Thursday, December 29, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Large Large Firm Use of Social Media (Including Legal Blogs)--An Infographic

Vizibility and LexisNexis teamed up to produce a new report on the use of social media in (mostly) large firms.  On one hand, we are not the usual legal marketing junkies who see the phrase "social media" and begin to salivate.  After all, we were lawyers before entering the world of marketing planet.  The term "social media" has become so broad that is seems virtually meaningless to use.  The internet is all about connectivity, so its hard to say how any firm with an online presence at all isn't "using social media" in some form.

But it still is worthwhile to take a peak at this infographic published on the survey to get a flavor for what the biggest firms seem to be focusing on in the online world.



A few caveats for the statistically inclined: the data was collected via online survey requests sent to members of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA).  As expected with that respondent pool, those involved were largely the biggest firms.  Roughly 60% of respondents were firms with more than 50 attorneys.  When it comes to legal blog writing, this is, of course, an important distinction.  The value and purpose of certain types of social media, including blogs, are highly dependent on the size, location, and practice area of the firm.

Anyway, a few findings that caught the eye of our legal content writers:


*Among this group of large firms, blogging seems to be the second most widely-used form of social media, behind professionals networks (mostly LinkedIn).

*While the majority of firms use blogging in one way or another (about 83% total), smaller firms seem to use them a bit more.  Firms with 20 or fewer attorneys show about 5-7% higher rate of blog use.

*The smallest firms show the largest total use of blogs (roughly 89%).

* Most firms measure the effectiveness of their online efforts by lead generation, increased traffic, and, actual new clients.  However, smaller firms are much more likely to also consider the effect of the efforts on the overall level of client satisfaction and the effect on the firm's public perception.  This is encouraging.

Beyond these stats, the research also provides some benchmarks with other Fortune 500 companies for which to compare the legal market.  On that front it seems that the legal world is far ahead of the game when it comes to blog use.  Only 23% of Fortune 500 companies have a consumer facing blog.  Surprisingly that number has actually stayed stagnant over the last three years.  This should be compared to the roughly 80% of the largest law firms which are using the content building tool.  We admit surprise at see that only 23% of non-legal mega companies are using these blogs.  The low number is somewhat shocking but the comparison to the legal world is not.  Unlike many of the other biggest companies, lawyers provide personal services.  Blogs are one way to sell that personalization to the roaming consumer.  Hence the value of the blog to the firm as opposed to others in the Fortune 500.

Infographic courtesy of Vizibility Inc.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

SEO Marketing Gimmicks Are Irrelevant For Small Law Firms

When it comes to online marketing, small to mid-size firms usually have the most to gain by prioritizing legal content writing.  For maximizing one's online presence and attracting the attention of those who need your legal services in your area, there is nothing better than consistent, quality, content being added to your blog and website.  It is important to reiterate that legal content writing is NOT a gimmick.

Many law firm marketing businesses attempt to complicate the SEO process.  Solo, small and mid-size firms get sold on expansive (and expensive) online marketing packages where terrific promises are made about drawing in online clients.  Don't buy into it.  

That is exactly the point that was made by Suzanne Meehle in an insightful post at Solo Practice University.  Attorney Meehle shared some lessons from her first year of solo practice, and noted:
I got suckered into signing up for law firm marketing contracts. You know the ones: big research companies also offer marketing packages to improve your search engine optimization (“SEO”) and promise you’ll get more leads through their online directory than any other way.   
She went on to explain that the basics of SEO for most small and mid-size firms are not complicated.  We agree.  She wrote:
Figure out the keywords that people will actually put into search engines to find a lawyer like you, then stick them into the “keywords” box in your web site back-end. Use multiple pages – one for every practice area. Update your site regularly with fresh, relevant content. Lather, rinse, repeat. Because what works to drive traffic to your site is going to change day to day. [emphasis added]
Bingo.

As our law blog writers repeat ad nauseum, 95% of what works with online marketing can be explained in one word: Content.  New, quality, consistently updated material connected to the firm website and blog is far and away what matters most to attract attention online.  Do not get fooled by expensive marketers who try to sell you on the other 5% that matters far less.

We are proud to be lawyers first, and marketers second.  By this we mean that we keep the common sense value to a law firm in mind in all of the work that we do.  Our law blog writers do not sell a random array of secret-sounding plans to magically get clients to your phones.  We focus exclusively on what we know works: producing valuable, tailored content on a consistent basis.

Law Blog Writers Blog Named Lexis Nexis Top Tort Blog of the Year

Our law firm content writers are proud to announce that a a blog that we write, The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog, was recently named the Top Tort Blog of 2011 by LexisNexis!  The blog belongs to a terrific personal injury firm, Levin & Perconti based in Chicago.

The honor was handed down based on a several months long nomination and voting process conducted through the LexixNexis Litigation Resource Community.

The contest involved an entire slew of incredibly high quality legal blogs.  We are very proud of the honor, and remain committed to helping firms across the country produce quality, informative, worthwhile content for online audiences.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Do You Know If Your Law Firm Blog Writing Is Working?

All competent attorneys and firm managers track their spending—marketing dollars are no exception.  It is perfectly logical and appropriate for all firms working on law firm blogging to come up with systems to measure the effectiveness of the blog.  But treating the value of the blog exactly the same as other completely different marketing tools is a recipe for problems.  Failing to understand what a blog provides—and consequently how it should be measured—is the main reason why many firms cut their blogging effort short.

Unlike other legal marketing tools, blogs can be as much about firm perception as actually drawing in more individuals to contact the attorney.  In other words, blogs seek to both make more individuals in need of legal services aware of the firm AND make the client aware of the superior services offered by the firm.  The blogs therefore can draw in more searchers as well as make them call.  These are two different effects, and measuring the effectiveness of both different evaluations.  It is one thing to draw more people to a website, but it is another to get them to actually take the desired step of calling or otherwise making content.  Some marketing efforts do one or another—legal blog writing can do both. 

Monitoring tools should reflect that.  Obviously, it is important to keep an eye on total page views for the website as well as the blog.  Similarly, call volumes and online content form responses should be closely tracked.  The ratio of both must also be gauged to determine if conversion percentages are stable, decreasing, or increasing.  Beyond that, the less quantitative benefits of the effort must also be added to the mix.  This includes the perception boosts among prospective clients, current clients, supporters, and others in the legal community.  Similarly, the more dispersed online marketing effects, like Facebook likes, shares, re-tweets, blog post comments, and similar details need to compared before and after prolonged blog use.

All of these evaluations must be weighed against the cost of the blogging.  The cost of a total blogging effort (i.e. paying legal ghostwriters) and the potential benefit in terms of client acquisition and reputation must be properly balanced.  Also, no matter what evaluation tools are used, as discussed this weekend, it is important to keep timing into perspective.  Blogs are long-term marketing tools.  They are not efforts to axe after a month.     

Evaluating Law Firm Blogs, in brief:

* Examine both blog and firm total page views, calls, and other direct contacts
* Measure the contacts as a percentage of views
* Evaluate effect on public perception
* Consider legal reputation platform
* Monitor social network effects (likes, shares, notices, page views)
* Gauge reaction from current clients and firm supporters

Sunday, December 11, 2011

One Month Is Not Enough—Legal Content Writing For the Long Haul

One of the biggest mistakes shared by some newbies to legal blog writing has to do with throwing in the towel too early.  Some believe that they can start a blog, add some content, and then expect to see immediate results in a short time.  Besides the fact that many are unsure of the proper way to measure the effectiveness of their blog writing, many fail to take the long-view of the project.  It is simply inaccurate to believe that a blog will be created and then new clients will be flocking in within a month because of the legal content writing.  It takes much longer than that.  Blogging for law firms has to be a long-term commitment.  Here’s why…

Links
For SEO purposes, blogging is helpful because it uses a linking strategy.  A blog links appropriate keywords to the firm’s main website.  Virtually all search engines build their ranking system around links.  How many links are going into and out of a website and the “quality” of those links constitute the centerpiece of search engine rankings 

Of course, search engine crawlers cannot be fooled by stuffing countless links in seemingly value-less posts solely for the purposes of added links to a website.  Instead, links have to be used sparingly in quality content pieces that provide actual value to the viewer.  Even when going at full tilt with the most blog posts possible there are only about 90-120 total links that can be obtained with a month.  Those links would need to be spread out among various keyword types and/or practice areas.  That is simply insufficient to see any sizeable impact.  More links are needed. 

Crawlers speed
In addition, posts do not have an impact the moment that they are put online.  Search engine crawlers must find them first.   This process may take days, or perhaps a week, and only sometimes longer than that.  This is an impediment to immediate search engine benefit.  Many first-time bloggers do not account for this and give up on the effort far too soon.

Competition
The time required to seen an impact from the blogging also depends heavily on the amount of competition in any given area.  For example, trying to break through on medical malpractice keywords in a big market will certainly not happen in a single month of blogging.  However, it might happen a bit quicker if the market is smaller and the legal practice area is more tailored. 

Audience Development    
As with any new publishing effort, word of mouth is not created overnight.  The best law firm blogs are checked frequently by loyal viewers and shared across social media platforms.  However, the longer that a blog has been in existence the more time it has for readers to stumble upon it and share it.  A blog that has been around for a month simply has not had enough exposure to build this audience.  More time is needed.   

The gist: do not give up on your blogging too early.  It takes time before an impact will be seen.   What that “impact” should be is a whole other question that often confounds firms.  We will delve into that topic later this week.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Law Firm Blogs for Actually Getting Clients to Make Contact

Right now the most important benefits of law firm blogs are related to search engine optimization.  At the end of the day this is the most beneficial value provided by the blog, because no legal marketing strategy comes close to providing as much value as superior natural search rankings.  This will likely be the case for the foreseeable future.  However, the blog does much more there merely help the firm appear higher in Google.  Those secondary benefits are one reason that having a solid blogging effort now can undoubtedly have long-term benefits.

Of course, SEO still dominates.  There is simply nothing to compare to the targeting of individuals who visit a search engine and plug in terms indicating a clear need for legal services in your practice area and your geographic area.  Taken out of the digital context, this is as if thousands of potential clients needing your exact services were all housed in one building.  It would be madness not to focus your marketing efforts on getting to the building and displaying yourself prominently.    That is search and SEO in a nutshell.  As we explained, the legal blog—if done well—is a prime way to uniquely increase a firm’s prominence among uniquely tailored potential clients.

However, it must not be forgotten that SEO does one thing: it bring the client to you (or you to the client).  What doesn’t it do?  Make them call, email, or fill out an online questionnaire.  Of course this is marketing 101—adding clients requires both getting the leads and then closing the deal.  Finding the potential client and then making them an actual client.  So does a law firm blog play a role in the second phase of client acquisition?  Definitely.

Many legal marketing professionals will offer various theories on what truly matters to searching online clients and what seals the deal.  But, quite frankly, whatever claim actually has the most merit, the blog can be tailored to meet the goal.  For example, many suggest that the attorney profile page of any law firm website is of supreme importance, because potential clients most often want to get a sense of the actual “person” behind the mask.  Clients want to see the face of their potential lawyer and get a sense of who they are both inside and outside the suit.  Just like many people vote for President based on who’d they like to have a beer with, many potential clients reach out to a lawyer or firm because they feel like they can connect with the attorney on a personal level.  It is hard to do that on a single attorney profile page (though interactive videos and more extensive biographies one step forward).

The blog helps fill that role.  Blogs are by their nature slightly informal.  When done well they are seemingly an ongoing conversation with all those who stumble upon its pages in the course of surfing.  This interactive writing works to sell the attorney and firm.  The specific material discussed or stories referenced in the blog are ultimately less important that the fact that there are stories and discussions at all.  Combined with the other elements of a proper firm website, having a solid legal blog writing program in place e can play a huge role in actually selling the firm and getting the potential client to make contact.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What a Legal Blog Provides For the Law Firm

As legal blog writers we often discuss the benefits of having a legal blog with attorneys completely unfamiliar with the process.  We explain how we genuinely believe that consistent blog writing is perhaps the single best online tool to help use the internet to draw in clients and position the firm for long-term success in online visibility.  We also work with many attorneys who already understand the value of law firm blogs—attorneys how have already added them to their web-presence.  However, even among those lawyers who use blogs —from solos to big firm partners—there is often confusion about what the main purpose of the tool. 

Below are the four main benefits of having a blog for a law firm in order of importance.  It is necessary to keep this order in perspective, because it helps when evaluating the overall effectiveness of the blog.  Some lawyers have mistakenly assumed that they were not getting value out of a blog, because they misunderstood that overall purpose.  Keeping these goals in mind is vital when conducted a review of your overall marketing effectiveness.

1) Increases Main Firm Website’s Search Engine Visibility

The single most important reason firms have a blog is to increase their main website’s search engine ranking.  In other words, the goal is for clients to find the main firm website directly after searching.  The goal is NOT for the client to find the blog first and then get to the main website via the blog.  This is likely the single biggest misunderstanding that attorneys have about the value of their blog.  This means that the blog’s benefits are sometimes difficult to track.  The blog is best viewed as a trampoline that helps boost the main website higher in the rankings.  It’s main value is not in getting clients to the blog itself.  Some attorneys miss this point about the relationship between the main firm website and the blog.  Failing to understand this metric often leads attorneys to conclude that their blog is not working, when it actuality it is operating exactly as intended.

2) Blog Itself Acts As Second Form of Visibility

While the main benefit of a blog for a law firm is to increase the visibility of the firm site, it is undeniable that the blog itself often performs well on searches.  In this way, the blog can bring in clients indirectly, by having them read a blog story and eventually arrive at the firm site.  The most established blogs have this benefit more as the total amount of content on the blog increases.  In fact, it might be correct to say that the very best blogs (with several thousand posts) may be of value to the firm specifically because the blog itself draws hits.  That is the exception.  For most firms, the blog itself is a secondary tool.

3) Improves Firm Website’s Overall Appearance

The mere existence of a blog with regularly updated content also improves the firm’s perception to a client.  Far too many attorneys have a website created and then that site grows cold.  Nothing is added, no new material is updated, and clients who land on the site often ask themselves if the attorneys are even still practicing.  The blog changes that by making it clear to all those who end up on a firm site that the attorneys are still around, active, paying attention to legal news, and open for business.  Thus, beyond simply drawing in more hits via an SEO strategy, the blog helps to actually covert hits into clients by making the firm appear alive.  

4) Actual Clients Learn About Legal Options

While not a primary goal, and often a matter of mere chance, many more firms that you would expect have gotten clients to sign up for their services specifically because they read a story about themselves on the law firm blog.  In the usual case, a firm will have a blog post up about a certain accident that occurred in the area, explaining the general legal ramifications of that accident.  Then the victim who was in that accident (or their family) will find the post after Googling themselves and decide to hire the attorney.  This happens, but it is hard to predict when it will happen.  Some attorneys actually think this is the main goal of the blog.  However, it is important to remember that this is merely a secondary issue that is rare.  Even getting a single client in this fashion, however, is usually enough to pay back a significant investment in law blog writing efforts.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why Hire Legal Blog Writers?

Over the past two weeks we have explained the value of a legal blog for law firms of all sizes.  There is simply no better way to keep content fresh, share legal expertise, and maximize natural search engine client solicitation.  Firms of all sizes and virtually all practice areas should have a law firm blog.

In a fantasy world, the individual attorneys would always have the time and SEO awareness to update the blog in a timely and beneficial manner.  We don’t live in that fantasy world.  There are simply not enough time for the average lawyer to set out an hour every day to find, write, edit, and post content in the way necessary to maximize the blogs marketing utility.  Time is money and it is quite often inefficient for attorneys to devote their limited mental resources to the blogging effort.

Fortunately, legal blog writers are available to help in the effort.  The task is a natural one to outsource, because the services can be purchased at a relatively bargain rate when compared to the time freed-up by use of third-party help.   Blog writing is a skill that simply takes time.  There is no way around the fact that crafting a relevant, insightful, SEO-tailored post will take roughly an hour.  It does not matter how many years of experience one has, their GPA, or graduate degrees.  The process is time-consuming.  The economics of it often do not work for an individual attorney for whom the billable hour is supreme.  It is usually much more cost effective to hire a third party to perform the nuts and bolts work for a fraction of the fee which the attorney him or herself would charge for an hour of work.  The quality of the product need not be sacrificed either, because those trained in both the law and SEO can be hired to provide the service.

Despite what some critics may mention, hiring law blog ghostwriters does not at all violate the spirit of the online content writing space.  The attorneys are always free to retain a role in the blog writing when time allows.  They are free to direct outsourced writers to create posts on certain content, ask the writers to mention certain points, or tell them to display a certain viewpoint.  The editorial discretion of the attorney in their own space will always remain.  In addition, legal ghostwriters are often used merely as a compliment to an attorney’s own writing.  When a lawyer gets the urge to explain some issue or comment on a case, they will always be able to do so.  The writers simply ensure that content is fresh and added on a consistent basis no matter how busy the attorney gets.

We began LawBlogWriters because we genuinely believe in the value of legalblogs and the utility of having third party assistance with their maintenance.  The short-term and long-term value that a firm can get from a successful legal blog dwarfs that of even the most expensive marketing efforts.  All law firms stretch their marketing dollars as far as they can go.  Nothing better maximizes that value than the aid of quality legal bloggers. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Law Blogging Is An Investment, Not a One-Time Expense

Old-school legal marketing was like every other form of marketing: it focused on direct exposure.  This mindset usually prioritized on one-time visibility pops.  Billboards, yellow pages, television commercials, newspaper advertisements.  These exposure methods are one-time expenses that have a finite value which may or may not bring in clients.  Firms bought the exposure, hoped it would bring in customers, and measured how many people came in during the time that the advertisement was visible.

If few people came in, these marketing dollars were virtually wasted.  Law firm blogs do not work like that.   

The money and time spent on legal blog writing is best thought of as an investment that pays long-term dividends.  Unlike advertisements, the blog is the firm’s main tool to increase its visibility online among those searching for the very services that it offers.  Gaining that visibility is essentially a continuous process by which the firm creates a linking network that piece by piece makes the firm more competitive in searches.  Each link that is created inside each blog post remains a permanent fixture, meaning that its marketing value does not disappear when the post itself is not longer visible.

In this way, each dollar spent on a law firm blog provides permanent, never-ending value to the firm.  Put another way, a dollar spent on a law firm blog provide much more than a dollar spent on virtually all other forms of online legal marketing.   

In fact, depending on when the dollars are spent, money devoted to blogging now is likely worth more than money devoted a year from now.  Search engine optimization efforts include longevity.  That means that consistent links from valuable sources (your blog) are of more value the longer that the source is around.  Therefore, the firms that start earliest building these linking networks can get the most out of each post than the firms that start later.  Without a doubt more and more attorneys are recognizing the value of these efforts as compared to several years ago. However, overall, those firms committing substantial resources to their blogging efforts remain in the minority—and they are the reaping the rewards of their novel position. 

Overall, most law firms still need to completely re-think how they evaluate their marketing efforts and the value that they give to funds spent on attracting new clients.  We firmly believe that there is no better long-term way to spend resources to attract new clients that with legal blog writing.   Each and every well-tailored SEO blog post may contribute to the firm’s marketing success years down the road.  Not only that, but the type client that the blog post focuses on—the online searcher—has been the fastest growing group of clients for the last decade and a half with no signs of slowing.

Smart legal marketing focuses strongly on internet efforts.  Even smarter marketing targets those strategies that provide long-term internet visibility.  Legal blogs are the best way to provide long-term internet visibility.   

Friday, September 16, 2011

Linking Keywords Is the Hallmark of Good Legal Blog Writing

Keywords are what make law firm blogs useful for SEO purposes.  But there are mistaken assumptions among many attorneys and legal staff members that run blogs about how these keyword links actually work.  Not all links are created equal.  Finding topics to post on, creating the lengthy post, formatting the article, and then actually posting the material can be a time-consuming and grueling process.  Unfortunately, all of that legal blog writing effort is often wasted when proper keyword linking strategies are not employed.

It is not enough to link any phrase on a blog post to any page on a firm’s website.  This is akin to being in a canoe and moving the oars above the water.  It’s a waste of energy.  While it may look like you are doing everything right from afar, upon close inspection a key ingredient is missing that will actually produce the results that one demands.  It is always disheartening to see attorneys put in so much effort on producing good content for their blogs only to fundamentally misunderstand the way that keywords are used to transform the blog into a tool that improves the firm online visibility.

Here are a few keyword and linking fundamentals that every law firm blog writer should know:

(1) Link the Correct Words.  Far too often attorney-writers highlight any old phrase or word and link it.  This is the biggest mistake one can make.  There must be a very specific and intentional list of words and phrases that are targeted by a firm, and ONLY those phrases should be linked back to the firm website.  Everything else is a wasted effort that either adds to the total link count in a post unnecessarily or takes away links from words that actually matter to the firm.

(2) Location Matters.  Many writers who understand the basic keyword process fail to give proper weight to value of link location.  There are two main points to remember here.  First, keywords within a title are given extra weight by Google crawlers.  Whenever feasible without forcing it or repeating oneself, a keyword (unlinked) should be used in the title of a post.  Second, linked keywords in the first sentence—or, better yet, beginning of the first sentence—are always considered “super-links” that should be prioritized whenever possible.

(3) Don’t Overdue it.  Long gone are the days when one could jam in fifteen links in a single 500 word post and get value out of it.  The links must not be abused—the Google crawlers are too smart for that.  Instead, the link to word-count ratio must always be abided by.  It is wise to shoot for 4 links for a typical 500 word post, plus or minus one.  The Goldilocks principle applies in these cases.

(4) Landing Site Consistency. Just as it is unhelpful to link non-relevant keywords, it is also a waste to have scatter-shot landing pages for those links.  Not all pages on a law firm website are created equal.  Those with specific static content related to the links coming-in are prioritized by crawlers.  In other words, when one links “Texas burn injury lawyer” in a post it should land on a page that discusses Texas burn injuries on the firm’s main website.  This should be the case every single time that a burn related link is used.

Understanding these basic principles is the difference between those law blog writers that provide consistent results and those that row above the water to get nowhere.  All attorneys who want to drive clients to their firm with these efforts must take these points to heart.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

SEO Basics for Law Firms & The Role of Legal Blog Writing

Virtually all lawyers and legal staff members who have given thought to online marketing have come across the acronym SEO.  This post is for those who have never been given a simple answer to what SEO means, what they need to know about it, and how legal blog writing is the main part of all SEO strategies.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) includes all efforts to improve a website’s appearance and visibility when relevant terms are searched in major engines online.  Increasingly the search engine market is dominated by a single entity: Google.  Therefore, when SEO is mentioned it almost always refers to ways by which a business tries to show up higher in the Google rankings when potential clients are using the search engine to find the goods or services that they provide.  With more potential clients than ever in need of legal services using the internet to find a lawyer, SEO for law firms must be prioritized for all firms realistically trying to attract new clients.    

So how does SEO work? The short answer is that no one knows exactly how it works—at least no one who is not employed by the search engine company.  Google’s specific (and changing) algorithm is not publically available.  Therefore, anyone that says that they know exactly how to ensure that you move from the bottom of the rankings to the top is likely being disingenuous, or, worse yet, intentionally dishonest. 

However, while the exact magic formula is unknown, it is clear what Google is after when they rank web pages based on their relevance and value to specific searchers.  Those in charge of the process have explained that they prioritize quality content that is consistently updated and tailored as closely as possible to the exact search terms.  Google determines the page’s value by using “crawlers,” which are essentially virtually spider-like programs that constantly scour the internet indexing and cataloging new pages and updates.  The crawlers have been programmed to look to for certain words and, in particular, keywords that are linked to other pages. 

Linking is a hallmark of the internet.  It is what makes it a “web” with one page connected to another.  Therefore, links are majorly prioritized by the Google crawlers when determining the value of a certain web page.  For example, if there are 100 links of the word “Texas medical malpractice lawyer” coming from one site to the site of a specific law firm, Google imagines that the landing firm site must provide something pretty relevant to one who is searching “Texas medical malpractice lawyer” in Google. Therefore that firm site will rank higher than others.  The more quality links, the better.

Law firm blogs are centered on this linking practice. A blog is the most efficient way for firms to create these outside links back to their main website.  When done properly, the links will create a strong association in the search algorithm between their site and the terms that their potential clients may use when looking to find legal help online.  Therefore, legal blog writing is the most important thing that a law firm can do as part of its online marketing efforts.  Considering online marketing is speeding past all other forms, it is not a stretch to say that law blog writing will soon become the main component of all legal marketing plans.  Many firms have already shifted resources toward it with great results.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Future of the Law Firm Website Is More Content, AKA: Law Firm Blog Posts

It doesn’t take a crystal ball or Nostradamus-type foresight to understand that the general trajectory of law firm marketing is increasingly emphasizing online efforts.  The law firm website has been gaining importance in firm’s client-development efforts for years.  There is no slowing that progress.  All onlookers agree that at the centerpiece of new online marketing can be boiled down into two words: new content Law firm blog posts are all about new content.

A story last week in the National Law Journal on the future of law firm websites explored this new focus on content building.  Not wanting to understate the significance of a firm’s online efforts, the author claims that a firm’s website visibility will soon become more important even than face-to-face meetings with clients.  Any firm looking at the long-term must be aware of the cultural shift in thinking among all those under 40.  Virtual relationships are much more important to this demographic.  They respond to information they see online.  More specifically, they respond to online voices that offer consistent, visible content.

Legal blog writing is far and away the best—perhaps only—way to produce this content.  In fact, consistent new content is essentially the definition of a blog.  That is why blogs for law firms represent the centerpiece of online legal marketing today.  No longer can websites be considered a static brochure that provides generic information about a firm or an attorney.  It must be dynamic—not in the visual sense, but the content sense.  In other words, it needs to become a publishing platform where new content is created consistently to present the online impression that the firm and attorneys are alive, in-tune with the virtual world, and active members of the online community. 

Besides solidifying the firm as an active member of the community, the blog has added search engine optimization (SEO) benefit.  Tailored keyword usages, proper posting length, and though out placement is the difference between fifth page ranking and first page ranking on the keywords that matter.  Unlike what some claim, it is often that simple.  Unfortunately the perception remains that expensive, complex SEO experts are needed to break into the battle for online prominence.  That is not the case.  A basic understanding of blog writing and the time to produce content is all it takes.  Failing that, hiring law blog writers is much cheaper than hiring mega marketing firms to concoct elaborate old-fashioned marketing schemes that use smoke and mirrors to make it seem like they are proving more value than they actually are.   

Online legal marketing is the name of the game these days.  Law firms blogs are the cream of the crop when it comes to online marketing.  There are benefits of recognizing this reality sooner rather than later. T hose firms that begin producing new content earlier can have more archived material before others catch up.  That will pay huge dividends in the battle for online visibility that will only increase in the years to come.  The clear lesson: create a blog and write content (or hire legal blog writers to do it for you).  Don’t get left behind.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Monday, September 12, 2011

What All Law Firm Blog Posts Should Include

Once a law firm becomes aware of the importance of having a legal blog, many attorneys ask the obvious next question: how do I create worthwhile legal blog posts?  Of course, the mere existence of blog is insufficient if the manner by which it is updated is insufficient.  Understanding how to write the ideal law blog post is as important as realizing the necessity of having a blog at all.  Below is a brief discussion of the three most important aspects of the legal blog writing process:

1. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords.  The name of the game of search engine optimization through blogging is the basic understanding of keywords.  This may be deceiving to the uninitiated, because keywords are actually almost always a series of words or phrases.  These are the phrases that potential client will type into a search engine when seeking legal advice, i.e. “Texas accident lawyer” or “New York medical malpractice attorney.” 

To draw those clients to you, you must: (1) Have an awareness of what those keywords are, and (2) Use your blog to enhance your firm’s online profile with regard to those keywords.   This is done by using those keywords within the body of each post and then linking that keyword to designated landing spots on your firm’s main website.  The more links used, the more search engine benefit.  However, it is not as simple as piling in as many keywords as possible.  Search engine crawlers are much too smart to be caught by beginners trying to game the system.  Instead, keywords must be used at appropriate levels, in the correct location within the post, and in a natural way that avoids being flagged as “spammy.”  We will have more on the art of keyword usage in later posts.

2. Frequency.  To be effective blog posts must be frequent and consistent.  There is no magic number of posts that need to be added each week.  However, at the very least, there should be at least one post every week.  Three posts a week is a solid middle ground, and three is a virtual necessity for firms in more competitive practice areas/locations (i.e. all personal injury attorneys).  The firms who are seen at the top of the rankings in the most competitive search terms usually add new content of some form at least five and often seven days every week.  Yes, that means 365 days a year.  This is not always necessary, of course, but it can and does happen.

3. Good Content. Through it all you should never forget that the actual words that you are writing must make sense, flow naturally, and provide some useful information to the people who are reading it.  Blog posts cannot be about spam.  That is why it is helpful to also have other lawyers or those with legal training produce the content.  Each post does not need to be a treatise on some aspect of the law, but at the very least it should reflect an awareness of the legal system as it relates to a particular story.

If you know nothing else about how to write a legal blog post, knowing these three concepts will place you ahead of 97% of most other attorneys.  Of course, legal blog writing is an ancillary task that often gets pushed to the side while attorneys do actual work representing clients.  Outsourcing this task is not only feasible but cost-effective for many.  Some legal blog ghostwriting services are better than others, so be sure to compare cost and expertise when deciding who to hire.  At the least, remember the value of quality content.  It is important to chose legal blog writers who have actual legal knowledge combined with expert awareness of the SEO strategies used in legal blogs. 

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Every Law Firm Needs A Blog

Everyone knows that no law firm can survive without a website.  Similarly, it is becoming increasingly known that no legal team can compete these days in online marketing without a law firm blog.

As with all other industries, the commonly used techniques in legal marketing have change dramatically over the past several decades.  Technology is at the root of the change, with the rise of the internet fundamentally altering the way that lawyers are hired by clients.  Everyone knows that to attract clients, a law firm must make their website and online presence a priority. That is where legal blog writing comes in.

The percentage of clients who found their attorney online has steadily grown every year for the past two decades.  Finally, in 2009, data specifically showed that more clients went online to get legal help than anywhere else.  Not only that, but these individuals with a specific legal need discovered their attorney in one way: by going to a search engine and entering search terms related to their need.  For the first time since tracking began, in 2009 TMP Directional Marketing used comScore data to determine that Search Engines were the number one gateway through which lawyers acquired new clients.   As it now stands, over 6 in 10 individuals find their lawyer online.

This is a far cry from the good old days when all clients would be referred by a friend, or, better yet, looked in the yellow pages.  That world is long gone, and law firms that want to survive must keep up.   How often have you looked at the yellow pages?  That is why it is surprising that so many attorneys are still devoting resources to this outdated and dying tool?

While many legal marketing companies make gimmicky promises about seemingly magic tricks that improve a website ranking, the truth is that performing well on search terms is not all that complex.  Here’s what accounts for 90% of the ranking: new written content and specialized keyword links.  That is why it is absolutely essentially for lawyers to ensure that they have a regularly updated law firm blog.  The blog is essentially all about providing those two necessities.  New content touching on whatever legal field the attorney practices with proper usage of keywords to connect that blog and those terms back to the attorney’s main website.  It is not rocket science.

Unfortunately, the majority of lawyers still fail to execute this fundamental aspect of legal marketing effectively.  The few who do reap the rewards of the others ignorance.  Even the firms that have a tailored law firm blog writing system in place often miss out because they do maximize linking potential.  Many attorneys are good at writing content, but they are not sure what it means to properly link.  It is not beneficial to link just any text in the post, and it is not beneficial to have the link land of just any page within your firm’s website.  There must be a very specific, consistent, tailored program in place so that the right keywords are linked to the right pages.  It does not require technical expertise, but it does require basic awareness of search engine optimization principles and a discipline to keep new the blog posting regime running consistently.

If you are an attorney and do not have a law firm blog, get on the bandwagon now.