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Webinar: Blogging Best Practices for Lawyers

Blogs are one of the most influential digital resources for consumers.  Studies show that firms that blog receive 55% more more web traffic and 70% more leads than those that don’t.  Further, more than half of all businesses have acquired a client through their blog.

Our most recent webinar, “Blogging Best Practices for Lawyers,” outlines the basics of blogging, including:

•       Why Every Law Firm Should Blog

•       10 Blogging Best Practices

•       Blog Topic Ideas That Work

•       How to Increase Your Blog’s Search Rankings

•       How to Establish a Blog Strategy

•       Top Blogging Mistakes

If you have blogging questions or need assistance with your blog, contact our Content Director Sally.

Webinar Translation

Hello everyone. We’re going to get started today. I hope everybody can hear me all right. Today’s webinar is Blogging Best Practices for Lawyers. My name is Sally Kane and I’m PaperStreet’s Content Director. I’m an attorney as well and I help attorneys with writing, editing and blogging. So today we are going to talk about why every law firm should blog, no matter what type of practice you have. We’ll discuss some best practices for blogging and some blog topic ideas that work for your blog. We’ll also talk about how to increase traffic to your blog and how to establish a blog strategy that will help keep you blogging regularly. And we’ll also discuss some top blogging mistakes that I see attorneys making.

I want to start off with some blogging statistics. Blogs are the start most influential digital resource for consumers. And 65% of daily internet users read a blog, 46% actually real several blogs everyday. Companies that blog receive 55% more web traffic and 70% more leads than those that don’t. And finally, more than half of all businesses have acquired a client through their blog. So these statistics illustrate that blogging is really a great opportunity for lawyers. Studies have shown that attorney generated content on a blog really drives new business.

So why is blogging important and why should you blog? First of all, blogging can really help you generate leads. Traditional methods of finding a lawyer like the phone book are really fading away. Websites are now one of the leading ways a consumer can find and learn about your firm. Blogging can also help you build your brand. If you invest a lot in your brand, you invest in letterhead, in brochures and business cards, advertising and marketing. Your website is really an extension of that brand. And it can help convey your marketing message. So it’s another great marketing tool.

Blogging is also important for promoting your services. It’s a little less in-your-face advertising, but through your blog you can subtly promote what you do in the services that you offer. Blogging can also help you expand your web presence. Every new page on your site expands your footprint on the web. So blogging is a really great way to add new pages and drive traffic. The more pages on your site, the more interest you can garner and the more influence you can have on the web because every new page is another portal for those users to enter your site.

Some additional reasons why blogging is important. It can help you build authority in your practice niche. If you’re creating engaging unique content that can really help establish you as a thought leader in your area. Blogging can also help you become a resource on the web. It’s a great way to teach, guide, educate and then reform other people. So rating quality blog posts allows you to become a resource, not only to clients, but to potential clients. And that in turn can help you boost web traffic and generate new leads.

Blogging can also help you expand your network. So when you blog, you’re creating a rapport with readers. You’re kind of establishing a relationship with them. So blogging can help you forge new connections with other people and expand your client base. And finally, blogging is a great way of opening new doors. If you’re writing an outstanding blog posts they’re going to get noticed on the web. People are gonna talk them, people are gonna share them, people are gonna come to your site. It can open doors to speaking engagements, publication opportunities, invitations to events. So if you’re writing quality blog posts, they really can open a lot of doors for you. So those are just a few reasons why you should be blogging.

Next, I want to talk about ways to create a really affective blog. Blogging is a skill that’s a little different from traditional legal writing, like writing briefs or memos or motions. There are a couple of best practices that you wanna follow when you blog, in order to get the best results. And the first one is to create quality content. You want to create content that is useful for your reader. So you wanna always keep your target audience in mind, when you’re writing posts.

You wanna make sure that your posts are not all about you and your firm, but they’re clientcentric and they have some value for your reader. Your posts should also be engaging and unique. If you gather information from other sources, that’s fine, but just say it in a unique way. Approach it from a different angle or, you know, put your own unique spin on it instead of just regurgitating other things you’ve seen on the web.

And then, finally, you want your content to be substantive. When a reader comes to your blog, they don’t wanna be disappointed, they don’t want to just find a few sentences or a link to somewhere else. Google also tends to favor pages with more content. So you wanna write blog posts that have a few paragraphs. We really recommend at least 500 words.

So the second tip for blogging is to write for your reader. And how do you know who your reader is? You wanna take some time to think about who are your clients and what type of clients do you want to serve in the future. So identify your target markets. Maybe you have several different practice areas. For example, family law and corporate law. And those practice areas serve very different clients. So you wanna make sure you develop a content strategy that serves all of those market segments and write blog posts that speak to all those various types of clients. So basically you just always wanna keep your end reader in mind.

Now the next blogging tip is formatting for the web. Web readers skim pages, they don’t read every word and they’re just trying to look for the most important information. So you always want to incorporate headings into every post and subheadings. You don’t wanna overwhelm your reader with a lot of dense text. So keep the paragraph short okay and this is a little different from legal writing where, you know, you might have long dense arguments and paragraph. Here you wanna keep, you know, paragraphs to two or three sentences. Keep them short, break up that content with bullets, dashes, numbered items, any way to break up the content in a way to guide that reader’s eyes down the page, so that they’ll read your entire post.

Also, writing in a pyramid structure is a good idea for the web because statistics show that really only 20% of readers that land on a page, read past the first paragraph. So it’s often a good idea to put your most important information at the top and then later, less important supporting information you can put in later paragraphs. So keep that in mind when you’re writing your blog posts.

Next tip is optimizing your posts. And by optimizing I’m talking about Search Engine Optimization and creating posts that are written for the web and that can be indexed by Google. So blog posts are a great way to drive traffic to your site. But to boost that traffic, you wanna think about what phrases readers are searching in order to find your firm.

So research those keyword phrases and figure out what keyword phrases you wanna use and incorporate those keywords into every post. For example, if you’re a personal injury lawyer practicing in Texas, you might want to use the keyword phrase “Texas personal injury lawyer” or “Texas personal injury attorney” or “Texas personal injury law firm” or if you practice a specific area of personal injury, such as auto accidents you can use more specific keyword phrases. But the idea is to incorporate those keyword phrases into your post, in the headings, subheadings, you know, a couple of times. But you don’t wanna stuff your post full of keyword phrases, you wanna make sure that it reads very naturally and you don’t wanna have really more than five or six keyword phrases in that post because you can actually incur a Google penalty and it can hurt you in the rankings, rather than help you.

Another key to blog writing is writing a compelling title. A killer title can really help entice readers to click through, into your blog and read your entire blog. So what is a good title? Here’s just some examples of titles you can create. One is asking a relevant question, for example “How do you draft a will?” A person looking for information on wills might then click through and want to read that post. You can also offer cautionary advice, for example “Five mistakes you should never make in drafting a will.”
How-to information is also super popular, so you might phrase it like “How to choose a personal injury lawyer?” or “How to draft a will?” Also, quantifiable titles work, so “Top ten reasons to write a will”, “Five ways to choose a lawyer”, you get the idea. If you have a quantity in there, people tend to click on this title. And finally, insider information is another way to entice readers to read more. So you might have a title like “Ten secrets to writing a will.” or “Five things you should know about the court system.”

These are just some examples as to how to write a compelling title, but just remember, put some thought into your title. Make sure it’s specific and concrete and, you know, something the reader is gonna want to click through and read.

Another thing to keep in mind when you’re blogging is word count. Word count is really important for rankings. It’s also important for user experience, as I discussed before. You’ll want to have enough words on your page, so that readers aren’t disappointed. Also, Google tends to favor those pages that have more content, because it’s seeing those pages as offering more value to a reader and being higher quality.

So we’d really, as a guideline, we recommend around 500-750 words a page even though there’s really no magic number. Once you get into thousands of word cells, now it becomes a little too overwhelming for a reader. They don’t wanna sit there and read that much content, generally. So it’s a good idea to break those longer articles into, maybe a series of posts or several posts that interlink to each other.

Another key to a successful blog is posting regularly. If you don’t update your blog, it can really be a turn-off to site visitors. When a visitor comes to your blog platform, the first thing they’re gonna see is the most recent blog post. So if that blog post is a year old or six months old, it’s not gonna reflect well on your firm. And it can also negatively impact your search rankings and damage your authority on the web.

So how often should you post? I mean, we recommend posting daily or at least several times a week. I know that can be very hard for busy attorneys, but even if you can post a couple times a month, you know, you want to just get into a habit of regular posting. And you should also keep in mind that websites that add new pages at a higher rate earn a higher freshness score from Google and therefore they show up more frequently in search results than sites that don’t add content as frequently.

Another key thing to remember when you’re blogging is to never copy content from anywhere else on the web. And that includes another website, another blog, a news article, any cases, statutes, logs that are online, even other pages from your own site. And the reason is that Google sees that as duplicate content. And it sees duplicate content as being less valuable to a reader. So if you have duplicate content especially a lot of duplicate content that’s word for word the same, Google can actually penalize your page rather than helping you in search. So keep in mind that every page should be unique, you know, when you write, say it in a new and unique way. Even if it’s the same topic, just make sure that you’re phrasing it a little differently.

Another role for a great blog is cross-promoting your content. And by cross-promoting, what I’m talking about is linking to other areas of your site, in your blog. So for example, if you’re telling your reader to contact you, you can link to your contact page. If you want them to learn more about you, maybe you wanna link to your “About Us” page or your “Firm Overview” page. But linking and cross-promoting content is really a great way to pull readers further into your site and have them view other pages. And that increases your page views and user engagement and it provides a more comprehensive content experience and it really can help boost your search rankings, as well.

In addition to interlinking to other pages on your site, you might also link to other resources on the web, from your blog, that benefit the reader. And this not only helps your reader, but it can also help you, if those sites then link back to you. But when you link, there’s really a right way and a wrong way to link, so I just wanna gonna go over that briefly.

When you’re linking to another page, you don’t wanna say “Click here”, or “Go here”, or “Check this out”. If you do that, here where it says “Click here to go to the World Trade Organization site” and then there’s this long URL. It’s very clunky, it’s not clean. If you actually embed the text or the link right into your text, World Trade Organization, and they can click right on it and it’ll take you to that site. It’s just so much cleaner. It provides a better user experience and it’s also better for SEO. So this is just something to keep in mind when you’re linking in your blog.

My final best practice for blogging is Incorporating Visual Aids. Visual aids can really enhance your post and drive traffic. Some examples of visual aids are photos, charts, crafts, maps, illustrations. If the graphics are huge right now, if you can create a unique infographic that tends to garner a lot of traffic. So that’s big now. But one thing to keep in mind, if you’re using visual aids, don’t include a photo in your post, just for the sake of including a photo. You wanna make sure that that image helps convey your message and your’re seen.

So you have a blog, but how do you get people to read it? How do you drive traffic to your blog? Here’s just a few tips. These are a little bit redundant of the best practices because if you’re following those best practices, you’re gonna boost your blog traffic. But some ways to increase your search rankings for your blog, again, is to incorporate those keyword phrases into your page. We say around two to three times per page. Again, put them in your headings, put them in subheadings, put them in your title. Another thing you wanna do is organize your blog. Tag and categorize your posts. Make it easy for readers to find what they are looking for.

Another way to boost blog traffic is to feed your posts to social media. You can set up your blog to feed automatically into Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and you know, all those social media pages. If you don’t know how to do that, we can help you set that all up, but it’s a really great way to increase visibility of your web, of your blog. Even better than feeding the post in automatically, you can go and write an unique summary of each post. This takes a little more time, but it’s a good idea to write a summary of your post, post it on your social media pages and then link to the blog.

Incorporating an image, as I just discussed, you know, photos are a great way to boost traffic because pages with photos just tend to rank higher. They make that page more interesting and engaging since there’s a visual component to it.

And then finally, I know I’m repeating myself, but post frequently, daily, or weekly, or at least monthly, that is really key to boosting your blog traffic.

The next thing I wanna talk about is creating a blog strategy, because one of the things I most often hear from busy lawyers and legal professionals is that they just don’t have the time or the resources to maintain an active blog. So if you have a blog strategy or a plan that can help you allocate resources and it can help you write and post on a regular basis and stay on track.

Here are some tips for developing a blog strategy. I’ll go over each of these in more detail. But my first tip is develop topics. Brainstorm what topics that you wanna write about and that your target markets are gonna want to read about. Next, establish a calendar for posting those posts. You also wanna delegate your writing tasks, if you can because writing is a big chore. I’m sure that you wanna be billing hours and it tends to fall down low on the party list. So if you can delegate your writing tasks to others that can help, spread out the work. Appointing an editor is also very helpful and if you have the budget and you’re really short on time, you can always outsource the work. There are a lot of firms, including PaperStreet, that can help you write and edit blog content.

So as far as blog topic ideas, there are so many things you can write about in a blog. And here’s just a list of some of the more popular topics. “News” is very popular. You can write about news related to your practice area or a changing area flaw or a new court rolling or a celebrity in the news, that’s somehow related to your practice area. How-to articles are also great. People love practical advice. They feel like maybe they’re getting legal advice for free. How-to articles just are great things to write about in the blog.

Glossaries are good to have. A lot of readers don’t understand legal [inaudible 00:22:10], they don’t understand the legal terms. So you can define legal terminology for them. Just make sure that your definitions are unique and you’re not copying them from another source. FAQs are also great. You’re answering client questions every day, so put that into your blog. And then your blog becomes a resource for readers. You can also summarize statutes, case logs, decisions. You can summarize these things in a blog. Just make sure again you’re not copying the statute or the decision into your blog, that you’re interpreting it for your readers, you’re putting your own spin on it.

You can also talk about upcoming events or things that are happening within your firm. Maybe you launched a new website, maybe you’re moving or you added a new attorney. Those are all things that, you know, they make quick and easy blog topics to write about. Process pages are great, you can talk about various processes that are unique to your practice area. Resource lists, where you’re gathering resources from the web and linking to them. One thing with that is that you don’t wanna just have a list of links. It’s better to list the resource and have a short paragraph explaining it. So these are just some examples of blog topic ideas to get you started.

For example, if you practice “Do you lie?” defense. These are just some possible blog type topics you could write about. Maybe a new DUI law, a new Circuit Court Ruling. If a holiday is coming up, you can talk about DUI statistics or safe driving for the holiday. You can talk about common defenses or even a celebrity who’s been in the news, who’s facing DUI charges. After you brainstorm your topic, then you wanna assign writers to write each piece of content. If you’re a solo, you might wanna outsource some of, or all of the writing, depending how busy you are and what your budget is. And if you have other people in your firm, you can delegate this writing to an associate or a paralegal or an office manager. But the idea is, if you spread this task out among several people, it becomes a lot more manageable.

It’s often a good idea to appoint an Editor-in-Chief of your entire blog, to kind of manage the whole process, because there’s a lot of moving parts. That editor can assign topics and they can follow up with the attorneys and the writers, to make sure that they’re writing. They can collect the posts, they can monitor deadlines, they can edit the posts and they can post them to the site. So having an editor basically just helps keep you on track and helps keep you following your content strategy.

This is just an example of an editorial calendar that you can create. This is a fictional calendar for a fictional firm. But in the first column is just a type of content that they’re posting to their blog. Here are the topics they plan to write about, who is writing that particular post and the due date for the post. Sometimes it’s easiest just to make all posts due one day a month. You just wanna make sure that due day is several days or several weeks ahead of the date you want it posted, so there’s time for revisions and changes, as necessary. And in this last column is the date you’re posting. You don’t wanna post all of your blog posts at once. You wanna spread them out. And that’s just better for Google, Google seeing regular content being posted to your site. In this case, the firm is posting every other day in February.

So the next thing I want to do … actually the last thing I want to do is go over some blogging mistakes that I see a lot of people make. The top mistake I see is not posting regularly and again, I know that’s just part of being busy. But regular posting really helps keep your blog alive. You wanna make sure that your latest post is current. And if it’s stale that really gives the impression to readers that, you know, you don’t care about your blogging, it’s not a priority and it’s not maintained. And that’s not really the message that you want to send to clients. So posting is very important and it’s also important from a SEO perspective to keep your content fresh.

Another mistake is too much focus on you, on your firm, on your services, on what you can do. It’s fine to share your opinions and your thoughts but you’ll wanna make sure that the point you’re making is beneficial to your readers, that it offers some value to the readers. Because again, the idea is to keep people coming back and you want them to share your content and you want it to be a resource. So make sure that you’re writing quality posts that offer value to your reader.

A start mistake is poor titles and headings. As I’ve discussed before, killer titles are really important. It needs to be compelling enough to entice the reader to click on that title and to read your entire post. Properly optimizing your posts is also important. We’ve talked about leaving those keyword phrases in but you wanna make sure that you’re not just writing for Google. Because if you’re just stuffing a lot of keyword phrases in, that’s really gonna be a turn-off for readers. People are not gonna visit your site and you’ll find your audience disappearing. So you wanna make sure that you optimize properly and that you leave those keywords into your posts in a very natural way.

Ignoring comments is another problem. If you have comments or if your blog allows for comments, you wanna make sure you moderate your blog regularly and that does take some time but you wanna make sure that you’re leaving out all of the spam and that you’re actually responding to those legitimate comments because the fact that people are leaving good comments is a great sign for your blog. So you’ll want to foster those relationships, you want a chance to build that report with your readers. So it’s important to respond to comments on your blog in a timely manner.

Another mistake is using images without permission. It’s great to put photos in your blog, just make sure that if you’re borrowing from another source, that you give that source credit or you link back or you ask permission to use the image before posting. And this is really another opportunity to establish relationships with other people. Most people are happy to share their infographic, or their photo, with you. You know, you just need to ask. Make sure you ask and give credit.

Overwhelming text is also another problem. I’ve gone to the blogs, where there is just thousands of words, all cramped into one blog and it’s just completely overwhelming, not broken up. And it’s just a turn-off. So again you wanna make sure that your blog is user-friendly, that your posts are broken up and that you keep your posts around 500 to 750 words, in most cases.

Inconsistent style is also common on a lot of blogs, mainly because often there’s a lot of different writers. So it’s a good idea to have some kind of basic style guideline in place. It just sets the style and the tone of your blog and the point of view. If you have an editor, that editor can then make sure that all of your posts are consistent. So that’s another great reason to have an editor.

Poor organization is another common blogging mistake. As your firm grows and expands, it’s going to evolve, your practice areas might change, your priorities might change. So you want to make sure that you keep your categories and your blog post tags updated. If your blog is poorly organized, that’s gonna frustrate your readers because they’re not gonna be able to find what they want and they might not want to bother wasting their time trying to read through the posts. So just remember to keep your tags updated and keep your blog organized.

My final tip is proofreading and it seems like it would go without saying but I see so many posts with errors and typos. You don’t have to be an expert editor or an experienced writer but you just wanna make sure you double-check every single post. Again, if you have an editor, that’s even better. That editor can review every post and check for spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. These are the things that really give a bad impression to readers. They think “Well, if a blog post has mistakes, what about their other-work product?” So proofreading your blog is super important.

So that’s all I have for today. Those are just the basics of blogging. We are going to put this recorded version on our site, so you can come back to it or share it, if you’d like. And if you have any questions, feel free post a comment. So thanks for listening today and have a great day.

Translation provided by Speechpad.

Sally Kane :