Reprinted from the Wisconsin Lawyer magazine.
When lawyers apply the best practices of blogging, they can get new business and generate more revenue. Simple techniques such as picking “durable” topics, writing short titles, and posting frequently can make lawyers experts in their field who have the best files from the most profitable clients.
6 Best Practice Tips for Blogging to Get New Business
- Clients want practical information.
Use magic words and numbers for titles:
- Put a number in the headline,
- Use an odd number,
- Use a colon, hyphen, or [bracketed words] in the title,
- Use magic words, or
- Ask a question.
- For the right length, longer is better.
- Write durable blog posts that work year after year.
- Include a picture or video in the blog post.
- The more you blog, the more clients you will get.
Research shows that 80 percent of potential clients check out professional services firms by looking at their websites, and what they look for is a blog that answers their questions.1
Consider the effectiveness of blogging:2
57 percent of marketers say they've gained clients specifically through blogging.
66 percent of business-to-business marketers who write blogs generate more leads than those who don't.
Companies that blog have 55 percent more visitors to their websites.
Veteran legal blogger Victoria Blute of LawLytics says, “When it's done right, blogging can allow you to become an influencer of people; it helps you attract followers who want to know what you'll say next, and it can help you become part of the news cycle. Blog posts can help you to declare what you're thinking about and what you want readers to consider on a given date.”3
Lawyers can find inspiration by checking the State Bar of Wisconsin's fifth annual list of top law blogs.4 A total of 76 blogs appear on the 2019 list, and 13 of them have been on the list every year.
Actionable, practical blog posts are most likely to move potential clients toward purchasing decisions. “Content that tells them not just what happened, or what it means, but what they need to do about it is far more likely to make them call the author and say ‘I need you to help me do that,'" according to the 2019 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey.5
When I was in law practice, I recall being so pressed for time that I read only articles that had pragmatic information that I could apply to my own practice. That's also how clients think.
Before starting to write, it is essential for lawyers to identify their target readers. As the saying goes, “find the riches in the niches.” Thought leaders don't try to interact with everyone – instead, they target a select audience with mutual interests. “By choosing a niche practice area, and by limiting the cases you accept to one or a few practice areas, you create the impression that you're a specialist,” says attorney Ken Hardison.
An excellent example of niche writing is the Wisconsin DUI Law Blog published by Melowski & Associates, Sheboygan. Updated about once per week, the blog is all about drunk driving offenses in Wisconsin.
Blog posts should be educational. For instance, the Tesar Law Group Blog features “Millennials Need an Estate Plan Too.” Marsha Tesar, whose firm is located in DeForest, explains that young adults need to have an estate plan as much as older people.
The headline for a blog post is the most important line of text in the article. Wordy, run-on titles are a sure turnoff in the age of Buzzfeed, which pioneered eyeball-grabbing headlines.
The ideal blog post title is eight words. Short titles receive a higher click-through rate than the overall average and are shared more often on social media.
Lawyers should also use the proven formulas that just seem to work:
Put a Number In the Headline. This indicates that the article has a premeditated outline of specific points. A study by Conductor.com found that headlines with numbers generate 73 percent more social shares and engagement. If you have any doubt, visit the hilarious Buzzfeed title generator,6 which kicks out clickbait headlines such as “The 24 Greatest Optical Illusions Of The ‘90s.” If you need more proof, see 30 Buzzfeed Headline Tips You Need to See to Believe.7
Use an Odd Number. A single, small odd-numbered digit (for example, 7 or 5) is like candy for your organizational mind. It's also interesting to know that using odd numbers is better than even numbers. According to the Content Marketing Institute, headlines with odd numbers had a 20 percent higher click-through rate than those with even numbers.
Use a Colon, Hyphen, or [Bracketed Words] In the Title. Why does this work? It catches the eye and engages the brain.
Use Magic Words. Use words such as "how to" and "you" – addressing the reader directly. Other magic words for titles are "what," "why," and "best." Years of experience in direct-response marketing shows they are powerful words. Others include “now,” “new,” “love,” “free,” “instant,” “hot,” and “because.”8
Ask a Question. For example, almost all the blogs of the Welcenbach Law Offices, Milwaukee, ask a question. Here is one: “How Do I File a Claim After a Hit & Run Accident in Wisconsin?”
“Post to the length that it needs to be written to convey the right message. If everything that needs to be said can be said in 500 words, stop there,” says Victoria Blute. “However, the topic you're writing about may warrant a post that's a thousand or two thousand words – or possibly even longer. If it does, don't stop short of the length required to write a detailed, meaningful piece for your potential clients.”9
That said, the consensus of research indicates that longer blogs are better-read. Search engines love long, authoritative posts, especially when they're focused on solving a pressing problem for readers.
The average word count of top-ranked content in Google is between 1,140 and 1,285 words.
The ideal length of a blog post is 1,600 words, which takes around seven minutes to read.
Most of the top-10 Google results are between 2,032 and 2,416 words.10
But it depends on your goal. Want more comments on your blog? Try writing short, discussion-based posts no longer than 275 words.11 Want more shares on social media? Aim for medium-length blog posts, between 600 and 1,250 words.
“There are people who do read much of what you write, and these are the users that should matter to you. They are your engaged readers, and they're also the ones who are likely to engage your firm if they appreciate and trust what you've got to say,” Blute writes.
Blogging can allow you to become an influencer of people; it helps you attract followers who want to know what you'll say next, and it can help you become part of the news cycle.
The idea is to write blog posts that generate new business now, next month, and next year. Durable posts get many more visits over time than “decaying” posts that are read once and forgotten. While only 10 percent of all blog posts are durable, they account for 38 percent of total blog traffic.12 One durable blog post generates as much traffic as six regular posts combined.
Durable blog posts address broad, “evergreen” topics that are a common concern for many potential clients. Topical posts create a surge but then decay rapidly. Posts that focus on current events decay rapidly over time. You can expect visits for these posts to taper off as readers move to the next news event.
According to Hubspot, broad tactical posts attract ongoing attention.13 Write about a wide-ranging topic and offer tactical advice with mass appeal. Broad tactical posts include product reviews, breakdowns of processes, or instructions on how to diagnose a practical, mechanical, or health-related issue.
An example is the blog published by Nicholson, Gansner & Otis S.C., Madison. Their post “Social media and text messages can be used to document harassment” was read when it was first published and will be read repeatedly over time.
Thought leaders don't try to interact with everyone – instead, they target a select audience with mutual interests.
Picture this: Content with visuals gets 94 percent more views.14 In fact, the majority of bloggers include more than one image in their articles. It's a fact that when people read, they will look at the pictures first. Neurologists believe that the brain's capacity for processing images is 60,000 times faster than its capacity for processing text.
The Wisconsin Auto Law Blog, published by Ivan Hannibal, Madison, illustrates all blog posts with eye-catching cartoons.
So, get yourself an account with Shutterstock.com, which has 300 million stock photos. These royalty-free images can illustrate the concept a blogger is discussing. (Of course, avoid trite legal images such as columns, gavels, courthouses, blind justice, or scales.) The best images include a human face because this is what the brain is trained to look for.
An easy way to add graphics is to publish a PowerPoint slideshow. This is easily done by uploading slides to LinkedIn's Slideshare.com. Once it's online, simply click “Share” under the SlideShare, copy the “Embed” code, and paste it into your blog post. Now your readers can page through your presentation online and look for salient points.
Finally, turn your written content into a video. Fifty-nine percent of executives say they would rather watch a video than read text.15 Videos are more engaging and more memorable than any other kind of content. “Video is big, so take advantage of it. Most of today's customers are more likely to push a ‘Watch' button than a ‘Download Report' or ‘Read This' button,” reports Forbes magazine.16
Attorney Gregg Herman, Milwaukee, includes a video in his Family Law Update for September 2019, in which he “rants” about a state supreme court divorce case. It is one of 63 videos about his “Thoughts on Family Law.”
Often the best blog posts answer a question that a client asks during an appointment with the attorney.
Frequency of blog posts matters.17 There is nothing worse than visiting a blog and seeing that the most recent post was one year ago.
Seventy-two percent of bloggers who posted weekly say that they acquired a customer through their blog.18 The ideal frequency ranges from once per week to three times per week. Businesses that publish 16 or more blog posts per month see 3.5 times more traffic than those that post four times per month.
Google favors blogs that offer fresh, new material and are updated frequently. For example, Alan Olson, New Berlin, publishes an employment law blog on his firm's home page. It is updated at least seven times per month.
Often the best blog posts answer a question that a client asks during an appointment with the attorney.
Apply all the best practices in this article to your blogging. The majority of marketers say that blogging is their top content-marketing priority. Find other writers in your firm and put together a team of bloggers. Give your readers practical articles with actionable information. Use magic numbers, words, and punctuation in titles because doing so takes advantage of the way the human brain seeks information. Go long when you write blog posts, and design them to be durable over time.
And always remember that the more you blog, the more clients you will get.
3 Some of Blute's blog posts are available here: www.lawlytics.com/blog/author/victoria/.
4 Fifth Annual Wisconsin Law Blogs: 76 Blogs Find Their Legal Niche (InsideTrack, June 5, 2019). To add your blog to the 2020 list, contact State Bar legal writer Joe Forward, [email protected].
6 www.ravi.io/buzzfeed-title-generator (last visited Oct. 10, 2019).
8 Weinstein Org., 37 Power Words to Use in Direct Response Marketing – and Why (Oct. 3, 2017).
9 See supra note 3.
10 The sources for these statistics are the following: www.searchmetrics.com/knowledge-base/ranking-factors-niches/#contact; https://medium.com/data-lab/the-optimal-post-is-7-minutes-74b9f41509b; and www.sweor.com/seocontentlength.
11 Joe Bunting, How Long Should Your Blog Post Be? A Writer's Guide (last visited Oct. 10, 2019).
12 HubSpot Research, Compounding Blog Posts: What They Are and Why They Matter (last visited Oct. 10, 2019).
14 Jennifer Gorth Gregory, Picture This: Content with Visuals Gets 94% More Views (March 8, 2016).
15 Mary Lister, 37 Staggering Video Marketing Statistics for 2018 (last updated June 9, 2019).
16 Shep Hyken, Ten Content Marketing Hacks to Drive a Better Customer Experience (Sept. 9, 2019).
17 Larry Bodine, Does Blogging Really Bring New Clients? (July 6, 2014).