What to Blog About (or: How to Keep Blogging)

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Many would-be legal bloggers start writing a blog without much thought except get business based on the recommendation of some marketing “expert.” This is a big reason why there are so many crappy, dead law blogs. Most are no great loss, just an archive of second-rate posts nobody wanted to read, anyway.

Because what you realize a few months after starting, say, the Nebraska Workers Compensation Law Blog, is that it doesn’t take long to write pretty much everything there is worth writing about injured workers’ rights. After that, you can write case law updates (like every other work comp firm does) and hope somebody cares, or you can let your blog die.

This sort of thing happens all the time, and it is why it makes sense to be a little more thoughtful when deciding what you want your blog to be about. (Note: If you are writing a blog for SEO reasons and it doesn’t bother you that nobody wants to read the crap you are publishing, feel free to stop reading at this point. This post will be lost on you.)

Blogs aren’t for marketing

First and foremost, blogs are a form of publication, not a tool for self-promotion. They are meant to be read. Successful bloggers build a readership; they don’t just write to attract search engine traffic (although the search engine traffic will usually come as a side benefit of having a lot of loyal readers).

It’s much easier to keep a blog going if you start with this in mind. Nobody wants to read marketing copy, and that’s what a blog is if you are just trying to attract search engines or convert clients from the few unfortunates who are unlucky enough to stumble across your tripe. Which means you won’t get much traffic, and you won’t have much motivation to keep writing. So you probably won’t.

Besides, even if marketing is your goal, there are better ways to do it than writing a blog, even if you write a good blog. It takes a lot of time to write a blog, and you won’t be certain it will pay off until it does—if it ever does. You could make better use of your time and money going out to lunch with people or managing an AdWords campaign.

Writing a blog post is a bit like giving a presentation. People attend if they think they will get something out of it. If you stand up in front of the audience and promote yourself, you will disappoint your audience, and none of them are likely to come to any more of your presentations. If you focus on being interesting and informative instead of marketing, your audience will think well of you. They will probably come back for more, and even though you aren’t promoting yourself, every member of the audience will be a potential referral source.

The key, in other words, is to get people to keep coming back. That means building a readership, not just attracting occasional browsers.

Attracting readers

Most people deal with a particular legal problem for a relatively short period of time, which is why you should not write a [practice area] law blog. Your blog will only be interested to a relatively small subset of people who happen to be looking for answers to legal questions at a fairly small point in time. It’s like trying to hit a bullet with an arrow; even if you do connect, the interaction is over as soon as it starts.

Instead, resist your initial impulse to write a blog about [insert your specific practice area here]. Back up. Write for people who are likely to be interested in your specific practice area at some point, even if they aren’t right now. If you must think in terms of marketing, write for your potential clients before they become your potential clients, when they are just people looking for things they are interested in online. Gather an audience of as many people who might become your potential clients at some point.

For example, if you have that work comp firm, don’t start a workers compensation law blog. Start a blog for workers in the industries your best clients are likely to come from. Call it something interesting, and don’t put it on your law firm’s website. Don’t write too much about workplace injuries. Instead, write about salaries, union negotiations, industry changes, safety standards, technological innovations, and so on. Sprinkle in a few informational, search engine bait posts, but focus on writing great content above everything else.

Or, if you are a bankruptcy lawyer, write a blog about personal finance. If you are a business lawyer, write a newsy blog about local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. If you are a family lawyer, write a blog about strong marriages and parenting challenges. Hopefully you get the idea.

When you watch your site statistics, focus the number of returning visitors. That is the statistic that matters most, and the one you want to make grow.

Keep writing

It is a lot easier to write a blog for a well-defined group of people than it is to write a blog for a well-defined group of people who also happen to be looking for a lawyer at that particular moment. Even so, it is hard to keep a blog going, especially in the beginning.

Before you even think about starting a blog, ask yourself whether you are the kind of person who feels compelling to write, no matter how busy you are or what is going on in your life. If you aren’t that kind of person, you probably shouldn’t start a blog.

And no matter what you choose to write about, make sure you are passionate about it. You could write a blog about keyboard design, and if you were passionate about things like “clickiness” and key shapes, you could probably make it work for years. If you can find something you are passionate that intersects with the work you do as a lawyer, you’ve got a really good start.

Finally, no matter what, you aren’t likely to get much traffic at the start. This is normal. In the beginning, you will dream about having several dozen visitors a day, much less several hundred. Keep writing, commenting on other blogs, and directing people to yours. The audience will come as long as you publish great content that people want to read and share.

Legal Marketing

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  • http://erickregalado.wordpress.com Erick Rhoan

    Good advice. Thanks!

  • http://www.lawyerology.com/ Rob Sullivan

    Great article Sam. Thankful that I seem to have taken some of your advice with Lawyerology. Going to try to follow the rest of it now. The real trick is finding time to write good content without your wife yelling “isn’t it enough that you work sixty hours a week? Now you are sitting in bed jackin’ on the Internet!”

  • http://constructionlawva.com Christopher G. Hill

    This is great advice, Construction Law Musings has run from purely construction related topics to some other topics and grown because of it (though most would be helpful to contractors and construction law practitioners (I hope))

  • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan

    Step 1: Write stuff you think is interesting or important

    Step 2: ??????

    Step 3: PROFIT! STRAIGHT CASH, HOMIE!

    Pure genius, Sam. I don’t know how you produce such high quality content each week so consistently.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      I don’t think you even bothered to read the post.

      • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan

        I did. Well, some of it. Then I got really bored. But in my defense, the post was long and I think it could be summarized into “write about stuff you think is interesting.”

        And I tried, Sam, I did. I even did a shot of Canadian Club while reading it. Well, maybe a few, but that’s not the point…

        • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

          In an internet full of lawyers who think blogging is about getting to Step 3 (STRAIGHT CASH HOMIE), I think it’s worth urging people to cut it out and write interesting stuff, instead.

          • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan

            I’ll let you in on a little secret, though I’ll deny it if anyone ever asks…

            Sam, you’re okay. You’re a good dude. I like to screw around with you, though.

            • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

              That must be the whiskey talking.

            • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

              Sam is a good dude. If you read him carefully, he’s really trying to turn a lot of the crap that appears here around to substance, though with sufficient subtlety that he doesn’t scare away the twinkies. Same with Sam’s comments, where he tries to softly twist the most insipid posts around to something real.

              It’s not easy. His writers here have been getting away with crap for so long that they’ve fallen into a rut of abject stupidity and sloppiness, and his reader, most of whom are only here to learn about the next magic bullet and get a quickie tummy rub, aren’t ready for posts with big words or complicated ideas. It makes their head hurt.

              But Sam is trying. Give him some credit. And Canadian Club? Seriously? Are you like 90 years old?

  • http://www.bc-personalinjury-lawyer.com Jon d.

    Hi,
    You make a good point about writing a blog for prospective clients on a non-legal practice area. I think it would be fun and effective in the long run to start a dialogue a group of people with an ongoing interest in what I have to say/discuss from a different perspective than a practice area.

    I’m going to have to give this concept some thought. You’re the first person I’ve read present blogging for lawyers in this light.

  • http://www.gardnerandmendoza.com Radlyn

    I am new to this site and blogging, so I really appreciate the advice in this post. I’m an immigration lawyer so there are many themes I could take other than ‘how to file an I130 petition’ for example. What do you all think about blogging on a platform like Kevin O’keefe’s?

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Setting up your own blog is really easy. We’ve even got a free 30-minute setup guide.

      Kevin has lots of reasons why he thinks LexBlog is better, but the bottom line is that it’s a relatively expensive way to host a WordPress blog, although it might be worth it if you don’t think you can handle setting up your own WordPress blog, even with our guide.

  • http://www.shatterbox.biz/ Jay Pinkert

    Blogging is not some sort of higher calling, and blogs are absolutely about marketing — in addition to whatever state of enlightened connoisseurship you’re advocating (What does “meant to be read” even mean?).

    It’s nonsensical to think that a meaningful number of people beyond bobbleheads and backlink schnorrers actually “read” blogs. Follow them through RSS/e-mail subscriptions and scan the posts for usefulness, definitely, but consistently “read” specific blogs with thoroughness and discernment…LOL.

    Successful blogs are so because they consistently provide value — entertainment, actionable information, education, inspiration — AND they are well marketed. How do you think people find them in the first place? Even word of mouth is a calculated marketing strategy.

    It sounds like your grievance is with SEO, which is only one marketing tactic.

    What’s more concerning about the position you staked out, though, is its narrowness. If one is passionate about creating content — whether it’s for marketing or “reading” — why confine oneself to a blog? Most of social media by/for lawyers has parked itself in an insular, stagnant, clubby version of “thought leadership” blogging, while the rest of the online world has moved on to visual storytelling, content curation and discovery/sharing platforms — none of which are driven by the blunt stereotype of marketing you used as your straw man.

  • http://www.legalfunding.com/ Lulaine

    This is definitely great advice for people looking to build business and build a good blog. Many people like to know the person they are speaking to is knowledgeable about what is going on and how they can be helped. This will definitely help a lot of people in many different ways accomplish their goals.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Way to put some effort into your spamming. (BTW, links in comments are nofollowed, so no Google juice for you.)

  • twillis16@gmail.com

    Just curious why is your blog no-follow? Why not have two sites and share the love with out of state lawyers, who then love you back? My site is under construction, looking for do-follow blogs that are also interesting as a bonus. You meet one of the two criteria.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Because we’re not interested in people who comment just to get a link back to their website. That’s called spam.

      If people have good blogs, we write about them in posts, which are dofollow. So write awesome content, and maybe we’ll write about it.

  • http://www.lawdeeda.com brint crockett

    If blogs aren’t for marketing, what is a marketing blog for? *brain esploshun*

    Only kidding, I agree with you in principle. A blog’s only as good as its blogger, and a twitter’s only as good as its tweeter. //that’s what he or she said

  • http://www.mfrlawoffice.com Manfred Ricciardelli

    This was a great post, despite what some other commenters have said. I currently run a Workers’ Comp blog, http://www.njworkinjurylaw.net, which isn’t getting a lot of traffic yet. My team and I have been brainstorming new ideas to get fresh content in there and this article helped a lot. I think we are going to incorporate more general content about workers’ rights issues than focusing just on WC law.