a well-recognized lawyer in your industry, whether you’re new to the field, or simply haven’t had the time to get online and start promoting, starting with a strong foundation is the best way to begin. Your clients need to find you interesting, but also want to know that you are the best at what you do, which is why your prices are worth the extra pennies.
Celebrity Guest Bloggers Build Confidence
This isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you have the connections, it might not be a bad idea to have a guest blogger type up something for your blog. The article doesn’t even need to be brand new, so long as the author has given you permission, and will promote the article through their own signature and additional tidbits of information.
Getting a celebrity involved, even if it is only a celebrity in the world of law can give your blog an air of authority, because somebody whom potential clients have heard of before is promoting your firm. You may need to offer your own promotion in response by linking the guest blogger’s website or firm in the process, but as long as it isn’t direct local competition, this shouldn’t be a problem as far as business is concerned.
Get Your Press Involved
When you write a press release, or have any kind of publication delivered to the public, it gives you the perfect opportunity to pad your blog with relevant information that is honest, trustworthy, and interesting without the need for typing up a new blog on your own. It also helps promote the firm by linking back to an original press release which may promote authority of your firm as well. Legal Marketing Review says:
When you do a press release for your law firm you can make a shorter version of the release as a blog post. That way after the search engines dropped the post in terms of visibility the blog will provide the Evergreen version.
By keeping the release fresh, rather than posting it word for word, you can encourage new readers who may have already seen the release but are interested in additional information on the publication and its contents.
Make Your Blog Personal
Authority usually means keeping things professional, but it can also mean connecting with your client base, which is why I suggest mixing it up a little bit by adding personal opinions and updates as well as business content. Business Of Law Blog reports:
Should your website strictly contain legal-oriented content? No, said the panel. While this idea may surprise some attorneys, adding personal touches to a website such as including a personal hobby or family connection can help prospective clients get a flavor for you as an individual and broaden your firm’s appeal.
If you post one blog update a week, make one out of each month a personal interest piece on the members of the firm, extracurricular activities enjoyed by the firm, or content regarding the community and how the firm has helped further the local economy.
Finally, being an authority in your field of law means being able to teach clients something new that competitor firms may not be talking much about. To do this, a little research may be necessary, but making an update regarding specifics of your niche, question and answer posts, and other content that can prove your ability to not only practice but teach your field of law can make you seem like an expert in your industry.
Previously, I have discussed online marketing strategies for small to medium-sized firms, but today I would like to focus on the effective use of blogging. Blogging has become an important part of getting news out, promoting business, and including local communities in company affairs. For a law firm, it is a way to be more human and show potential clients that you care about more than what is in their wallets. In order to blog like you care, you have to be professional about it, and this can take some practice.
Outside of the uniqueness of the content being posted, which I have mentioned before as incredibly important, there are other factors to take into consideration. A blog can certainly be helpful in terms of search engine optimization and content control, but it is also helpful for bringing in clients, which means that you want to write for them, not the crawlers and Google bots that will be scanning your pages for keywords, etc.
Take Cues From Your Audience
I have offered a tip in the past that law firms should ask for blog content from staff to keep things fresh and unique week after week, but another great way to make sure your posts are not only original but useful is to take your cues from readers. Those who check your blog regularly are more likely to know what they want to see than you or your staff or even a professional blog manager, so why not get their opinions before posting anything new? BufferApp.com suggests:
A great technique for doing this is to simply ask your readers first on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn with an engaging quote. If people respond well to it, then this is probably a great topic to write about. An example for this comes from Andrew Chen who famously “tests” his blogpost ideas on Twitter first.
If you’re not feeling confident posting questions like this through your social media you can use your blog to perpetuate new content. You can ask for readers to specify what they would like to know next, or create a local contest for blog titles that matter to your community. As long as they rest within your niche and industry of law, you will be in the clear when it comes to content quality, making you a good candidate for better Google rankings, and higher traffic from consumers.
Use SEO to Your Advantage
Blogging is a great way to amp up the quality of writing on your site, and it also adds to quantity. One thing that Google looks for when it comes time to rank a website is how much content they have available to internet users. If your site is sparse, it won’t matter how high the quality of that content is because Google won’t have enough to rank you on. One way to bulk up is to create lengthy blog posts. BloggingTips.com suggests:
A 1500 words article easily outranks the 500 words article in search engine results. Why? Search engines give top priority to the sites that have authority content.
Writing 1500 to 2000 words a week might seem a little crazy, especially when you have a law firm to operate and clients to focus on. For this reason, it might be more realistic to post 500 word updates once a week with one 1500 to 2000 word update once a month. Mix it up and pop in a few 750 word articles to keep things fresh. If you write in moderation, you can give yourself time to build up to a longer post so that it is clear, confident, and fresh.
Keep It Fresh
Speaking of keeping it fresh, your content must be up-to-date, which can be difficult if you’ve been writing a blog over a series of years rather than months. When Google ranks you they are looking for content that is relevant, which means that posting about something that was only important around the holidays or something that was crucial in 2013, but is no longer available now is pointless. If you don’t want to have to go back and edit your work later so that everything is fresh, try to keep content timeless as it is being posted. Jeff Goins of GoinsWriter.com says:
Write timeless content. On the web, old content is perceived as irrelevant. Don’t write a newspaper; create a resource. (This is, incidentally, why I intentionally don’t put dates on my posts.)
This is not only important for SEO purposes, but also for your potential clients who might be skimming your site looking for information on a particular subject. If they finally find what they’re looking for and the process you’ve described is now outdated or was specific to a certain year, they aren’t going to take very much from that article, and it will impact how they view you as an authority in your field.
Write What Feels Good
Finally, you must write for yourself as well as your audience. This is something that I haven’t really touched on before, but it is actually common sense. When you don’t want to do something it shows on your face, in the words that you choose, and in your body language. The same can be said of the way that you write about a certain subject. To avoid looking bored or unfamiliar with subject matter, only write about topics that you are not only knowledgeable in, but that are also of interest to you. CopyBlogger.com explains:
A salesman wonders how to get his next sale. A mentor cares about his students. He wants to help them get ahead and live a more fulfilled life. Your reader will immediately notice whether you’re an eager salesman or a mentor-style blogger. Take the mentor’s role on your blog and you’ll win more business.
If you are interested in the process you’re writing about, your words will reflect this and readers will want to know more about it. Make things exciting, interesting, and make yourself seem approachable as the author. You want potential clients to call in asking about an article you have published on your blog because it could help their case, and because it made you stand out to them as a lawyer in your field.
I have talked about blogging in the past as a tool that all law firms should take advantage of and last Friday, I shifted the topic a bit by discussing how you can make your firm paperless by using Evernote, but one thing that I haven’t touched on yet is how easy it is to fall victim to some pretty significant mistakes. The way that you write your blog, post each update, and even the additional content that you include, can speak volumes to your potential clients about how you view them. Are you sending information out that will go right over their heads without a second thought for their level of education? Are you including high resolution graphics that might not load on their mobile devices? These are all things that you need to take into consideration when you build and manage your blog.
It isn’t always the content that can affect your clientele when it comes to blogging; sometimes frequency or infrequency can also be a problem. Although I don’t have any one particular tip that can keep you on track in terms of your blogging skills, there are a few things I tell my clients that help lead them in the right direction when it comes to interacting online.
Not Keeping It Simple
Of course, you want your clients to know that you are smart, qualified, and ready to win their case or fight for their rights, but in order to send this message to them they must be able to understand you. Legal jargon has a place but your blog is not this place. Reputation Ink says:
For most of you, your audience is clients and potential clients. No matter how sophisticated you think your clients are, if they’re not attorneys they aren’t going to understand legalese. In fact, even if they are attorneys, if they don’t practice in your area they likely still won’t understand you.
This doesn’t mean that you have to dumb it down or make yourself sound less educated, it simply means that the terminology that you used will either have to be explained or simplified to plain old English. You can still tell potential clients what you can do for them, what field you specialize in, and why they should use your services in comparison to your competition; you just don’t need to reference all of those lovely document types, legal terms, or law related phrases to do so.
Footnotes Are Not For Blogs
Similarly, law school sets you up to write some of the very best and brightest law documents that your professors ever saw. Unfortunately, your clients aren’t likely to do a background check on where your information came from or whether or not you have set a precedent for a point that you made. Footnotes need to be left out of your blog, not only because readers may not understand or care what they are for, but because they litter the page and can make the read seem choppy and unorganized. Kristi Dosh at LinkedIn writes:
Save footnotes for legal journal articles. I know – I went to law school too – it’s second nature to footnote every fact. However, footnotes have no place in blogs. Instead, the best practice for blogging is to use hyperlinks within your blog to credit other sources.
A link for any quote, image, or other information or data that you use from another source is usually just fine by blog standards. If you gather facts from a previous case, you can set a link and explain to readers that this is where you have seen this type of action take place before, rather than breaking it down into legal jargon and quoting a case.
Forgetting To Post
One of the top sins of blogging, not just for law firms, but for any business or individual is forgetting to update. When you make a blog you are also making a commitment to stay on top of the materials that you are posting. Whether you have readers popping in every single week to check up on what’s new, or the traffic is sporadic every day, it’s still important to set a timeline by which you will post and stick to it. Law Marketing supplies:
You do not need to post new content on your law firm blog every single day. Once a week is great. Twice a week is even better. What you want to avoid is blogging when you ‘have time’ for it.
One thing that I often suggest to my clients in terms of their blog skills is to make a list of possible subjects that you want to touch on throughout the month. If you post once a week, this means a list of four, and break these down into points. This way when the time comes to post you can still use up-to-date information, but you will have an outline of what you are writing about. This can make the process easier, and save you time in the long run.
Not Giving Clients Easy Access
Finally, this is a subject that I have touched on a few times before in regards to online marketing, your website, and your blog. If your clients can’t view the materials that you post then there is almost no point in having posted it in the first place. My Case reports:
Most people today look at websites on their mobile devices. Without the technology to engage this group, small law firms are missing out on key clients.
Most blog platforms are user-friendly, so your work is half done for you; all you need to do is be certain that all of the content that you post can be viewed on most iOS and Android systems. Keep images small, video files short or hidden behind tags, and don’t use too much coding in your blog that might go amiss on a smart phone or tablet. Most mobile tools can handle just about anything that you throw at them these days, but if would be awful to lose a potential client because you weren’t aware of this.
In my previous post, I talked about link building as part of the SEO strategy of a law firm, and offered some helpful tips to make this happen. Now, I’m going to touch base on something that many of my clients overlook as a serious method of increasing their clientele; a well-written blog can actually be a big motivator for website traffic and this is what will attract new consumers to your firm. Of course, not all of your readers will be converts, but if you can interest even a few people to read your firm updates, and you have something worthwhile to say, it can make a big impact on who those readers will hire when they need a lawyer in their area.
Staying Local and Narrow
Of course, every law firm wants to grow to their maximum potential and be considered the best firm in the state, or maybe even the country, but before you can reach these heights you have to take each step on the ladder rungs on the way up. The first step in terms of setting up a successful legal blog is to focus on your niche market, and this is going to be local clients who are looking for legal aid in your field of expertise. If you specialize in family law then make sure that your writing reflects not only this area of law, but also the particulars that you focus on. Go Black Fin explains:
For example, instead of writing a blog about the grounds for divorce in your state, write about how a person who is suddenly unemployed might be able to get a judge to modify a child support order. Chances are your blog will attract the attention of people in need of your services to help them to modify a support order.
Sure, staying narrow in your subject matter might mean that you’re pulling in fewer potential consumers at first, but if these potential consumers turn into clients then you’ve been successful in your endeavor.
Make Yourself Into an Expert
Focusing on a niche area of law not only brings in more serious clientele who actually require your expertise, but it also helps to make a firm name for your brand. Writing about one area of law with confidence and insight can make your firm’s name synonymous with being an expert in that particular field. Try to keep your posts regulated to a particular day each week so that the blog has a more professional feel to it. Make sure that the content you write about is always relevant to your city, field of practice, and particular case types that you have covered before and are confident in pursuing again. If there are many different practices of law in your firm, you must be careful in labeling so that you don’t confuse potential clients.
Use Your Blog to Your Advantage
Marketing can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but let’s face it a law firm is in need of a little advertising because word of mouth isn’t always going to cut it. This is where I think a blog makes an excellent tool because not only is it a form of marketing, but it’s a measurable form of marketing, which means you get feedback from these efforts that tell you how many people have viewed, rated or commented on your posts. Larry Bodine says:
What I would suggest you do is pursue the techniques that you can measure. That would include blogs. You can publish up a blog and see how many people visited. On a blog, you can also see how many people commented.
Thus, blogging is one tool that every law firm can reap benefits from. Even if you don’t find a huge response from readers, the fact that you have a blog on your website shows clients that you are up-to-date and advancing with the times. Nobody wants a lawyer who seems unknowledgeable or out of touch with the times.
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