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10 reasons why a law blog does not belong inside your law firm website

We’re always asked at LexBlog about putting a blog in a law firm website. The answer is you don’t do it. Anyone telling you to do so is wrong.

Putting a blog your law firm’s website makes as much sense as adopting law firm policies requiring that the firm’s lawyers only speak at industry conferences held in your firm’s conference room and that your firm’s lawyers only be quoted in your firm’s publications, as opposed to industry and widely read periodicals.

Here’s 10 reasons why a law blog should be independent from a law firm website.

  1. Your law firm website, as it should be, is overt marketing collateral. Your website is all about your law firm, your firm’s lawyers, the services your law firm provides, who your law firm represents, and how we contact your law firm and its professionals. A blog is about providing valuable information, insight, and commentary to your target audience. Don’t detract from the effective reputation enhancement, networking, and client development power of your law blog by making it part of your firm’s overt marketing collateral.
  2. Google is only going to display the most relevant content page from your law firm’s website, it’s not going to display 2 pages in the search results. Having a blog and website allows relevant content from each to display in Google search results.
  3. Search engine optimization. Links from relevant websites or blogs to your firm’s website or blog are critical for search engine performance. Blogs are link magnets. Websites are not. A blog inside your website is going to generate few, if any, incoming links. Not only will a well done blog perform exceedingly well in search engine results, but links to your website from the blog and links to your website as a result of blogging will dramatically improve your law firm’s website search engine rankings.
  4. Effective blogging is all about entering into a conversation with both thought leaders in your field and your target audience. How do you dialogue from your law firm’s website? You don’t. Step one in effective blogging is listening to what thought leaders are saying on their blogs, what they’re saying in the media, and following key words and key phrases relevant to your niche in Google Blog Search and Google News. Referencing this content and offering your take is what you’ll be doing in your law blog. Thought leaders, your target audience, and the media will then see your contributions to the conversation and begin to reference you. It’s very, very hard for people to reference your blogging when you’re wearing the trappings of a law firm website. We’re just not inclined to do it.
  5. Marketing success for your blog. The best way to get exposure for your law blog is to blog about what leading bloggers and reporters are writing about in your niche. They’ll then see you, subscribe to your blog, and cite your blog posts with their commentary. The thousands of subscribers of these leaders will see your name and tacit reference to you as an authority. They’ll subscribe to your blog, and those who blog will in turn reference you and your blog content on their blogs. You’re not to garner these citations with a blog in your website.
  6. Getting subscribers to your blog. Your target audience is looking for the context you can offer on subjects relevant to your niche. Your audience is not looking for overt marketing information. Blog subscribers want to see that you are first concerned about offering value to them. Placing a blog in a website shows you’re too afraid to give without at the same time telling people about how wonderful you are and the wonderful things you’ve done. On the net, you can have everything you want as long as you help enough other people get what they want. Show it.
  7. Public relations success. 75% of reporters use blogs to identify experts and gain insight on stories they’re writing. Public relations is no longer about press releases. It’s about demonstrating yourself as a thought leader by entering into a dialogue. You’re much less likely to be called by reporters with a blog in a website that hamstrings open dialogue and reputation building.
  8. Ease of use. An effective user interface for readers of a blog and a website are two different animals. Weaving the necessary navigation elements of a blog into your law firm’s website is likely to lead to reader confusion.
  9. Good design. Your law firm’s website and blog should complement each other, not look the same. Your website is your overt marketing. Your blog is an educational magazine allowing you to enter into a dialogue.
  10. Social media success. In addition to your content being cited on other blogs, blogging success comes from having your content cited on Twitter and social bookmarking websites. Content from a blog in your website is much less likely to be shared and spread via social media, if at all.

Putting a blog in your law firm may be the easy thing to do. You may have marketing or tech professionals telling you to do so.

But if your looking for your blog to enhance your reputation as a thought leader in your niche, to allow for networking among your target audience, and to serve as an effective client development tool, don’t do it. Keep your blog outside your law firm website.

  • http://dougcornelius.com Doug Cornelius

    Kevin -
    One additional reason to put the blog outside the website is the separation of the positions of the blog authors from those of the firm as a whole. By separating the locations, the firm can take credit by associating itself with the good stuff and keeping the controversial stuff at arm’s length. The bigger the firm, the more likely that lawyers in the firm represent clients that take different positions on some topics.
    If I were to write about the benefits of new regulations affecting private investment funds. Investors in the funds may find these regulations very positive and fund managers may find them very negative. If the firm represents fund managers then those firm clients would be unhappy with the blog post. If I represented mostly investors, my client base at the firm would be happy.
    It is harder to show the separation of views if everything is under lawfirm.com. It is much clearer if the blog is under lawblog.com and the “official” content stays under lawfirm.com.

  • Lee Bryant

    Very good point, clearly made. Understanding the quite different role and modes of marketing sites, blogs and other systems (e.g. extranets) is important.

  • Jon Metcalf

    Kevin,
    Great post. I have a question about link juice. As everyone knows, link juice is the authority or popularity that passes from a link on a webpage to the page and website to which it is linking. If a firm’s marketing website and the firm’s blog(s) are on separate domains, then any valuable link juice passing from an incoming link on an authoritative site will go to either the website or the blog, but not to both. For example, if an attorney’s article is posted on ABA.com with a PageRank of 7, and a link is included to the attorney’s law firm, superiorlawfirm.com, the authoritative link juice from ABA.com will pass only to the law firm website, not to the blog, which may be hosted on bestlawblog.com, because the firm site and blog exist on separate domains. If on the other hand, the blog was joined on the same domain as the law firm website, such as superiorlawfirm.com/blog, the valuable link juice from that ABA.com link would be enjoyed by both the law firm website and the blog. Similarly, any link juice passing to the blog would also pass on to the law firm and both would share in the credit. As both the website and its joined blog collect authoritative links on the net, the PageRank for that joint website/blog would also rise.
    Your post raises very good reasons why blogs should be separate than firm websites. I often discuss this question with my clients and your post will help me explain the benefits. Some Search Engine Optimization pundits, however, are adamant about joining a blog to the company website in order to optimize link juice. I will look into the advantages you outlined here and how they compare to the advantages that link juice provides for combining all internet touch points into a single domain.
    I know that LexBlog is a business services company and not a law firm, so your situation is different than a traditional law firm website. However, I noticed that your blog, kevin.lexblog.com is joined to your company website as a subdomain. Do you notice if combining your blog and company website help in regard to link juice? Thanks!

  • http://www.legaline.com/lawsites.html Bob Ambrogi

    Some of your points are valid some of the time, but not as a categorical statement. It entirely depends on the nature of your firm and the nature of your site. Maybe it also depends on what you mean when you talk about having the blog be part of a Web site.
    I have two blogs that are both integrated into my web site, in that they are sub-pages of my primary domain. Both do everything you say they shouldn’t — rank high in Google, achieve great SEO results, draw me into the broader conversation, attract media calls and speaking opportunities, and have social media success.
    What you say would be more true for a lawyer in a large firm. But for solo and small firm lawyers, an integrated blog, done right, can be every bit as successful as a freestanding blog.

  • http://blog.technolawyer.com Neil Squillante

    I wish I had time to counter this post point by point but I don’t. Perhaps I will on our blog sometime soon.
    The location of your blog is one of the first questions to ask. And as Bob Ambrogi noted, it’s a valid question with pros and cons to both approaches. I tend to favor housing a blog on your existing site.
    The post glosses over the following advantages of using your existing site:
    1. Your blog will immediately benefit from your site’s existing link equity.
    2. Let’s say a blog post reels in a prospect from Google and he likes what he reads and wants to contact you. He’s right there on your site so he can easily figure out how to do so. If your blog is stands by itself somewhere, it’s not as fluid. Also, if going from your blog to your firm’s site is visually jarring it could scare away the prospect.
    3. A blog on your site provides a consistent brand experience and is actually less likely to confuse people. You eliminate having prospects wonder why you’re trying to hide your law firm’s involvement in the blog when they eventually connect the dots.
    4. When you place a blog on your site, Google Custom Search (just $100/year without ads) enables visitors to search your entire site — blog, lawyer bios, client memos, etc.
    5. A good designer can make your blog look like a professional publication regardless of its location. And besides, housing a blog about a certain area of law on the site of a law firm that specializes in that area of law adds to the credibility of the content in my opinion.
    More soon on this important issue.

  • http://www.cathygellis.com Cathy

    I tend to agree that the blog component should exist as a unit separate to the marcom component of the main website, but I’ve been reflecting lately about feeding some of the blog contents through windows on the main marcom site and feel that could be a good idea.

  • http://kmspace.blogspot.com Doug Cornelius

    Let me point out that the individual lawyer should NOT want their blog to be part of the firm’s website.
    Having recently left a big law firm, it was great to know that my blogs were coming with me.
    If the blogs had been part of the firm website, I likely would have lost the ability to take the blogs with me. I would have lost the individual identity and personal brand.

  • http://twitter.com/george_murphy George Murphy

    I agree with most of the points made. An off-site blog can be great for SEO (capturing page 1 for keywords that your web site doesn’t, link building, and more), but we also tell clients regularly: a blog is about you, and not the firm. It allows them to step out of the suit a bit and be marketed as a person, which is important from a marketing standpoint and allows them to relate to visitors and potential clients better than a web site with a traditional, law firm feel to it.
    But, a law firm with a non-CMS website that can’t add/update content regularly might benefit from an on-site blog because it’s easier to manage on the user-level.

  • http://www.WeProbateFlorida.com Long

    George hit it on the head.
    Let me also add… what if your blog IS your website?
    I don’t have a separate static “brochure” site – threw that out the window long ago. Just a standard wordpress set up that has contact information, etc.
    My research shows that Google does consider link juice that comes from the same DNS. So if I purchased webhosting from XYZ hosting company that allows multiple domains on my hosted space, the reciprocal or even one-way link juice won’t have as much effect.
    Of course Lexblog being a gigantic blogroll may be hosted on multiple servers and this may not be as much of an issue.
    2 cents poorer,
    Long

  • http://lawfirmblogger.com Amy Derby

    This is a great list, Kevin. I’m still learning, but I tend to agree with you. I sometimes have a hard time explaining the benefits to lawyers in a way that makes sense, especially when they have an SEO and or marketing staff (or consultants, whatever) telling them why I’m wrong. I’m adding this post to my list of resources to point folks to when that comes up. Thanks for putting this together.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Thanks for the comment Neil, I appreciate it. I’ll respond to your points as best I can.
    >>1. Your blog will immediately benefit from your site’s existing link equity.>2. Let’s say a blog post reels in a prospect from Google and he likes what he reads and wants to contact you. He’s right there on your site so he can easily figure out how to do so. If your blog is stands by itself somewhere, it’s not as fluid. Also, if going from your blog to your firm’s site is visually jarring it could scare away the prospect.>3. A blog on your site provides a consistent brand experience and is actually less likely to confuse people. You eliminate having prospects wonder why you’re trying to hide your law firm’s involvement in the blog when they eventually connect the dots.>4. When you place a blog on your site, Google Custom Search (just $100/year without ads) enables visitors to search your entire site — blog, lawyer bios, client memos, etc.>5. A good designer can make your blog look like a professional publication regardless of its location. And besides, housing a blog about a certain area of law on the site of a law firm that specializes in that area of law adds to the credibility of the content in my opinion.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Thanks for the comment Jon, good point here. My response is directed to everyone.
    >>>If a firm’s marketing website and the firm’s blog(s) are on separate domains, then any valuable link juice passing from an incoming link on an authoritative site will go to either the website or the blog, but not to both.

  • http://www.whdlaw.com/debspanicblog.aspx Deborah Spanic

    I have been working with my practice group (Tech Law) to start blogging and have struggled myself with the “personal vs. firm” blog approach.
    In my opinion Kevin, you miss the most important (and really the only) consideration a lawyer should have regarding hosting a blog personally or within a firm, and that is whether or not the lawyer anticipates wanting to take the blog along when they leave the firm.
    On the other hand, your one-sided post misses some of the real benefits that can come from having a firm-hosted blog, particularly for those lawyers who are new to blogging. Lawyers are notoriously techno-phobic and slow to pick up new technology – there may be some benefit to them using a tool they are familiar with in their firm web site’s content management system.
    Others here have also commented on the benefits of utilizing the inbound links coming from the firm site, and the SEO already generated by the firm’s domain. If your blog posts have individual permalinks, the ability for them to be picked up by Google are the same no matter what the high-level domain is. The “conversation” and the participation in the larger community also occurs regardless of the domain.
    However, the most important factor in my decision to go the firm-hosted route vs. personal blog is the ability to share the responsibility of posting with other attorneys in the practice group (something that for those of us who must bill and manage time effectively is critical!), as well as benefit from other attorneys’ expertise which dovetails with mine and in my opinion, makes for a richer and more beneficial blog. I argue, Kevin, that it is the CONTENT that is important, not the location of the URL.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Deborah, you’re missing the point I am making. I am saying whether it’s a firm publishing the blog or an individual lawyer publishing the blog, the blog should not be part of the law firm’s website.
    Look at the New Jersey Law Blog (njlawblog.com) published by Stark & Stark (stark-stark.com). There’s 40 or 50 lawyers posting to that blog published by the firm, or as you say, hosted by the firm. The blog is seperate from the firm’s website. The firm also has other topic centric blogs set up the same way.
    Responsibility for posting is no different on a blog published by the firm when the blog is inside a website or outside the website. We’ve got 100′s of firms managing their blogs and sharing responsibility for posting on blogs outside the firm website.
    AmLaw 200 firms are the most concerned about firm branding, content responsiility, and the like. I’d estimate 90% + of blogs published by those firms are blogs not inside firm websites. I can say that as we do so 78% and I am aware of a number of others not inside the firms’ websites.
    Surrounded by a support system for blogging, I have not found lawyers the least bit intimidated by blogging. They get totally turned on by the feedback they get from blogging, something I have not heard from publishing into a content management system on a firm website.
    What I’m hearing is let’s be concerned with safety, not innovation. Safety stymies learning about new things, things we don’t totally understand but are prepared to try. Safety is something that holds law firms back from acheiving extraordinary things.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    I’ll a hit a number of good points made here.
    >>A law firm with a non-CMS website that can’t add/update content regularly might benefit from an on-site blog because it’s easier to manage on the user-level.>Let me also add… what if your blog IS your website?

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Thanks for the comment Bob, your points are well taken. Here’s a snip of the comment I’m responding to so we’re all tracking.
    >>I have two blogs that are both integrated into my web site, in that they are sub-pages of my primary domain. Both do everything you say they shouldn’t — rank high in Google, achieve great SEO results, draw me into the broader conversation, attract media calls and speaking opportunities, and have social media success.

  • M. Sean Fosmire

    One variation on this theme is whether a professional organization should include weblogs within its site or maintain them separately and link as needed. Many of the considerations are similar, but some are different.

  • http://www.paperstreet.com Peter

    Whether to separate the blog and web site all depends on a variety of factors including: size of firm, whether its a firm blog or individual blog, the goal of the blog, the topic of the blog, the prior domain of firm site (or even if they have one), optimization of the blog, maintenance of the blog, and branding of the firm.
    Every firm is different and those above issues should be addressed before deciding on how to brand the blog and where to place it online.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Thanks for the comment Pete.
    Disagree. Size of firm, firm or individual, branding of the firm, maintenance of the blog, and the other factors are irrelevant in deciding the best way to go – and that’s having the blog outside the website.
    Every firm may be different, but I’m not going to advise them to invest their time and money that is not going to work well.

  • andrew

    call me a newbie, but if the blog is outside of the site how do people find it. or have I answered my own question by the very nature that I have found you?

  • David Schiffer

    David, Can you please pass this along to Larry? I would like to hear his thoughts on it. Thanks, Abbe

  • http://personal-injury-lawyerlosangeles.com/ Greg

    Kevin, Great advice for law firms. I do believe that blogs should be kept separate from websites. A marketing platform to a writing platform. I was looking for different law firms through google to spy on the competition and see what others are doing, and a lot of the sites on the 1st page are mostly blogs that look like a website. I think most people are realizing that it is easier to get a blog rated then a website. (more SEO tools, auto additions…) Thanks for the advice, I’m going to make sure others know too…

  • http://nextgenresults.com.au/ Search Engine Optimisation

    This is a fairly well written and well thought of list as to why a law blog doesn’t belong your law firm website. Basically, as how I’ve perceived it, your law blog is more personal where your thoughts and opinions are expressed about an idea where your law firm just may not agree on.

  • http://www.reinherzlaw.com/ Philadelphia Bankruptcy Lawyer

    My name is reinherz from PA. I am interested in your writing. Some of your posting are good, I can say, best. Can you please tell me how to subscribe to your blog post online?

  • http://juicingrecipesforhealth.blogspot.com/ Juicing Recipes

    The 10 reasons why a law blog should be independent from a law firm website do make sense and it should speak for many other type of corporate sites as well. For most that are online they already do this in practice and benefit from the separation.

  • http://www.rdpusa.com/ Chris

    As an executive coach,I both agree and disagree with this post. You have to step back and think about what you want the blog to do for you.
    If you are an individual working for a company, then you most definitely want to make sure you can take the blogs with you and an off site blog would be best.
    However, if you are an individual who only has a blog and no official website then having the blog connected to a home page to connect to you is not a bad thing.
    The main problem is people do things without knowing why they are doing them and that is a waste of time and money.

  • http://www.rdpusa.com/ Executive Coach

    I have to agree. Individual would definitely want to protect their blogs. They would want to make sure they could take their work with them everywhere they went. It makes sense to them. Otherwise, they are making money for the company.
    The only time this would not be a problem is if they are a partner in the law firm. Partners would not necessarily have this problem as they would want to build the firm. In that case, they would want to build the firm and still distance themselves from the work.
    Blogs give a good way to give advice without the legal ramifications of said advice. It also makes the public feel the firm cares about the public.