We’ve already written an important post on why your law firm should have a blog. So, now you're committed to maintaining that blog (or "News," "FAQs" or "Articles" section ... ). Good! You've taken the first step! But now, are you're asking: what the heck should I actually be writing about?
Thanks to the Oxford, Ohio attorneys of Bolin & Troy for raising this popular question again recently. (And kudos for doing such an awesome job of taking our advice and running with it in their first blog post: Should I Pay a Lawyer to Prepare My Will or Just Download a Will Online?)
To a large degree, the what follows naturally from the why. So, first take a little self-inventory of why you're committed to maintaining your awesome law firm blog. Is it to:
Did you get a few good ideas just by reading these questions? We thought so! Here we'll expand on each of them and offer more specific ideas.
Okay, so listing this one first is misleading in one important regard: really, you never write solely or primarily for search engines. In they end, they aren't your intended audience. So your first goal is to write naturally and for your clients. Writing well for your site shouldn't involve SEO trickery or bland content your clients wouldn't actually find helpful. But it can boost your success to have a basic understanding of how client interests and search engine algorithms overlap.
As explained in our Top 5 Reasons Attorneys Should Blog, search engines love new content. So, to catch Google's eye with your writing, most importantly, keep in mind that all the reasons for blogging contribute to the central SEO goal of providing fresh, relevant content. New text about your firm, your areas of law, and your community builds up your website with substance relevant to your practice that is indexed by search engines.
To up the ante, one good rule of thumb is to focus on topics that your ideal potential clients might be typing (or speaking!) into their web browsers. In other words, don't try to speak Google's language, rather, speak the language your clients use when they talk to Google. Think about folks in the market for legal services who are doing Internet research — not those who have already heard about you and are looking you up by name. In this vein, the best kinds of posts for SEO are often fall into categories #2 and #3 here: FAQs by folks in the market for legal services and general legal information about your jurisdiction's laws.
More on each of these follows, where our discussion is based on your innate knowledge of your potential clients and your practice. If you want to get even deeper into what kinds of topics relevant to your work are most often searched in the Internet, bone up on how to do keyword research or get some great ideas about "long-tail" content! If you want more advanced tips on how to best optimize each article you write for search engines, see our post on on-page SEO for your law firm's blog posts.
One of the best ways to engage with potential clients — and to bring them in via Google searches — is to answer the questions they're asking themselves in their search for legal services. What do you imagine your ideal client is asking him or herself? Indeed, what do folks often ask you during initial calls or consultations? This may even include answering questions for people who don't yet know how much they could benefit from having a lawyer. Examples:
Good sources for these ideas are client intakes or initial calls when someone is first reaching out to the firm. What questions are they asking before they know which questions to ask?
Offering summaries of the law or its evolution is great for a variety of reasons. First, it may draw in new clients searching for information — including, say, on whether a new law affects them. Second, it is a great way to show visitors to your website, such as referrals who are vetting possible attorneys, that you are on top of your game. Third, it is ideal for coordinating with newsletters to your existing client base or email list, by which you offer an ongoing service to them and keep yourself "top of mind." Examples:
I can't tell you how many times I've tried to quickly summarize in an email, or on the phone, the best way for lawyers to think about writing for their blogs. The post you're reading right now is practically going to eliminate my need to take that time — and hopefully will help others in the process. If you've had this experience, those FAQs from your clients that require detailed explanations are probably already popping into your mind. We all have the intention of finally writing up complete answers so we can send out a helpful pdf — or paste a boilerplate email — when the questions come up. Answering these questions on your law firm blog allows you to kill two birds with one stone: have ready answers for your clients, and possibly attract other clients with similar questions. Examples:
Commenting on relevant events in the news or offering your thoughts on recent case law are both great ways to keep your blog fresh. Obviously this type of post overlaps with post idea #3, above. But we single it out, in part, because basing a blog post on a single court decision or news article is a great way to focus yourself and quickly come up with a post in a pinch. If you're already reading an article or decision, why not jot down a few thoughts and share?!
They key here is not to copy an entire existing article with a few lines of your own commentary. Although this can seem like a good way to bulk up your blog, it isn't! First, there's this thing you might be familiar with called copyright law. But also, search engines and your website visitors don't place much value in your copying and pasting text that originated elsewhere. (Search engines like Google have even been known to penalize the use of such duplicate content.) Excerpt and attribute as needed, of course. But then simply link off to the original source. (Tip: learn how to open your link in a new window, so your reader's browser doesn't close up your website when they leave to view the other source.)
Some examples of in depth commentary:
Quicker commentary, using quotations, to keep readers up to date — and blogs fresh — without a lengthy commitment to writing:
Your blog is a natural place to give a shout out to your attorneys and announce honors they receive. Bonus points if you memorialize ceremonies with pictures or first-person quotes from those involved. These posts can range from quick announcements to in-depth discussions of the history or basis of an award. Examples of each approach:
Promoting your speaking events and publications not only provides useful information for clients and potential clients, but it also creates an ongoing record of your attorneys' expertise in their fields. Further, these posts can be linked from the relevant attorneys' biographies.
You can report on speaking events — whether for the public, for other lawyers at CLEs, or even for corporate clients at educational/training seminars — before or after the event takes place. An extensive post with accompanying photos, documents or PowerPoints is great. But so is a brief post simply documenting the event.
Similarly, for attorney publications, a summary with quotations might be appropriate — but a quick link off to the original source is often enough. Examples:
Ideally, the event or publication would also link to your website, giving you a link and boosting your site's rankings.
Documenting cases you've won or mentions of your firm in the media is another great use of a law firm blog. It's impressive, it's informative, and it also maintains an archive of news clippings that you can force your grandchildren to view some day. Again, you can include full discussions or just brief introductions with links to the original sources. Examples:
Don't forget your bar rules! This seems like a good moment to remind you that some jurisdictions limit the way you report on firm successes or require disclaimers for various other kinds of information you might offer. So don't forget to take a look at your rules, if you're not already familiar with them. Many states also have ethics hotlines where you can easily get specific questions answered.
Promoting your firm's pro bono or volunteer work has so many benefits. The biggest plus is, of course, giving exposure to local organizations and charities. But the other benefits should not be underestimated. It is easy for attorney websites to all seem similar, with attorneys in shared fields boasting similar educational backgrounds and accolades, and offering comparable services. The Modern Firm does all we can to help you personalize your website and set yourself apart. But every bit counts. You give consumers a concrete way to connect with you personally when they see your firm is a genuine part of its community or is involved in specific causes that they care about, too. Examples:
Quick posts in a pinch: if you're busy but want to keep your blog fresh, focus on quick reports that don't take lots of research or writing time — like ideas 5 through 9, above — or ideas 2 through 4 in areas that you know so well you can write them in your sleep. Do you have time to jot down your ideas, but not to proofread and nicely format them? Collaborate with an associate or member of your staff who can put on the finishing touches and post your work to the blog. Or call on The Modern Firm's awesome editorial staff, who will finalize your article, add SEO touches and images, and publish to your blog for you.
Subject ideas for your practice ideas: if you need more ideas on what to write about, here are some thoughts. Take a look at what your successful competitors or other lawyers in comparable fields write about — and put your own spin on the topics. You can even filter The Modern Firm's client website portfolio by practice area and geographic area to see what some of our other clients address on their blogs. It's also great to glean ideas from the reading for professional development that is a part of your day to day practice already: can you boil down useful information for your clients from topics addressed in your bar association mailings, CLEs, or social media and other blogs you read?
Better SEO and use of keywords: if SEO is one of your goals, you should first be thinking in terms of longer posts: 750-1,000 words as a rough minimum — with bonus SEO traction if they're at least 2,000 words. For more tips see this post: Quick Tips: Better SEO for Your Blog. And here's that Yoast link again on how to do keyword research. AnswerThePublic.com is also a fun keyword generating tool, complete with the impatient, bearded Seeker who picks at his teeth while you type. Finally, KeywordTool.io offers topic suggestions based on what users type into specific browsers.
(Or, read this in depth article by Neil Patel on SEO copywriting and you will be ready to don a toga, sit on a mountaintop, and give out sage SEO advice yourself.)
Final tip: you've got this. Make it fun if you can!