Monday, December 3, 2012

ABA Legal Technology Survey - Making it "Rain" Online

If you skimmed your December issue of the ABA Journal you may have stopped at the  page entitled "Online Rain."  The brief article and accompanying chart pulled some data from the an ABA survey from the Legal Technology Research Center.  Not surprisingly, the information culled from even that excerpt is a ringing endorsement of shifting firm time and resources to online marketing efforts.

Return on Investment

Unlike most reports of this nature, this survey was not talking just about who used social media--blogs, Facebook, and Twitter--but who actually saw clear return on investment for using them.  After all, few attorneys and firms engage in these online activities for the mere joy of doing so.  The goal is that the blogging and sharing will lead to enhanced relationships, reputation, and ultimately, clients.  Many firms have heard the chatter about the value of devoting resources to these online efforts, but they have failed to pull the trigger.  That is because there are concerns about whether investing in these media (and it is an investment) will pay off in the end.

This new survey offer even more evidence of the value to the bottom line.

The results as explicated in the article are as follows:

* Percentage of firms who got clients directly via blogging - 39.1%
* Percentage of firms who got clients directly via social networking (i.e. Facebook) - 16.5%
* Percentage of firms who got clients directly via microblogging (i.e. Twitter) - 11%

A few of the published crosstabs from the survey offer even more interesting information.  Far and away the most value for all of these tools goes to smaller firms--particularly solos and firms with ten or fewer attorneys.  This is not surprising, as social media efforts help to personalize the firm and its attorneys.  Large firms do not obtain clients via attorney personalization to the individual consumer--it is more about long-term reputation (particularly with business clients).  However, for smaller firms, their ability to "sell" themselves to those searching for an attorney online is crucial.  There is no way to sell yourself with engaging in these efforts of which blogging is at the forefront.

In addition, the trends lines are clear.  Not only are many firms getting clients directly via these Web 2.0 tools, but the percentage of firms getting clients this ways is growing.  Again, this is no surprise to those who have been paying even the least bit of attention to these issues in recent years.

Collateral Benefits

It is important to keep in mind that these survey results only include details of those firms who obtained the client directly vie use of these online tools.  Previous research has found many other collateral benefits to these sites which likely would not have been picked up by these very specific survey questions.  For example, many prospective clients hear about a firm via other sources--they live near the office or had a friend recommend them--and then use the firm's online presence to go ahead and call or not.  In many cases, the firm's activity online acts as either a confirmation or rejection by the potential client.  So even if a law firm blog does not produce the client directly, it may "seal the deal."  Conversely, not have a blog (or, worse, having a poorly maintained blog) can lose a prospective client.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Law Firm Practice Area Content Pages - Why You Need a Lot of Them

We harp endlessly that the key to search engine optimization is "content."  Content means unique articles/stories/blogs/web pages written for your firm exclusively based on solid SEO practices.  Blogs are natural SEO kings, because they are focused on new content added on a weekly (or even daily) basis. 

However, it is a mistake to focus only on blogs and not on new material that is added permanently to the website itself.

In terms of law firm websites, this usually includes static pages focusing on individual practice areas.  Beyond that, these website pages might include breaking down various aspects of the litigation process, having a frequently asked questions page, locality pages based on specific cities in your area and more.  If you work with an SEO firm or receive counseling from the company that created your website, you have likely been told of the importance of adding content to the website itself--this is in addition to keeping your blog running smoothly. 

Law Firm Practice Area Pages
One mistake that many firms make is assuming that they do not need many practice area pages.  For example, a personal injury firm might have a page for medical malpractice, product liability, premise liability, and a few others.  They may not imagine that they need to break that down much further.  After all, why would you need a birth injury page when those cases clearly fall within medical malpractice.  Isn't a mention of birth injuries on the medical malpractice page sufficient?  Why clutter up the website?

Two main reasons:

First, for SEO purposes you need the detailed keywords for birth injury issues that a stand-alone page can provide.  It is important to include terms like cerebral palsy, erbs palsy, brachial plexus injuries, and other details on your own page.  It is impossible to do that properly without individual pages dedicated to sub-sections.

Second, prospective clients are not versed into the hierarchy of legal terms.  In most cases, all they will understand is the issue facing them: they were in a car accident, slipped on the stairs, were diagnosed with the wrong thing, suspect that their drug caused cancer, or any number of other situations.  In many cases they may not know what their issue translates into in terms of practice area.  That is why, for example, it is important to have pages that use plain language to discuss the problem.  "Dangerous drugs" or "Hip implant recall" is more likely to trigger something with a prospective client that "product liability."  While it is important for the firm website project legal precision, that should not result in individual website pages that are devoid of common language terms and phrases that prospective clients might use.

View Your Website As A Comprehensive Resource
The best approach is to view your online presence as one that involves steadily building up more and more interesting material for consumers.  That includes a two-pronged approach: (1) Permanent pages on your website about timeless issues (i.e. explanations of the most common birth injuries attributable to negligence); and (2) Blog posts that touch on timely topics, helping to connect issues in the news with basic principles of law.  When both of these are done well, the firm is best positioned to do well online for the long-term.

However, it is important to reiterate that while this sounds easy, it is actually a good deal of work.  That is because each of these pages and posts must be uniquely written for your firm.  There are no shortcuts.  You cannot copy and past interesting material or summaries found elsewhere.  Even if you owned the rights to that alternative material, the search engines will not give you benefit for copying material available elsewhere online.  In fact, you are penalized for copying things found elsewhere.  Instead, the material has to be original. 

Legal blog writers and legal content writers are available to help with the task.  Those at our firm, for example, are all attorneys themselves, trained in SEO and able to create unique content on the subject matter you need.  If you need assistance boosting your firm's online presence, there is no other way that via new content.  Take a moment to reach out to our legal writers for help on that front.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why Have a Law Firm Blog If You Don't Update It?

Let me guess...you set up a new website and the company which made it encouraged you to create a blog.  You did.  And now you have a nifty little link/tab on your website that says "Blog."  At first, it seemed like a perfect way to share many of your thoughts about your practice area, interesting news developments, and things that happened at your firm.  You added a few posts.  Your web company may even have offered some blogging tips, providing details on the best way to ensure that your blog posts were tailored for search engine purposes.

It all went well at first.   You were excited about the launch of your new online presence.  You were ready to make an impact on the web and be the first stop for potential clients who were searching for a lawyer.  But...something happened...

Running the business got in the way.

At first you wrote a few blog posts a week.  Then you ended up doing it only once a week.  Then there were two-three week gaps.  Eventually, you became so far behind, that you kind of gave up the blog posting thing all together.  You didn't have time for it.  You might have assigned the duties to someone else at the firm, maybe an intern, the office manager, or someone who helps with marketing.  But none of it really worked.

So here you are now, with a blog that is basically dead.  The link is still on your website.  Potential clients can still get to it.  But, it isn't active.  The latest post was months ago.  Oh well, too late now, you suppose.  There are many other things on the to-do list that are far more important anyway.  There is no reason to spend time on something like a law firm blog which would be nice, but is essentially just an extra, unnecessary resource.

Think again.

It is better to have no law firm blog, than a dead one.  Why?  Because not only does a stagnant blog do nothing for search engine optimization, but it may have a negative effect on client conversion.

Think about it.  A community member is thinking about filing for bankruptcy.  They go online to see which bankruptcy lawyers they can find close to them.  Two websites pop up.  They both seem pretty similar, and the client doesn't really know what makes one better than the others.  The potential client first checks out the "Attorney Profile" page on each site.  They want to get a feel for what the person looks like and what their background is.  Is this someone who they can work with and feel comfortable talking about these details? 

What else is on the websites?  One of the attorneys have a blog link.  They click it to see what's there.  They find a page that hasn't been updated for nearly 11 months.  Is this lawyer even still practicing?  Have they closed up shop?  Are they taking new clients?  Who knows, maybe its best just to try the other one first.

This might seem too stretched, but trust me, these sort of split-second, ancillary issues affect web searchers all the time.  That is particular true for the growing number of people going online to find lawyers.  Web searchers are becoming more and more savvy.  They understand that websites are created all the time and then left to the weeds.  They understand that finding a website does not mean that the business is necessarily still active.  A bit more research is needed.  A blog is a good testament to that.  If a blog is active, updated that very week, then there is no question that the doors are still open and a call is welcome.  If the blog is dead, then the searcher might have doubts.

The bottom line: If you are not going to update your blog, it might be best not to have it at all.  However, the best bet is always to have the blog and update it.  The benefits are hard to overestimate, particularly in light of the fact that more and more consumers are finding attorneys online and they are becoming more savvy about it.  If you don't have the time to do the writing yourself, send our legal content writers a message and see how we can help.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Law Firm Blog Writing: Defense or Offense

Most of us at Law Blog Writers, LLC are based in the Washington, D.C. area.  At the moment we are hunkered down like most in the area as Hurricane Sandy storms through.  In the past few days we have been making preparations for possible extended power outages and other ramifications of the supposedly one of a kind weather event.

Not to be too cheesy, but as we were planning for the storm it became clear that there was an analogy to be made with the storm preparations and the value of law firm blogging.  Actually, there were two analogies to be made.  On one hand, the blog writing IS like preparing for the storm.  On the other hand, law firm blog writing IS NOT like preparing for the storm. That is because the content creation is both an offensive SEO strategy and, at times, defensive.

The defensive component of the blogging effort relates to maintaining one's current position of SEO strength.  Depending on your firm's current position, you may already be performing well on SEO measures.  You may have several first page rankings and get steady calls from potential clients who find you online.  However, some firms may be headed for a tailspin on that front without taking steps to preserve their solid positioning online.  That is particularly true now because more and more firms are switching marketing time and resources over to online efforts.  In other words, online competition is steadily increasing in all geographic locations and practice areas.  Not coincidentally, this is occurring at the same time that a larger percentage of potential clients are turning online to find legal help.  Law firm blog writing is increasingly becoming a mandatory tool to keep pace with others.

On the other hand, if you have competitors who are performing better on the most important searches, then there is really only one main way to play offense: add more relevant, properly tailored, content.  That is where blog writing comes in.  If you are not satisfied with the total number of calls you are receiving from online efforts, then your focus must shift to legal blog writing.  It's the main sword in the SEO shield.

The bottom line is that legal content writing, particularly on websites and blogs, is both the pinnacle offensive and defensive weapon for search engine optimization efforts.  Whether you want to ensure your competitors don't overtake you in the future or to mount an aggressive approach to draw in more clients, it is vital to switch resources over to steady, experienced legal blog writing.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Three Common Social Media Mistakes & Their Application to Law Firm Blogs

A post at SiteProNews recently listed three basic business "social media mistakes."  We want to delve into these "mistakes" as they relate to law firm blogs.  The three problems outlined in the SPN post were:

1) Thinking social media is "free"
2) Failing to respond to customers
3) Talking business all the time 

The post was a general one, directed at basic SEO matters for all businesses.  But a few underlying principles for law firm content writing and online marketing are relevant.

First, the idea of "free" social media usage is huge.  Of course, it does not cost anything to open a Facebook account, start on Twitter, or even use most blogging programs.  But the assumption that social media marketing is "free" often translates into the tool being utterly neglected.  Having a Facebook account or a blog means nothing if it is not used often and well.  On many occasions that means putting actual resources (time, money, or both) to actually make sure it works.   On some occasions that might mean having a staff member dedicated solely to these efforts.  Far too many business (including law firms) simply toss these online marketing details to someone who already has a plate-full of other tasks.  But to actually ensure things are done consistently and correctly--which is the only way social media actually works--is to have certain folks (either internally or externally) who are focused solely on social media details on your behalf.

Second, responding to customers in a online legal marketing sense means paying attention to timely issues and real question areas.  Of course when potential clients actually reach out, it is absolutely essential that a system be in place for them to be responded to in a timely manner.  But responding to customers also means being cognizant of their actual interests when creating law blog posts.  That might mean realizing what questions you get asked time and time again.  It also might mean writing in a manner that is easily accessible to the potential client.  That doesn't always means entirely "dumbed down" content. But it does mean explaining some basic legal concepts that someone who did not go to law school might never have heard.

Finally, the "all business" concept comes into play in both the topic selection process and the writing style of law firm blogs.  One big mistake that firms make is pigeon-holing themselves far too much.  Obviously, every firm and attorney has their niche, but it is a mistake to think that every single blog posts must talk only about that tiny niche in one tiny part of the country.  For example, if you help clients with short sales in a town in Nevada, every single post does not necessarily have to be about short sales in Nevada.  New, interesting topics on Nevada short sales are certainly important, but it is entirely reasonable to also have posts on foreclosures generally, an interesting case in another state, scams regarding short sales happening elsewhere, or other issues that are a bit more tangential. 

Not being "all business" for law firm blogging also means talking conversationally and having flexibility in topics.  The SEO details can be worked out regardless of the underlying topic.  The main goal should be creating posts that might be interesting to a wide range of potential clients, not simply spewing out article after article on one very small concept area.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Overlooked Benefit: Social Media to Keep Clients

New Clients. New Clients. New Clients.

The answer to the basic questions about why firms focus on search engine optimization and law firm blogs is all about those two words: New.  Clients.  

As law blog managers and legal content writers, most of our discussion with attorneys revolves around this basic issue.  More individuals than ever find their lawyer online, and so attorneys must position themselves so that those searchers might consider them when making a choice about who retain.  That is simple enough.  Search engine optimization is all about being seen--and blogs are the key to that SEO effort.

But it is a mistake to end the discussion there.  Not only can blogs be a powerful tool to attract new clients, but they play a role in client retention.   

When evaluating whether to commit the time and/or resources to a legal blog, it is critical to also weigh the value of these tools for client retention.  Focusing on repeat business is not something that only matters in the world of mass consumer goods.  It is a concern for lawyers just as it is for Apple and McDonalds.  

Blogging plays a critical role in keeping up the relationship with former and current clients.  You may have a monthly newsletter or occasional email blasts, but nothing compares with an online spot where those clients can touch in frequently to see what is going on in the firm or be reminded of some interesting facet of the law as it related to your part of the country.  It is difficult to quantify this value, but it is undeniable that it exists.  

To be fair, some of this hinges on your firm's exact practice area.  Some fields naturally involve more repeat customer/client retention issues.  For example, while an injury attorney might constantly be looking for the next plaintiff, small business attorneys hope to build longer relationships with existing clients.  The potential retention benefit of legal blogging (and all social media generally) would most obviously be present in practice areas where repeat is common.  

Yet, even in traditional injury cases, former clients are known to keep some tabs on their firm.  Ensuring they have some place to go to keep that contact via the blog and other social media channels is important.  Even though a surprisingly large number of community members admit to finding their lawyer online, referrals still exists.  Presenting a steady, quality online storefront/interactive space for the firm (via blogs and social networking tools) is important to funneling in those referrals.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Finding a Lawyer Online--The Percentage is Growing

It's old hat to make claims about the importance of law firms having a strong online presence.  It's akin to suggesting that "social networking is changing the way people interact."  We all know it. It's cliche.  Move along.

But the clear reality is that the importance for law firms of having a strong online presence is growing every single day.  For example, in a new post from Business.com on marketing tips for lawyers, the editor-in-chief of Lawyers.com highlighted one staggering fact:

Three out of every Four people who actually hired an attorney within the last year went online to find the attorney.

Let that sink in.  75% of all new clients found their attorney online.  We all knew that online legal searches were soaring, but few thought we had reached this level so soon.  It is likely that previous investigations into the issue understated the case, because they counted people who hired attorneys in the past.  This new analysis of those looking for attorneys only in the last twelve month makes the reality clear: those looking for an attorney for the first time are going online.

The trends will no doubt continue in that direction, as the younger generation is programmed to look for everything online--there is simply no thought to do anything else.

Legal Blogs & Content
The Business.com blog goes on to suggest common sense techniques to capitalize on this reality. The biggest mistake is a failure to be active online.

But how does one actually become "active" online?  Isn't a website enough?  Of course not.

The website is just a home base--everything grows from that.  At the end of the day the main way to be "active" is to publish new content--FAQs, comments on case law, summaries of interesting news stories, and more.  This naturally leads to the creation of a blog.  The post notes that "It should be updated at least once a week, if not more.  A blog allows attorneys to demonstrate their expertise and discuss legal issues that consumers face.  The more content that is created, the more there is for Google to index."

Besides helping with SEO, the legal content creation is essentially a "non-sleazy" way to market online.  That is because it is all about marketing via education.  Blog posts, new website content, frequently asked questions, short books, and similar helpful material is the most logical way to get your name out there while actually providing a service that paints the firm in a good light.

The story concludes with the basic idea behind law firm blogs and value of new content: "If people see that a lawyer is consistently providing helpful information that people can put to use in their daily lives, that lawyer will have a following of loyal clients."


Thursday, September 27, 2012

ABA on Google Plus

Like many of you, I make a habit of quickly flipping through each edition of the ABA Journal that arrives in the ole' postal box.  Magazines are always a healthy diversion from the task after task after task grind. This time around I was pleasantly surprised to see a few articles touching on issues near and dear to my heart--law firm social networking and blogging.  

You may have skimmed the articles.
The first was on Google Plus--the latest social networking service that would undoubtedly mean nothing to anyone except for the fact that it was created by the search engine behemoth--Google.  Social networking and SEO-types have been debating the merit and future use of Google Plus since it was first released over a year ago.  

So far, I think it is fair to say that the short summary so far is: many people have signed up (because its easy if you already have a a Google account), but few use it regularly.  

The ABA Journal story provided two perspective on the service--a pro and a con.  The supporters of the service essentially emphasized the benefit of the sharing tool for firms that already utilize Google App programs for other things--mail, the cloud, calenders, etc..  For those firms, GooglePlus is essentially an intraoffice tool.  That makes sense, and increasing use of the service for larger firms is painless and helpful.

In opposition, however, the author noted that most firms are still way behind on the basics of content creation and successful online presence leveraging.  For those firms (the majority) GooglePlus is basically a distraction.  The fundamentals need to be put into place first, without too much focus on second-tier social networking sites.  The author writes, "Daily and weekly updates and addition of content are key.  Then and only then should a firm take a dip into the water of true social networking."  This is also a clear-sighted observation.   

At LawBlogWriters, we often get asked about GooglePlus.  While our focus is on actual law firm content creation--and not necessarily social network management--we certainly keep a pulse of all of these developments.  It is critical to understand which outside services and networks are valuable and which  are not.  Every attorney and firm has limited time and money, and so it reasonable to hold off on investing anything in  new service until it is clear that the service provides some value.  

So what do we make of GooglePlus?

For the most part, the author in the ABA Journal article who harped on the negatives is mostly spot on.  Most law firms either do not have blogs, don't update the blogs, or don't update their website.  The new content must come first.  Simply forwarding stories written by others on GooglePlus is of little value if firms are not creating unique content on their own. 

However, one consideration lacking in both perspectives was the obvious fact that Google plans on leveraging its search engine dominance to incorporate GooglePlus.  The "liking" feature on the service will undoubtedly become a factor in future (and current) SEO efforts. For that reason, it is smart for all firms to at least get the basics of GooglePlus in place.  

Create an account, put your new content on it, and slowly begin building a network.  While it is not worth throwing significant money or time into (yet), it is reasonable to lay the foundation, because odds are it will be mandatory for future SEO efforts. 


Friday, September 14, 2012

The Future of Legal Content & The Search -- Beyond Google

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to increasing one's presence in online searches.  When thinking about searches everything basically begins and ends with one search engine: Google.  Of course, Google is not the only game in town, Yahoo, Bing, and other sites exists for web travelers to navigate the intricacies of the ever-expanding WWW.  But it is folly to assume that these alternatives have anywhere near the use or influence of Google.

For that reason, changes to Google algorithms (the rules which determine the ranking system) result in immediate changes to SEO plans.  That includes changes to things like legal content writing and blog writing for law firms.  None of this makes blogs less effective--in fact they are becoming more and more useful--but they do change some smaller details.  There have been changes in how links are used in posts, what location keywords are referenced, the length of the material, and more.  We will likely write a more in-depth post on the most recent changes as they affect law blogs soon.

But the bottom line is that as goes Google, so goes the world.  But will that always be the case?  Who can say.

Facebook Search?
News was made this week when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg indicated that "at some point" the social network king would enter the search market.  When they do, the company will be "uniquely positioned" says Zuckerberg.

Interestingly, Facebook already does some "searches" within the network--people searching for other people, brands, or companies.  According to the story at Search Engine Land, FB is doing a billion searches a day "without even trying."  But they may actually try in the years to come.

When they do, the format of the search may be different than today.  Instead of producing a straightforward list, the search may be more about "providing answers."  It doesn't take much extrapolation to figure out that a search that shifts from ranking well to "providing answers" will be critical for law firm online marketing in the years to come.

For example, instead of searching for "Chicago DUI Lawyer," one might ask, "How Should I Defend My Chicago DUI?" or "What are the punishments for DUI in Chicago?"  Firms that tailor their content on answering questions will likely be well-positioned to thrive in a search world based on answering questions.

Legal Ghostwriters
No matter what, however, it is simply undeniable that creating new interesting legal content, using law blog writers, or legal content ghostwriters will continue to be a crucial component of SEO for law firms.  But, it will be interesting to follow as the world of the search grows and perhaps includes new competitors to the Google Gialiath.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Legal Content - Basically, It's Everything

A post yesterday at SEOmoz (a site you should subscribe to) discussed a topic near and dear to our legal content writing hearts: the importance of new, unique material for search engine optimization.  In discussing a "transition" in effect the author noted that is must mean "that content is now at the epicentre of audience creation once again."

The catalyst for the post was a algorithm change made by Google recently known as "Penguin."  Essentially these changes just alter the (very complex) way that the king search engine decides how sites are ranked for certain searches.  The fundamental principle of Google (and subsequently all search engines) was linking.  The idea was that the more links going into a page, the more "authority" that page likely has.  As a result, the page shows up higher in the search because it has a better chance of proving helpful to the searcher.

At the end of the day, linking alone is nowhere near sufficient to best manage the search, because links can so easily be "gamed."  That is why, underlying it all is not necessarily links but content.  For lawyers and online legal marketing that usually means one thing: more and better legal blog writing--new material, interesting comments, summaries of complex information, helpful reminders--anything that might be useful to another person on the planet.

The SEOmoz post author fits this into the larger picture, "We don't get excited about where a paper is printed any more..  Instead its about the content that's printed on it."

Understanding the importance of legal content writing is stage one in the "SEO for Lawyers" toolkit.  Amazingly, many many attorneys and firms have yet to grasp the underlying concept.  It is not hard to see this--just look at most attorney websites (or blogs, if they have them).  What you likely find is minimal content, stock images, or law firm blogs that are not updated even close to frequently.  All of this is an indicator of the lack of importance still placed by so many on new content.

But getting across that first hurdle--understanding the central role played by content--is the key to it all. You have to get past that, for example, before you hire legal content writers or even touch the ideas which make up the rest of the SEOmoz post: Creating a Content Writing Plan.

If you are an attorney you likely have little time to delve into the details of the content writing plan portion of the text.  But, we'll summarize it thusly: know your audience; know what topics work; write consistently and timely.

If you are working with a website company or "SEO guy" you will likely hear terms like "content marketing" more and more.  That is what they mean when they say it: creating new words under the name of the firm to post on a blog and send into the social media universe.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Changing At the Speed of Legal Blog Writing

Technology changes everything.  What made sense ten (five?) years ago is obsolete today.  Blah, blah, blah...

You have undoubtedly heard the stale tropes about the changing landscape of everything as a result of the personal computer and, perhaps even more importantly, the world wide web.  These claims are undoubtedly true in many contexts--and that includes legal marketing generally and law firm blogging specifically.

But less talked about is the actual speed of the changing and what is changing fastest.  Those with a geeky side have likely heard about "Moore's Law."  The idea is that over time processor speeds on computer double every two years (or 18 months).  It is a fascinating and helpful little reminder of not only the fact that everything about life is much different now than it was in the past but that things tomorrow will be much different than they are now.  The idea of change is important but the rate of change is staggering!

What does this have to do with law firm blogs?

An interesting new Gigaom story discusses the idea that blogging actually changed things in some areas for more than processor speed.  The obvious example is newspapers, but the same idea applies to law firm marketing generally.

The basic premise is that the newspaper industry knew very early on about the rise of the computer and internet and the effect it would have on the business.  Various stories can be found from the early nineties detailing the coming changes.  But there is one thing absent in those early memos--serious discussions of social media.

The author writes, "From blogs to Twitter, that transformation...has probably been more disruptive than any other technological development since then, and it is one that many media entities still have not fully adapted to or taken advantage of."

Law firms are not media entities, but in today's world on online presence, new content is everything.  In that vein, the marketing vein of the firm IS a media entity and its understanding of the new reality is paramount.

The bottom line is this: social media disrupted this published world more than the steady increase in processor speeds. This is the case because Web 2.0 (social media like Facebook, Twitter, and legal blogs) change the relationship between the media (message) and "the people formerly known as the audience."

Accepting this idea in the legal world means embracing everything about this reality as soon as possible.  Trust us...it isn't too late.  For all the talk about this topic, the majority of firms are still WAY behind the curve.  That means contacting legal content writers, embracing social media, and otherwise getting the ball rolling may still have an impact in your corner of the world for your firm.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blogs as Pro Bono Service

We get it.  Law firm blog writing is about search engine optimization.  SEO is tossed around so much these days that it is almost impossible *not* to get sick of the acronym.  Yes, more and more potential clients are searching online for a lawyer.  Yes, that means firms must position themselves to be noticed by those potential clients.  These facts are so clear now that repeating them is a cliche.

But when it comes to blogging, SEO is *not* the be-all-end-all.  That is because, unlike other general SEO tactics, blogging is much more comprehensive.  It is about creating content that is actually interesting or worthwhile to those in your area.  It is about building up a database of useful material over the course of months that, collectively, represents a good overview of the firm's practice areas and its applications in the local community.

In other words, even if SEO were not a paramount part of the process, the blog itself would still have immense value to the firm and the community.  Our legal content writers believe it is important to keep this in mind throughout the blog writing process.  Viewing a legal blog only through the lens of SEO is far too limiting.

Instead, many firms are shifting gears and thinking of the online space as a pro bono service sharing basic information to those who need it.  As attorneys, we very easily get wrapped up in our own worlds, forgetting that many residents have next to zero experience with even basic legal concepts.  This ignorance often leads these residents to making poor choices that have legal consequences down the road.  Many individuals need a lawyer but do not know it.

A blog is the premier tool of spreading information to help these individuals.  Explaining a situation, news story, or generic concepts in terms that make clear that tailored legal help is needed.  Even if a particular online searcher does not contact the firm, the searcher will still benefit from the material.  In that way, the spreading of information can be considered a basic service provided by the law firm to the community without any guaranteed benefit to the firm.

Obviously, there is always a chance that connections, contacts, and other circumstances part of a pro bono project may lead to new clients down the road.  The same is true for blogs viewed in this way.  The information is being shared without any guaranteed fee, but there is always the chance that the relationship created (albeit anonymously) with the online searcher will lead to a paying relationship down the road.  

So many service businesses work in this way.  Yet, in the avalanche of SEO babble and blog talk, this basic principle is so often lost.  Firms are well-served by remembering that their blog is an actual service that is doing good in their respective internet corner.  Some searchers will call.  Others wont.  But many more people are helped by the information that the firm every realizes.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The State of Inbound Marketing Report: Law Blogging Works

HubSpot recently released its "The State of Inbound Marketing Report 2012."  You can take a look at the whole thing here.

Essentially the report discusses trends and practices in the field of inbound marketing of which law blog writing falls.  Inbound marketing in this report refers to a marketing strategies where a business attempts to be found by those who are already looking for services.  Of course, in the legal world, inbound marketing is the name of the game.  Whereas one who sells hamburgers can engage in outbound marketing--trying to convince people that they need to buy one of these hamburgers--lawyers are less inclined to convince people that they need the service.  Instead, lawyers are most often trying to be chosen by those who already have the need or desire for legal services.   Therefore, inbound marketing strategies are the bread and butter of law firm marketing.

The HubSpot inbound marketing report is a summary of information based on surveys from nearly 1,000 marketing professionals to get a feel for what is going on in this part--perhaps the biggest part--of the legal marketing world.

So what does it reveal?  A lot.  There is too much detail to go through it all verbatim, so those with more specific interest should take a look at the whole report.   However, the five key takeaway delineated in the report are as follows:

1) Inbound marketing leads are low costs.  On average, it requires a lot less marketing spending to generate leads with inbound marketing than outbound marketing.  This is logical as spending on social media sites, law blog writing, and other tasks is far cheaper than things like television commercials.  All told the 2012 report found inbound marketing to be 61% cheaper per lead than outbound strategies.

2) Perhaps because of its value, marketing budgets are shifting so that more money is being spend on these tools.  Business of all stripes, including law firms, are finding more value in shifting resources to the more cost-effective tools, like having legal blog writers.

3) The last year saw an explosion in social media use, with 62% of respondents admitting that they've begun using social media tools much more than in the past.

4) Interestingly, Google+ has become a growing social media tool.  For those unfamiliar, Google+ is essentially Google's latest (and most forceful) attempt to jump into the social media world.  Think of it as another Facebook.  The verdict is still out on the overall useability and value of Google+ among some.  However, considering the ways that Google search is using the social network, it is becoming more and more necessary for firms to at least be aware of the media and dabble in it.

5) Our Favorite: The value of blogging is rising steadily.  Over 81% of those responding rated their business blog as highly valuable or useful.  In fact, more than a quarter of the businesses mentioning blogging as "critical" to their efforts.  Obviously, as legal content writers we endorse this concept.  But it is encouraging that more and more businesses (including law firms) are coming to the realization that blogging is a tool that is too critical to ignore.

See Our Related Blogs:

The Myth of Overnight Success

Google "Search Plus Your World" and What It Means For Your Law Firm Blog

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Myth of Overnight Success

Mega-sensations in every field often have stories painted of immediate success.  Their genius or natural talent was supposedly evident right from the beginning.  Tales abound of young firms and attorneys that nab some big case or take a high-profile stand that launches them into the stratosphere and indefinitely secures their position in their own corner of the legal world.

Virtually all of these stories are misleading.

Overnight success generally isn't an apt description even in the few cases where it seems to apply.  That is certainly the case in the legal world.  Even though  99 out of 100 solo and small firm attorneys will agree that overnight success is a myth many still allow the perception to creep into their own judgment about their practice.  Our legal content writers work with many small and medium firms who worry about the trajectory of their practice and base their fears on false assumptions on how it worked for the most successful that they are hoping to emulate.  A interesting post as Fast Company highlights the situation...
When looking at the most successful people and organizations, we often imagine geniuses with a smooth journey straight to the promised land. But when you really examine nearly every success story, they are filled with crushing defeats, near-death experiences, and countless setbacks.
The same oversight success principles apply to firms generally as they do to their law firm blogs specifically.  In fact, overnight success should likely be banished from any conversation  about how a blog or any online project will help the firm.  Benefits from these tools simply do not happen overnight because their benefit is based on accumulated value over time.  That is not to say that some firms don't see immediate benefit from starting a blog, adding new law blog posts consistently, or otherwise amping up one's online effort.  Law blogging has be to done with a view for the long-game.    

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Getting Comfortable Handing Over the Reins -- Having Help with Writing Your Legal Blog

Many lawyers are perfectionists.  Many other are micro-managers.  In law school, attorneys-in-training are drilled to understand how even a common put in a different position can completely change the meaning of the law and the outcome of the case.  This mindset serves lawyers well when working on behalf of clients.  However, it can also be a hindrance on the business-side of the practice of law, where outsourcing and matters of efficiency have to be factored into the equation.

The law firm content writers on our team run into theses issues each and every day.  We are flexible in our writing approach and adapt depending on the needs of each attorney with whom we are working.  Some prefer a completely hands-off approach and like to check the blog occasionally, provide a bit of feedback, and otherwise be free to devote their time to other tasks.  At the other end of the spectrum, some attorneys have very negative experiences with writing assistants, because they are not truly comfortable ceding any writing control to another.  Of course, having to re-write an entire article received from a law firm ghostwriter is completely counterproductive.  The re-writing occurs for one of two reasons; (1) The quality of the writing is objectively bad; or (2) One finds it impossible to accept a writing style that is different that their own.

Understanding the difference between those two is important, because is signifies either a bad ghostwriter or a need to have a bit more flexibility with a writing assistant.

Each legal content writer at our firm appreciates that no two people write exactly the same way.  Of course, writing is an individual endeavor that is shaped in all of us over the course of our lifetimes.  From the moment we first master the alphabet to the time that we sit down to write the essay portion of the Bar exam, our own writing style is being molded.  The ultimate style that each of us develops is a mix of our own innate abilities, the teachers we've had, the books we've read, the writing tasks we've been forced to complete, and a myriad of other factors.

That individual style influences what words are use and how those words are put together to share an idea.  If thirty people are told to describe the same picture in a paragraph, none of those thirty paragraphs will be identical.  Some may be more similar than others but each will have a slightly different fingerprint.  There is no way of getting around that entirely, and even the best legal blog writers cannot mimic another attorney's style exactly.

In fact, if mimicry is the ultimate goal of a ghostwriting project, then the project is destined to be mediocre.  When expressing a particular idea, every writer is going to have an instant opinion about how that idea should be expressed.  That natural reaction can be checked and altered, but it will come at a cost.  Trying to change one's natural writing style is like writing with your less dominant hand.  You can get better at it over time, but in virtually all cases the finished product will not be as good as it otherwise would have been.

In short: we urge all those considering having help with legal blog writing to understand their own perfectionist writing tendencies.  Our writers do this work specifically because they are capable of writing well about the law.  There are many ways to alter the tone, topics, and structure of an assignment to meet different preferences.  But at the end of the day the particular style of the legal writer will still shine through.  That is a good thing!


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Law Firm Blog Topics -- No Size Fits All

As legal ghost writers we work with attorneys in wildly different practice areas, geographic locations, firms sizes, personal styles, and the like.  Even a cursory look at our work makes clear that there is certainly not a "standard" way to write a law firm blog.  Most notably, potential topics for the blog--which is the most important aspect of the process--run the gamut.  There is not necessarily one "right" way for a blog to develop.

This presents some challenges from our perspective.  Many lawyers contact us for help and, rightly, expect us our legal content writers to explain in detail the exact right way that they should use their blog.  Of course, we have very clear thoughts about ways that the blog can be used--and we create content toward that end--but our way isn't necessarily the only way.   This is most true when it comes to topic selection.  Search engine optimization, for example, does include some pretty clear rules which should be followed by every firm in their blog writing.  However, SEO does not say all that much about what the content should actually be about.  When it comes to actual topic ideas, there are several ways to make it work.

As we have previous written, there is a difference between a "law firm blog" and a "lawyer blog."  Each suggests a different tone to the posts and basic writing style.  Beyond that, however, each kind of blog can come from a range or combination of perspectives.  Here, in no particular order, are a few main topic styles that we have seen, written, and know can work.  Which one is best for your firm and blog depends a lot on your own personality, practice area, and perspective.

1) Legal Analysis:  Of course, this is what some blog gurus think is the "only" way to successfully use a blog.  Legal analysis focuses mostly on case summarizes--describing hot legal issues, explaining the current perspectives, and taking a stand one way or another.  On one hand legal analysis topics are great at presenting the attorney in a sophisticated light--making it easy for potential clients to feel like that are contacting a hought leader in the area.  However, these posts are much harder for potential clients to actually understand and, in reality, the specifics are often ignored.
2) General Interesting Information: These posts are essentially the exact opposite of the legal analysis posts.  General interest posts may not actually touch on the law much at all.  For example, a personal injury lawyer who takes brain injury cases may talk about a new research study that was just released which offers hope for treatments or diagnosis in TBI victims.  The post itself may say nothing about how this might affect a TBI legal case.  However, potential clients will likely be interested to follow along with this information.  These posts make clear that the attorney cares about the things that the client cares about even outside the law itself. 
3) Firm News: Many firms use the blog primarily to comment on issues directly related to the firm itself--discussing cases that are underway, referring back to old issues, and even discussing basic office protocol and policy. The main downside with this perspective is that this material  is often best when posted permanently as a new static page on a firm website.  In addition, firms that view their blog only through this lens often fail to update with new posts as much as necessary. 
4) Basic Primers: Straddling the line between firm news and legal analysis, many firms create posts that are summaries of basic legal issues.  This differs from legal analysis in that these posts do not necessarily touch on hot topics or controversial issues.  Instead, they are generic outlines about how a certain legal process works.  In this way they are probably the most interesting type of post for searching potential clients.  However, as with firm news, sometimes this information is better utilized as a static content page on a firm website rather than a dynamic blog.

Our law firm ghostwriters do not believe that any one of these perspectives is better than any other.  Some firms may have various reasons for liking one over the other.  Usually, the best bet is to include a mixture of all of them.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Does Your Law Firm Blog Have to be Off-Site?

Off-site blog or On-site blog?

If you've gotten a new law firm website over the past few years, chances are you engaged in some sort of back and forth about this concept.  First, the company you worked with probably told you that you need a blog.  Second, they likely mentioned that it is best to have an "off-site" blog.  At least this is how it normally goes.

Promotion of off-site blogs have been the legal marketing pitch du jour over the past few years.  But is it really necessary to have an off-site blog?

Of course as legal content writers we believe that having a blog itself it absolutely crucial.  But does it need to be a separate website (off-site) or can it be a page on your existing website (on-site)?

This is a tough question to answer--and as legal ghostwriters we get asked it a lot.  On one hand, when considering just the SEO benefits, there are strong incentives to having an off-site blog.  This has to do with links.  One of the blogging benefits is that you can create links in each post using important keyword phrases that then direct searchers back to your main firm website.  All major search engines uses links as the centerpiece of their ranking system.  The more links of a certain phrase to a website increases the firm's ranking.  Of course there is a lot more to it than that--not just any number of links at any time work--but that is the gist.  External links have more value than internal links.  That is why off-site blogs are promoted so much.  Those external links from a different website are beneficial.

In addition, in some circumstances, there is a second huge perk that comes with off-site blogs--it gives you two bites at the apple.  Consider this: A searcher plugs in "Smithville Injury Lawyer" into Google.  Of course the goal is to have the John Doe Law Office website come up first.  But, if the blog itself is successful, it could also rank well.  Therefore, that searcher may find the #1 site on the list is the John Doe website while the #2 on the list if the Smithville Injury Lawyer blog run by the Law Office of John Doe.  The searcher no doubt gets the impression from those rankings that The Law Office of John Doe is likely one of the superior firms in the area.

But then again there are benefits to having the new content added to the main firm website on a consistent basis. Besides inbound links, new content is also important to bumping up a site's ranking.  An on-site blog provides those benefits.

Each legal blog writer at our firm usually suggests that the off-site blog is best when it might provide an actual chance at two bites at the apple.  When starting a new blog, having that benefit is usually only possible when the firm is in a smaller market or in a very niche practice area.  For example, starting a new New York medical malpractice blog, there is little chance that the blog will itself rank high on medical malpractice terms.  Competition is ridiculously fierce.  Therefore, the on-site blog may prove just as useful.

In short: If you are starting a new blog in a common practice in a major city it may not make a huge difference if the blog is on-site or off-site.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Refresher: "Blog" is Just Shorthand for "Content"

We have been called many different things: legal content writers, legal bloggers, law firm ghostwriters, and a hundred similar combinations.  Our team here at LBW has thought long and hard about the best way to market ourselves.  We admit that we likely haven't found the perfect label just yet.

Of course the business name, Law Blog Writers, pigeon-holes our work right off the bat.  The truth is that when used in our name--and when used colloquially among legal marketing professionals--"blog" is essentially just another way of saying "content."  Many solo and small firm attorneys first wrapping their head around all of this are likely not 100% sure what this means, so a basic refresher is needed.

There are many different ways to improve one's performance in search engine rankings.  Some of them are behind-the-scenes stuff related to how a website is coded.  While this coding stuff matters, it is not as important as some SEO experts claim.  Never, ever, ever buy into claims by those promising some search ranking magic by using some super-secret method.  It's either a scam or trickery that with cost you money, actually make your search performance worse, or both.

However, that does not mean that there is no way to improve search engine performance.  That is because the most important way that you can boost your search performance long-term is by creating is simple: Create new, keyword-rich, useful, content.  The SEO adage refers to this truth with the quioe: "Content is King."  When any marketing team talks about blogs and their benefit, they are talking about content.  

Blog = content

Content = blog

Alright, this might be simplifying it a bit, but the basic idea is sound.  The whole point of having a blog is to produce original content.  A blog is essentially just a way to curate your own content.  It is about writing about some topic, news event, opinion, political debate, or the like and making it available to the online world.  The act of creating the content and making it available to the world is looked on highly favorably by search engines.  In fact, it is THE most important thing that can be done to attract more attention in the internet world--which is what SEO is all about.

Therefore, if you hear SEO types talking about content and then talking about blogs, it is easiest to remember that they are essentially synonymous.  The underlying principle that both terms portray is that of creating something in your name that is not found anywhere else.  That is why linking to other news stories or resources is NOT content creation.  Instead, to have benefit, there needs to be actual words written in an original way not found anywhere else online.

Here are LBW most of our work does consist of helping law firms create original content for their blog.  However, we also create "content" for other online mediums--websites, brochures, newsletters, books, etc.  At the end of the day, all of the material is based on the idea of creating content.  Whether the content is put on a blog or a main firm website, the logic is the same.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Stagnant Blog -- Worse Than No Blog At All

Here's a little legal blog writing secret that you often don't hear:

It is better to have no blog at all, then a blog that is never updated.


Why?

Because a stagnant blog not only does nothing for a firm's marketing but it actually hampers the firm's online perception.

Our legal content writers have often written on this space about the various benefits that persistent blog writing offers:

1) An important part of an effective SEO strategy to improve search engine rankings via linking.
2) A separate stand-alone site that build credibility by essentially having a second online presence for searchers to find (particularly when the blog is a not at the same URL as the firm's main website).
3) Helps induce actual contact from those landing one the page by presenting the firm in a positive light.
4) Allows firms (particularly solo and small firms) to carve out a niche in their corner of the world, drawing the direct attention of local community members.

An empty blog does nothing to advance these goals.  In fact, it actually has the opposite effect.  Obviously the search engine optimization benefits of a blog only come with consistent, well-tailored content creation.  Keywords cannot do their work if they do not exist. Similarly, a stand-alone blog site will be invisible if content is not added to the site on a consistent basis.  Instead, the blog itself will never be found by searches directly and it will do nothing to help the ranking of the firm's main website.

But it gets worse.

Many firm's create blogs, link them to their main website, and then never update them.  This is a huge mistake.

Why?

Because it suggests to web browsers that the firm may not be active.  If a searcher ends up on the blog and finds that nothing has been added in a few months (or years!) then the searcher often wonders whether the firm is even still in business.  With so many other alternatives, there is no reason for a potential client in need of legal services to waste time on a firm that seems stagnant online.  This is especially true where there are ten competitors in the same area who have blogs with content, commentary, and news added on a daily basis.

We completely understand the time constraints faced by attorneys.  For many lawyers it is simply impossible to add good posts on a consistent basis.  Helping with that problem is what each legal content writer at our firm specializes in.

However, if at the end of the day you decide not to pursue outside help AND do not have the time to write yourself, it is often best to simply ax the blog effort altogether.  At the very least, do not publicize the stagnant blog on your main website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lawyer Blogs and Law Firm Blogs Are Two Different Things

There is not one type of blog.  When answering questions like...

"What do blogs do?"  

"What benefits can I get from a blog?"

"What do I write on my blog?"

..there are not a single set of right answers.

Sometimes those of us who spend too much time thinking about law firm blogs make it seem like there are very simple finite answer to these (and a thousand other) questions about legal blogging.  We often assume that we know the best answers to these answers, and so we give clear answers as if they were absolute.

Here's a secret...there are not absolute answers.  

A lawyer who is thinking about blogging must realize that there are MANY different types of blogs.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is pigeon-holing the medium.  In general, the basic idea of a blog is not complicated--it is an online space where constant, time-stamped content can be added and shared with the public in a running, easy to read way.  It is a diary, journal, newsletter, thought-stream, article database, and many other things.

From the legal perspective our law firm blog writers often find it helpful to identify the difference between "Lawyer Blogs" and "Law Firm Blogs."  These are two different ideas, and provide different potential benefits.  It is important to consider the distinction when planning how to best use these online spaces in your own practice.  Some legal marketing gurus even forget to distinguish between these two.  Instead, they often write of one type of legal blog, claiming that anything else is not following best practices.

We disagree.  Lawyer Blogs and Law Firm Blogs can often complement each other.

So what is the difference?

Lawyer Blogs are focused much more on the personality of the individual attorney whose name is stamped all over the blog.  These types of blogs are often less effective to have law blog ghostwriters, because no matter how good the ghostwriter, they can never fully mimic the style/interests/flair/personality of the attorney.  Lawyer Blogs are much more focused on the personal quirks of an individual attorney, showcasing their likes, dislikes, opinions, and role within the legal community.  

Law Firm Blogs are different.  They are better thought of as a public resource provided by the firm itself.  They are more often directed at the general public, whereas Lawyer Blogs are often geared toward other attorneys or opinion leaders in a particular field.  Law Firm Blogs are about a community and the sharing/curating of information.  While a Lawyer Blog might analyze the legal issues of a new Supreme Court case in depth, a Law Firm blog would mention the case and explain to community members whether the case has any real implications for regular situations or if it is mostly intricate legal details.  Legal ghostwriters are often quite helpful with Law Firm Blogs because they involve more basic concepts of identifying issues in a community, sharing basic legal knowledge, and acting as a general legal resource (not a reservoir of an individual attorney's personality).

Both Lawyer Blogs and Law Firm Blogs can be immensely useful for attorneys and their firms.  Lawyer Blogs are best to engage with opinion leaders, get news media attention, and perhaps build up strong referral systems.  Law Firm Blogs are better at engaging directly with the public, helping in certain search engine optimization efforts, and becoming a go-to stop for local community members in need of legal help.

Many firms can benefit from both types of blogs.  Posts can be mixed OR two different actual blogs can be used.  

Anyone who sells you on ONE type over the other is being short-sighted.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The New Google "Search Plus Your World" And What it Means for Law Firm Blogs

The SEO world has been abuzz over the last 48 hours over the release of a new search option in Google known as "Search Plus Your World."  Many of you may have noticed this if you've paid close attention at Google's home page over the last day and noticed a little link underneath the search bar.

Essentially, the feature acts as an alternative search option that will include more information from social media sites as part of the search results.  The feature applies one's own social media connections (not necessarily the entire social media universe).  It is perhaps best to read about it directly from the Googlers themselves.  Here's a snippet from their blog post yesterday morning discussing the new feature...
Search is pretty amazing at finding that one needle in a haystack of billions of webpages, images, videos, news and much more. But clearly, that isn’t enough. You should also be able to find your own stuff on the web, the people you know and things they’ve shared with you, as well as the people you don’t know but might want to... all from one search box.
Another way our legal content writers are understanding the change is that Google is seeking to take personal relationships into account when including search results.  Most Google changes in the past have been about better understanding exactly what the searcher is hoping to find when including certain terms.  This change essentially works on the premise that many searchers actually want to find information included not only on a webpage but posted on a social networking site (i.e. Google +).

So what does it means for law firm blog writers?  Perhaps most importantly, it is becoming more and more necessary to be on Google +.  If you are not familiar with it, Google+ is Google's attempt at Facebook.

The new search option means that certain Google+ pages will pop up in search when they otherwise wouldn't.  For example, when those looking for assistance keeping new content on their legal blog are searching for "Law Blog Writers" not only will they come across our main firm website, they will also likely see the Google+ page for Law Blog Writers, LLC.  The same is obviously true for those looking for divorce lawyers in Waterbury, car accident attorneys in Cleveland, and any number of other combinations.

From the legal blogging/online legal marketing perspective there are two points to reiterate:

1) If you don't have a Google+ account yet, get one.

2) Leverage your legal content on all your social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and, now more than ever, Google+   For one thing you should obviously  link back to your new blog posts on those social  media sites.  In addition, use those blog posts more aggressively to engage with friends and followers.  Do you have a post up about a nursing home abuse fines levied by your state?  Mention the blog post on your Google+ page and ask what your followers think.  In many ways debate is more  interesting as comments on social media sites than on blogs themselves.  This trend toward increased social media integration in search results might make that more relevant now than ever.

Monday, January 9, 2012

All Business Are Embracing Blogs--Because They Work

It's a bit cliche for legal content writers to claim that, gasp!, blogs are going to be embraced by more and more firms in the new year.  We are expected to say that.  It would be silly for us to say otherwise.

But, really, don't take our word for it.  Instead, take the word of about every online marketing-esque story that has been written in the last week about "What to Expect in 2012."  Content marketing is booming for a variety of reasons, but mostly for a simple one: it works.  It is simply no longer acceptable to throw up static pages with your name, profession, and contact information and expect to win in the, often vicious, world of business competition.  Things are no different in legal marketing.  But content writing works, because it is ACTIVE, not passive.  

No longer can attorneys afford to sit on the sidelines, but instead they must be engaged in active marketing.  Content marketing works because it is not advertising (which no one trusts), but, in the legal context, is essentially the providing of a free service which engages potentially clients.  That free service is the disbursement of information.  Law firm blogs are just that--a way to engage with consumers and provide them with information.  They can benefit from the information.  In the process that may learn a bit about the firm, come to trust it, and perhaps contact the firm when a time comes that they are in need of legal aid.

Of course, these principles are not all limited to the law--businesses of all stripes of trending toward the world of content marketing.  Kevin O'Keefe posted a story last week on an interview he conducted earlier for a "Businesses Embrace Blogs" story.  While reading the story we found ourselves silently nodding in agreement.  For example, in part of his answer regarding keys to effective business blog, he notes...

...understanding how to measure the ROI on blogging. Traffic and analytics are not necessarily they way to measure success. Ask: 1) Is our reputation being enhanced? 2) Is our network of relationships growing? 3) Are we establishing ourselves as trusted subject matter experts in the industry or consumer group we sell into? And 4) Are we getting not just customers or clients, but high quality customers and clients?
...don't make a blog part of your website. Your website, though important, is an advertisement. Your blog needs to be a stand alone presence in order to build trust and influence.

 We agree. When talking about legal blog writing, we often find attorneys struggling more with the evaluation process of the blog than the overall merit of it.  Obvious increased traffic is a key for all online marketing schemes.  But blogging (and all content writing) is best thought of as reputation-building and, essentially, pro bono service.  Providing information to your specific community about a specific subject is the key...not necessarily always moving up in keyword searches.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hiring Law Firm Blog Writers is Perfectly Acceptable

Lawyers are used to defending their profession.  There isn't a medical malpractice lawyer alive who hasn't had to deal at one time or another with some angry citizen blaming the downfall of the entire nation on the sleazy work of attorneys attacking innocent doctors.  Everyone has heard the joke about lawyers chained to the bottom of the ocean.  But, hey, that's alright.  We're attorneys.  Our livelihood is rooted in potential conflict.  We can take criticism.

While lawyers  might get more public abuse than others, every professional takes their fair share of attacks.  We know, because we've seen criticisms lobbed at us even after we stopped actually practicing law and moved into the legal marketing side of things.  As legal content writers, there is a select minority of marketing-types  who can't resist making jabs at the work of copywriters.  Their  complaint always take some form of this argument:  An attorney should always write every single word on their website and blog themselves.  Anything less is disingenuous.  


We strongly beg to differ.  A few points on that issue...

1. Hiring legal content writers does not magically make it impossible for members of the firm or a solo to also  write content.  In fact, in our experience, hiring writers for help actually makes attorneys write even MORE than they usually would on their own. Why?  Because there is something about the Momentum of having quality, consistent content updated frequently that inspires firms to give their all to the online marketing effort.  When doing it alone it often seems overwhelming, and so nothing gets done.

2. Writers often take the ideas, perspective, and interests of the practicing attorneys and turn them into blog posts.  In this way, the writer is a conduit which allows an otherwise busy attorney to share a perspective online that he wouldn't have time for without the help.

3. Good law content writers do not produce bland copy that has no relation to the firm.  There may be some bad content producers out there, but anyone of quality incorporates the perspective of the firm.  Throwing up content with little connection to a firm merely for linking purposes may be questionable, but writing specifically for a firm's audience by another is not. 

4. Even if outside writers take total control of a blog, since when is it inappropriate for businesses to outsource an area of their practice that they have less expertise with or lack time for?  Attorneys frequently get outside help for actual legal work, so why on earth would it suddenly not make sense to do the same for marketing help.  This miffs us especially because in our case all of our writers are also attorneys.  It makes no sense that we could be hired to help work on a case for a client but not to help share legal information on the firm's behalf in online content pieces.

Whew.  After that rant we feel better.  We should probably stop at 4 points, because our critics are not all that persuasive or numerous anyway.  By responding too forcefully we may actually be giving them more weight than they deserve.

Suffice to say....our writers are very proud of our work and will defend it against anyone.

10: The Top Ten Rules of Legal Blogging





We wanted to let all our clients, friends, and supporters know that on our main website, you can now download a free copy of a new guide called, "10: The Top Ten Rules of Legal Blogging."  It was written by  our managing legal content writer, Paul Richardson, and is a incredibly handy reference for all new legal blog writers (as well as old pros).

Please take a moment to jot over there and get a copy for yourself.

Happy Blogging!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Solo Law Firms Can Thrive in 2012 (and Law Firm Blogs Can Help)

Over at Solo Practice University, Susan Cartier Liebel penned an interesting (and inspiring) post yesterday on 2012 being the "Year of the Legal Entrepreneur."  One one hand, lawyers have always maintained a strong entrepreneurial streak, with some estimating that at many as 50% of all lawyers get by without a boss.

Nationwide, the trend toward self-employment is sky rocketing.  The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that as many as 40% of ALL American in EVERY sector will be self employment a mere seven years from now.  If that same bump is applied to lawyers, the legally self-employed could rise to as much as 60 or 70% of the entire attorney universe.  Those are some shocking numbers when you think about it.

Actually, our legal content writers aren't too shocked by these statistics.  Most of our clients are solo practitioners or leading small firms.  Each and every day we see many not only providing top notch legal services, but thinking outside of the box when it comes to ways to solidify their business and grow it.  Our clients are thriving, and we expect other young attorneys to follow their lead down the road.

Anyway, back to the idea of the Year of the Entrepreneur.  Liebel shared  information on "Success Intelligence," which is essential a rough principle developed by some psychologist to try to pinpoint  qualities that make some entrepreneurs thrive and others fizzle.  She summarizes some of those attributes which she finds exhibited in many solo practitioners (as do we):

They are disinterested in over analyzing and more committed to getting started.  While they may do an informal calculus regarding possibilities, it is just that, informal.  It is not meant to be a deterrent.  It is simply an assessment of potential hurdles they must clear. 

Coming solely from the perspective of legal blog writing, the above description perfectly matches what we've seen from solos, small, and mid-size attorneys that are doing well.  Obviously we believe that law firm blogs are absolutely essential these days.  But, we are not so ridiculous as to believe that the blog work is the end all, be all of law firm marketing and management.  Yet, it is the firms who most need to dive into the blogging world who are quickest to come up with excuses as to why it isn't the right time.  The same pessimism and over-analysis likely throttles their other marketing and business management effects as well --placing the firm in tough straits.

At the end  of the day, solo and small law firm lawyers must hone their entrepreneurial instincts.  The volatile business world of today demands it.  This is scary but somewhat exciting.  The solo and small firms that cultivate this side of their mentality (a creativity so often suppressed in the legal world) have the opportunity to make this year their best yet.