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

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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Of:

The One SEO Rule You Need to Know About Alt Tags for Images

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Wikipedia says alt attributes (alt tags) are used in HTML documents/Web pages “to specify alternative text (alt text) that is to be rendered when the element to which it is applied cannot be rendered.”

Alt Tags Images

To optimize your website’s content for search, remember one simple rule for image alt tags: An image’s alt attributes should describe the visual. Including keywords in alt tags is a good practice as long as it’s not spammy. Alt attributes used to have a larger SEO impact in Google searches before the company changed its Google Image search design. Traffic has decreased considerably from image search since then.

 

 

 

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Google Sticks a Fork in Guest Blogging for SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

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Last month, Google’s Matt Cutts, who heads up the search engine giant’s webspam team, wrote this on the Google Webmaster blog:

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a link building strategy.

So should you halt your guest blogging efforts?  Well, in a word, no.  Because SEO is not the only reason you guest blog – either on other blogs, or hosting guests on your own blog.  Which is why Cutts later updated his original post to say this:

Google SEO Search Engine Optimization

It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future.

Guest blogging used to be ONE way to develop quality links back to your own website or blog. Unfortunately, those trying to game the system with low quality content have made it – as Cutts says – a spammy practice.  Those that use guest blogging as their sole source of link building will now be out of luck and may even be penalized.

But I would still recommend guest blogging as a way for attorneys to spread their authority to other audiences that may not have otherwise been engaged by your own blog or website.  It can also still be a great way for you to improve the visibility of your firm and, when shared on social media, can help your SEO efforts from that standpoint.

As this blog post and other recent developments at Google demonstrate, you can’t go wrong when it comes to SEO if you pay attention to these 3 things:

1.  Designing a website that provides users with a superb experience – from the way they navigate the site to the information they find there.

2.  Developing high quality, relevant content for your area of practice that people want to read to help them solve the problems they would hire you for, populated with relevant keywords.

3.  Being an active participant on social media networks that your prospects and clients frequent, sharing all that great content you’ve developed for your website and your blog and engaging online with your target market.

Article by:

Stephen Fairley

Of:

The Rainmaker Institute

Preparing for the Launch of New Generic Top Level Domain Names (gTLDs) in 2011

Recently posted at the National Law Review  by Monica Riva Talley of Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C. – a great overview of the upcoming changes to domain names by ICANN:

On June 16, 2008 the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers announced that it would allow an unlimited number of new gTLDs (generic top level domain names) to populate the web.  Expanding on the current limited offerings of gTDLs (such as .com, .net, .org., .info, and .mobi), these new gTLDs will be comprised of virtually any possible term — including brand names (“.BRAND”), generic names (e.g., .CAR, .HOME), and city names — opening-up the web to an infinite number of naming possibilities.

Although the process has been delayed several times, the current belief is that ICANN will begin accepting applications for these new gTLDs by July or August 2011.  However, it is likely that the start of the application process will be delayed further, as various trademark organizations have raised concerns about the award and dispute resolution process. 

Why Expanding The Number of gTLDs is a Good Idea

ICANN has stated that its aim in creating more gTLDs is to enhance competition and promote choice and innovation.  Of particular note to companies, not only will it now be possible for  them to register brand names as gTLDs, they  will also have control of second level domain names issued under potential new gTLDs, and can sell these second level domain names to third parties.  Thus, this new system could allow not only for enhanced brand promotion and visibility, but also for secure corporate and client networks (used for purposes such as facilitating the provision of services to clients via a dedicated portal) – which could prevent fraudulent practices such as offers of counterfeit products via the Internet.

And Why it Might Not Be

On the down side, increasing the number of top level domain names means more opportunities for cybersquatters, those who register, traffic in, or use domain names with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else.  It will  also significantly increase defensive registration and dispute costs.  Many in the trademark community are concerned that this dramatic increase in the number of gTLDs will inevitably cause a considerable burden on trademark owners who will need to carefully consider online strategies.  In particular, not every country makes use of the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), making it difficult to address abuses that originate abroad.  Moreover, while the variation of domain name dispute mechanisms available worldwide is considered complex today, in a world with only a handful of gTLDs, it will only get more complex as the domain name platform increases exponentially.  Finally, the high cost of obtaining one of these new domains is thought to exclude many worthwhile non-profit organizations and developing countries, for whom such domains might prove a useful resource.

Cost to Apply for a New gTL

As alluded-to above, the cost to apply for one of these new gTLDs is steep — $185,000, a price that ensures only well-financed organizations operate the domains, and involves a lengthy application process and evaluation. 

Will Someone Else be Able to Register My Trademark as a gTLD?

After the application period closes, ICANN will verify all of the applications for completeness and will then release on its website the list of strings, applicant names, and other application data.  ICANN plans to then implement an objection-based process that will enable trademark owners to demonstrate that a proposed gTLD would infringe their legal rights. In the event that the legal rights objection is successful, the application will not proceed.

At this time, ICANN is not contemplating a system that would notify a trademark owner if a third-party applies to register a trademark that does not belong to them.  ICANN is conducting global public outreach to educate the community on what their responsibilities are, as well as what the formal objection mechanism and timeline is, before the program launches.  ICANN will publish the list of all applications received after the application submission period closes, and will continue to publicize the objection process and deadlines. 

For More Information . ..

General information about ICANN can be found at its website.  A discussion from ICANN regarding the new gTLD program (the dates on this document are no longer correct, because of delays) can be found here. Parties interested in providing input or voicing concerns regarding the plan or the process can attend the next ICANN meeting, scheduled to take place in San Francisco, March 13 – 18, 2011.

© 2011 Sterne Kessler

Want your website to get noticed? Break the rules!

From Moiré Marketing Partners, the National Law Review’s Business of Law Guest Bloggers this week, Sean Leenaerts provides some interesting insights on different things to consider for legal websites:

Every time I hear someone in marketing or advertising talk about “best practices” for website design, I roll my eyes.

Now granted, many of the do’s and don’t’s of web design have merit. They’ve been tried, tested and proven to work. And I believe that certain best practices such as ease of navigation, making good use of white space, ensuring that site text is easy to read and building for fast loading times are sarcosanct. But I also believe that best practices are helping to hold marketers back.

The problem I have with best practices is that while they are there to guide everyone in website design, they also cause everyone to look pretty much the same. Adherence to best practices tends to create a formulaic, templated approach to website design. The logos, colors and images on various sites may differ, but they mirror one another in their composition–i.e. logos in the upper left, navigation at the top, copy centered or aligned to the right, vertical scrolling, etc. They’re design conventions that definitely work, but make for few standout websites.

“Okay,” I can hear you saying, “that’s all well and good. But I’m a law/accounting/financial services firm. My site has to be functional, and it should stand out because of my message, not because it looks cool and creative.” All true. But in order to read your message, your site has to be noticed first. While I’m not advocating that professional services firms push the boundaries of convention just for the sake of being different, there are a few rules you can break (or at least bend) in order to make your site stand out from the competition.

Go Horizontal

While usability studies show that most website users prefer to scroll and read text vertically, most of those studies were conducted years ago prior to the ubiquitousness of touch screens, widescreen monitors and many other developments we now take for granted. For touch screens like those on the iPhone/iPad, horizontal navigation is the preferred form of navigation because it’s more ergonomic to move your hand from side to side than up and down. In the case of monitors, screen resolutions have gotten better. We used to design for 1024 x 768 screen resolutions. Now, many screens have resolutions that are 1440 x 900 and they’re much wider, which means that viewers get more real-estate horizontally than they do vertically.

I also think–and this is strictly my opinion–that our brains are better wired to consume information horizontally. Maybe it’s because we’ve been doing it that way offine for so many years. Books are read with a horizontal flip, galleries place paintings and photographs alongside each other, and most of our world is organized horizontally rather than vertically–i.e. our houses are next to each other and we move through the world in a mostly linear fashion.

Chart a New Course

Navigation buttons and links should always be easy to find, but do they always need to be at the top or along the sides of the page? And do they always have to be “buttons”? Unconventional navigation–as long as its easy to find and figure out–has the ability to engage the audience and keep them on your site. A good example of navigation that breaks with traditional design and works well is from the web design firm Hello Goodlooking in Helsinki, Finland:

Here, the navigation buttons are centered on the page and move to the sides when you click on them and open a window. They’re easy to see, easy to understand and make the site simply downright fun to navigate.

Shift Your Perspective

Right-aligned page content is often not seen in a world of centered or left-aligned web pages.  Whenever I come across a page that is aligned uniquely, I have to pause and take a second look. It’s a simple (and safer) way to look unique without having to deviate from other conventions of website design.

Be Bold

Using reversed type, multiple typefaces and unique fonts is generally frowned upon in website design. Yet sites that do all or some of these things tend to grab a lot of attention–and not necessarily for all the wrong reasons. And you don’t have to be a kooky design firm to do it. Morrison Foerster is a law firm whose website is truly unique within the industry. No images, just type–and mostly reversed type, at that. Big, bold headlines. A conversational tone. And don’t even get me started on their careers site, which has to be one of the best in any industry. Most law firms make claims to be different and innovative. MoFo’s website backs it up.

Sometimes breaking with best practices is worthwhile. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that it’s the only way to truly stand out. Striving for innovative design and a better way of web browsing has brought about some great changes in the last decade. Being different to be better is a perfect example of when the rules of best practices should be broken.

Copyright © 2011 Moiré Marketing Partners, Inc. All rights reserved.

Law Firms Should Syndicate Social Media for Maximum Results

From the National Law Review’s  Business of Law Featured blogger Margaret Grisdela of Legal Expert Connections  provides some nice specific things to do for attorneys getting started in social media: 

Attorneys who want to make time for social media among the competing demands of court deadlines, client meetings, and practice management can increase their online visibility with a few simple publishing techniques.

This article shows you how to create and implement a social media syndication plan that will increase your law firm’s Internet marketing visibility. Learn how you can develop and leverage your firm’s customized content to populate a broad range of social media outlets.

Common social media applications for lawyers include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Broadly speaking, social media refers to any type of Internet and mobile-based tool for online networking, collaboration, and information sharing among web-based communities.

Getting Started With Social Media

Launching a social media campaign is actually quite simple. Signing up for LinkedIn, Twitter, and even a blog can be done in a few minutes. Momentum may quickly wane, however, when a busy attorney faces the on-going challenge of creating fresh content.

Start strategically by creating a 6-12 month editorial calendar. Let’s say you have an intellectual property law firm, encompassing several types of services. Pick one topic for each month.

Topics for three months of a calendar quarter could be: 1) copyright law; 2) patent protection; and 3) trademarks. Next, break each monthly topic down into four weekly supporting articles. For example, copyright law topics could be: a) fair use guidelines; b) protecting a copyright; c) international copyright issues; and d) negotiating licensing agreements.

Now that you have your calendar, you can start to write your articles in advance. Of course, the schedule can be interrupted or supplemented as needed to reflect breaking news.  Each blog post should be at least 250-300 words, including strategic use of keywords to attract visitors through search engine marketing. Writing for the web actually means writing for both Google and your actual site visitors.

Leverage your Social Media News Feed

Select one primary point of publication for your social media news feed. A blog works well for this purpose through the use of the “RSS” feed.  RSS is an acronym for “really simple syndication,” which means that your blog acts as a real-time news feed that can be used to distribute your content to other social media applications. Interested readers can also automatically subscribe to your blog using the RSS feed.

As a starting base, make sure all your social media accounts are properly set up and populated with a description of your law firm.

Plan to publish one main article from your editorial calendar to your blog at least once a week (more is better). It is fairly easy to use free services like HootSuite orNetVibes to then automatically transmit your blog posts to your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts. Alternatively, many social media services make it easy for you to automatically import blog posts by simply specifying the RSS feed within your profile.

You can easily extend your reach to multiple social media outlets without the need for additional time or effort when you leverage your original blog articles using these techniques.

Appoint a Social Media Manager

An essential ingredient in social media success is to put someone in charge of your campaign. Lawyers should be practicing law, so even the best laid plans for an attorney to manage a blog or other Internet marketing campaign will quickly fall to the wayside in the face of court and client demands. Look for a seasoned legal marketer with Internet marketing skills who understands the importance of complying with attorney advertising and other ethical guidelines to help manage your social media campaigns.

Business development through thought leadership marketing is a leading reason many attorneys are attracted to a blog and other social media services. The right legal marketing partner will understand strategic planning issues, the importance of keyword placement in blog posts, and the type of audience you wish to reach. They may even help you draft preliminary blog posts for your editing and publication.

Monitor Social Media Feedback

Social media is interactive, meaning that prospects and followers will comment on your posts and otherwise interact with your material. Prompt responses will make a favorable impression on your audience.  In addition to publishing fresh content regularly, you will want to watch for direct comments, republication (like “retweets”), and independent commentary. 

© Legal Expert Connections, Inc.

About the Author:

Margaret Grisdela is President of Legal Expert Connections, a national legal marketing agency serving law firms and litigation experts in the U.S. and internationally. She is the author of the legal marketing book “Courting Your Clients,” which presents a proprietary methodology for business development. An accompanying guide, the “Courting Your Clients Legal Marketing Playbook,” will be available to clients in November. Ms. Grisdela brings over 30 years of experience in marketing, publishing, and information technology to each engagement. She helps clients launch or expand successful practices in the legal field through integrated marketing programs including article placement, speaking, search engine optimized websites, publicity, and direct mail. A leader in professional organizations, she served as 2008 Co-Chair of the Legal Marketing Association South Florida City Group, and 2005 President of the Florida Direct Marketing Association. She holds a B.A. from Wayne State University and an MBA in Finance from The George Washington University. www.legalexpertconnections.com / 561-266-1030