As we kick off another year, many in the legal industry are looking for ways to generate more business and increase their firm’s brand penetration. One of the most cost-effective and proven methods of bolstering a law firm’s online presence is starting a blog. Developing a successful legal blog primarily takes dedication and consistency. It’s also a continual learning experience, but if you devote the time and resources to it, a blog can become one of your law firm’s most valuable assets.
What Is a Blog?
The word blog was originally derived from shortening the word weblog; it refers to an online repository of content, ideally with fresh items added regularly. A successful legal blog typically lives as a section on a law firm’s website and is updated by adding new posts. A blog post is an individual page of a blog where an author (or “blogger”) writes about a particular topic. Sounds simple enough, right? In some ways, blogging is that simple, but there are a few core structural and visual components we recommend as best practices when creating your law firm’s online content storehouse.
Five Components of an Optimized Law Firm Blog:
- Two Distinct Page Layouts: Your blog should have page layouts designed for both a Main Blog Page and a Blog Post Page. The main blog page should (1) showcase the most recent several posts in reverse chronological order with links the user can click to read more, (2) have an easy-to-use archive of past posts by month and by year, and (3) have a sidebar contact form. The individual blog post page layout should show the post author, publish date, category, image, other recent related posts and/or other posts by the same author, and allow for easy social media sharing.
- Publish Date: Each blog post should list the date on which it was written/published. Providing an accurate publish date gives each article context by letting the reader know when it was written. Even if you remove the dates from the user’s view, Google can still see the publish date in the code, so you can’t trick search engines into thinking it’s newer than it is. If you don’t display a date, Google will use the only date it knows: the date it indexed the post for the first time.
- Author: Each blog post should be associated with an author, complete with a link to the author’s online biography. Ideally, on a law firm blog, the authors are the attorneys and their author byline should link to their website biography. So many law firms make blogging faux pas here by leaving “admin” or a similar default designation as the author, listing the author name as a random list of letters that constitutes their backend website login, or not using an author at all. Don’t be that firm.
- Practice Area Association: Each blog post should be associated with one of your firm’s practice areas and/or an industry you serve. This can be accomplished by using categories for each blog post. When developed correctly, a website with an integrated blog can associate relevant blog posts with the corresponding practice area and industry webpages, making them show up where appropriate and helpful for users throughout the site.
- Images: All blog posts should include relevant, high-resolution imagery that is appropriately resized so as to not slow page load time (if the image is too large) but large enough to render well on the blog post itself and when the post is shared elsewhere, such as on social media.
Why Should Lawyers Blog?
Blogs are the third-most trustworthy source of information, following only friends and family – trusted more than journalists, brands, and politicians. Starting a successful legal blog can open up a variety of opportunities. A well-written article can help establish you as an expert in your field. You can leverage your online authority to gain new clients, impress existing clients and colleagues, and open doors to previously unreachable audiences.
Three Reasons Lawyers Should Blog:
- To improve search engine rankings for a law firm website: Successful search engine optimization (SEO) relies heavily on the presentation of valuable content; therefore, one of the most critical elements of SEO success is content marketing. Now more than ever before, search engines seek to deliver users search results full of websites with content that meets their needs and answers their questions. Websites with blogs that provide consistently reliable information will rank higher in search engine results.
- To share expertise and become a thought leader: If you blog about your practice areas of focus for several years with consistently high quality content, you will become known as an expert on these topics. Over time, people will begin to view you as a valuable source of information. This is true for potential new clients, media professionals looking for a source, and other law firms looking to work together on certain types of cases.
- To reach a worldwide audience you would not reach otherwise: By using a blog to put your law practice out there, you can and will get in front of audiences you normally wouldn’t be able to access. Internet users might not necessarily visit your law firm website on its own, as there’s often not much to set you apart from other lawyers practicing in your same area; however, a well-written blog post on a relevant topic will absolutely drive new users to your website on a regular basis.
What Should You Write About – and – What Can You Write About?
One of the most difficult aspects of blogging is creating better content than what’s already out there. This can feel like an impossible task when you’re just getting started and seeing how many lawyers in your same geographic location and same practice areas are already blogging. The “old approach” to legal blogging was putting up as many posts as possible, regardless of word count, quality, and formatting; this no longer works. Now, search engines want quality OVER quantity, meaning the days of bragging about having a 700-page website have long since passed. Utilize a well-planned content marketing strategy to determine what your target audience is searching for, how you can address their questions, and ensure your posts are optimized and shared appropriately for digital success.
In addition to competing online, lawyers have to abide by mandatory advertising rules and ethical guidelines when transmitting information to the public. Each state has its own legal and ethical rules regarding attorney advertising. In addition, the American Bar Association sets model standards and rules often adopted by states on an individual basis. Some important ethical considerations for lawyers when starting a successful legal blog include:
Client/Matter Confidentiality: ABA Formal Opinion 480 (2018) squarely addresses the lawyer’s obligation when blogging or otherwise commenting on a current, active client. The opinion says a lawyer can’t provide information about the representation unless the client consents or the circumstances fall into an exception to the rule. Once representation concludes, Rule 1.9 kicks in, extending confidentiality to former clients, but not affording them to same level of confidentiality as current clients with active matters.
Use of Disclaimers: Since lawyers must be careful not to establish an attorney-client relationship via their website or any other form of digital communication, law firm websites should use disclaimers specifying engagement with the site does not form an attorney-client relationship. In addition to concerns about inadvertently forming a lawyer-client relationship, you must be careful that the blog content isn’t taken as legal advice. Firms must use a disclaimer, prominently placed on the website, stating the blog is not providing legal advice, only general information.
You can read more “Ethical Tips for Law Bloggers” on my friend Zach Wolfe’s popular legal blog Five Minute Law.
Measuring Blogging Success
A law firm blog should not be used as a one-way bullhorn – a place where you shout your expert opinion into the vast recesses of the Internet. Instead, a successful legal blog should help you effectively engage with a variety of audiences. You can find out which blog posts are most interesting to users – and therefore among the most successful – by analyzing metrics like how many readers share your blog posts on social media or whether your posts generate comments.
When properly set up and installed, the free tools Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and Google Search Console will provide additional metrics to reveal whether or not your blog is successful and point out areas that need improvement. Metrics including total visits, time spent on page, bounce rate, top traffic posts, conversion rates, and more are all extremely helpful indicators of overall website health and of law firm blogging success.
Law Firm Content Marketing Strategists
Law firm content marketing is one of the quickest and most effective ways to increase traffic to your website, establish your attorneys as thought leaders, and generate more business. Become an authority in your areas of practice and industries of focus and sign up more of your ideal clients with content marketing for law firms. We have worked with lawyers across the country in every practice area to develop successful strategies for online success. Contact us today for more information on how our experienced team of digital marketing experts can help your law firm succeed.