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Nothing But the Ruth by Ruth Carter
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Nothing But the Ruth!

The Results Are In: How to Be an Effective Legal Blogger

By Ruth Carter

Orbit Media Studios recently released the results of its big annual survey of bloggers, which solicited input from over 1,000 bloggers (including me). The resulting report shows the trends in content marketing — both what people are doing and what’s effective.

Andy Crestodina, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Orbit Media Studios, compiled the results into a 35-page summary that includes helpful graphs showing how content marketing has changed over the past five years and what leads to “strong results” for top bloggers. (If you are attending a conference where Andy is speaking, make sure to go to his session.)

Andy graciously agreed to field some additional questions about how these results apply to legal bloggers.

How Much Time Does It Take to Write a Post?

The time needed to write a blog post has steadily increased over the last five years. According to this year’s survey results, the average blog post takes about 3.5 hours to write. That’s an increase of an hour since 2014, when the average was about 2.5 hours.

Devoting more time to each post appears to be paying off. Thirteen percent of respondents said they spent over six hours on each post, and 39 percent of them reported “strong results.” Comparatively, between 23.6 and 25.8 percent of bloggers who spent one to four hours writing each post reported “strong results.”

Lawyers frequently ask me how long it takes to write a post, and 3.5 hours seems fair. I typically take two to four hours to write each post, depending on the topic, but I suspect my average is closer to three hours since I usually write about topics that are fresh in my head or that I’ve mulled over for a while.

How Long Should Each Post Be?

In 2014, the average blog post was just over 800 words. This year, the average post is 1,151 words. Additionally, 18 percent of bloggers reported that their posts are over 2,000 words long, and 42 percent of those people reported “strong results.”

Now, before you freak out, there was a large range of responses to this question. Most bloggers (including me!) write less than 1,000 words per post. For most of my posts, I try to keep each one under 750 words. Legal topics can be heavy, complex and boring and people are looking for quick answers. I’d rather go deep into a narrower question and write multiple posts to cover the broader scope of a topic. Also, I assumed many people read legal blog posts because they’re looking for a quick answer instead of hiring us.

I asked Andy if he thought there should be a carve-out for a legal blogger. Surprisingly, he disagreed with me: “Just because some people prefer quick answers doesn’t mean that short posts would ever have an advantage. People in a hurry can scan. As long as your subheads are descriptive, a long, scannable post works well for both types of readers: people in a hurry and people looking for detail. I can’t think of a benefit to writing short posts and I’ve never seen a study that showed that they perform better in any way. Especially for lawyers, I would expect an advantage for thorough, detailed articles that explain the topic from every angle.”

He also reiterated a common piece of advice about how long a blog post should be: “Every piece of content should be as long as necessary to convey the complete message, and not one word longer.”

How Frequently Should You Release Posts?

According to Orbit Media’s results, bloggers who publish at least weekly are nearly 2.5 times more likely to report “strong results” than bloggers who publish monthly or less. Based on this, I recommend that lawyers aim to publish a new post weekly. This is my goal for 2019: weekly posts on the Carter Law Firm and The Undeniable Ruth sites. I’ve been a slacker blogger this year. Getting back into regular blog writing will be good for me and my business.

What Type of Additional Content Should Be in a Post?

In addition to words, a blog post can have video, audio, lists and original research, among other things. The survey found that bloggers who add video or audio to their posts were more likely to report “strong results.” Specifically, 19 percent of respondents added video to their posts, and 37 percent of them reported “strong results” from it.

Adding a video to your post can also be a time saver. Earlier this year, I did a series of videos on the new EU privacy law, General Data Protection Regulation. It was easy to create six simple short videos, write a blog post that corresponded to each one, and embed the corresponding video into each post. Most of the written content was based on what I’d previously said in the video. It was some of the fastest content I’d ever written.

And don’t forget to update your past posts! Two-thirds of bloggers don’t do this, but those who do are “far more likely to report ‘strong results.’” This particularly makes sense in the legal field, at least to update posts to correspond to changes in the law.

How Are Bloggers Driving Traffic to Their Posts?

Creating quality content will not help you if no one sees it. Remember: “The best content doesn’t win. The best promoted content wins!”

Not surprisingly, 96 percent of respondents said they use social media to drive traffic to their posts. I promote my posts primarily using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

The survey showed “strong results” from the following promotional efforts, all of which can be done for free:

  • Social media
  • SEO
  • Email marketing

To date, I’ve never paid for any of these, and I’ve been pleased with my organic SEO results.

Lawyers’ Questions About Blogging

I asked Andy a couple of questions I regularly get from lawyers who are interested in blogging:

What Should Lawyers Blog About?

“Write the answers that your top prospects ask you for most often. Next time someone asks the question, send the article that answers it. This helps make you more efficient.”

(See! I’m not the only one who says this. It is a time saver.)

When Will I See Results from My Blog?

“If you share the articles with people in your pipeline, it can help today.

“If you write for well-known, famous sites, you can become more visible within a few weeks.

“If you publish relevant articles in the LinkedIn platform and you’ve built up your network there, you’ll probably see the benefits within months.

“If you hope to make your website a go-to source of information that ranks for valuable phrases, it may take a few years. Big investment, but it’s worth millions to be a valuable resource online. It’s probably hard for them to imagine what a continuous stream of qualified leads feels like.”

(I agree. I tell people to expect to wait a year before seeing substantial results, but it’s worth it, particularly in the legal industry where there appears to be fewer people who write to their audience’s needs and publish on a regular basis.)

This Year’s Big Lesson: “Greater Effort Leads to Greater Rewards”

The overall takeaway appears to be that when you create and promote better content, you get better results. I’ve only scratched the surface of the depth of information contained in Andy’s post on the survey results. Read his full post for additional material about when and where bloggers write, whether guest blogging is effective, the benefits of conducting original research, and other ways bloggers are driving traffic to their posts.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Ruth Carter

Ruth Carter — lawyer, writer and professional speaker — is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing on intellectual property, business, internet, and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of the ABA book “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” In “Nothing But the Ruth,” they write about the lessons they’re learning while building their practice. Ruth blogs at UndeniableRuth.com and tweets @rbcarter.

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