Blogging isn’t as easy as it looks. Yes anyone can put paragraphs of words together and post them on a website. But creating blog content that actually impresses potential new clients? Now that’s a challenge. While we’ve briefly touched on best legal blogging practices on our blog before and in our free marketing eBook, there’s a lot we have yet to address. So for this piece, we’ve recruited a legal blogging expert to help take lawyers step-by-step through the process of creating blog posts that will bring real results for attorneys.
Meet Leah Presser
Professional legal marketing content writer
Leah is a professional legal marketing content writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and certification in inbound and content marketing. Presser has 18 years of experience working in law firms and over a decade writing insightful content. With keen insights into the latest marketing and legal industry developments, Leah delivers research-backed, conversational content that helps firms build engaged audiences and earn the trust of potential clients. Her own blog can be found here. Here’s what Presser has to say about some of the most important legal blogging topics.
Choosing A Blog Topic
Leah Presser: For most law firm blogs, there’s only one thing lawyers should consider when choosing a topic for a blog post: Are my potential clients interested in this? The questions, concerns, needs, problems, fears, and interests of your clients are all that matter. Any topic you write about must be relevant to them. Clients and prospects probably ask you questions every day. Write them down. Those are your blog topics. You may personally be interested in writing about many subjects. But readers only care about topics that affect their businesses and lives.
Attaching A Relevant Keyword To Your Post
Presser: I just came across this post from Single Grain that does a great job of laying out DIY keyword research: http://ow.ly/l5V130oxumM
Despite rumors to the contrary that arise every time Google releases a significant algorithm update, keywords will always be important. How could they ever not be? No matter how much smarter AI gets in understanding our intentions or how much Google adapts to our search habits, matching words will always be the basic principle behind Google delivering good results.
Here again, you really want to know the questions potential clients ask. And you want to know how they phrase their questions so you respond in their own words. Both Google and humans appreciate that.
Beyond the information in Single Grain’s post, you can get great ideas for keywords and phrases through Answer the Public and Google’s “People Also Ask” feature.
The questions listed under Google’s “People Also Ask” feature and those provided by Answer the Public can serve as a list of new blog post topics for your law firm blog. Or, you can use those questions as an outline for writing “pillar page” content. A pillar page is a deep dive into a topic. It may be thousands of words long and cover multiple aspects and angles on a subject. A pillar page serves as your website’s main hub on that subject which multiple other posts link to and from. You’ll recognize them on other sites because they often include indexes at the top.
People read pillar pages like they use Wikipedia. They start reading sections most relevant to their immediate questions. Then, they often follow links to learn about interesting offshoots of the topic. Writing pillar posts is an excellent way to please readers because it is more conducive to how people like to learn online. And, a pillar page has a lot of links pointing to it, which helps Google understand that the topic covered is critical in defining who you are or what business your website represents.
Coming Up With A Headline
Presser: If you wrote a post that answers a question, repeat the question in the title using the same key phrases people use when they ask those questions. For example, if you discover people ask “Can I set up a trust for my dog?”, then you want a title that answers them: “How to Set Up a Trust for Your Dog.” Here again, Google’s “People Also Ask” feature and Answer the Public really comes in handy. You’ll notice that the posts in Google’s Answer Box directly answer questions this way.
A title also has to clearly state what the post is about. No clever word play, no guessing games, nothing that even hints at click bait. The title has a monumental job — to capture enough interest to get people to commit to a click. And capturing interest is about one thing: Relevancy. Just like the blog topic itself, the title has to appeal to the readers’ worries, concerns, interests, needs, etc. So you must make sure your title includes the aspect of the post that is relevant to readers. Ideally, you want your title to add a hint of mystery, too, so people are intrigued. Adding clarity AND mystery is a tall order. But intrigue can’t happen if you don’t catch their interest in the first place. But that’s the magic trifecta: Use your readers’ own (key) words, be unmistakably clear about the topic, and spark curiosity. It’s very difficult to do well, as evidenced by how much scrolling we all do versus clicking!
Also, be as specific as possible in your titles. “People may lose money if they fail to file this form” speaks to no one about nothing in particular. However, “Small business owners may lose $500 if they don’t file this tax form by April 15” reaches right out and grabs the attention of who should care, tells them how much they should care, and what they should care about.
How To Open Your Blog Post
Presser: You should have a reason you’re writing a post. Not just because it’s Thursday and another post is due. That’s how we got into such an overload of downright dull content on the internet.
You’re addressing a concern or interest of a particular set of readers. (If you’re not, then stop writing!) So, state right away why you’re writing the post. And state it as if you’re speaking directly to an eager listener seated right next to you. By that I mean, use “you” and write conversationally. Tell readers right away what they will lose if they don’t keep reading. Or, explain what they will gain if they do keep reading. Make it abundantly clear why the post is of interest to them. Show them they have skin in the game.
Making Your Post Visually Pleasing
Presser: Watch out for walls of text and small, cramped fonts. Lawyers are used to reading long, convoluted text and don’t always recognize how off-putting dense walls of cramped paragraphs can be to some readers. It just looks like a normal day at the office to them.
People reading online appreciate larger print, plenty of white space, and clear headings and subheadings. You should be using keywords in the headings and subheadings. And when reading one after the other, the headings should ideally provide a summary of the whole piece. Then, people will be able to tell if it’s worth their time to read the post and skimmers can hone in on subtopics that interest them most. Of course, give readers plenty of visuals, too. Use charts and graphs to share statistics, infographics to explain processes, and even GIFs to provide a bit of levity or clarity.
And don’t bury the lead! Too often, people will write 1,000 words setting up a problem, describing the situation, and detailing how they might tackle it. Only after that, waaaay at the bottom, almost as an afterthought, will they add the dire consequences of ignoring the issue or not contacting an attorney for help or whatever the case may be. You’ve got to let people know right away why they should care about what’s written in the piece.
Wrapping Up Your Blog Post
Presser: Often (at the end of a piece), it feels natural to say something like “If this is happening to you, give us a call.” And that’s okay to end that way, as long as you stop there.
Other times, blog posts may simply be informative: “We’re holding a free session to help people expunge criminal records. It’s important because X, Y, Z. Come here at this day and time.” That’s a good place to add “In the meantime, if you want to learn more, read this” and direct readers to other content on your site.
Some posts may be strictly educational, particularly pillar posts. For example, a page may discuss everything a person needs to know about making their will. It’s more of a resource that naturally encourages people to read more content, and you can add a bit at the end about how your firm can help readers with their wills. But only a bit.
Because what’s most important to recognize is that a blog is NOT the place for a sales pitch. This is a space to build brand awareness, attract potential clients to your site and educate, inform, and entertain readers. Not go on about how great you or the firm is. For example, you may educate readers about why an attorney is necessary for a particular issue, but you’ll lose the readers’ trust immediately if you launch right into why you’re the best attorney to hire. Everything you wrote prior to that will feel to them as if you were just setting them up to fall for your sales pitch. They can visit other website pages when they want to learn why you’re right for them.
The Editing Process
Presser: One thing I do is scroll through a post reading only the headings and subheadings to make sure they give me a clear summary of the piece. Beyond that, I address all the recommendations that the Yoast SEO plugin gives me. It offers an on-page content analysis to make sure I use key words and phrases in the optimal locations. It runs a readability analysis to catch me when I slip into passive voice or make my sentences too complex. It also helps me create a snippet preview for search engines to use. And more!
Right now I use the free version of the Yoast SEO plugin. But as I add more content to my site, I will invest in the premium Yoast SEO plugin. It will help me better track my site structure, ensure I am consistent in using appropriate categories and tags, and show me other related posts to link to within the one I’m writing. These factors are important because a quality site structure provides a better reading experience for readers and help Google understand your site better. If a law firm publishes content concerning several different practice areas, I recommend learning about how categories, tags, and pillar pages work and how to optimally structure your site. Otherwise, you could be competing with your own content or damaging your site’s user experience or SEO without realizing it. Make sure your blog post content works hard for you 24/7 on every level!