You’ve probably noticed that a lot of firms have blogs these days. You might have heard people mention blogging in the context of digital marketing.
But you’re still not sure why your firm needs one.
It’s understandable. Not that long ago, most blogs were run by individuals, and amounted to online diaries—not the sort of thing you’d think would be valuable to your business. But the world has changed.
These days, your firm needs a blog. Blogging is the most effective form of digital marketing there is.
What is Digital Marketing?
Anything you do to promote your business online falls under the umbrella of digital marketing. It includes buying ads on search engines, posting on social media sites, and, yes, blogging.
Digital marketing is a big deal in the legal field. It’s not hard to see why. Consumers are taking to the web in huge numbers to find legal representation—96% use a search engine when looking for legal advice. They aren’t just browsing, they’re following through; according to the American Bar Association, 49% of legal firms that maintain a blog report they have gotten clients through their blog.
So digital marketing is important. But why should you care about blogging, specifically?
1. Blogging Levels the Marketing Playing Field
The thing about digital marketing is, it’s expensive—particularly for law firms.
This is because it’s intensely competitive. 65% of law firms spend most of their marketing budget online. When you have a bunch of well-funded firms competing in a limited space, expenses tend to pick up.
Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is a good example. Search engines like Google allow companies to buy ads that show up when users search for certain terms. It’s very expensive to buy ads for searches that have to do with the law—common keywords can cost upwards of $600. In 2015, 23 of the 25 most expensive searches had to do with litigation. Law firms can easily spend $100,000 per month on PPC alone.
That’s all well and good if your marketing budget allows for it. But for most firms, it won’t.
That’s where blogging comes in. Blogging is extremely cost-effective.
It makes sense. Whether you’re writing them yourself or outsourcing the job, it’s just not that expensive to produce a couple posts per month.
Just how cheap is it? Well, it costs next to nothing to do it yourself. If you’re outsourcing, it depends on a few factors, but it’s still very cheap; maintaining a blog is 41% less expensive than the next most cost-effective form of digital marketing.
So blogging is cheap. But does it work? Well:
- Compared to traditional marketing, blogging costs 62% less but generates three times the leads.
- Companies that blog receive 55% more website visitors, and small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than those that do not.
- Blogging increases lead generation by an average of 67% per month
- Blogging scales well: the more posts you publish, the more traffic you get
The evidence shows that by almost all metrics, blogging offers a higher return on investment than any other kind of marketing. The gap is so vast that it’s led some experts to declare that “content marketing is the only marketing left.”
Crafting Great Content: The Secret to SEO
You’ve probably heard of SEO, or search engine optimization.
SEO is the art of maximizing your ranking in search engines like Google. SEO experts put a lot of thought into things like keyword density, or the optimum number of times a webpage should feature the keywords that people commonly search for.
Keyword density matters, make no mistake, but its effects are mainly felt at the margins: they can give you that extra little bump that might mean the difference between ranking in second and third place.
It turns out that Google prizes compelling content above all else, and its engineers are pretty good at designing algorithms that recognize it. It is their job, after all.
Consequently, Google has consistently advised people to focus above all on creating content that people want to read.
Which brings us back to blogging. At its core, that’s what a blog is—a platform where you can post quality content on a regular basis.
2. Blogging is Better for Your Reputation Than Traditional Marketing
We’ve established that advertising is expensive. More than that, it can damage your reputation.
A 2012 study by researchers at the University of Amsterdam examined how people react to sponsorship and advertising. It found that:
- People have a more positive impression of content that isn’t presented as an ad.
- When content is presented as an ad, although the audience’s awareness of the product or brand increases, their opinion of it decreases.
In the legal profession, this is supported by long-standing consensus. As Gary Hengstler of the ABA Journal wrote in 1993, “Americans seem to dislike the concept of lawyers advertising.” In 2015, the Florida Bar asked its membership, “Do you believe that lawyer advertising affects the public’s view of lawyers and the legal profession?” 84% answered, “Yes, negatively.”
This is unfortunate, because reputation is everything in the legal profession. Lawyers often handle sensitive issues for their clients. The perception of integrity is a key component of the attorney-client relationship; it’s one of the four main qualities that clients look for when selecting a lawyer.
This means that spending a lot on advertising can be counterproductive. It increases your visibility, but it harms your reputation.
Blogging doesn’t come with the same drawbacks. On the contrary, it makes people regard you more favorably—people actually like the content that businesses produce, so long as it isn’t presented as an ad. 60% of consumers actively enjoy reading commercial content, and 82% come away feeling more positive about the company that produced it.
Evergreen Content: Build Your Reputation Over Time
Blog posts have another advantage over advertisements—once you publish them, they stick around forever. Content that lasts like this is known as evergreen content, and it’s very valuable, especially in the legal field.
Most people require legal services infrequently. People who view your site might not be in the market for a lawyer at that moment. But a blog post that you write tomorrow might be read by somebody next month who will need a lawyer sometime next year.
If you maintain a blog filled with high-quality content, readers are likely to come away with a positive impression of your firm. They’ll be more likely to think of you when they need legal services in the future, and recommend you to others as well. That’s huge: overwhelmingly, people prefer hiring lawyers that their friends recommend.
For law firms, building a reputation over time is more important than landing a few clients in the here and now. Creating evergreen content through blogging is an excellent way to do that.
3. Blogging is a Chance to Establish a Strong Brand Identity
Marketing experts agree that establishing a brand identity is critical for businesses looking to build relationships with their customers.
Blogging gives you total control over your brand identity. It all depends on the content you choose to fill your blog with, and the tone you write it in.
Demonstrate Your Expertise
One strategy is to use your blog to provide material that proves you’re an authority in your field.
Unsurprisingly, clients prefer to hire attorneys whom they perceive as highly skilled. To prove their expertise, law firms painstakingly list their accomplishments—cases won, awards received, and so on—on their websites.
That’s all well and good, but it amounts to telling the public that you’re an expert. By creating a blog and filling it with useful legal content, you’re showing them, making a stronger impression.
An example of a blog that does a good job at this is the Syracuse Personal Injury Law Blog by DeFrancisco & Falgiatano. It’s written in a restrained, professional style, and its content is tightly-focused. All of its posts deal with personal injury claims in Syracuse and Upstate NY.
Take one of their posts about the process of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. Although it opens with a plug for the firm’s services, D&F spends the bulk of the post walking the reader through the entire process of filing a malpractice lawsuit, from the initial consultation to the settlement or trial.
Useful and freely-available advice. Image edited slightly for clarity.
Their post is written in plain language, not jargon. In fact, they take pains to explain the terms they use. This demonstrates their expertise (they know enough about malpractice law to explain it) as well as their trustworthiness and likability (they care enough about their clients to explain things in terms they can understand).
Their blog posts are useful, something that’s going to make far more of an impression on their readers than a list of awards or cases won.
Come Across as a Lawyer AND a Real Person
One of the pitfalls for a practicing lawyer is the temptation to write everything like a practicing lawyer.
Some attorneys spend their time and energy crafting lengthy blog posts that read like law review articles, filled with case citations and statutory interpretations. This isn’t always a bad thing—their posts are useful—but they miss a valuable opportunity.
When done right, a blog gives you the chance to not only convey information, but to entertain your potential customers and even engage them on an emotional level. That’s a rarity in the legal profession. Making an emotional connection with its customers is one of the best things a business can do.
Emotional connection relates to a brand’s ability to form a relationship with its customers, in turn leading to loyalty.
Trademarkology by Stites and Harbison is an example of a blog that manages to be colorful and entertaining, despite focusing on an area (trademark law) that usually isn’t thought of as having much mainstream appeal.
Their blog is written in a light, informal style that’s a lot of fun to read. They write about everything that’s affected by trademark law, with a particular focus on sports and pop culture. Many of their posts open with personal anecdotes, as in this post about a trademark dispute between two hockey teams:
Personable and immediately engaging. Image edited slightly for clarity.
They’re also more than willing to poke fun at themselves, as they show on their About Us page:
All pleasantries aside, we are lawyers and therefore cannot resist telling you about how smart we are and how much we’ve accomplished. So, here goes.
Their writing style and choice of topics send a clear message to their readers: we know our stuff, but we’re real people, not stuffed shirts. This instantly establishes a likable brand identity.
Cultivate an Identity That Matches Your Goals
Although Trademarkology and the Syracuse Personal Injury blog are markedly different, both are both highly effective at what they set out to do.
SPI has a tight focus on its specialization and local market—most people who find their blog probably live nearby, and find it through long-tail searches like “how to file personal injury claim syracuse.” DeFrancisco & Falgiatano are not trying to turn their blog into a household name. Their goal is to communicate the expertise and professionalism of their law firm to people who are potential clients.
Trademarkology, on the other hand, is aimed at a wide audience. Trademarkology is compelling enough that it’s received national attention. It has many readers who will never require Stites & Harbison’s services. Blogs like Trademarkology are not immediately concerned with pulling in clients. Instead, they focus on generating buzz for their firm and making a favorable impression on the largest number of people possible.
In each case, the firm’s blog is written in a voice that matches their goals—restrained and professional in SPI’s case, lighthearted and funny in Trademarkology’s. The firms are using their blogs to establish their brand identities.
You can do the same. But to do that, you need a blog.
4. Blogging Can Power Your Entire Social Media Strategy
Social media presence is more important than ever for law firms. Active social media use is one of the most important factors when it comes to search engine ranking and overall traffic generation.
Recent surveys reveal some striking facts about the law and social media:
- 80% of lawyers use Facebook regularly, 89% use LinkedIn, and 47% use Twitter
- 70% of lawyers actively incorporate social media into their overall marketing strategy
- Half of the lawyers who use social media marketing believe it has helped bring in new clients
- The legal industry has the highest rate of ad click-throughs on Facebook
Facebook alone influences 52% of consumers’ online and offline purchases, and has 2 billion monthly active users (more than a fourth of all the people on the planet).
Given this, your firm’s social media presence is something you cannot ignore. Setting up accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter takes mere minutes.
But it’s not enough to set up these accounts. You have to actually use them.
Social media accounts don’t do much good if they look like ghost towns. If the last post on your law firm’s Facebook page was made four years ago, most clients are going to assume you are either no longer open or very out of touch.
A blog prevents this by providing a regular stream of content for your social media accounts.
Walker & O’Neill is a good example of a firm that takes advantage of this. They run a popular blog called Cruise Law News that covers maritime law. They’re a little more blog-centric than most firms—instead of simply hosting a blog on their site, their entire website is a blog.
Navigate to their Facebook or Twitter page and it’s immediately apparent that the firm is active and engaged in the larger social media community. They post new content every few days. It takes virtually no work for them to do this. All they have to do is keep linking to their blog posts as they publish them.
New and original content posted on a regular basis.
They take it a step further by sharing other relevant news articles and by responding to the comments their posts receive. This further reinforces the impression of activity, creating a virtuous cycle.
Write regular blog posts, share them on your social media accounts, promptly respond to people’s comments, and you’re already approaching a coherent digital marketing strategy, with your only expenditure being your blog.
When linking to your pages your goal is to create social content that is as native and engaging as possible. That’s what will generate leads and conversions.
With a little more work, you can use Facebook’s audience targeting tools to promote your posts to people who will find them relevant. This tactic is especially effective if you want to promote a particular practice area, such as elder law, family law, or bankruptcy.
Instead of spending precious time and money figuring out the best way to target your content to prospective clients, you can let Facebook and other sites do the work for you.
But you have to create the content first.
If Blogging Sounds Difficult, Consider Outsourcing
At this point, maybe you’re excited to start your own blog. If so, great—happy blogging!
But maybe you’re not excited about all that writing. It’s understandable. You didn’t go through the stress of law school and the bar exam because you dreamed of being a blogger.
There’s a reason that only one in four law firms operate blogs, even though blogging is such an effective form of marketing. It may be inexpensive, but it’s a lot of work. Producing high-quality content on a regular basis is harder than it sounds. Sometimes it’s not apparent exactly how hard it is until you find yourself staring at a blank page.
If that’s a concern of yours, consider outsourcing the job to freelance writers. It’s up to seven times cheaper than hiring an in-house writer, and saves you the headache of doing it all yourself.
At Compose.ly, we’re happy to do it for you. We maintain a team of experienced writers, many of whom have legal backgrounds themselves. You don’t have to stress about researching new blog posts, sticking to a regular update schedule, or maintaining a consistent and likable brand voice. Tell us your goals and needs, and we’ll do the rest. The process can be as hands-on or hands-off as you like.
Your firm needs a blog. Consider contacting us. We’d love to help out.