Monday, May 20, 2013

Beware of "Free Articles" Feature on Wordpress

Let's face it: keeping a thoughtfully updated legal blog takes work.  A lot of work.  That is one of the main reasons why we are in business.  Exploring the web to discover hot topics or unique issues to discuss in a blog post takes time by itself.  Writing up a post analyzing the issues and providing helpful content for readers takes even more time.

The fact that it is hard--or at least time-consuming--is one key reason that so few law firms do it well.  It also presents an opportunity for firms to take a competitive advantage.  Adding new content to the web is obviously the key part of search engine optimization, but it is also critical for conversion--turning those browsers into calling clients.

Many attorneys do not realize that they are losing potential clients by maintaining a stale blog.  When a searcher arrives on the site and sees a blog that has not been updated in months (or years!), they get the message that the attorney is not active and engaged on the web.  They may even wonder if the firm is still running at all.  Web searchers these days are keenly aware of the fact that business websites can be a graveyard---lingering long after the business itself is gone.  To ensure your online storefront looks active, it is imperative to have good content added to a blog on a regular schedule.

But wait....

Not just "any" content is acceptable.  Poor quality content or copied content may actually be worse than no content at all. The rush to keep a blog active may lead some firms to take the easy way out--either writing very short pieces of little value or adding full articles to their blog that were first published elsewhere.

"Free" Articles?

In fact, if you've been to your Wordpress blog editing page lately, you may see a box in the top right-hand corner of the screen entitled "Free Articles for Your Site."  Below will be a list of 3-4 articles with some connection, often tenuous, to the theme of your site.  With just a click of a button you can have that article pasted for free onto your site.  While this may seem like the fool-proof, easy solution to keep you blog active, make no mistake: It Is Too Good To Be True.

For one thing, copied content has no SEO value and may actually come with a search engine penalty.  Original legal content is what matters, not that which is copied verbatim for those who actually created the material.

Second, in most cases those recommended articles are from others who may even be competitors.  While it'd be nice if the authors of the "free" articles were interested in helping out your business out of their own generosity, the truth is that they want you to copy their content for THEIR benefit, not yours.  By copying the article, you are spreading their message and increasing their online influence. They may even come with advertisements.

The bottom line: Do not fall for the "free articles' ruse on Wordpress.  You need original content created by you and your firm or for your firm.

That does not mean that it is bad form to read or comment upon topics discussed by other attorneys---even competitors.  But it is critical that the commentary be original--not regurgitation of content written elsewhere.

There are no shortcuts in this game.  But that is actually a good thing, because it means there is an opening to stand out.  Many of your competitors are likely not yet fully investing in this original content concept, and so by jumping in now, you can get a head start that will filter more potential clients your way.

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