In the previous article in this series I looked at Search Engine Optimisation and made a passing reference to the importance of blogging for law firms. You may regard the task of churning out a regular article to post to your website an onerous one. Even worse, you could be charged with chasing up your reluctant colleagues for their contributions.
As Winston Churchill once said: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
This is something that Google has really taken to heart. Updating your website and adding new content is a key part of Google’s ranking system. Sites that remain static for long periods lose credibility and slip down the rankings.
Obviously, if producing a weekly article seems too much of a time-consuming chore, you can always advertise with Google. That can be expensive. Blogging gives you a more cost-effective alternative to keep your website up-to-date and high up the rankings.
There is another advantage to blogging. Let’s say you and your colleagues produce a weekly article for posting to your blog. At the end of each month or other suitable period, you can use the content of the posts as material in an email newsletter to your clients. The email need only contain links to the posts; it will keep clients aware of your presence and drive traffic to your website.
This is often a difficult question. The simple answer is that it depends upon the content, the inclination of the individual to contribute and how engaging their written style is. It makes sense for an expert in wills and probate to write a piece on inheritance tax changes. However, the inclination to write to deadlines should be there, as should the ability to write in a fashion that engages the non-expert reader rather than alienating him or her with legal jargon.
It may be that your various experts need a little assistance to convert solid legal advice into readily engaging prose. To address this, you can ask another colleague to edit the original material or make use of one of the many blog ghost writing services currently on the market.
This question is easier to answer. Your content should be:
Of course, there is always room to publish a number of more wide-ranging articles. However, always remember to write the article from the reader’s point of view – the back button is only one click away!
One final word on content: Google has its likes and dislikes. As a rule of thumb an article of between 300 and 1200 words is preferable. Google’s algorithms tend to give less kudos to overly short or long postings and, of course, you don’t want to bore your readers into pressing the back button.
In blogging, moderation involves a number of things. The information you are posting should be accurate legally, grammatically and stylistically. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen spelling errors and grammatical howlers in blog posts. I suspect I’ve also made a few myself over the years!
It pays to err on the side of caution. No matter who writes the post, always ensure that it is proof-read by someone knowledgeable in the subject matter. Having done that, show it to either a professional proof-reader or someone who has a good eye for grammar and spelling but who is not a subject expert. Automatic spelling and grammar checkers are not fool-proof! Finally, ask the said person if they can readily understand the content. If the answer is no, it means the writing style is not fit for purpose – time for a fresh draft.
Believe it or not, Google also pays attention to writing style. It does so, at a much more mechanical level. It penalises the overuse of long sentences, text blocks in excess of 300 words between sub-headings (which look terrible on mobiles) and excessive use of the passive voice. The idea is to give higher value to easier-to-read material. Many people, myself included, believe that this can lead to the dumbing down of content. However, all is not lost, there are a few writing aids on the market such as the Flesch Reading Ease Test which can assist.
Most good website content management systems have a plug-in for Flesch which tracks you as you write and gives you your scores for all the above metrics. It’s a bit like having someone looking over your shoulder as you write, but it encourages you to think hard about your use of language.
Clearly, your posts will appear on your own site, but what can you do to give them a greater reach?
I previously mentioned using posts for your client newsletters. It’s best to keep these short by using a link to your site. The same applies to publishing them on social media. It makes no sense to post articles in full to twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Your aim should be to get people to visit your own website, so a link together with an image on social media will suffice.
There are also a number of myths circulating that Google penalises duplication of posts across multiple sites. This is largely erroneous. If you syndicate your content on other sites such as Lexology, Google will always show the version it thinks is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer. However, it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article.
Common sense should prevail. Syndicate your material sparingly and carefully.
Blogging can be a great deal of hard work, but also a great deal of fun. Its purpose is to ensure your practice gets noticed, to maintain your website’s search engine ranking and to engage with your clients and prospects alike.
If you are new to the art, give it a go, but remember to keep tabs on the performance of your posts. You can usually do this via tracking mechanisms on your website or simple share buttons like those at the foot of this post.
That’s it from me in 1,141 words! Happy blogging.
Mike O’Donnell is an experienced marketing professional who has spent much of his career working in and advising the legal profession. For further biographical details click this link.
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