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Tips to get more out of your law blog

November 19, 2004

The TechnoLawyer Newsletter today published a post by Rick Klau, VP of Business Development for Socialtext, lawyer, publisher of a great weblog and co-author of The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet, about how lawyers can get the most out of publishing their blog. Turns out Rick has had the article posted on his blog for some time and was kind enough to allow me to republish it for you.

Like Rick says in his post, some of his advice presumes a fair level of technical ability on your part. If his advice sounds like it’s over your head, then get a tech person to help you out. Rick’s own experience suggests that if you implement these approaches, you will see your visibility, traffic and Google PageRank go up (potentially significantly).

I do not agree with each and every point Rick makes but his advice is very sound, and who is to say who is right on everything. So read on and understand that “I” refers to Rick, and not yours truly.

Publish posts individually

Some blogs give you the option of publishing multiple posts per page (Radio, for example, defaults to publishing posts by day, so multiple posts on the same day show up on the same day’s page. Moveable Type offers this as an option.)

Publishing posts individually will give you more pages on your site, will make it easier to link to your posts, and will increase your page views. Google’s PageRank is influenced by the number of pages on your site, so it makes sense that the more pages on your site, the more likely that your site can see an increased PageRank. (The higher your PageRank, the more likely you are to show up high in Google search results.)

Create a naming convention for your individual pages

It’s strange to me that Movable Type uses incremental numbers as its default file-naming convention. Who could possibly look at and understand what it points to. I implemented Mark Pilgrim’s cruft-free URLs suggestions, which publishes each post to a file that uses the words from the post title (so this post is published at /archives/2004/07/09/get_more_out_of_your_blog.php).

More than anything else, creating a naming convention that’s predictable will make transitioning to another weblog application painless. (Blogger has no way of knowing Movable Type’s numbering convention, but Blogger can understand publishing to a /year/month/day/name convention.) As a result, when you convert to a new weblog platform, your transition will be seamless to your visitors. (I’m on my third weblog application.)

Use words in your page name

Google gives more weight to words in a page name than words on a page. If someone searches Google for ‘get more out of your blog’, the fact that this post is published to a file named ‘get_more_out_of_your_blog’ will increase the likelihood that Google will point to my post.

Reading Mark Pilgrim’s ‘cruft-free URLs’ above will tell you how to do this in Movable Type; other systems (like TypePad and Blogger) do this by default. Not only does the increased visibility to Google help increase your site’s traffic, it will make post-publication editing much easier. (Have you ever stared at a directory with 1000 files in it and tried to figure out which file you wanted? ‘Hmm, is it 004257.html or 004258.html? No wait. Maybe it was 004527.html.’)

Include comments and trackbacks on your posts. With all due respect to Dennis Kennedy, I disagree that the answer to comment spam is to turn them off. Letting people comment on my site increases the likelihood that they’ll stop by from time to time. (Not all of my readers have blogs — by a long shot, so just telling them to write their comments on their own blogs is not a good answer.) Not only does this increase your traffic, but you also share your own visibility with those who take time out to write. This is good karma, and it’s part of how the blogosphere should work.

Publish full RSS feeds of your site

Nothing frustrates me more than a blog that doesn’t give me a full feed. I?m not as vigilant as Scoble on this point, but I?m getting there.

My reasons for full RSS feeds differ a bit than Scoble’s: while I’m mildly annoyed when I can’t read the entire post in my aggregator, I?m more annoyed by the information lost in an excerpt. I can’t see who you’re linking to, I can’t see any relationships between posts among various RSS feeds. (For more on this, read my post on Threaded RSS and how full-text feeds dramatically increase my ability to see conversations among and across blogs.) For those who are worried about the need for RSS measurement (Jeff Jarvis has long posted on this requirement), then start using FeedBurner and you’ll get everything you need.

Implementing these tips will yield some tangible results: your Google PageRank will increase, which will increase the amount of traffic to your site from Google. Overall readership will increase, as more people will subscribe to your feeds and services like Feedster and Technorati will index your content and send readers to you.

Thanks Rick for allowing me to publish your post and keep up the great work.

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