Show me a lawyer with a new website, and I’ll show you a lawyer with a blog. It seems like most law firm websites have a blog tab leading to a few boring, useless posts that stopped shortly after they started. If the lawyer is especially determined, the blog will be recently updated, and may even have a few posts that might be interesting to someone looking for a lawyer in the firm’s practice area(s).
It used to be the reason for doing this was to pump the site full of keywords to boost its search profile (SEO). The idea was that if you had a ton of pages with keywords that matched up to what your potential clients were searching for, your site would be more likely to pop up at the top of search results. This was always a stupid idea if done poorly, because potential clients aren’t going to be impressed by dozens of hundreds of barely-readable crap.
Now, the idea is similar but the emphasis (finally) is on quality content. Instead of SEO, the buzzword du jour is inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is an old concept, and the idea is simple: give people quality, actually-valuable stuff and they will be more likely to pay you for something. It’s hard to argue with that.
If your marketing strategy sounds like SEO or inbound marketing and you are getting advice from someone competent, then by all means stop reading. This article is not about SEO or inbound marketing. It is about blogging, a form of self-publishing that is best done completely separately from your law firm website.
You probably would not decorate your law office like a sports bar, because you want your clients to take you seriously and you want them to know that you take their legal matters seriously. This is why meeting in a coffee shop is problematic (along with the problems that come with discussing sensitive legal matters in a public place). The context in which you meet with clients matters — it creates an atmosphere and sets expectations.
Websites are no different, and a law firm website creates a very different context than a publication built to be a place for reading interesting or useful things.
Law Firm Websites
A law firm website is, well, a law firm website. Most people come to a law firm website because they are thinking about hiring a lawyer. Very few people visit a law firm website more than once or twice, or however many times it takes them to decide whether to contact the firm.
Whether or not the website is covered in pictures of gavels, scales, and columns, a law firm website is a lot like a law office, about which I once wrote:
Most normal people are as interested in visiting a lawyer as they are in getting a colonoscopy — and for similar reasons. A blog on a law firm website is, at best, like a great magazine in a proctologist’s waiting room.
People don’t want to hang around on law firm websites any more than they want to hang around in law offices. If your blogging strategy is just about getting people to visit your website once, then maybe that is okay. But that is a pretty shortsighted blogging strategy. You might be missing the forest for the trees.
A blog is not a direct marketing tool; it serves a very different purpose. Blogs are publications, which means they are meant to be read by an audience of people who return at least occasionally to read more.
This is important because the kind of writing that attracts an audience of repeat visitors is rarely the same kind of writing that attracts search engines and inbound marketing prospects. And the context is important. If you took the most popular articles from the New York Times and put them on a law firm website, nobody would read them. Or at least, if someone happened to find one of them, it is pretty unlikely that they would come back for more.
Blogging is long-game marketing. When you have a well-read blog, you earn your own media every time you post something. You don’t need to wait around for the local news to call you for your analysis of the latest celebrity divorce or corporate bankruptcy (although if you have a good blog, they probably will); you can just publish it yourself.
But in order to build that audience, your blog is better off on its own website, with its own look and feel. Your blog should appear to be (and actually be) a publication, not a law firm’s marketing website.
Separating Your Blog
Blogging done well is a lot of work. But if you build a successful blog, you will probably have a reliable source of referrals, as well.
When you start your blog, give it its own identity and domain (and don’t name it something bland and law-y like “State Personal Injury Law Blog”). Give it a real name and identity, like Duets Blog or Caveat Emptor.
Build an audience by writing about a subject related to what you do, not by writing only about your area of practice. For example, if you handle bankruptcy or represent consumers dealing with debt collection, write about personal finance or consumer news. If you do family law, write about children, marriage, and divorce. If you do estate planning, write about celebrities’ wills. And do it well. Bring your insight to the subject, or dig up information nobody else has taken the time to find. In other words, write a blog your potential clients might want to read when they aren’t looking for a lawyer.
Then, update it frequently. Write at least weekly, if not daily. If you aren’t willing to invest that time, just pay for advertising. But if you want to build something longer-lasting, put in the time to write a good blog.
As for that pretty-much-dead “blog” taking up space on your law firm website? Move it off, give it up, or convince yourself that your law firm website is a unique situation (hint: it probably isn’t).
This was originally published on November 3, 2011. It was rewritten and republished on July 22, 2014.