May 12, 2009

Blogging for Lawyers - Part I

To date, I've penned eighteen entries for Nolo's Legal Marketing Blawg, covering marketing tools ranging from eBooks to article archiving to listservs and more.  But so far, I've omitted one rather conspicuous topic: blogging.

In part, my omission derives from the fact that there are already so many resources on blogging available online.  For example, consider Grant Griffiths' (a recovering-lawyer turned blogger) twelve-part-and-still-growing-series on how to build a successful blog that will generate clients.  Likewise, Kevin O'Keefe of Lexblog maintains an archive crammed with blogging basics.  As for me, I've penned my share of articles on blogging, including a now-five-year-old piece, It's A Blog World After All (surprisingly, only the info on tech is dated) and a GP Solo article, Get Your Blog Rolling, which offers hints on guerrilla blogging tactics that will let you get the most bang from your time.  I also authored a form-follows-substance blog-based presentation on blogging, that you can click through here.  This piece too is five years old, but except for some technology changes, the concepts remain the same.

And yet... in spite of the fact that lawyer blogging has been around for more than five years and generates a huge volume of coverage, only two percent of lawyers are blogging.  That's the statistic from the 2008 ABA Technology Survey, which also found that 8 percent of law firms are blogging.  You might conclude that the paucity of lawyer-bloggers means that blogging is a waste of time, but in fact, the opposite is true:  Few lawyers blogging means that the door's wide open for you to get in on the ground floor.

Moreover, even though social media is the marketing tool with all the buzz, it's blogs that have both the staying power and the impact.  Just last week, the influential women's web hub Blogher.org released the results of this study, which concluded that:

Women are nearly twice as likely to use blogs than social networking sites as a source of information (64%), advice and recommendations (43%) and opinion-sharing (55%)...
In short, when it comes to gathering substantive information, women are relying on blogs -- and if you're a lawyer with a blog, you become a trusted source.

Blogs are also a proven source of generating clients. Greatest American Lawyer Enricho Schaefer discusses the success of his firm, which he attributes to his findability from the organic search terms embedded in his blog.

By now, I've probably overwhelmed you, but at the same time, I have hopefully piqued your interest in starting a blog.  For now, I'll lay out a couple of of preliminary steps to getting started and, in the following weeks, I'll share some best practices and details.  So here are a few first steps:

1.  Register a couple of domain names.  Yes, I know it sounds crazy to invest money in domain names before you get your blog set up.  But the domain name is critical -- because each time you update your blog, that domain name will get a boost in the results returned by search engines.  So by giving your blog a topical name that's relevant to your practice area -- such as NebraskaCollectionLaw.com for a Lincoln-based collections attorney -- you're organically boosting your search engine visibility. 

Don't despair if your first choice of domain name isn't available -- many great domain names are still out there.  If you serve a specific jurisdiction, location, or city, you may want to include that location in your domain name. Most prospective clients hope to find attorneys within a locality -- and by including a city or county within your domain name, you increase your findability -- e.g., BethesdaMarylandDivorceLawyer.com.   Sure, those terms are narrow, but you can purchase a couple of domain names and aim them all at the same site.  So go run some searches and see what's available.

2.  Start reading other blogs.  Spend some time reading blogs -- you can find a universal list at the ABA Blawg Directory and Justia's Blawg Search.  Take a look at how those blogs are set up and which features you like (or don't like).  Are there particular styles that you favor?  Certain topics or writing style?  Keep a list of your preferences.

3.  Set up a news reader or sign up for Twitter.  One way to come up with material for blog posts is by staying informed.  You can do this by signing up to use a News Reader where you can read streams of posts from blogs and news sites all in one place.  Or, you can hop on Twitter to see what kinds of news items those you follow are posting.  Current stories and news events are a great source of information for posts and will help you generate traffic.

4.  What would you want to hear?  In addition to staying on top of news streams, put yourself in a client's shoes.  If you were a prospective client searching for a [bankruptcy or immigration or family or special education or fill-in-the-blank] lawyer, what kinds of questions would you have?  What information would you want to know?  And what would you hope to learn about your lawyer?  More than anything, imagining your audience is the secret to an effective blog, as well as one that's personally satisfying.

Email me at elefant@myshingle.com with any other questions about blogging.  I'll pick up this series over the next few weeks.