Listen as we speak with John McDougall, McDougall Interactive, on authority marketing and thought leadership for law firms.
Nicole Minnis: Hi everyone. I’m Nicole Minnis with the National Law Review. I’m here today with John McDougall, the President of McDougall Interactive and author of legalmarketingreview.com. Today, we’re going to be talking about authority marketing and thought leadership for law firms.
John McDougall: Welcome. Thanks for having me.
Nicole: Thank you. Do you want to go ahead and get started with a little bit of background about McDougall Interactive and what your team is doing?
John: McDougall Interactive is in Danvers, Massachusetts. I started in ’95 at my father’s ad agency doing Internet Marketing. I was actually a media planner before that in ’94 at the agency.
Ever since ’95, I’ve been doing all digital marketing, and now we work with a lot of law firms in different areas, both business to consumer and B2B.
Nicole: It sounds like you have a lot of wonderful expertise that you can draw from while we’re talking today, so I’m looking forward to getting a little bit of insight myself.
John, tell me, what is authority marketing and why is it important to law firms?
John: Authority marketing isn’t a really popular term yet and we’re trying to change that, because thought leadership is quite well known and people, in particular law firms, like to build up their reputation as leaders in certain practice areas by blogging on certain topics.
Authority marketing is taking that idea of building up your thought leadership in a systematic way, so that you can eventually turn your blog and your content into ebooks that become a printed book. Then as an author you get more media engagements, more speaking engagements. It all ties together in a way that also Google will appreciate.
That’s one of the real reasons, as an SEO company, again back from ’95, when we were saying “content is king.” Even in ’95, we used to say that.
We’ve been trying for all these years to get our customers really on board with building up content. It’s often quite hard to do that. What we realized is sometimes people are thought leaders and experts but they don’t have time to write.
Sometimes we do interviews to get their content out there, but the idea is that Google is going to pick up on that. The more you blog and have good content, your SEO rankings will go significantly up.
Authority marketing has good things about just your offline marketing and thought leadership, but it’s really good for Google Organic SEO.
Nicole: Do you recommend that lawyers use more news story content type things, or would they write on evergreen topics, like the estate planning of a $20 million estate? Do you think it’s more of a mix, or that they should focus on one or the other?
John: It’s probably a mix, but what we have seen when people do just news content is that it’s a little maybe boring or flat. Because if you’re just regurgitating news that other people are all talking about, there is only so much thought leadership in that.
Certainly, if there is a breaking issue, like for myself when Google Penguin happens, and different Google updates, I need to be leading the charge and blogging about those topics as they’re happening, to be a thought leader.
It’s not that news is a bad thing, but we have seen some people so overly focused on just news content that it falls short of answering the customer’s questions. So that evergreen content that you talk about and the struggles that people have with various issues — we can find those struggles by looking at the Google keyword tool, and looking at the monthly search volume of the way people are searching.
We can use social media listening tools to figure in your topically related communities what are people concerned with, what are they sharing on LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities. If you can take that content, and as you said, make more evergreen content that’s going to be heavily searched on, then it’s going to prove the test of time and keep ranking.
Google is going to rank that a little better in a long term trajectory, because the news isn’t just over with, this is content that Google will keep bringing back into the search engines, so that keeps a steady stream of visitors to your site year round, as opposed to just news content.
So a bit of a mix is good, but we’re a bit more fans of the evergreen and thought leader content.
Nicole: That makes sense, and just to try to get in front of the readers, with the news worthy things, but also searching for the useful content is what people are normally doing.
Is there a magic number for how often you compile blog posts to create an ebook? Is there a magic number, or a magic date or time? Do you do it four times a year? Or, is there not really a formula for what works for compiling everything?
John: In terms of content volume, once a week is sort of industry standard, that if you’re not blogging once a week, it’s a little bit weak. It really goes up from there to — it really depends on the organization. Mashable is doing maybe hundreds a day of blog posts, or certainly a hundred ish. [laughs] I don’t know the exact number, but I was just talking with one of my guys here who was quoting their editorial calendar and how much they’re producing.
The sites that have the most traffic on the Internet tend to be the sites that have the most content. There is not an exact correlation, because of content quality. If you pumped out 10,000 articles a year, and your quality was crap, then a site with 300 articles might outrank you, because Google is aware of the quality.
Again, I think a blog post a week is a good healthy start. Two, three a week is a little more serious. A blog a day, you’re going to start to get more significant SEO traffic.
Then you can turn that content — maybe at least a couple of times a year, if you have an ebook — that’s great. Hub Spot says that if you have 30 ebooks or more, you’ll have — I forget, I think it’s a 7x increase in leads.
It does depend on your industry, et cetera, but a couple of ebooks a year at least to have a top of the funnel call-to-action. A blog post a week at minimum. Maybe a video a month.
Then, certain times of day — that’s all going to be dependent on your audience. If you’re targeting kids that get home from school at two or three in the afternoon, then you might want to publish just before that, that type of thing, versus a different industry that’s targeting night owls. The time of day is probably depending on your actual audience.
Nicole: We’re doing this right now, but tell me, John, how can lawyers use podcasting to generate more leads and improve their SEO?
John: One of the keys to SEO as we’ve discussed is having more content, but a lot of people aren’t naturally writers. Maybe it’s somewhere between 10 percent of the population.
I was actually at the HubSpot Inbound conference this fall. They had the stats on that. I don’t remember exactly what they were, but basically not everyone is a writer. That’s why blogs often fail, because people hear someone like myself say, “Hey, you’ve got to blog every week.”
The people on the staff say, “Geez, we don’t really have any writers here.” But you think they would be able to publish content because they’re thought leaders. What we realized is there are a lot of experts at law firms that might not be comfortable writing, but they love to talk. Or certainly a fair amount of attorneys like to chat, and they’re really engaging and full of ideas and energy.
We like to bottle that up by interviewing them. Because you ask them to write, they’re busy, and they’re concerned potentially with the billable hour, of course. We all have to make money.
It’s so easy to get a great piece of content in even 15 minutes by asking three questions. Every three questions become about 1,500 to 1,800 words. So every question may be around 500 words if you answer fairly lengthily. So you’re able to, in a 15 minute conversation, get a very long blog post. The average blog post is maybe 500 to 700 words or so.
When people are thinking to write one, that’s what they shoot for. But you can get, again, 1,500 to 1,800 words in 15 minutes. That’s a lot of content. Now what you’re going to do is you’re going to transcribe the text. After this podcast is over, we use CastingWords in New York and some other places. You pay $1 to $1.50 a minute.
You put that text up on the blog post under — we use sound cloud, but that’s just one player. You put the audio file that you can click and listen to the podcast in the blog post itself, then under it, you put the transcribed text. Because you’re picking keywords as the topics before you write the titles of the post and pick the interview questions, it’s a very search-engine-friendly strategy.
You just title the name of the post in WordPress, or whatever you’re using, and that becomes the URL, then you can put that search-engine-keyword-friendly title in the heading, in the title tag. Google is going to read all that nice rich text of Q&A content, and it’s going to pop up in the search engines.
Now, you wouldn’t want to only use podcasting for your blog necessarily. We do that with a lot of our customers. We also like them to either pay us to write or for them to write a little bit of regular prose as well, but it’s an awesome way to get regular, consistent content.
Again, say once a week, if you do an hour of podcasting a month in four 15 minute interviews with three questions each, you’re going to have an easily-generated one blog post a week.
Nicole: How about making the leap to video? How important is a video strategy for SEO?
John: YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. There was a guy from — it was Distilled, recently that said, “If you don’t have a video and YouTube strategy in 2014, you’re just simply not doing SEO.” [laughs] It’s that important.
Google, they own YouTube. Again, it’s the second largest search engine in the world above Bing, Yahoo, et cetera. Yet, you still have to pick keywords for your YouTube videos.
We do a similar routine with the podcasting where we ask our attorneys to answer basically one question. “What to do if you get pulled over for drunk driving”, for a DUI lawyer, or something along those lines.
When they answer that one question, and that question is something people actually search for, because we’re looking again at the keyword research and the forum social listening to see how people — what are the common questions.
Because we know that that’s an actively looked-for topic, then you’re going to pop up both in YouTube if you upload the video with the right keywords in the title, in the description, et cetera. You can also put in the transcript into the close caption area.
We do the same routine with the podcasting as with the video. We put the YouTube video up in the blog post using the embed code from YouTube. The video shows up, and you can play it right in the blog post, but under that, you put in the transcription of the conversation. Usually those are like one or two minutes long. Maybe three minutes.
You don’t want to kill people with “too long”. Those are going to be maybe 300 words or so. But again, you’re popping up now both in YouTube and your blog because you have the YouTube video in a blog post. You’re getting that extended benefit beyond YouTube of your blog’s ability to rank for the conversation that’s in the video.
Nicole: Those are all really great thoughts. I’m actually personally excited about implementing a podcasting and video strategy for our company.
Thank you so much, John, for joining us today, and talking to us about authority marketing and thought leadership for law firms.
John: Absolutely. Great talking to you.
Nicole: It’s great talking to you, too. I will see you on our next post when we talk about content marketing for law firms another time. Thank you so much.
John: Sounds good.