We’ll often have clients requesting a feature that’s outside the scope of what I’d call ‘blog standard.’ The most recent of which was to format blog titles with line breaks and special header treatment.

It’s understandable for LexBlog to receive such requests. First, Law firms have long been publishing on the net in what the legal industry labels data base driven content management solutions. The goal being to reproduce online the articles law firms have produced in print for decades. The vast majority of such law firms articles are published on law firm websites.

Second, lawyers, who are not often well versed in the intricacies of blog publishing, often drive requests. Lawyers, usually dependent on their stature in the firm, can be pretty demanding. As a lawyer, I’ll confess to it as well.

Articles published on websites can generally be formatted any way the law firm marketing department or lawyers want. The articles aren’t being syndicated anywhere else beyond the law firm’s website, third party websites which have agreed to republish an article, or a PDF.

Law blogs are different. Blog content is syndicated to other places in a standardized format. RSS, or real simple syndication, is the world wide recognized format for syndicating blog content.

The title of a blog post is one element, among others, that is included in this world wide recognized format. A title with line breaks or other non blog standard format puts at risk proper syndication.

Where is law blog content syndicated to?

  • Newsreaders being used by 11% of our population, including the influencers of your clients, prospective clients, and referral sources.
  • Third party online publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the LexMonitor.
  • Google Blog Search, LexMonitor, Justia Blawg Search, and other blog aggregators from which people (75% of reporters) subscribe to feeds of keyword searches to monitor content of interest without even knowing the source.
  • Third party directories/legal communities such as LinkedIn and Legal OnRamp.
  • Law firm website news, bio, and industry/practice area pages.

So reformatting the title of blog posts in your law blog to include line breaks or other unique (non ‘blog standard’) formatting is highly inadvisable. First, you put at risk getting your content syndicated to other places, one of the biggest reasons blogs have become so popular in the legal industry.

Second, you risk appearing to those familiar with blogs like you don’t know what you’re doing. That group includes reporters, savvy clients, other bloggers who would subscribe to your blog and share its content, conference coordinators, and publishers to name some. When one of the reasons you are publishing a blog is to further enhance your reputation as a trusted and reliable authority, you don’t want to blow it by showing the world you don’t know what you are doing.

Third, and not mentioned before, is the effect line breaks in titles would have in the title tag of a blog post. A title tag defines a page title for each page on a blog or website on the Internet.

Search engines, Google being the most important, pay particular attention to the words used in the title tag. In the case of a blog, Google stores (indexes) on Google’s servers each blog post under the title given a blog post in a title tag. Google also displays in bold and a link the text from a title tag in Google’s search results.

The industry standard for law blogs is to use the title of a post in the title tag. So putting line breaks in blog titles is going to put at risk getting your content properly indexed at Google and readily displayed when Google users perform searches.

Keep it simple when it comes to blogs. Follow the industry standard so your blog content is properly distributed whether in search engines or in syndication and so you avoid the embarrassment of appearing that you are not familiar with the proper protocols of blog publishing.