Table of Contents of this Article:
7 Simple Steps To Getting Started With A Law Firm Blog
By Jay Fleischman
You’re convinced that you need to incorporate blogging into your law firm marketing efforts. But there’s a problem: you have no idea where to start. If only there were a roadmap to help you get on your way.
Well, there is now. And here it is:
- Buy A Domain Name: I am partial to purchasing your name as a domain name (i.e., johnsmith.com) or some variation on a theme. By locking up your name and using it as your home base, you establish yourself as a brand and can use the platform as you see fit. If you put all your eggs into a geo-targeted domain (www.MyTownBankruptcyLawyer.com or something like that) you run the risk of losing your identity if you ever move or change practice areas. Whatever your choice, just make it – every day, more “good” domain names are snapped off the market.
- Set Up Hosting: I used to host my sites at GoDaddy until I realized just how slow their servers are. That, and someone alerted me to the fact that if you keep your eggs all in one basket then your risk is higher. By splitting up the domain registration and the hosting you are protected in case the host yanks your site for any reason – all you need to do is open a new hosting account and keep the domain name intact. My host of choice is www.HostGator.com. Fast servers, excellent pricing, fantastic customer service.
- Install WordPress: I’m talking about www.WordPress.org, not the hosted version at www.WordPress.com. Many hosting companies, including HostGator, will install WordPress using a one-click installation that takes about 2 minutes and requires no technical skill whatsoever.
- Write Your “About” Page: This is one of the most important pages on your blog because it tells visitors who you are and why they should listen to what you have to say. Without a strong “About” page, your visitors may not get a full vision of your reason for blogging.
- Create Your Categories: Most bloggers recommend keeping the category list to 5-6 at most. Categories are the “big picture” topics that you’re going to cover on your blog, and you should choose them wisely.
- Start Writing: Having a content marketing strategy is important to ensure long-term blogging success, no doubt about it. But if you spend weeks on formulating a strategy before your blog gets off the ground then you’ll likely never get it off the ground at all. For the first few posts, get your feet wet by simply writing – without any regard for keywords, search engine optimization, or anything like that. Write as if you’re talking with a client, answering a question in your office. Once you get comfortable you’ll be better able to map out where you want the blog to go, and the topics you’d like to discuss on a going-forward basis.
- Have Fun: Blogging is a lot of work, and don’t let anyone tell you anything different. But it’s also liberating, giving you the chance to flex your creativity and provide useful information to your audience. You’ll eventually get good at it, but the only way to stay motivated is to have some fun with it. Add some pictures to your posts, put up a funny YouTube video from time to time, relay a funny story. All work and no play … well, you know the end of that one.
One final point – don’t panic! There’s nothing you can do to break the Internet, so if you screw up you can always start over with a fresh piece of electronic paper. Most successful bloggers tried at least once before they got it right, and others keep their mistakes buried in the deepest recesses of their existing blogs.
Why Using Blogger For A Law Office Blog Is A Huge Mistake
Do you use Blogger for your law practice blog? It’s easy, free and gets you online in moments. And trust me, it shows.
Susan Cartier Liebel explains in a recent post on Build A Solo Practice, LLC exactly why you should not use Blogger for your professional blog. The upshot of the post is that it makes you look less-than-professional, a mere newbie in a sea of experts. After all, you’re using the blog as a practice management tool for your law office – is it somehow not worth the measly hosting cost of under $100 per year to do a passable job of it?
TypePad carries a minor cost, WordPress is free (I’m talking about the downloadable version at wordpress.org, not the hosted version at wordpress.com). And with many hosting companies offering a one-click installation of WordPress to help you along, it doesn’t get much easier.
Wait, you ask. Doesn’t Google index Blogger more quickly than other sites because Google owns Blogger? The simple answer is a resounding NO. Look, all Google wants is for people to get the best search results; if that search result is best met by a WordPress blog, that’s how it’s going to go. Because when people get good search results from Google, they’re more likely to come back to Google. And the more often people use Google to search, the more advertisers are going to pay to Google for the right to be on the search results page. Round and round it goes.
But my blog is really good, you say. You can’t tell me that having it on Blogger is going to cut against me. If I”m really good then the readers will come! True enough, but let’s face facts – you’re not famous. In fact, to prospects the likelihood is that you’re just another lawyer with a blog. You may be good, but you’ve got no brand. And the blog is your brand (at least, part of it). So why go with a Blogger brand when for $100 per year you could actually have you own?
Finally, remember – Google can at any time and for any reason at all simply delete your Blogger blog. Poof, and it’s gone. Years of work, thousands of words, tons of goodwill . . . all up in smoke. Want to read more about this phenomenon? Just check out Search Engine Journal’s article, Reasons To Not Blog Using Blogger or Blogspot.
Is this all worth saving a measly $100 a year?
Your First Law Firm Blog Is Just A Baby Step
Most businesses start with an idea and a way to profit from that idea by selling stuff to people. That’s right – for 2 1/2 years I basically screwed around and created a blog about cool stuff that made me happy. Holy crap – talk about an abject waste of time!
I mean, what would your friends and family members say if you told them that you were going to start practicing law for free? Handle any client that came into the office, work up a full file and represent that person until the end of the matter? Your spouse would divorce you, your parents would have you committed, and your friends would whisper behind your back. Well, maybe not quite so dramatic as all that – but damned close.
And they’d be right. Starting a law firm is time-intensive, money-intensive, and … well, when something sucks too much of your time and money it’s kind of hard to put food on the table. Or, for that matter, afford a table in the first place.
So you start a law firm by figuring out a niche, finding clients, and working your ass off until you can pay the bills. Maybe you pick up a side hustle, maybe you sponge off a relative for awhile. Whatever you need to do, you do it.
Seriously, I can’t even tell you how many blogs I started and then killed. I was on Blogger, then a few of my own domains, then I consolidated them, took them down, moved them around … well, you get the point. And because the tools are so free and easy, none of it mattered. Every blog was a training ground, a way for me to pick up a few tips and get my footing in new technology. I knew I wasn’t going to break the Internet – and if I did, the Internet had more problems than just my existence.
Because starting a law firm blog costs little or no money, there’s not much to lose except your time and a bruised ego.
Not many people are going to notice when you screw up royally. Much as we might like to think otherwise, nobody’s paying attention to your law firm blogging efforts except your parents until things really take off. Your traffic will stink, your comment level will be non-existent, and pretty much you’ll be taking up dead space online.
I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but your blog isn’t going to get much action coming out of the gate unless you’re a big name – a really, really big name. Everyone else just toils in anonymity for a good, long time.
And that’s the best news you’re going to get because your blog is going to start out as a different thing than what it will ultimately be. Your design will be off, the picture won’t be right (in fact, it probably won’t be there at all), and you’ll wobble like an infant taking first steps.
Don’t believe me? Some really big blogs out there were significantly different when they began. For example:
SOLD (Copyblogger – January 8, 2006)
Version 3.0 (Chris Brogan – March 22, 2004) *Note: This is clearly not the first post that Chris ever did, though it is the first one archived on this domain.
Get To The Point (Problogger – September 23, 2004)
Welcome To The Bankruptcy Law Network (Bankruptcy Law Network – January 24, 2007)
We’ve established that you’re just starting out, and your blog is probably going to differ significantly from what it will ultimately be. Your content may be muddy, your writing less crisp than you would like. But given the fact that not many people are out there reading it at first, you’ve got some freedom. Freedom to flex your muscles and to find your voice. After all, if it sucks then you can trash it and move on. Or you can just keep going, refining your message and honing things until they sound right and produce results for you.
What are you afraid of? And what will it take you get you off the dime?
Finding The Right Platform For Your Legal Blog
Blogging is the simplest way to gain a toehold in online legal marketing. But there are a ton of platforms to choose from – WordPress (self-hosted or on WordPress.com), Blogger, TypePad, LiveJournal, Vox, Posterous … the list goes on and on.
So what platform should you choose for your legal blog?
First off, you want to make sure you own your content. There’s nothing worse than waking up one morning to find that your provider has shut down your legal blog and pulled your stuff offline for some real or perceived transgression (yes, it’s happened to me).
Unfortunately, all of the free, hosted blogging solutions (WordPress.com, Blogger, TypePad, LiveJournal, Vox, Posterous and the rest) all suffer from that major drawback. Even if you’re using your own domain name, the content resides on THEIR servers. And guess what? You can put in a ton of effort on your legal blog and one day … poof … all gone.
That’s why I use WordPress. It’s free to download, most major web hosting companies will actually download and install it onto your site with the click of a button (which is awesome for those of us who don’t have the time or knowledge needed to fiddle around with that sort of thing), and is well-supported and regularly updated.
Heck, the New York Times runs its entire site on WordPress. And if it’s good enough for the New York Times, it’s probably good enough for your legal blog.
There are tons of plugins available to expand the functionality of WordPress, and if something’s not available you can hire a programmer for a few bucks to get it done for you. I’ve had to do that once, and only because an incredible plugin wasn’t being updated anymore.
Entering information is just as easy as using your word processor, with a WYSIWYG interface that looks remarkably like Microsoft Word.
As far as look-and-feel, there are tons of free WordPress templates out there for you to pick and choose from. Once you get comfortable with blogging you can bring in the professionals and get a snazzy looking design for less than the cost of a “standard” website.
When you’re using WordPress most of the search engine optimization is done for you right out of the box so you don’t have to worry about it. You can amp it up a little using a free plugin called All-In-One SEO Pack or just cruise with what comes in WordPress.
The upshot of all this is that when you host your own legal blog you get full control over your content without all the scary “oh my gosh I don’t know a thing about programming and techies stuff.”