Blog and Law Firm Web Site: Keep them Separate? Ummm, No.

Recently, LawyersUSA ran an article interviewing Lexblog’s owner Kevin O’Keefe. He stated your blog and law firm website should be separate. I disagree.

A Blog on a Web Site, is not a blog?”  That is just semantics.
First, just because you don’t have a blog on its own domain, with its own brand, does not mean it’s not a blog. Blogging is all about conversation and information (and sometimes a bit of a soapbox). Whether you hold that conversation under your domain, a new domain, a subdomain, or a subdirectory of your domain, does not matter. The domain is just giving the address of the conversation, not restricting the boundaries or dictating the conversation.

For instance, we are going to have this conversation here under www.paperstreet.com/blog/. Yes, we could launch www.paperstreetblog.com or something catchy like www.speakoutpaperstreet.com. The conversation would not change. We choose to host the blog under our domain for several reasons:

1. SEO – Having the blog under your main domain increases the amount of links to your web site and enhances your main sites SEO (search engine optimization) efforts. It also allows for your site to increase its overall size and content. A full discussion of this can be found here and here of the benefits. Put simply, links to internal pages of your web site (i.e. your blog), increases your overall PageRank of your main site. Moreover, more content on your site increases its relevance. Probably one of the most successful SEO blogs online has its blog under its main site, so does another successful SEO site too. They must be doing something right.

2. Maintenance – Putting your blog under your web site decreases your maintenance costs, design costs, and hosting costs. You can have one web host (thereby saving hundreds of dollars per year), you only have to design once (thereby saving thousands of dollars), and for any updates to the web site / blog, you only have to do once, versus on two sites. This might be small change to some firms, or a deal-breaker for some firms. It all depends on your marketing budget, but should be considered.

3. Credibility – A blog on your web site increases credibility (not decreases). When a user hits the site, they can read not only about your firm, but also dig deep on your commentary on your practice areas. You can use your blog as soapbox, a forum, social commentary, and latest / greatest of what is new.

4. Branding – You create a brand. You hopefully are using your logo the same on everything, your brochures match, your web site matches, so why would you start creating a new brand for just your blog?

Statistics Please
Second, I would like to see the statistics on linking to law firm web sites blogs and/or blogs with their own domains. While I agree that most journalists will not link to a law firm web site directly, unless it’s the topic of the article, they would have no problem linking to the blog on the law firm web site. The same goes for the online community too. Most people will not know the difference between blog.paperstreet.com or www.paperstreet.com/blog/ or paperstreetblog.com. Yes, if the blog just has marketing material, no one is going to link to that. However, good statistics between blogs under a main web site domain and blogs on their own domain are needed in order to substantiate the claim that a separate blog address is needed.

Credibility
I firmly believe that the online presence of any law firm should consist of a web site and blog. They are one in the same these days, as the technology is very similar. In fact, you can power most web sites with blogging software and most web site software has blogs built into the technology too.

Your web site should contain a blog; your blog should contain information on your web site. Put everything you need under one domain, market that and you will prosper. The fact that you have a blog highlighted on your web site and is branded the same, increases your credibility. It makes it easy for the user to read up on not only your firm, but your ideas and commentary too.

About You
Yes, on a blog your About You section should contain information about your firm. Leave the blog for its purpose . . . commentary.

Where a New Blog, New Brand, New Domain is Appropriate
In some instances a new domain, new brand for your blog is appropriate. I will highlight some here:

  • If your firm is large and you want to uniquely brand a practice group.
  • If you have competing practice groups at the firm that need separate brands (i.e. injury vs. defense).
  • You have a controversial topic or odd topic that you may not want to fully relate to the firm.
  • When you want to setup an information portal on a topic area, that is unrelated to your firm (or just sponsored by or at least not hyped a lot).
  • If you truly want to detach your message from your firm’s branding. Although, everything finds its way back if its controversial enough.

Conclusion
If you want our advice, put your blog under a subdirectory of your main site for instance www.yourdomain.com/blog/. Create a single brand for your firm.This will increase your credibility, decrease costs, and increase your optimization efforts.

Final comments
I fully respect LexBlog’s work in the blogging area, but it’s interesting to note that Kevin’s own blog for Lexblog is on his own web site’s domain. Of course it’s under a subdomain with different branding, so it’s not embedded.

Also, I would have responded on Lawyers’s USA blog/web site, except you have to be a registered user to respond. In order to be a registered user, you have to be a subscriber. I think we would both agree that makes this blog / article area not a true blog.

Finally, note that we have clients who have blogs under their own sites and on their own domains. We recommend different solutions based each clients unique needs.


2 Responses to Blog and Law Firm Web Site: Keep them Separate? Ummm, No.

  1. Kevin OKeefe
    2:07 pm on February 15th, 2009

    MIssing the point Pete. You can have a blog on a sub-domain or as a subdirectory of a site – just get the darn blog outside the website in looks and appearance and the way it is going to be cited.

    Even having said that, I see more SEO advantages to having a blog on a separate domain anyway. The blog is going to be one heck of an important site in Google’s eyes because of its substantive info (not promotionally copy ala website), regular updates, and incoming links. The link from the blog to the website is one of the most valuable links you’re website is going to have. Plus in Google, with a blog on a totally separate domain, both the blog and website can appear in search results, something much less likely to occur in the way you’re advising.

    Most important though is to think of the way the best lawyers have gotten their work over the years. Did the best lawyers get their work out of the yellow pages and TV? No. Even as a plaintiff’s a personal injury myself for 17 years and spending a ton on yellow pages, TV, and the like, I got my best work by word of mouth. I got my work because other lawyers, doctors, and the public saw me as a good lawyer with a great team and with a passion for what I did.

    Being at the top of the search results for location and what you do as a lawyer is increasingly becoming like running the largest ad in the yellow pages or the most TV ads. A word of mouth generated reputation on the Internet for lawyers is now as powerful, if not more powerful, than an offline word of mouth reputation.

    Word of mouth is generated with a blog far, far greater when the law blog is away from the website. It shows your audience you are nor afraid to enter into a conversation and to share of yourself without saying see how great I am, see my 1-800 phone number, etc. Fact is blogs inside a website get cited a lot less than blogs outside a website free of all the marketing spin. Law blogs outside a website are far more likely to be referenced in social media (twitter etc) and have their contact syndicated to major news sources such as the WSJ and the New York Times.

    And as far as value, being referenced on other blogs, in the media, and across social media is 50 times more powerful for a lawyer marketing than high SEO. Who am I more likely to hire, a lawyer #1 at Google for Tampa Personal Injury Law or a lawyer whose name I search at Google and find all types of references to what she’s written by thought leaders and media? SEO is great, and good blogs will dominate Google. But strong references to what I am saying, a tacit endorsement of me as an authority, is much more valuable.

    As far as complimentary branding and info on the lawyer and their services, it’s all there on a well designed and architected blog. All with further linking on to a website. Sure, there’s a ton of a law blogs that do not do this branding right. That’s a reflection of many people saying you can do a blog yourself or at little or no expense.

    A lawyer’s most important investment is the investment they make in themselves. An investment that makes certain that the public, referral sources, bloggers, conference coordinators, and the media see the lawyer as a thought leader in their field – see the lawyer as a reliable and trusted authority in the lawyer’s area of expertise.

    Realizing that investment doesn’t come because all a lawyers energy and money goes into a website, chasing SEO, and pinching pennies when it comes to a blog, something much more powerful in creating a word of mouth reputation than a website alone.

  2. Peter Boyd
    10:28 am on February 16th, 2009

    Missing the point? Doubtful. I decided to start a new thread to highlight the thoughts better:

    In short, every client is different. It does not always require a unique brand and domain to make them successful.

    The true power of the blog is the voice of its author. Are they saying something interesting? Is it insightful? If so, the blog will succeed no matter its location, style or brand.

    PS: Sorry for the late approval, it was the weekend and I was with the kids. 🙂

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