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.