Seven Ways a Blog Can Help Your Law Practice

blogFor many attorneys, maintaining a blog is like eating kale – we know it’s really good for us, but we just can’t seem to get all excited about it. But if eating kale was the best possible way to get your law firm coffers to overflow status, I bet you would be digging into a plate of it every day.

And so it is with blogging, which is one of the best possible ways for you to dramatically increase your lead flow, improve your firm website’s SEO and traffic count, and build a sterling reputation online – all of which can lead to a healthier bottom line for your firm.

Many attorneys I speak with feel they should be blogging, but are not really sure why. Here are 7 ways that blogging can help your law practice:

  1. Increase client engagement. A blog provides an opportunity for you to open a dialogue with prospects and clients and share with them more about who you are, what kinds of legal issues you can help them with, and why they should hire you.

  2. Improve SEO rankings. Blogs are the number one way to add new content to your website, which search engines like Google reward with higher rankings. Over the last few years, Google has favored larger websites with more content over small websites.

  3. Humanizes your firm. People don’t want to hire faceless companies. They want to know they are cared for personally. Blogs provide you with the opportunity to tell the stories of clients you have helped (leaving out their real names and identifying information to protect the innocent), and nothing is better for putting a human face on your law firm. Include videos in your blogs to really humanize your firm.

  4. Showcases your areas of expertise. Regular blog posts keep your website up to date and relevant, letting prospects know you are on the leading edge of emerging legal trends. You can highlight the areas you truly specialize in.

  5. Market segmentation. If your law firm includes more than one practice area, you can segment this more effectively by creating blogs for each specialty area and speak directly to those targeted prospects.

  6. Repurpose content. Your blog posts can be effectively repurposed for free reports, e-books and in your monthly newsletters.

  7. Build trust. Current research shows that 81 percent of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs.

ARTICLE BY Stephen Fairley of The Rainmaker Institute
© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved

Legal Bloggers: Strategies for Increasing Your Readership

So you have a blog. Great! Everyone – from legal marketers to managing partners – has probably told you that writing a regular blog will establish you as a thought leader and drive business development.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Finding a blog on the Internet is akin to picking out a needle from a haystack.

Just because you write it doesn’t mean they will read it. For your blog to attract readers, you need to give it a push. And that means coming up with a solid distribution strategy.

Let’s look at potential channels that could send readers to your blog.

Organic Search

You can bet that your target audience will be using search engines – Google, Bing, etc. – to find articles and blogs. Understanding topics and keywords that people search for should be the first step in blog writing.

Use Google Trends and Google News to mine for topics. Then research which keywords people are using to search for your topic. Google’s keyword planner provides data on how many searches are conducted every month. For example, if you’re writing about Title IX, are people using search phrases like “title IX discrimination on campus” or “gender equality in education”?

Once you determine the best keywords, integrate them into your blog – naturally. Don’t overuse phrases again and again. Instead, choose five or six phrases and sprinkle them throughout your blog.

Next, give consideration to your title tag. This is separate from the headline on your blog post. The title tag is what is known as a “meta” field and is accessible on the back end of most content management systems (WordPress, Drupal, etc.). Select one prominent keyword phrase that has relatively high search volume, along with high relevancy, to use in your title tag. Search engines use title tags to index your blog posts. Your title tag is also what search engines use to designate your posts in their results pages.

And don’t forget about “domain authority.” Domain authority is a third-party metric that indicates how well search engines will rank a website in search results. Hosting your blog on your firm website (as opposed to building a brand-new site for your blog) will most likely provide higher authority for your blog.

Email Subscriptions

Have a way for readers to sign up for email alerts that are triggered when you put up a new blog post. This type of “opt-in” automated program delivers your blog to engaged readers – that is, potential leads.

If your blog focuses on various practice areas or industries, creating sign-up categories will help you target your readers with relevant content. As an example, Kirton McConkie recently launched a multi-practice blog that provides email sign-up options by category.

Subscription-Based Legal Syndication Sites

Sites like the National Law Review, JD Supra and Mondaq repost blogs on their websites. These online resources are hubs for general counsel, attorneys and reporters to find information on legal topics. Subscribers can join for free, while contributors pay monthly or annual fees to have their content included.

These types of sites have an added benefit for blog authors: They also use social media and email marketing tactics to deliver your content, creating additional visibility.

Social Media

It goes without saying that social media has the potential to reach an enormous pool of readers. But getting the attention from the right people on social media is a daunting task. Sending out a tweet linking to your blog can be like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean. Fortunately, there are a few best practices to help you get additional visibility.

First, decide which social media platforms you’re going to use based on the audience you want to attract. Every social network has a unique culture and demographic characteristics. Don’t waste your time chasing a crowd that’s not relevant – for instance, Snapchat users are not interested in legal blogs.

Once you’ve identified one or two social platforms, search for influencers in your topic area. These influencers will frequently write about and share relevant content and will have high follower and engagement metrics. Start engaging with these people. Don’t bombard them with requests to share your blog, but show interest in their content and join in conversations. Also, sprinkle links to your blog into your social stream. Just be careful not to make it all about you.

LinkedIn Posts

Use the LinkedIn “Publish a Post” feature to repurpose your blogs on your profile. It’s a simple way to expand your reach on LinkedIn. Not only are posts searchable on LinkedIn, but they also are pushed out through LinkedIn’s email notification program.

Blog Directory Sites

Setting up your blog’s RSS feed to relevant blog directory sites like AllTop’s legal section and ABAJournal blogs will drive readers to your blog. Track visits from these sites in the “Referral” section of your Google Analytics dashboard to measure the effectiveness of these visitors.

Guest Authors

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nvite thought leaders with high online visibility to write guest posts for your blog. These authors will have followers who read their content. If they post to your site, they will help you share their post through their social media channels, which again drives visits to your website.

It may be difficult to recruit guest bloggers. If you find that is the case, try to provide benefits to writers, such as prominent links back to their websites.

Other Digital Marketing Initiatives

Leverage all your digital marketing channels by including a link to your blog in your electronic communications – email signature lines, client alerts, invoices, etc. Add a link to your blog in all your social media profiles – LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

As with all digital marketing initiatives, measurement and tracking are key steps for identifying tactics that work and tactics that don’t. Review your Google Analytics or other analytics-tracking platform regularly. Understanding which topics resonate with your readers will inform your content strategy as you go forward.

ARTICLE BY Melanie Trudeau of Jaffe

© Copyright 2008-2015, Jaffe Associates

How to Build a Lead Generation Machine Online with Content Marketing (Part 2 of 2)

If you struggle with creating quality content for your website or blog, I’ve pulled together 8 best practices for content marketing to guide you.  If you missed the first four in the series of eight, see yesterday’s blog post here.

These are the second 4 of 8 best practices in content marketing:

Best Practice 5: Use video to give visitors a sense of who you are. Video is one of the best ways to improve your website conversion rates. I highly recommend you record several videos for your website: an overview of each major practice area your firm offers, a few case studies of typical clients you want to attract, a video introduction for each attorney, and reasons why people should hire you versus a competitor. You can also add videos from seminars or presentations you make to add more content to your site.

Best Practice 6: Take a position on a topic and frequently update your blog. When you begin a blog, you need to make sure that it is a topic you feel passionate about. Make sure that you will still be energized to write about the topic in six months or a year. You also need to make sure that there is an audience for your blog.

In order to keep your website and blog at the forefront of Google’s mind, you will need to post regularly. The most successful lead generation blogs post every day. If you aren’t willing to post new content at least a few times per week then you should seriously consider hiring someone to do the writing for you. In a survey of over 7,000 small businesses, Hubspot.com found companies that blog 15 or more times per month generate five times as much traffic as companies that don’t blog!

Best Practice 7: Add social media to your website to make it easier for people to share your content online. Most major websites people visit have fully integrated social media-whether its Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter you want to make it easy for people to share your content with their friends and colleagues.

Best Practice 8: Keep your content consistent with your brand. If you’re an estate planning attorney, write about estate planning and rarely about anything else. Professional blogs need to remain professional. The tone, content and focus should demonstrate the type of attorney you are. If your office is more relaxed and friendly, then try to convey that in the tone of your blogs. If your firm is more traditional, that too should be apparent in the tone of your piece.

Your content also needs to stay relevant. If there is a major change in what area of law you practice in, then you should be discussing it right away on your blog. If there is a big ruling in your practice area that is causing a lot of questions or anxiety for clients and prospects and you are the last person to mention in on their website or blog, then chances are the readers will have moved on to someone who is more on top of things.

Conclusion. Content marketing is one of the best ways to build targeted traffic to your website and become recognized as a thought leader. However, it is a long-term strategy so set your expectations appropriately. Depending on the level of competition in your practice area, how well-established your website/blog is, which key terms you are targeting, and how frequently you update your blog it may take several months to start seeing some significant results.

Content Marketing

ARTICLE BY
Stephen Fairley

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Analog in a Digital World: Journalism and Blogs and Where to find Good Information

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In an article profiling John R. MacArthur, the publisher of Harper’s Magazine, MacArthur is quoted as saying, “I’ve got nothing against people getting on their weblogs, on the Internet and blowing off steam. If they want to do that, that’s fine. But it doesn’t pass, in my opinion, for writing and journalism.” The article goes on to note that MacArthur is “analog in his habits” because he “prints out articles to read” and that “[h]is version of searching for [a fact] on Google was yelling to a staff member, who hurried to deliver the information.”

McArthur certainly expresses a sympathetic position. A 24-hour news cycle has contributed to an environment where airtime needs to be filled – recent examples of well-publicized overexposure include CNN’s coverage of the Malaysian Air disappearance or the Casey Anthony trial. And because anyone with an internet connection and a Twitter account can “break” news, there is a race to the bottom as to which organization can print the news first as opposed to which can report it most accurately. The inevitably incendiary rush to judgment after the report of a rumor reported as fact seems only to support MacArthur’s position.

But where MacArthur and I part ways is in our view of what blogs or “lighter” commentary may provide. Instead of web commentary offered as simply “blowing off steam,” the internet is more of a tray of samples. You can try a little of anything, and if you’d like more, then that’s available to you as well.

That’s really the beauty of the internet, right? You can critique Buzzfeed’s lists, but they are a quick read that provide you with the opportunity to read more – possibly even from a true “writing and journalism” source. I mean, no one would think to use this blog exclusively as a defense to criminal charges or as any sort of compliance manual. But ideally, it would help you spot issues or pique your interest so that you read more on a particular topic, consult with counsel, or find a way to improve your workplace.

I like to think about the internet like a newspaper with only headlines. I can get the gist of the story from the headline, and if I’m interested, I can read more. (Example: “Salmon Spawning in Seattle” will not encourage me to read further. But hit me with “Cowboys Sweep Eagles, Giants” and I’m 100 percent in.)

MacArthur and I simply diverge on this implied concept that analog habits are somehow better than digital habits. Perhaps it is the trial lawyer side of me, but I try to be open to ways in which you can convey information. People learn in a variety of different ways: some learn by hearing, some learn by seeing, some learn by doing. Some have longer attention spans; some give hummingbirds a run for their money. So the more ways that you can find to reach people, the better odds of success you have in conveying information that they can use.

And that’s the takeaway point here (yay!). Imagine if your organization disseminated a ten-page written policy on what to do if a federal agent knocks on the door. That’s some important information right there. Is everyone going to read and understand it? Unlikely, right? Too busy to get to it right now, will read it tomorrow, and so on? Yup, that’s the MacArthur way. It just doesn’t work by itself.

Okay, change it up. Skip the written policy and instead conduct a 10-minute training session covering the key facts. Have you taught everyone everything they need to know? Probably not, but  you hit the high points. Even if a couple of folks dozing in the back of the room missed it. Right. That would be the Buzzfeed way. This doesn’t work by itself, either.

So instead, disseminate the policy to everyone, and you’ll capture the folks who learn by reading. And conduct your training session, and you’ll capture those folks who learn by listening. And then, as a bonus, rehearse the drill, so you capture those folks who learn by doing. It’s the last piece that most organizations miss, and thereby miss a huge opportunity to make sure their people understand the policies and that their policies actually work.

You can be analog like MacArthur or digital like Buzzfeed. But really effective communication is a blend of both … and just a touch more.

 
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Fix These 4 Problems on Your Blog to Maximize Search Engine Optimization

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1.   Make It Useful

Write about something that will provide value to the person reading it. Write with your audience in mind. Keep the writing simple but professional. Remember: Your clients do not have a law degree and if your writing confuses them, they will look for answers elsewhere.

Legal MarketingThink about your client base. Are they middle aged woman, seniors, mostly male, individuals with physical handicaps? Target your posts to their interests, needs and questions. Avoid general articles that could be for anyone. Have the reader in mind when you are writing content and show your expertise. Answer the reader’s unasked questions.

Targeting a specific demographic will help with the social signals as it will probably be shared more and will earn links. Fluff content may get you some rankings for staying relevant and regularly updating your website, but if an actual human goes on your site and does not find value in what you have posted, chances of a return visit are slim—and your ultimate goal should be people returning to your site based on the quality of its content.

2.   Make It Local

Think about your local area and any news or hot topics that you can cover in blog updates. Can you add unique value to these stories? The more your topics and writing speak to your local audience, the more engaged they will be with your site. Write about charities or events you are involved in.

3.   Engage the Audience

How does the page look? Content is not just words. Content can be text, images, videos, charts, graphics and data. Use video and image assets to help tell your story. Visual content engages the user and instills respect for the quality of the information presented on the page.

Also, long blog posts allow you to fit a lot of good information and keywords onto the page, but you will need to divide it in to short sections or into an FAQ format to enable visitors to scan the page for the information they seek.

Use your employees for feedback. Ask them to share your content. If three months have passed and no one has shared anything, it is time to start asking why.

4.   Get the Technical Details Right

Effective title structure is key to generating good organic traffic and a high-quality user experience. Utilizing headings (H1, H2, H3), alt text and description tagging is important for user experience (UX) and for search engines to understand and optimally display your content.

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Making These 3 Errors in WordPress Makes Your Law Firm’s Blog Less Effective

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Here are three common WordPress mistakes that will make your legal website less effective than it should be:

  1. Posting content that is not unique, engaging or well designed. Unstructured information, filler materials and overly general articles do not motivate a user to interact with the site. Your goal should be to create content that users want to share or bookmark or research further by following your in-text links.
  2. Getting caught up in finding the perfect WP template and design. Many inexperienced website authors expend all their energy before even considering content development. A lot of sites use generic content that reads like it was added as an afterthought. It is hard to schedule time to generate good content but when most people say, “Oh, I’ll come back to improve that later,” they never do.
  3. Failing to design each page for its intended purpose. Out-of-the-box WordPress themes use similar forms and sidebars on every page. It is important for the design (as well as the content) to serve the page’s purpose.
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How to Write Blog Posts People Actually Want to Read [INFOGRAPHIC]

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The purpose of having a blog is to foster an online dialogue with prospects, clients and referral sources so that when they need someone who does what you do, they will think of your first. Drawing people into your conversation requires you to often step outside your comfort zone, since most attorneys write the way they were trained to do in law school.

But when it comes to writing blog posts that people actually want to read, that just doesn’t cut it.

The most important thing to remember when writing for those who don’t practice law for a living is to be authentic. And the best way to do this is to write the way you talk. As you sit down to craft a new post, imagine you are talking to a friend who needs your guidance on a legal issue. Use the same words you use in your everyday life. Forget the grammar rules and write your draft, then go back over it to correct any glaring grammatical errors.

The infographic below, courtesy of Copyblogger.com, outlines the other essentials for writing blog posts. Print it off and keep a copy by your computer to refer to as you write. Following these simple guidelines will have you authoring a compelling, lead-generating blog in no time.

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Article by: 

Stephen Fairley

Of:

The Rainmaker Institute