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Legal News v blogs - Which is best for solicitors web sites? (First published in the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers)

Click here to see the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers.

Whether you do this via a news section or a blog depends on your communications strategy, internal resources and commitment of the team.

A news item or a blog is simply a page of content on the internet which can help market the firm through:

  • raising the profile of you and your expertise;
  • making you easier to find by potential clients, media etc; and
  • generating links and boosting traffic to your web site.

A blog differs from the traditional news page in a number of ways:

  • Purpose - "blog" is short for "web log" and should be more like a diary in that it follows developments in an area of law or business - it is therefore most suitable for areas of law where there are frequent changes which merit comment and discussion.
  • Frequency - a blog requires more frequent contributions than a news section so, before starting, consider whether you or your team will be able to commit to adding content often.
  • Style - generally the written style of a blog is informal and opinionated.  Lawyers are not always comfortable writing in this way. Where opinions may be controversial, a personal blog is a good way of distancing a fee-earner's views from the "official message" on the firm web site.  The statement “views are my own” is becoming more common (VAMO on Twitter).
  • Open - a blog is conversational and should invite comment.  The author needs to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth as not all responses will be in agreement.  In addition this requires resource to monitor comments to ensure inappropriate material is not added.  Another risk is that you could attract a blimpet “blog-limpet” - someone who routinely waits until you have done the hard work and simply adds a few lines of comment beneath your well-crafted piece and thereby gaining easy publicity by association.
  • Standalone - if your blog is not an integral part of your main web site, then any links into your main site will be valuable in terms of boosting its credibility to Google (see "recognition" below).
  • Original – legal content needs to be unique and not the same as might be found on any other lawyer's website such as when received via an RSS feed.

Blogs certainly seem trendier than news pages, but we have found that search engines like news pages just as much, provided they have sufficient high quality content.

Whether you decide to write a news item or a blog post, you can maximise its impact by making sure it is attractive to search engines through developing your writing style.

Search engines look at your site and assess the quality of the content by looking at the 3R’s:

  • Recency - the newest page ranks higher than older pages;
  • Relevance - the incidence of words searched for within the text;
  • Recognition - the number of links to that page, an indication that third parties rate the content.

Recency

Whether you are contributing news articles or blog posts, the key issue is to ensure that you do so regularly. 

Aim to add a news item least once or twice per month and a blog needs attention weekly.

This is true for all web pages - so make a diary note to review your departmental web page and your own profile regularly (we suggest at least once per quarter) and simply add a recent example of your work or a link to a news item.

Relevance

Remember that the pages are being assessed by a computer who is simply comparing the words which have been searched for on one page with another.

Before you start writing, consider - what service are you seeking to promote and ensure that these words are used sufficiently in the text (although not too much as Google penalises if it sees over-seeding).

For example, compare:

Pharmacy law experts at XYZ Solicitors in Staffordshire advise owners of pharmacy businesses to sell their company before Christmas to ensure the most effective tax planning.

With

New tax laws introduced in the Budget by George Osborne provide an opportunity to reduce corporation tax for business owners in the pharmacy sector, according to XYZ Solicitors.

Which is most likely to ensure that XYZ Firm is found via Google by a pharmacy owner?

Recognition

Google sees external links as a "vote of confidence" in the content.  With blogs, a key advantage is that you can drive links between your blog and your main web site.  

With news items, consider whether you can include links to service pages which you are trying to promote within your own web site.  The first example above would include links to:

  • Pharmacy page
  • Selling a company page
  • Tax planning page.

Whilst these links are not weighted quite as much as external links, they do however have value.

Most valuable are links from third party web sites, such as Venables.co.uk or a media web site where you may be able to get your article published first.

The good news about writing for the internet is that news and blog pieces do not need to be terribly long – short and succinct often works just as well.

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