Law blogs outside websites

While some law firm website developers are advising law firms to bury law blogs inside a law firm website, a just released ABA book on strategic online publishing for law firms advises just the opposite. Law blogs should be located off websites on a separate domain to build influence, achieve better seach engine performance (SEO) and generate business.

In fact, the authors, Steve Mathews (@stevematthews) and Jordan Furlong (@jordan_law21), both veteran and widely respected legal publishers and business development professionals, are seeing a growing trend by law firms to move blog publications off their websites.

Their new book, “Creating an Online Publishing Strategy for Law Firms,” provides lawyers and law firms with all they need to know about turning their firm’s content marketing (e.g. writing, newsletters, and blogging) into a coherent, effective and strategic online publishing campaign.

Key for Matthews And Furlong was to provide a step-by-step guide offering advice and ideas for building and maintaining an effective online publishing strategy that can communicate a lawyer’s and law firm’s expertise and enhance their profile with target clientele. In addition to large law firms, their book is useful for small and midsize law firms, from at least 10 lawyers up to as many as 100.

Topics include:

  • Designing a strategy to guide publishing efforts and integrate them with business development and branding plans
  • Choosing the best platforms for content, including blogs, newsletters and more
  • Distributing content through a variety of channels, from magazines and other old media to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other new media
  • Creating a publishing culture within a firm that motivates participation and contributions to the publishing strategy
  • Measuring the effectiveness of a firm’s publishing efforts, including the best metrics and tools to gauge the return on your investments

Blogs are the easiest, most effective, and most accessible form of legal publishing, per the authors.  But publishing content is not enough, “distributed publishing” is needed for a lawyer or law firm industry group to create a dominate market presence and generate business.

Law firms are moving their blog publishing away from their websites to create this market dominance and generate business.

Firms that originally tended to keep all their public content within the strict boundaries of their website gradually became more willing to locate that content beyond the website, isolating content for each target market on a web platform affiliated with the firm in some way (e.g., blogs, microsites, etc.).

Over the past several years, social media have been offering firms the opportunity to share that content even farther, outside of their own website and related platforms altogether. From our perspective, these two trends — locating content beyond the website, and circulating content throughout the internet — form the backbone of a strategic approach to both content creation and circulation that we call “distributed publishing.”

The authors do a nice job of explaining the logic of this strategy.

Distributed publishing involves a “hub-and-spokes” model of content delivery. Think of your law firm website as the central hub, the headquarters of your firm’s internet presence and its most valuable assets (home page, lawyer biographies, and practice descriptions). Now move out from that hub to an “inner ring” of spokes representing the firm’s complementary content platforms (blogs, microsites, etc.). This hub and this inner ring constitute most… of your firm’s content production.

Now move out farther again, and you’ll encounter a huge “outer ring” of spokes of third-party content production and distribution engines: a diverse assortment of trade periodicals, online news services, and most importantly, social media networks. These entities will distribute your content to a much wider audience than your own firm-affiliated web products could manage.

The three component parts of this “distributed publishing” ecosystem — your website home base (hub), your satellite firm-owned content destinations (first ring of spokes), and the vast array of content production and distribution networks (second ring of spokes) — all work together to establish the powerful, diverse, interlinked network of your firm’s online presence.

Blogs away from websites are more influential to clients and prospective clients.

Firms need this diverse presence in order to impress an increasingly sophisticated client market. When people need the services of a lawyer and conduct an online search, among the most important factors they consider is information about the lawyer located elsewhere than the lawyer’s website. Potential clients are likelier to be impressed by a lawyer with a website biography, a LinkedIn profile, blog contributions, a Twitter feed, shared presentation slides, third-party publications, and relevant legal industry tweets, than with a lawyer who has just a website biography alone. Law firms with farther-reaching and higher-quality online “footprints” generated by these multiple presences also tend to score more highly in search engine results.

The authors provide a diagram of the “spoke-and-hub” to strategic law firm publishing where you’ll see blogs at the first ring out from a firm’s website.

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Matthews and Furlong know their stuff. I have know each of them for a long time, have the utmost respect for them and find them not only on top of their game, but also very giving of their time to the industry through their own publishing, speaking and social media activity.

Mathews, president and founder of Stem Legal Web Enterprises, a web development, publishing and strategy company for the legal profession has been working within the online legal environment for almost 20 years (including 12 years inside law firms). He’s conceived, managed, coded and marketed law firm websites, blogs, intranets, portals and extranets. Of partcular note for those claiming blogs inside websites are better for search engine performance, Mathews is recognized as one of the leading authorities on search engine optimization (SEO) strategies for lawyers and law firms.

Furlong is a lawyer, consultant and legal industry leader, who previously served as the editor of National, the publication of record for the Canadian Bar Association (equivalent of ABA Journal). As a senior consultant with legal web development company Stem Legal Web Enterprises, he advises lawyers and law firms on content marketing and consults regarding the establishment and execution of publishing strategies. He’s also widely respected on the business of law in the future.

I don’t say this to impress you with Fuhrlong and Matthews, but to impress upon you that these guys have been publishing online and blogging for a long time. They are not website developers who have come to content marketing and blogging later on — out of necessity, not because they personally blogged to build a name and relationships for business development.

Pick up the book, it’s short and easy read. If you’re in doubt of the merits of blogging strategically and think the book costs too much, let me know. I’ll buy you a copy.