One caveat before we begin: my views don't necessarily reflect those of professional marketing gurus, many of whom endorse some or all of my don'ts. I know that if they were to respond (which they won't), they'd say that my preferences as a lawyer doesn't necessarily reflect what consumers want. I disagree. For starters, I may be a lawyer but I'm a consumer of services too. I turn to the web to find professionals like doctors or CPAs, as well as for more consumer oriented suppliers like hair-dressers, dog-sitters and web designers. I can tell when a site has been "pimped out" with copy intended to lure me in and make me buy and frankly, I don't care for it. Moreover, I am fairly certain that most consumers can tell the difference as well - and while they may be willing to tolerate sales pitches for commercial products, they aren't likely to go for them coming from lawyers.
Having said that, here are ten blogging practices to avoid:
1. Recycling undated posts I realize that lawyers are busy and don't always have time to write new content - so they'll repost a few old chestnuts from a few years back. That's not a problem, so long as the post appears with the original publication date. Many times, however, bloggers recycle past posts and simply remove publication dates to make the content appear as if it's new. This practice of cleansing posts of their dates is frustrating for regular readers who may vaguely remember having read the same post before - but can't go back and check because the date isn't available. In addition, many times, older content may be superseded by new events and if a post isn't dated, that may not be clear.
2. Pimping to Search Engines Ever see those blog posts that repeatedly weave in how a "Boston employment lawyer" or "San Francisco bankruptcy lawyer" can assist you? That's not content; it's preening for search engines and it's annoying beyond belief. I'd never hire a lawyer who mucks up posts with sale-sy subtext, and neither should you. Bleh!
3. Ghostwriting Ever since I posted here on my aversion to ghost-blogging, I've become even more entrenched in my aversion for this practice. When lawyers blog in first the person, they create a relationship between themselves and a reader, just as they would if they met a referral source at a party or a client at their office. So betray the trust created through blogging by faking one's voice and one's words through ghostwriting reflects a lack of integrity and a deal breaker in hiring. Blogging isn't mandatory and if you're too busy to blog or hate writing, then don't do it - or hire a law student or contract lawyer to assist and give them a byline or credit.
4. Fake Re-tweets Sometimes, I'll visit a blog and notice that every post has been re-tweeted five or seven or sixteen times. Every post, irrespective of the quality of the content. Then I realized that these bloggers most likely have a twitter-protocol - a staple of regulars who loyally re-tweet every post. I've got no problem if a blogger wants to announce new posts on Twitter - in fact, that's how I learn about a lot of good stuff. But blog posts should be re-tweeted based on merit, and not because others are compelled to do it.
5. The Quote and Run Sometimes a blogger will post a snippet from a news article or another blog post with a bland comment like "look at this" or "thought this was interesting." Others may just lift the content from an article and post part of it, then link to the article. Fortunately, the practice of "quote and run, no comment" is being phased out by Facebook and Twitter which offer better mediums for referencing articles. So for those bloggers who continue to quote and run, please - either add original commentary or take your reference posts off your blog and put them on Twitter or Facebook.
6. Linkless It's bad enough to discuss a case based on a newspaper summery without having read the actual case. It's even worse not to link to the case at all and thereby prevent others from determining whether the analysis is accurate. With Google Scholar and Findlaw and Cornell LII and Thomas to name a few, there's simply no excuse for not linking to the source.
7. Running disaster feeds Kevin O'Keefe and other bloggers have already criticized the practice of running disaster feeds to grab the attention of family and friends of victims injured in accidents to induce them to call. It's a disgusting and sleazy practice that doesn't really warrant much more discussion.
8. Lack of Attribution Lots of bloggers fail to recognize that they're part of a wider community. Many bloggers write about topics without referencing other related posts. Of course, sometimes posts pass in publication but other times, a blogger lifts an idea from a colleague without attribution. That's not the kind of lawyer I'd want to work with.
9. Crowd-sourced blogs Offering respected colleagues an opportunity to guest post on an otherwise content-rich, well subscribed blog (like Christopher Hill of Construction Law Musings is a really nice gesture. By contrast, relying on others' content to make money or gain exposure for your blog - a practice commonly known as crowdsourcing is not.
10. Google ads on law firm blogs If your law firm blog is so popular that a vendor or respected company is willing to sponsor it (or a publication is willing to syndicate it) I say go for it. A sponsorship from a reputable company can add to a blog's cache. But as I wrote here, I draw the line at google ads, affiliate deals and tip jars which convey desperation.
So there you have it- my top ten blogging peeves. Avoid these, and you many not have the most heavily-trafficked blog on the web, but you'll have a tasteful, educational site that will appeal to referral sources and provide useful information to clients. And isn't that why you wanted to blog anyway?