This is probably one of the most commonly asked questions in the realm of attorney marketing. Unfortunately, a lot of the answers you may hear don’t necessarily consider the most critical factor in all of this – the user. Whereas “blawging” (law blogging) used to be all about improving your search placement, nowadays it’s all about the user, and effectively being able to convert that user into a potential customer or brand advocate.
So, to answer the question, law firms should blog about what it is that makes their firm unique, highlighting past successes as a means of assuring potential clients that they too should hire the law firm. Additionally, law blogs should offer readers useful information that they may find valuable, all while keeping “fluffed up” sales pitches to a minimum. As far as how often they should post, it really depends on how much the firm has to say. If you limit your blogging strategy around a set number of posts you want to publish each month, you’re probably still in “search engine rankings” mode instead of “providing valuable content to site visitors” mode.
So, in case you’re pressed for time, that’s our short answer to the question we posed with our title. If you have a few more minutes to spare, please continue reading to learn more about the approach law firms used to take when it came to blogs, the approach that should be taken instead, and the types of articles law firms should actively work to provide their site visitors with.
Lawyer Blogs: A History in Keyword Spam
This may come as a shock, but Google search results used to be easy to manipulate – some people would argue that they still are, but they’re just selling you snake oil. If you were interested in ranking for a certain term, all you had to do was mention that term repeatedly on your website. That was it. Google didn’t care about whether you were properly explaining the term, or if site visitors would benefit from your explanation of it. All Google cared about was that the term was mentioned, and that your website mentioned it more than your competitor’s website did.
Blog is defined by Merriam-Webster as the following:
- Computers: a website that contains online personal reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer;
- a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors
At the heart of any blog is personal commentary. Essentially, what you write about in a blog should be specific to you and your brand. If you’re writing something generic, and using a blog to hit a keyword quota, you’re doing it wrong. However, search algorithms haven’t always felt the same way.
In the not-so-distant past, search engines cared more about categorizing and figuring out what a site was about than they did about whether or not websites were providing useful information to their visitors. The assumption was simple – if your website was mentioning a certain term over and over again, you must know what you’re talking about, and therefore must be an authority on the subject matter, and therefore DEFINITELY should outrank other websites on a similar subject matter as a result. Notice that “user experience” didn’t really seem to be part of the algorithm’s logic, or if it was supposed to be, it didn’t play as critical a factor as keyword density did.
Because a lot of brands noticed that keyword spam seemed to reign supreme, a lot of companies adopted a less-than-white-hat approach when it came to blogging, especially in the land of legal marketing. Consequently, a lot of published articles didn’t always make complete sense because they were chock-full of individual keywords and phrases. Enter the BLAWG.
To better showcase what we mean, here’s an example of a keyword-dense paragraph that Google may have formerly ranked well (provided other factors, such as lots and lots of referring links, were also present)…
Miami car accidents take place every day, and it’s important that a Miami car accident victim seeks proper medical attention after a Miami car accident. Following your doctor’s appointment post Miami car accident, it’s important to speak with an experienced Miami car accident lawyer who has successfully represented Miami car accident victims in the past.
The above example is really “fluffed up” with keywords when it doesn’t have to be. Instead, it could simply read as:
Following a car accident, it’s important to seek medical attention and consult with an experienced attorney.
Notice we didn’t use the term “Miami” in our rewrite. Because the information being provided to the reader isn’t necessarily Miami-specific, there’s no need to repeatedly use the city name – other than if you’re trying to game Google and rank for that term when you haven’t proven that you should.
The rewrite is also considerably shorter than the original. Rather than stretching simple thoughts into multiple sentences, we condensed them into a single sentence that makes it easier for the reader to understand exactly what it is we’re trying to say.
Unfortunately, many law firms’ marketing departments disregarded what was best for the reader and opted to cram keywords into sentences as often as possible, even if it meant a poorer user experience was being delivered to the reader. This practice was rampant because Google tended to reward sites that did it with better rankings and higher search placement. Fortunately, those days are behind us, and we’ve moved into a more user-centric age of web marketing.
The Google Zoo – When Pandas Attack
In February 2011, Google released the Panda update to penalize thin, lower-quality sites, and reward higher-quality sites with better search rankings. When it came to content and blogs, Google said enough was enough as far as keyword spam and fluff were concerned. Over the next four years, Google made 28 algorithm updates and/or data refreshes related to Panda, all of which aimed to benefit websites that provided users with pertinent information that was explained with natural language (i.e., less keyword spam). Sweeping changes in the algorithm meant the days of keyword stuffing and writing for search engines instead of the user were coming to an end, and brands that had maintained a white-hat approach to marketing themselves online started to benefit as a result.
In the realm of attorney online marketing, though, old habits have proven hard to break, especially since the algorithm still isn’t perfect. While blatant keyword spam like our hypothetical example isn’t really showing up at the top of search rankings anymore, a lot of law firms still aren’t focused on what matters most when it comes to best marketing practices. If you only remember one thing from this article, please remember this:
Focus on conversions over rankings and you’ll always be on the right path. Focus on rankings over conversions and you’re never going to get the return on investment that your firm will need to sustain its online marketing campaign.
Now, one could argue that it’s impossible to convert without ranking, and they would have a valid point. Rankings and conversions go hand-in-hand, so you can never completely ignore one over the other. However, marketing a law firm while putting too much emphasis on either is the wrong approach. Take a look at our blogging breakdown to get a better feel for what we’re talking about:
Focusing on conversions means drafting blog content that puts the user’s needs before those of the search engines. Rankings will inevitably improve because this approach is in line with Google Guidelines. This in turn will give your website more exposure and lend itself to higher overall conversion numbers. That is, better rankings = more likely to be seen by qualified users = higher probability that these users will be converted into clients because of more conversion-minded content.
Focusing on rankings means drafting blog content that puts search placement needs before those of the user. Rankings for specific keywords and phrases will improve because your blog is providing information for specific topics that Google is attempting to rank sites for. This will help exposure, but this specific exposure is meant for a narrower audience. Provided this content is written well, this content may help convert. That is, better rankings = more likely to be seen by specific users = possibility that these specific users may be converted into clients because of specific content topics.
Less than ideal
Focusing on content that does not take the user into account. While some of this content may be well-written, it isn’t necessarily built with conversion in mind and therefore isn’t benefiting the firm’s bottom line. Typically, content like this focuses on a specific keyword or phrase in order to link out to another website (often as part of a reciprocal link scheme). Bottom Line: write for the audience you’re trying to sell your services to, not other websites that you’re attempting to acquire a reciprocal link from.
From our white-hat marketing perspective, a law firm’s approach to blogging should be fairly simple. Talk about what makes your law firm unique. Talk about practice areas and provide insight into those practice areas that the average person might not be aware of. Highlight great client reviews in order to explain how your law firm operates, and feature case studies of specific clients you’ve successfully helped in the past. Talk about the causes you’re involved with, the events you’re participating in, and try to humanize your law firm as much as possible. Remember, people want to work with people they’re comfortable with, not a faceless law firm without personality.
Coming up with an effective content-marketing strategy isn’t always easy, especially in a competitive market. If your law firm needs guidance on what to blog about, reach out to SLS Consulting, Inc. Our digital marketing team has been helping lawyers achieve better rankings for more than 20 years now. To learn more, call SLS today at (323) 254-1510.
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