I was recently asked by a marketing director in a large firm for ideas on how one of their practice groups could increase the visibility of their blog. The lawyers in the group wanted to take their blog to the next level.

I have a number of ideas, but fortunately for me (and the lawyers), Jacquelyn Smith (@JacquelynVSmith), Careers Editor at Business Insider, offers “14 Ways to Get Your Blog Real Attention” in an excellent piece at Forbes.

Each of the ways discussed are applicable to law blogs. Here are the fourteen with my commentary.

1. Determine the purpose of your blog and stick with it.

Stay on topic and be relevant. Don’t just summarize legal developments, offer insight and commentary of value which your audience could not find elsewhere. Remain aware that you started a blog to build relationships and word of mouth with a target audience so as to grow business. The goal was not traffic and visibility.

2. Don’t be boring.

“Write with personality. Be interesting. Incite controversy. Start a debate.” Lawyers need not stick a thumb in someone’s eye, but a real and authentic voice expressing passion, a sense of humor, and personality is required.

3. Be relevant.

Get into the conversation in real time. When legal developments are breaking and other bloggers and reporters are discussing matters, you need to jump in then. A week or even a day later won’t work.

4. Post regularly.

“Writing a successful blog requires a significant and sustained effort, and the trick is to be consistent, whether that means blogging 10 times a day, three times a week or once a month.” Find your pace as a lawyer or a group and stick with it. If you’re doing the other things here, you’ll receive all the positive feedback needed to sustain the effort.

5. Mix it up.

Rather than sticking with the same format, try new things off and on. Guest posts from community leaders, in-house-counsel, and industry thought leaders are a good change of pace as well as relationship builders. A four question interview by email with similar people is easy for you and the person being interviewed. A “Throw Back Thursday” pulling out some old, but still valuable blog content, works. You get the idea, have some fun.

6. Follow the “Goldilocks” rule.

“Great content isn’t too short or too long; it’s just right…” Keep your titles short (70 characters or less). They’ll fit in Google search results titles and on Twitter as well as be self-descriptive. Read your posts over and out load. Delete anything that sounds boring or that’s not needed. Take a few extra minutes to write a short post. By inserting a block-quote or two from a third party source and adding a few paragraphs with your insight you create a nice post — at 420 words.

7. Encourage your readers to subscribe by RSS Feed.

RSS delivers regularly changing web content like that from a blog. Once a reader subscribes to your blog’s RSS feed, they can read it on their feed reader along with other selected content from blogs and news sites. If you’re not using RSS and a RSS reader, you’ll not be able to stay abreast of developments and thought leaders, something critical for joining the conversation and gaining attention as a blogger. Using a RSS reader will enable you to easily follow the best bloggers for substance and learning how to blog better.

8. Post on weekdays, when there are more readers.

Your readers will not be online as much on the weekends. Many a good law blogger drafts blog posts on the weekend and then publishes them the next week.

9. Leverage social media.

Social media moves the news today. It’s no different for law blogs. Build social media equity by sharing others’ blog posts and articles on social media. Then feel comfortable sharing your posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. Rather than auto-feed post titles to social media, lead with an intro appropriate to the respective medium.

10. Make sure your content is SEO friendly.

What is your post about? Lead with the subject in the title. You are indexing content for Google just as you would index items in a card catalogue file. Link liberally to other bloggers and news sites. Google will see you giving more than you are taking – so will others. You will start getting links from other blogs and news sites and be viewed as more influential by Google. Use social media effectively, not as a broadcast tool, to get people sharing your posts on social.

11. Always be measuring.

“Know the variables in your blogging mix: post topic, format, timing, length, author, etc.” What is your audience most interested in? Who and what is referring traffic to your blog? What social media seems to work best. Try new things so you have more to measure. Do not start looking at web traffic and subscribers as a sign of success. Engaging the right people – your target is much more important.

12. Make your blog visually interesting.

Poor blog design is almost as big a turnoff as poor content. Dress for success by having a nice blog design. Use interesting pictures and visuals in your posts. Images draw people to your posts, especially on news readers (Flipboard and Feedly) and in social media. Visual is huge on mobile devices. Think about what catches your eye. Just because it’s a law blog is no excuse for being boring visually.

13. Be part of the conversation.

Comment on blogs of others in your industry and news sites that cover relevant matters. You and your blog will get seen at places that already have a larger audience than you. Draw people into your blog by referencing them and their blogs or news articles – even lawyers that compete against you. Blogging, by definition, is a conversation where bloggers reference what each other say to advance ideas and grow influence. You need to get to that busy intersection of discussion to get seen.

14. Speak your audience’s language.

Lawyers start the blogging process by typing words that sound more like an alert, newsletter, legal memo, or article. You will benefit more from talking as if you are in a conversation – both as to search engines and in engaging the people you need to. Relax, be yourself and talk as if just one person was listening.

The most frustrating part of publishing a law blog is drawing no attention to you and your blog. Following “Smith’s fourteen” will get you the break through you are looking for.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Theen Moy

  • Thanks for the great reminders Kevin. One question on #7. If readers subscribe by RSS, how do you get their email address and permission to communicate with them outside the comments section of the blog? I use RSS feeds extensively to read blogs, but find on many days I only look at a relatively few favorite blogs. For those blogs that I can’t subscribe by RSS, but still want to see, I find that I do at least briefly scan the emails I receive. Thanks again for all the great work you do.

    • Great question Greg, and thanks for the kind words. When I started LexBlog over 10 years ago I was scared that law firms would not want to rely on RSS subscribers to their blog and would want to get people’s email addresses. But lawyers and law firms came to understand that there were going to be far more people interested in what they had to say than they would ever know.

      That’s okay, we live in a permission based market – people give you the permission to talk with them. You don’t get to email people just because they subscribe to your blog – if they want an email, other than an update from a blog, they’ll email you.

      Good blogs give people the option – RSS or email. We do that for all of our LXBN Network blogs. Getting your audience to use RSS may be tough to do, but it would bbe nice. They’d be more apt to see your stuff and it would be in environments (likely mobile apps) from which they could easily share your posts on social media.

      • Thanks for quick reply. I agree choice is good for readers and broader distribution possibilities are good for bloggers. It is hard for me to understand why everyone doesn’t use an RSS reader to get blogs. I can’t imagine wanting to subscribe to more than a few if I had to get individual email alerts.

  • Thanks for the good list Kevin. I’ll admit I’m guilty of not always having a regular post schedule. It’s something I’ve tried commit to, however, in recent weeks.

    One thing I would add to #11 (always be measuring) is to semi-regularly look at one’s traffic reports for the last 90 days or so and determine what the most popular posts have been. In my experience a smaller number of one’s posts will have a larger proportion of the traffic – which is a good indicator of what people are interested in. Additional posts can then be written on the topic to provide additional information to readers. When you say to engage with one’s readers, I believe that this is a great way of determining what readers are asking for on one’s blog.

    I typically measure which posts have been the most popular through the use of “landing pages” in Google Analytics. Seeing what page people are entering the site on is a great indicator of what search they performed when they found the site and then looking at the bounce rate for the those entry pages helps to know which pages are getting more engagement.

    Thanks again for the good article.

    • Agreed, looking at what people are attracted to can be very helpful. I know of one criminal defense lawyer on our network who noticed that a certain type of search and seizure was drawing more traffic. In writing more about it, he generated more work.