A talented marketing professional with a Midwest law firm dropped me an email this last week wanting to set up a time to talk about, among other things, increasing traffic from the firm’s blogs to the firm’s website.

Other than blatantly linking back to the firm’s website (with anchor text describing what a practice group or lawyer does), she also wants to discuss other ways to increase the search performance of the firm’s website through the use of their blogs.

We’ll talk this week. I hope she’s not disappointed when I ask why the firm would ever want to drive traffic from a lawyer’s blog to the firm’s website. Or why the search performance of the firm’s website would be a motivator for blogs.

I can think of 99 other ways to measure the success of a blog other than generating traffic to a website or a blog’s generating higher page rankings on Google. In fact, driving traffic to the website may be counter productive.

Websites and blogs are two entirely different creatures. One is a business development tool, while one is an advertisement. One is an engagement, networking, and relationship building tool, while the other is where you talk about yourself. One is used to generate more business by word of mouth, while one is used to generate business from an informercial ala a brochure.

Law firm administrators looking at the time a lawyer takes blogging want to measure the return on the investment. “Why are we having lawyers blog? Why are we paying LexBlog an annual subscription for their services?” With a blog being on the Internet, they can’t get their minds beyond anything the firm does on the Internet being other than to generate traffic to the firm’s website.

In the case of many law firms which have spent tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars on websites, let alone the expenditure in human resources, I can understand the frustration in not getting work from their website. But driving traffic from blogs to the website is not the answer to client development success on the Internet.

Look at a recent report sponsored by marketing solutions provider Alterian making clear that consumers do not trust advertising and companies talking about themselves.

  • 95% of respondents indicated that they did not trust advertising.
  • Less than a tenth (8%) trust what companies say about themselves.
  • More than half (58%) agreed with the statement “companies are only interested in selling products and services to me, not necessarily the product or service that is right for me.”
  • Only 17% of respondents believe companies take what they say seriously.

Contrast that with the 33% of those actively engaged in the use of social media who believe that ‘companies are genuinely interested them.’

Alterian CEO, David Eldridge, is spot in his comments.

It is no longer adequate to adopt a strategy of mass broadcast and one-way conversations. Brands should be trying to understand communities rather than focusing on siloed communication channels……Traditional marketing is dead. To know and communicate to individuals, to a specific individual, should be the strategic and tactical goal of all brands and organizations.

Driving traffic to a law firm website is driving traffic to a message your clients and prospective clients don’t trust. If your blog is engaging your clients, prospective clients, and their influencers (bloggers, reporters, association leaders, publishers), you ought to be leveraging the networking and relationship building potential of your blog.

Your law firm, if it’s like most firms, has always generated its work from word of mouth via networking, engaging people, and relationships. Your website is not about engagement and relationships. Why would you play to your weakness when it comes to business development?

A successful rainmaker for your firm who generates work by participation on local civic boards is not going to get the third degree on why her activity isn’t generating more traffic to the firm’s website. She’s not going to be told to tell corporate executives, civic leaders, and reporters she’s building relationships with to ‘click through’ to the firm’s website. She’s not going to feel threatened to generate website traffic or else her rainmaking activity will need to cease.

Please don’t check your common sense at the door when it comes to networking and business development on the Internet. Sure, you’re all consumed in your website because that’s all you know when it comes to the Internet and where you’ve spent so much time and money. But be open to the fact that your lawyers are blogging to build relationships and generate work the old fashioned way. A way that your clients and prospective clients trust.

Driving traffic to your law firm website shouldn’t be the motivation for a blog nor a measure of a blog’s success – anymore than the success of lawyer’s offline networking should be measured by the traffic they drive to the firm’s website.

Measure the success of your firm’s blog by the success your lawyers are having in building relationships with the target audience you strategically identified when you began blogging.

If your lawyers are not developing the desired relationships examine their approach to blogging and your strategy. Don’t fall back on driving traffic to your website.

  • Excellent post Kevin!
    Thank you!

  • Kevin, another wonderful post. I never considered the difference at this level between our firms site and our blogs.

  • Hi Kevin, a very thoughtful post indeed. The better question might be how to find ways to drive traffic from the firm’s website to the blogs of its attorneys in order to continue the introduction that might have been made via a visit to the website. To be able to then help the attorneys, their personalities, their thoughts and their approach come to life is what the business development and relationship-building process is all about.
    If there is information housed on a firm’s website that is invaluable in establishing credibility and expertise, then find ways to talk about, and link to, these areas of the website from attorney blogs, or even from other parts of the website, in order to help the client make the rounds to all spaces where the firm is represented.
    It’s also okay to have tabs on one’s blog that represent some of the information from the website, with enough information to teach potential clients and clients what they might need to know, but to link to more extensive information on the firm’s website.
    Focusing efforts on those spaces where relationships can be nurtured and developed is key.
    I agree with you that we should always be looking for ways to invite our potential clients to our attorneys’ blogs in order to learn as much as possible about what makes them different, or right for that particular client.
    Again, this post is very thoughtful and thought-provoking Kevin.

  • Very interesting post, indeed. I agree completely that blogs and websites serve two different purposes. I’ve always been in the camp of, “capture attention with great content.” My clients couldn’t care less where the inquiries come from, blog or website, as long as they come. I do track them however, and I see plenty of traffic back-and-forth between the two as people become intrigued with what they read in one place and look for more information.
    Yes, establishing a goal of driving more traffic to your website from your blog does seem a bit misdirected. If your blog is not educating, answering questions, and generating enough business on its own, your efforts might be better directed at creating better content than in driving away its visitors to a web presence that is often perceived by its audience as stuffy and stale.

  • I have just this issue with your post: that a firm’s web site is an advertisement. Web sites are not ads because ads are by definition Interruption Marketing. You see them while you’re trying to do something else. You see a magazine ad while thumbing thru. You see a TV ad because it comes on while you’re watching something.
    Nobody sees a web site while they’re doing something else. They’ll never see it unless and until they actually choose to go there. And they choose to go there for a reason… to find out something about your firm.
    So my question is, why aren’t the partners’ blogs on the firm website? Or at the very least, the firm site should link out to the partners’ blogs.
    I wrote more on the “websites are not ads” topic here: http://joecascio.net/joecblog/2009/11/25/a-business-website-is-not-advertising-its-customer-service/

  • Interesting article with some very valid points that lawyers should be aware of. Thanks for the input.

  • Kevin-
    As usual, well thought out post. A couple points for your readers’ consideration.
    RE: “increasing traffic from the firm’s blogs to the firm’s website”
    I generally agree with your assessment. I would add that instead of driving blogs visitors elsewhere (including the firm’s site), a better question might be how do I provide more ways for blog visitors to interact with our firm? A couple ideas: provide more methods of interaction with the firm through the blog (i.e. through questions posed in the posts themselves, calls to action, educational offerings, etc.).
    RE: “ways to increase the search performance of the firm’s website through the use of their blogs.”
    I think this question is fair. While neither the blog’s quality nor the firm’s professional reputation should ever be sacrificed for search performance, I think it would be a mistake not to at least consider ways in which a blog can lift other firm web properties.
    A reputable blog can provide benefits for the firm’s online visibility in other areas.
    While I absolutely agree with you that there are many “other ways to measure the success of a blog other than generating traffic to a website or a blog’s generating higher page rankings on Google”, I don’t think traffic and search position should be completely ignored.
    Not to be presumptuous, but based on the fact that LexBlog provides web analytics and employs search engine optimization strategies, I would venture to guess that you might agree that these components at least have some place in a law firm’s web strategy.
    As Steve Matthews so aptly commented, “It really is a question of balance.” http://bit.ly/a4fmWJ
    However, I completely agree with you that, driving traffic to a website shouldn’t be the motivation for a blog nor a measure of a blog’s success.
    I will be curious to hear the outcome of your conversation.

  • Kevin — as always, a great post and advice for law firms. I’ve always positioned blogs as part thought leadership, part client development. But, this post makes me want to rethink my approach.

  • If your point is that blogs shouldn’t be measured by the traffic they drive to a website, fair enough, assuming that isn’t the goal of the blog. A blog’s success should be measured by the goals you set for it, and perhaps the deeper point of your post is that too many people never put that thought time in.
    The problem with “building a relationship” in PI is that you’re either talking to potential clients–who are currently injured and will decide on a lawyer in a very short term–or you’re talking to a community (whether of lawyers, the public, potential referrers, etc.). If the former, well, you really are trying to capture their interest in order to capture their business. If your blog provides them with information they find useful, their going to your website is certainly a goal fulfilled, because they want to learn more about you. And your website’s SEO is probably important, too.
    If you’re blogging to the latter audience, great! The firm should see it, and judge the value, accordingly. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only viable goal for blogging.

  • While I’d agree with you in some senses Kevin, I think the whole argument turns on your definition of a blog and of a website.
    You define a website as an advertisement. Yet, if David Eldridge is right and traditional 1-way advertising is dead, then the big issue is not whether you should drive traffic from your blog to your website, it’s why on earth you have a website in the first place?
    The trouble is that we have adopted these fixed definitions of what a website and a blog are – whereas we should be thinking more in terms of what our clients/visitors are actually looking for.
    There are many models of how people use the web – but it’s probably easiest to think of people who come to law firm websites/blogs as searching for one of two things.
    Some people are searching for information: solutions to problems, ideas, insights.
    Others are searching for a firm/lawyer to help them.
    Roughly speaking the first set are early on in their buying process. The second set are later on – closer to their buying decision.
    Now in your model, it’s the blog that meets the first need, the website that meets the second.
    But thinking functionally, what we really have is that law firms need something which meets the searchers need to find a law firm to help them. And (optionally) something to meet the needs of those those searchers looking for useful information before they move on to thinkign about hiring a firm (if they ever get that far).
    To meet the first need, you need information about what you do, the clients you serve, how you work, etc. That’s what websites traditionally have on them.
    But doesn’t it also help a searcher select a law firm if they can see useful articles or videos showcasing and proving the firm’s expertise? Or things that help them get a sense of who the people in the firm are and what they’d be like to work with?
    These are things traditionally to be found on a blog.
    And for people searching for information – yes, right now they don’t need help from a lawyer. But maybe a month or so down the line they will be looking for help. So a barrier between the blog and the website don’t help them.
    Because I write my own blog for potential clients, I see the difference betwene my blog and my website as being much more blurred. It’s less that they are different things as you describe – more that they meet the needs of potential clients for different types of information which they usually need at different times in their buying process. Information about problems and solutions early on. Information about me and my services later on.
    In fact for me the difference is so blurred I abandoned my “traditional website” and now do everything through my blog.
    Potential clients searching for information are far more numerous – so my site is focused around the blog. But it also has pages showcasing my services so they can check those out if/when they move beyond their initial quest for information.

  • I find your views insightful, but I also don’t see why driving business has to be an either/or proposition. There are ways to provide links or other paths to a firm’s website without doing it in a hard-sell fashion. For example, a blog can contain links to the firm’s website in an unobtrusive box on the side, and the blog postings can make references to situations the firm has handled. People reading the blog who are curious about specific information on the firm, such as how many lawyers it has who handle that particular type of legal work, can then click on those unobtrusive links they may have noticed before.
    Your concern about advertising material being distrusted by consumers is a very valid concern. Yet lawyer websites in most states typically don’t contain the type of over-the-top claims that make consumers distrustful. Bar rules prohibit many of the subjective types of claims that are standard in other business advertisements like self-laudatory statements about performance. Due to the more subdued nature of most law firm websites, I think they are likely to have more credibility with consumers.

  • Yeah, I do believe on this “One is a business development tool, while one is an advertisement.” Thanks for your great help because I just understand why blogs ought not drive traffic to your law firm’s website. Just keep on posting more info.