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People create blogs to attract readers. And in other news, fire is hot.
But how to attract readers? Sure, you can follow Sam’s advice and strive to write well on topics you’re knowledgeable about. I’ve tried that. I’ve combined my experience with my own independent study to provide a lot of sober advice on good lawyering. Almost all those posts were greeted with a yawn, followed, I suspect, by an immediate click over to Buzzfeed.
I’ve also had a handful of posts get rather popular all at once. I’ve been wondering why, so I conducted an entirely unscientific study (okay, I thought about it for a while). You really should follow Sam’s advice—strive for informative, useful content. But when you want to mix it up a little, here are my Top 5 ways to get eyeballs on your posts.
1. Put everything you write in “Top 5″ list format.
Americans love to rank everything in Top 5 or Top 10 or Top 100 lists. I don’t know why. It’s not a good thing, as the U.S. News law school rankings prove. But people are really drawn to numbered lists. Even people like me who know they aren’t very useful.
For example, there was only one radio station in my hometown that played Top 40 music. Every Sunday morning, Kasey Kasem’s American Top 40 would grace the airwaves. I was in high school and worked as a clerk in a gas station, and every week I listened. Did I like this music? Not much of it, but back then the Top 40 was a mishmash of styles. I could root for cool bands like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and against bands that seemed determined to put the whole country into a catatonic stupor, like Air Supply.
So I get it. Listing everything from 1 to 5/10/40/200, whether it’s the popularity of no-talent musical “artists,” or suggesting which law schools should just go ahead and close their doors, seems to impose order and logic on chaos and confusion. And Americans are the most competitive people on earth. If we can’t quantify who won and who finished second (or 99th), we’re not interested.
2. Attack conventional wisdom.
While posts like “How to ask the perfect leading question on cross” certainly have value, it’s limited value. Most lawyers don’t go to court much (if ever). They are going to shoot right past that post, as it offers them nothing of practical or entertainment value. Even a courtroom lawyer is likely to pass on that post in search of something more fun.
But imagine if you write a post on, say, how the lawyer ethics rules protect lawyers and do nothing to protect clients, and you explain why. Now you’re on a subject every lawyer must deal with, and you’ve attacked the very foundation of how many lawyers think about ethics. Every lawyer is at least potentially interested in reading that. Most of my successful posts have been of this type: taking aim at sacred cows. I wrote a few weeks ago dismissing as incorrect 3 grammar rules most of us learned as kids. People went bananas. Don’t you dare tell me my dear sweet Mrs. McGillicudy was wrong about anything, pal! All this over grammar. Who knew?
3. Bring the funny.
The law is pretty dry stuff most of the time. Humor is an essential survival tool, especially if your work is trafficking in human misery. You can build a great blog without being at all known for your humor, but to do so you’ll have to post a lot (which likely means multiple writers), on hot topics (which means constant vigilance of the field). Scotusblog isn’t funny, to me anyway, but I read it when there are cases pending that interest me. Your blog probably isn’t Scotusblog. So let your delightful sense of humor bubble to the surface at least some of the time.
4. Bash the law schools.
I’ve had great fun at this. While you’re in law school, you think you’re pretty hot stuff. Then you get out and it begins to dawn on you what a colossal waste of time, money, and physical and emotional energy it was. If you get a good job, maybe you can put that aside. But if you don’t get a good job, or just don’t let go of things so easily, you realize your law school pretty much ripped you off while utterly failing to teach you how to do any legal work anyone would ever need done, much less pay for. (Or maybe you love your law school and can’t wait to give them lots of money someday. In which case, you are an idiot, so please don’t blog, because the last thing we need is another idiotic blog.)
Law schools are not only controversial, but the shared law school experience forms a bond between lawyers that only military veterans and parents also share: one based on unforgettable anxiety and exhaustion. And that always gives you something of interest to write about. A good law school story (and everyone has a few) always makes for a good read.
Don’t be a scamblogger. While they have made a positive difference, that ground has been covered. But get in there and bash away once in a while, in a reasonably thoughtful way. It’s therapeutic, and people will read it.
5. Think Differently.
Write about Apple. Write about its products, its App Store, its history. Write about how Steve Jobs was a genius, or about how he was just a guy who stole other people’s ideas. Praise or criticize, it doesn’t seem to matter. But write about Apple, and do it often. I don’t write about Apple because I’m not an expert on tech, and we have several writers on this blog who are, and also because I’m a contrarian. But your blog should include posts about Apple, even if they are “Who cares about Apple!?” posts. Those will probably work too.
Bonus Tip: Blog about celebrities and sex.
It works for Above the Law, big time, and it might work for you too.
(image: top five from Shutterstock)