So you’ve decided to start a blog for your law firm. Or (much like us) you have resolved to restore an existing, yet dormant blog to its former glory. Whichever the case may be, when you update your website with valuable content on a regular basis, you not only increase your chances of being found through online searches but you give your visitors a reason to stay longer and return more often.
Now that you’re ready to blog, what will you write about? How long will your posts be? And what will your posts include? These are questions that we commonly hear from clients before they put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
Posts generally fall into a few different categories: thought leadership-based content, commentary on news, data-driven analyses, list-style posts, and a favourite amongst readers, the “how-to” post. Whichever type of post you choose, we have compiled a top 10 list of tips for legal blogging to help guide you in crafting an informative, engaging, and search-engine friendly blog:
1. Put forth different perspectives. As lawyers, you are regularly called upon to look at an issue from multiple perspectives and make a case for all of them. Your readers will be expecting you to present more than one side of the story. Give them what they want – to be enlightened by differing viewpoints on a particular topic of interest.
2. Write for readers, not lawyers. When you blog about things like a recent change in legislation, a big case or breaking legal news, write in a way that your readers (aka potential clients) will be able to understand the issue itself as well as how it relates to them, their business, or their legal situation.
3. Use the title to grab their attention. With blogs, the challenge is writing headlines that are both enticing and incorporate key words that someone will use to search for a specific topic. One way to develop an effective title is to choose a simple “working title” to keep you focused when drafting the post, then tweak the working title into one that is “actionable, concise, keyword-conscious, clear, definitive and intriguing” as further described in this helpful article: “How to Master the Art of Exceptional Blog Titles”. The ideal title length is 8-12 words and under 70 characters. Include the keywords near the front to make it more attractive in search results.
4. Keep it simple and short. The ideal blog post length is 1,600-2,500 words and should take 7-10 minutes to read. By that measure, blogs are not scholarly articles and should only be as long as they need to be. That is not to say that you shouldn’t include explanations or stories to engage the reader, but eliminate extraneous words from your writing and make every word count. To heed our own advice, we now direct you to this article: 10 Techniques for More Precise Writing.
5. Organize your thoughts. A great way to organize a blog post is by creating sub-headings or, if you are looking to create a “how-to” post, simply outline the steps from start to finish as numbered points. Once you have the basic outline with headings, you can then go back and fill in the blanks as you start writing. It not only helps to keep your writing organized, but allows a reader to jump to the sections that are most pertinent to their needs.
6. Listen to your clients. One of your greatest resources for possible blog topics is in fact your clients. They come to professionals seeking advice, answers, consultation and reassurance on a daily basis. We recommend you make note of their concerns and questions and pay particular attention to the language they use to describe them. These will make great fodder for relevant, useful and search-friendly blog posts.
7. Stay current and connected. In addition to client feedback, we also recommend creating “Google Alerts” for key topics to help you keep up with what is going on in the media. If you are on social media, pay attention to what the individuals and organizations that you follow are posting about. The more connected you are with what is going on, not only in the legal arena, but also news and general interest stories, the more you can relate your posts back to issues that people care about and are interested in sharing.
8. Save data and statistics for a rainy day. Coming up with blog topics on a regular basis can be challenging. One way to keep the ideas flowing is to stockpile information on industry statistics, new data, images, videos etc… that you can turn to for inspiration at a later date. People love the value they get from data and charts, so if you can incorporate them into the post to support a perspective you are putting forth or to help readers make better business decisions, it is even more valuable.
9. Be likeable. Compared to a scholarly article or a news story, it is acceptable to inject a little personality, empathy, and even humour into your blog writing. This will not only humanize you but show that you can see the issue from a potential client’s perspective. With professional services, rapport is a key factor that influences one to choose a particular lawyer or another. When you infuse your personality into your writing it allows people to get a sense of who you are before they contact you.
10. Practice. Then practice some more. While lawyers tend to be good writers, there is often a hesitation for them to blog. Like with everything else, the more you do it, the easier it will get and the better your posts will be. Keep in mind with content marketing, it is all about relevance and engagement. You want to have prospects not only read your content, but also share it with their contacts – thereby building your network.