2 The Definitive Guide: Top Ten Rules of Legal Blogging If you ve downloaded this legal blogging guide then it likely means one of three things: (1) You already have a blog, but want to figure out how to maximize its effectiveness; or (2) You are just starting a blog for your law firm and want to make sure you do it right; or (3) You are still debating whether to start a blog at all. No matter where you fall, you ve come to the right place. Below we have summarized what we believe are the ten essential things that all law firm bloggers must know to get the most out of the tool. Of course before you should listen to anything we have to say, we should tell you where we are coming from. Unlike most legal marketing firms, we are comprised entirely of those who have experience actually practicing law. Each of our team members were lawyers before ever venturing onto the other side to began working in legal marketing. Don t get us wrong, we love the flashy marketing talk as much as the next marketing team. All of us are fully steeped in the marketing lingo expounding the latest and greatest ways to blow the competition out of the water and woo those in need of legal services.
3 But, at the end of the day, we reject the ways that many marketing teams try to oversell projects to law firms. This is especially true when it comes to online marketing. The combination of unique targeting and often confusing optimization tools are ripe for abuse. By making systems sound complex and promising the moon, many of the biggest legal marketing firms make vast sums of money selling marketing plans that produce little return. Solos, small, and mid-size firms are the ones who most often fall victim to these expensive marketing sales pitches. We know because when we were on the other side we fell for our share of unnecessary schemes as well. Blogging, however, is no scheme or unnecessary sales pitch item. In fact, if you do a quick survey of the cherished principles of virtually all legal marketing gurus, they each will have said a kind word or three about blogging. That is because it is the centerpiece of all online marketing plans. Blogs are where firma and individual attorneys share their expertise, connect with their particular community, and highlight their personal interests both within the legal world and outside it. Of course, the blog also acts as the centerpiece of website search engine optimization efforts. In other words, unlike so many online marketing gimmicks, blogs work. Yet, merely creating a blog is insufficient, because there is a world of difference between the best blogs and the worst. That is where we come in. Our entire team works full time figuring out the difference between high performing and low performing blogs. We then help do the heavy lifting to find, create, and edit the content to make the blogs work. Over the years we have gotten pretty good at honing in on best practices. We are quite proud that one of the blogs that we write was named the Top Tort Blog of 2011 according by
4 LexisNexis. While these contests are undoubtedly subjective, we appreciate the acknowledgement of quality from our fellow legal blog practitioners. The Ten Rules listed below are a quick cheat-sheet summarizing the principles that guide all of our work helping attorneys with their blogs. Abiding by these rules consistently will put you ahead of 95% of all firms in their blogging efforts. Rule #1 (aka the Golden Rule of Legal Blogging): The MORE content the BETTER. Most marketers will rephrase this rule using the catchy slogan Content is King. The principle is the same. Truly maximizing the effectiveness of the blog requires consistently adding new content. What do we mean by consistent content? Every day. If possible, several times a time. If you can t manage that, then every other day. If that is too much, then every third day. You get the point. There is simply no alternative to new, quality material being added to your blog frequently.
5 Rule #2: (aka the corollary to the Golden Rule of Legal Blogging): Do NOT give up after a month. Just as wisdom comes with age, blog effectiveness grows with time. Canceling a blogging effort a month (or three) is like giving up on a cross country trip the first time you have to stop to re-fuel the car. Blogging works by building up an audience over time, creating a stockpile of worthwhile links, and developing authority in a certain area. To be sure, there are many immediate benefits (like the improvement in overall firm perception), but the most worthwhile blog benefits simply take time to mature. If you want to harness the effectiveness of the blog, commit the time and well as the resources. There are no shortcuts. Taken in combination with the Rule #1, these first two principles are the core of the effort: Blog as MUCH as possible for as LONG as possible. Rule #3: Be Cognizant of Keyword Phrases No basic blogging guide would be complete without a mention of keyword phrases. At the end of the day using appropriate keywords to boost the search engine potential of the firm s main website is the single biggest benefit that a blog can provide for a law practice. The basic idea of blogs and keywords is simple:
6 1) Identify the phrases that a potential client would enter into a search engine to look for the services you provide. 2) Use those phrases in each blog post 3) Link those phrases to set point on the main firm website There are other keyword issues to consider, such as how many keyword phrases to put into each post, where to locate them, what pages to link them to, and similar details. Check out the forthcoming book The Definitive Guide to Legal Blogging for a more in-depth discussion of these issues. Or, you can send us a message and our blog writing team can help out. Rule #4: Remember to Geographically Focus The best blogs for marketing purposes are niche blogs. This is true no matter what the topic matter. Whether one is trying to sell soccer balls or legal services, it is important to remember who your clients are and what they care about. This doesn t mean every theoretical client, but the most likely clients. In practical terms, geography plays a huge role in narrowing the scope. All blog posts should be tailored to your geographic area both topically and keyword-wise. In other words, write on stories as they come up in
7 your specific part of the world and use keyword phrases in those posts that include a linked geographic term. Rule #5: Remember to Topically Focus This is a corollary to Rule #4. Not only should blog post topics and keywords be based on a single geographic region, entire blogs need to be tailored for a single practice area. In other words, it is very difficult see results when a blog include stories about every practice area imaginable, from auto accidents and medical malpractice to nursing home abuse and criminal defense. The narrower the blog subject matter, the better. Obviously many firms, particularly personal injury firms, take a wide range of cases. For that reason, it is always ideal for these firms to use several blogs each with a specific focus. It is not at all uncommon for a mid-size firm to have six to seven entirely different blogs, each focused exclusively on a particular practice area. The only way to truly become a smart niche blogger is by combining this rule (focus on one practice area) with Rule #4 (focus on one geographic area). Rule #6: The Length of the Post Effects SEO benefits Blogs helps in search engine rankings by creating links. The rankings themselves are generated based on secret algorithms that weigh the value of links based on the authority of the site and quality of the specific post or story in which the link is found. No one knows for sure exactly what is included in those algorithms. Only a select few Google
8 employees know specifically how the ranking are compiled. If some marketing guru tells you otherwise, they are misleading you. However, we all do know certain parts of the algorithm based on what the creators of the scheme have publically revealed. That is how we know that blog links work. However, the algorithm chiefs have explained that posts have to have quality content. To make matters a bit more complicated, the specific ranking system is frequently changed. In mid-2011, for example, Google released its Panda update. The update included a variety of changes to the way its system works. Part of the change involves how long each blog post needs to be for the links within that post to have maximum value. We have learned that somewhere north of 500 original words are needed in a post for its content to be deemed substantive, worthy of assigning more value to the links within the post for search engine optimization purposes. Therefore, your blog posts cannot be mere short snippets or copy and pasted quotations. It is perfectly fine to thrown in brief posts occasionally. But if you want to make an impact, you must ensure that the longer posts are added consistently. Rule #7: Personalize Most of the time each blog post will be based on material of interest in the world at large: a case that just settled in your area, a major Supreme Court ruling, a public tragedy in your area that has significant legal ramifications.
9 However, do not get bogged down by the idea that the blogs have to be based entirely on legal details or void of personalization. When we use the world personalize we mean two things: 1) Have articles up about more than just bland legal concepts. For example, if you have a brain injury blog include stories about the latest in brain injury detection or a new brain injury support group that opened in your area. The subject matter still needs to be tailored to one area (Rule #5), but that doesn t mean you can t be creative about it. 2) It s your blog, so don t be shy about mentioning your firm. There is always a fine line to walk between making each post purely informative and not too much like an advertisement. However, if someone lands on your blog you are not going to fool them into thinking that it is not run by a law firm. In fact, you don t want to fool them anyway. If you have had a case with similar facts to a story you are writing about, say so. If your firm is open to taking clients in a similar situation, say so. Walking the line between sounding sleazy and being honest about your practice takes some time, but you can find the middle ground. (NOTE: Do NOT have a canned summary of the firm attached to the end of every blog post. This always crosses the line into the too-like-an-advertisement zone.) Rule #8: Don t Judge Effectiveness on One Metric All marketing efforts should be analyzed to judge their effectiveness. Blogs are no different. However, far too many attorneys simplify the measurement process and make hasty judgment about whether a blogging effort is working or not. This is a common mistake that has
10 left many promising blogs dead before they ve been given a chance to mature. We go into this topic in much more detail in the longer book, The Definitive Guide to Legal Blogging. Suffice to say, do not pick one measurement tool blog page views, main firm page views, phone calls to the firm, etc. and base performance solely on that metric. Unlike a billboard on the highway or a paid Google Adwords search program, blogs provide benefits to the firm in a range of areas that are often tough to measure effectively. The blog should slowly increase page views, calls, and online leads. But both of those metrics take some time to materialize particularly for brand new blogs and those not updated daily. However, even new blogs can help the firm s online perception right away. That means that the blog may not have driven the potential client to your site, but it may have helped them actually take the time to send an online message or call. Rule #9: The Blog Should be Off-Site One of the most common mistakes that some firms make is attaching the blog as another page on their main firm website. While this does not make the blogging effort useless, it does miss out on the important benefits of the blog incoming links to the main firm website from an outside website. By attaching a blog within a firm website, all of the blog links are internal.
11 Any reputable legal marketing company that creates websites for attorneys should know that blogs are best when they are off-site. It is not much more work for your webmaster to make your blog off-site. If they tell you it is, they are misleading you. If you are in the early stages of creating a new blog, make sure that it is off-site. An off-site blog simply means that it has a separate unique online address. Sample on-site blog address: [Not ideal] Sample off-site blog address: [Ideal] Caveat: If you already have a blog that is on-site, we are not necessarily encouraging you to scrape it and start over with an off-site blog. For one thing, you don t want to waste the work already put into it. Also, there are perception benefits that you can get from having a long-running on-site blog. But if you have a clean slate, go off-site. Or consider adding a second blog focusing on a different practice area, and make that blog off-site. Rule#10: Promote the Blog Itself We admit that this one is the hardest to follow. That is why it is Rule #10. Promoting the blog involves a few things: 1) Making sure the posts are synced with other online efforts, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 2) Spreading the word with your current contacts about the blog: former clients, current clients, associates, supporters, etc. If you send out a monthly newsletter to contacts, highlight posts.
12 3) Engaging in online interaction with other bloggers. This is the most helpful, but also the most under-utilized form of blog promotion. Visiting other blogs that have some connection to yours, leaving comments, and writing posts based on the posts of others is great for building networks and getting positive links. However, just like writing content for the blog itself, there are no shortcuts here. It takes manpower to visit other sites, interact with others, and build these relationships. So there you have it. The 10 most important morsels of knowledge that you need to get your new blog off the ground or to fix an underperforming blog. There is nothing particularly complex or earthshattering about these rules. The hard part is not understanding these concepts but implementing them. Whether you decide to hire outside writers to help in the effort (obviously we think it is worth it) or go it on your own, if you stick to these principles you will make huge strides. We guarantee it. If all else fails just remember the first two rules. Blog as MUCH as possible for as LONG as possible. It s a marathon.
13 Our team of legal blog writers has helped fellow attorneys at law firms throughout the country of all sizes and all practice areas. We are available to take control of your blog writing entirely or supplement your current writing regime. If you already have a blog, chances are we work with many blogs hosted by the same company. If you don t yet have a blog, we can make one for you. Take a moment to check out our samples, compare our prices, and consider giving us a shot. About the Author Paul Richardson is the founder of Law Blog Writers, LLC. After working as both a lawyer and legal marketer, he realized that there was a need for online content production for lawyers by lawyers, and at rates that were feasible for small to mid-size practices. A graduate of the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, he has both Masters and Bachelors degrees in political science from the University of Illinois. He spent time at several small and mid-size Chicago firms specializing in criminal defense and personal injury. He is also the author of the forthcoming book, "The Definitive Guide to Legal Blogging." Paul has previously worked for Mayor Richard M. Daley in Chicago, wrote for the popular state political blog "The Capitol Fax," and was a public speaking instructor at the University of Illinois. He enjoys staying active outdoors with his golden retriever and is a national award-winning modern line dance instructor.
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