Some lawyers spend hours upon hours each month working on their blogs, and yet they have no traffic to show for it. One reason is poor content. There are some common mistakes lawyers make when creating blog posts that do little to help their search engine visibility, much less improve their connection with clients. Here are five sure ways to sink your law blog.
1. Write about topics your clients don’t care about. If you really want to see your time and effort be all for naught, do yourself a favor and write about whatever you want. Write about esoteric legal concepts and arguments that you find interesting. Write your play-by-play reviews of Supreme Court cases that are tangentially relevant to your practice. Here are the best topics for posts your clients won’t read:
- Recent cases and controversies
- Details of newly enacted laws
- Disagreements between legal scholars
- Anything published in a law journal
- Firm accomplishments
Clients won’t read blog posts about topics that aren’t relevant to them. What do clients read? Here’s where you need to think like them. When you first speak with prospective clients, what questions do they ask? These are likely the questions they’re typing into Google before they reach out to you. The best blog posts for many lawyers simply answer client questions. The title should be in the form of a question — for example, “What happens if my spouse dies without a will in Kentucky?”
People search Google in the form of questions, so your posts should provide answers. One way to come up with topics (don’t tell anybody) is the Google “auto-fill” trick. You might be familiar with Google’s auto-fill if you’ve started to type a phrase into a Google search bar, only to see a box appear below with recommended completed search terms. Why should you care? These auto-fills show what a lot of people have already searched for. So, start typing in a phrase or sentence related to your practice area, preferably in the form of a question, and see what shows up. Now you have an idea of what some people are searching for related to your practice area. Write about it.
2. Don’t share your content anywhere. Sharing puts your content in front of an audience that will read your post or share it with others — including prospective clients — who might read your post. So, if you really don’t want people to read your content, avoid Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Google’s algorithm also cares about social sharing. The number of retweets, +1s and likes your post has is relevant to your post’s visibility in Google searches.
If you want people to read your blog, share your posts on different social media sites. Google+ is a powerful sharing platform because it has communities with different interests — communities whose members will comment on your posts and engage in a discussion. Google has demonstrated that it gives search engine visibility bonus points if your post is shared on Google+.
3. Write sporadically whenever you have time. Google’s algorithm cares about posting frequency. Consistent, fresh content boosts your posts’ visibility. If you don’t want to see your site make long-term gains in search engine visibility, stop posting your content regularly and watch your visibility disappear.
Blogging weekly — easier said than done? You may think you don’t have any time to blog, but that’s only if you don’t make the time. If you set aside one hour per week, you can have a new post each week. When going about your day, save blog post ideas on your phone, or in a note-taking app like Evernote. Then, when it’s time to write, eliminate distractions, shut off your Wi-Fi and phone, and just start. Once you’ve eliminated distractions, you will see that writing comes quicker and is more enjoyable.
4. Write in legalese. If people can’t understand your blog, they’ll stop reading. The one language most clients don’t understand is legalese. That’s why they hire a lawyer. So if you want to make clients’ lives difficult, just keep writing your “informational” posts in lingo they don’t understand. Your clients want someone who knows the lingo and the law, otherwise they’d do it themselves.
When you’re writing for a blog, you need to stop thinking like a legal writer and start thinking like a human writer. Write casually and conversationally, always keeping in mind that your content is for a specific type of client. Write in language they understand so they will keep reading instead of leaving.
5. Ethics rules are just suggestions! Only write about your firm’s accomplishments. Many attorneys come from the perspective that a legal blog is good for getting clients, so they write about their firm non-stop. They treat their blogs like advertisements with little content of educational value. As mentioned earlier, “firm accomplishments” is a terrible topic for blog posts because clients don’t care and it will do little to boost your search engine visibility.
Aside from that, if your blog is not for strictly informational purposes, it might run afoul of your state’s ethics rules. For example, in a Virginia case, Hunter v. Virginia State Bar, the state admonished a criminal defense lawyer who operated a “blog” that didn’t comport with the ethics rules. Every post on Hunter’s blog was effectively an advertisement for the firm, discussing recent successful outcomes in the firm’s cases. That is getting into pure advertising territory, and advertisements, in many jurisdictions, require disclaimers.
In New York, for example, an advertisement is defined as “any public or private communication made by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm about the lawyer or law firm’s services, the primary purpose of which is for the retention of the lawyer or law firm.” A “blog” that lists recent firm victories is distinguishable from a blog that provides educational, primarily informational content for readers. If you want to stay ethical with your blog, make sure the content is informational, and not shameless self-promotion; save that for your website’s “Settlements and Verdicts” page.
Blogging can be a great way to build traffic to your firm’s website. Just make sure that you’re blogging smart and not wasting your time (or violating some ethics rules).