Blogging offers a cost-effective way lawyers can market their services while demonstrating thought-leadership and credibility. While it isn’t an instantaneous way to make the phone ring nor can it solve all your marketing woes, blogging can be a fundamental component of a sound law marketing strategy.
Blogs allow you to publish content quickly and easily, without learning HTML or other web programming languages. They are easy to set up, usually display new content in reverse chronological order, and give visitors ways to interact with your content, such as leaving content or subscribing to your RSS feed.
6 Ways a Blog Can Help Build Your Legal Practice
No marketing tactic is *THE* magic bullet that will flood your practice with more business than you can handle, but blogs offer a number of benefits over other types of marketing. Here are a few reasons to consider blogging.
- Demonstrate thought leadership – As a lawyer, you sell yourself and your ability to solve your clients’ problems. Because legal solutions tend to be complex and jargon-filled, most non-lawyers have no idea what you do, how you do it, what it involves, or how exactly you can help them. Sure, they might try to save face by nodding when you speak and telling you “Yes, of course, I understand,” but chances are, they don’t. By blogging, you can use case studies, independent research, industry insights, and other non-technical ways to explain your services in layman’s terms. The more clearly you can explain your prospects’ problems and potential solutions (including your own legal services), the more opportunities will come your way in terms of client work, referrals, speaking engagements and networking.
- Promote your services – Your blog is a fantastic resource to prove you can do what you say, offer personal insights, promote upcoming events, and build rapport with readers before they talk with you one-on-one.
- SEO – Most practice areas are extremely competitive so obtaining top Google ranks for high-traffic keywords is difficult. If you want to rank, you need quality content and plenty of inbound links. By posting good content regularly, you increase the likelihood that people will link to your site or share your content through social media channels.
- Client research – Blogging can help you gain critical insights into what your audience is most concerned about, wants more of, and is easily bored with. Knowing this information can help you craft better marketing materials and win new business more easily.
- Cheap marketing – Anyone can start a blog now, for free, on one of the many blogging platforms like TypePad, WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr. A domain name will set you back $10/year. That’s all you need to get started. Then, it’s a matter of how much time you are willing to devote to publishing content and promoting your blog. Few marketing tactics require as little upfront investment.
- Create a legacy – You might not have time to write a book, but by publishing a weekly article consistently over time, you will create an extensive body of work that prospects, clients, colleagues and students can research and cite. Perhaps this isn’t your main focus for writing, but it can be incredibly satisfying to look back over a year or two’s worth of blog posts and see how far you’ve come.
5 Questions To Consider Before You Start Your Law Firm Blog
1. Who Should Consider Blogging?
Blogging can help most lawyers build a unique selling proposition to stand out from the competition. That said, like any marketing tactic, how successful your blog is will depend on your target audience.
- Does your target audience read blogs? – If so, what types of content do they want to read? If your target market isn’t likely to read blogs (e.g. Fortune 100 CEOS, busy investment bankers, or high-level government officials) or they aren’t interested in what you write about (e.g. lengthy legalese, cut-and-paste state laws, or heavily-footnoted commentary on legal opinions), your blog probably won’t be as successful as you would like it to be.
- Think like a content publisher – Not all lawyers make great bloggers. Starting a blog means changing your perspective from a “lawyer who blogs” to a “content publisher.” Blogging means essentially that you are a publisher and must create a content strategy for your publication to see results. If you publish sporadically or infrequently, you will not reap many benefits.
- SEO benefits – If you hope to rank organically in search engines, blogging is essential to your website marketing strategy. Virtually all law practices are competitive on the web, and for every lawyer that isn’t blogging, a good number within that specialty are blogging and offering Google fresh, updated content regularly. You simply won’t be able to compete with these websites if you don’t blog. Google is always looking for the best, most informative websites, and they will rank those sites above websites that don’t update their content regularly.
Blogging is a time commitment so consider if you have a few hours each week to research topics, write an article, publish it, then promote it via social media.
2. What Are Your Law Firm’s Blogging Goals?
Before you start blogging, pick one main objective for your legal blog.What is its primary focus? That might be:
- to generate traffic to your website
- to build trust and credibility with prospects
- to create a content marketing strategy
- to get links back to your website
- to generate leads for your law practice
Some of these goals go hand in hand, but knowing which is your #1 focus will help you determine what you should write about, which keywords you should focus on, and how to create compelling content your target audience wants to read.
Blogging isn’t an instantaneous process and it often takes a considerable number of posts before you start to see any real benefit of blogging. Focus on milestones – your first 50 posts. Your first 100 posts. Then 200. Then 500. And so forth.
If you choose blogging as your primary internet marketing tactic, you have to be willing to commit to 90 days or 180 days of putting in the work and measuring results. Just like you can’t go to the gym once and expect to achieve your fitness goals, you can’t blog for a week or two and expect significant marketing results. But, by creating blogging goals and doing the work, you can measure your blog’s success over time.
3. How Should You Define Your Lawyer Blog’s Focus?
For your blog to successfully bring in leads, you have to set realistic goals.
- What keywords do you want to be found for?
- What topics or industry focus do you want to be known for?
- Who do you want to reach?
One of the biggest mistakes lawyers make when blogging is writing content for other lawyers rather than their ideal clients. Lawyers write in legalese, expounding upon court verdicts and complicated litigation, often with plenty of footnotes, so only other attorneys or law students can follow their logic. Your target audience doesn’t want to read pages upon pages of legal jargon. They want to know what the key problem or issue is and how it applies to them in clear, jargon-free terminology.
For your blog to succeed, ask yourself:
- What does my target audience really want to know?
- How can I structure my writing so they understand the key issues, obstacles and problems?
- What do I need to say so they see my writing not just as informative but as a way to solve the everyday problems they face?
4. Should Your Blog Be On A Separate Domain From Your Website?
The answer depends on how tech-savvy your firm is, but generally speaking, it’s best to have your blog as part of your website rather than on a separate domain. There are, of course, exceptions – such as if you are a partner in a firm that doesn’t understand the benefits of blogging and you see yourself eventually starting your own practice, you may want to set your blog apart from your firm’s branding strategy so you can take it with you if you choose to leave.
For most law firms, if you are considering a blog, it’s best to make it part of your current website. Why?
- Branding Hub – By making your blog part of your website, all of your content found in one place.
- Cost-effective and customizable – Open source software like WordPress allow you to set up a blog for free on your own server in a matter of a few minutes, and you can easily integrate the blog into your site’s navigation structure or add custom features without much hassle.
- SEO – Integrating the blog within your site has search engine optimization benefits because any articles you write will appear on your law firm’s domain. As you publish updated, unique content, Google will begin to see your site as an authority in the specialty practice areas you write about and will reward you with higher organic rankings.
That said, if you want a quick and easy blog without the hassle of dealing with technology, there are a number of free, easy to set up blog options you can choose. Sites like Blogger.com or WordPress.com allow you to launch a free blog within a few minutes. These sites provide the bare necessities to start publishing articles, videos, podcasts and photos almost instantly with no technical know-how necessary. They even allow you to register your own domain name for about $10, so if you ever decide to move your blog, you won’t loose the SEO benefits you’ve built.
The drawbacks to using free blogging software include:
- a less attractive URL – Though you can purchase a domain name, which I STRONGLY recommend you do if you go this route because it will allow you to move your content much easier if you need to in the future.
- Fewer options – Free blogging platforms offer you less options for design and functionality that you may need as your blog grows.
- Less SEO benefit – Because all your content is on a third-party website, your main law firm website will not gain as much SEO benefit than you would if you were publishing the content on your own website.
- Lack of control – It’s possible that a free blogging site may shut down the service at any point – or they may shut down your specific blog or account because they believe it violates their terms of service. In such cases, you may lose the content you’ve published.
5. Should We Allow Comments?
Every blogger will eventually have to decide whether to allow comments. Comments are great for client engagement and adding additional user-generated content to your blog – but they can be a time drain. Consider:
- Do your readers want to comment? – The vast majority of your blog’s readers will not leave comments. In fact, most comments you receive will be spam. Most blogging software like WordPress has fairly good anti-spam filters to prevent much of this from getting through, but it can still be a hassle to sift through false positives, depending on how much traffic your blog receives.
That said, consider your target audience. If you blog about a particular embarrassing topic (like DUI, bankruptcy, being sued, etc), chances are, your readers won’t want to comment about their problems or leave any public trace they are interested in those issues so even if you allow comments, you may not get many.
- Do you have time to moderate comments? – Of those people who do leave comments, only a fraction will add something useful or valuable to the initial discussion, so moderating the “me too” or “I agree” filler comments from the meatier ones can take time.
Moderation can be a tricky issue to navigate because you don’t want to necessarily squash dissenting comments but you do want to reserve the right to eliminate trolling or off-topic or useless comments from your discussion.
As an alternative to comments, you can use social media to engage with your audience. For instance, anyone who wants to comment can leave one via your Twitter, Facebook or Google+ accounts, which can be better a better alternative for filtering out lengthy diatribes or preventing spam.
How to Create A Blogging Strategy for Your Law Firm
If you decide blogging is right for your law firm, the next step is to take a few minutes to plan out your blogging strategy. This doesn’t have to be elaborate, but starting with a game plan will help keep you focused after the initial thrill of publishing your first few articles wears off. Here’s a five-step strategy to get you started.
Step #1: Decide Who Will Blog – If you have several lawyers in your firm, decide who will blog. Which attorneys can best “speak the language” of your ideal prospects? Who is good at clearly explaining complex issues and is passionate about voicing their opinions and concerns?
Step #2: Research the Market – Who else is publishing blogs in your niche area? (Use sites like Technorati and Google Blogsearch to search for related blogs.) What do they write about? How many subscribers do they have (many display RSS statistics, Facebook fans, or Twitter followers)? How many comments do posts receive? Subscribe to their feeds and read their content for the next few weeks.
Step #3: Choose your Blogging Platform – Setting up a blog is easy with sites like WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, and Tumblr, even if you aren’t technically-savvy. You can set up most accounts in less than 3 minutes, and they will give you the option to register a domain name for about $10. I recommend you do it, so if down the road you decide to switch platforms, transferring your content is much easier.
Step #4: Brainstorm Initial Blog Content – Blogging is less intimidating when you know what to write about, so brainstorm your first 20 blog posts. Set a timer for 20 minutes and write down everything you could write about. If you’re stuck for content, check out book topics n Amazon.com, Google forums about your practice area, do some keyword research, or read through questions people ask on Yahoo Answers.
Step #5: Create a Publication Schedule – You’ve set up your blogging platform and brainstormed your initial content. Now it’s time to commit. Decide how often you will publish (ideally at least once a week) and write your first blog post.
This doesn’t have to be time-consuming – maybe 2-3 hours to set up a blog, do some initial research and brainstorming, and writing your first article. You can accomplish that in an afternoon. Start small and concentrate on taking one step forward (e.g. publishing your first article) rather than overwhelming yourself with technical specs, writing perfection or blog design options.
4 Tips for Getting More Traffic to Your Legal Blog
Ideally, you will want to have at least 5-10 good posts before you start heavily promoting your blog. The more great content you have, the more visitors will be likely to stick around to see what else you have to say. Here are a few ways to build your traffic quickly.
- Comment on high-traffic blogs, forums and Q&A sites in your niche. Where do your prospects already hang out? Once you know, join the conversation.
- Use social media – Search Twitter and Facebook for people talking about your legal practice. Join groups on Facebook or join in the Twitter conversation. Friend and follow people who might be good referral sources, authority figures or influencers and network with them.
- SEO – Search engine optimization is a long-term strategy that will not net you #1 rankings overnight. Sorry – it doesn’t work like that. However, that doesn’t mean you should neglect Google. For each of your blog posts, do a few minutes of research with the Google Keyword Research tool to find good keywords and use them in your post’s title (make sure your blog posts still sound interesting to readers – high rankings are meaningless if no one clicks on your link.)
- Respond and engage – Whenever someone leaves a comment, links to your site, or mentions you through social media, take a few minutes to respond. It only takes a few minutes per day to keep up, and it builds a wealth of social capital along with a “personal” touch.
It takes time to write great posts, build relationships with authority bloggers, and create an active readership, but if you are persistent, your results will pay off in spades.