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What’s next for the law firm blog?

Blogs and websites will join forces and become more powerful 9 comments

Have you ever stopped to think why law firm blogs reside apart from the firm’s website? I have. And frankly, I can’t find a single compelling reason.

A law firm’s primary marketing tool is its website. Yet a firm’s best thought-leadership content is often located off-site – on its blogs. And those blogs reside on different servers than the website, use a separate database, employ different looks, and use different user-tracking tools. In short, their blogs are entirely disconnected from their website.

This setup makes no sense.

The integrated blog

Seeing an opportunity to correct this problem, my agency recently created a blog module that is fully integrated with the websites we build. You might be asking yourself: Why did a company that builds large websites decide to get into the business of creating little blogs? The answer: Because it makes our clients’ websites better.

One of the biggest barriers to creating a business-generating website is the scarcity of compelling thought-leadership content. An “integrated blog” solves this problem, by giving the website access to blog content (and vice versa). And in the process, it makes both the blog and the website more effective in developing business.

How it works

So, what exactly is an integrated blog? It’s a blog that’s built on the same database and CMS as your website, creating a combination that delivers tremendous value. For example:

  • Better Site Search – When the firm’s website shares the same database as its blogs, site-search becomes a much more powerful tool. For example, with an integrated blog, if a user were to search “Dodd-Frank” on a firm’s website, the results would include all of the relevant blog posts alongside other relevant website content like attorney bios, practice areas and firm news.

  • More-Powerful Attorney Bios – Attorney bios are by far the most trafficked part of a law firm website. And they typically contain lots of great, reputation-enhancing material, like articles and case studies. However, for technical reasons, bios almost never include blog posts. This is a serious omission because blog posts are generally an attorney’s best thought-leadership content.

    The integrated blog solves this problem. Visitors can read the full text of all of an attorney’s blog posts without leaving their bio. Integrated blogs even allow users to post a blog comment (and read others’ comments) without clicking away from an attorney’s bio.

  • Better User Tracking – Increasingly, law firm websites are coming equipped with powerful visitor-tracking tools that provide highly detailed, actionable data (including the visitor’s name). An integrated blog can combine the visitor-tracking data from all of your online properties into a single, seamless report. This means that you’ll get a 360-degree view of your marketing without having to reconcile analytics from your website and multiple blogs.

  • More Effective Content-Teasing – The newest law firm websites maximize user engagement by dangling additional content that would interest visitors. Large content sites like NYTimes.com have similar “suggested content” functionality.

    Integrated blogs make content-teasing much more powerful because there’s lots more content to tease when you combine website and blogs. For example, a case study (on your website) about your FDA regulatory work could automatically tease to a blog post about the same topic. And that blog post could automatically tease to a webinar (on your website) about FDA regulations. This type of traffic sharing would be impossible without a fully integrated blog.

  • Easier Maintenance – Your marketing team can have a single CMS login for managing all of the firm’s web properties (its many blogs and the firm website). Also, blog-only access can be set up for attorneys who administer their own blogs.

Frequent Objections

The integrated blog is a new idea. And, as with all new ideas, some smart people are initially resistant to it. I figure it will just take a little time for conventional wisdom to come around to the idea of integrated blogs.

That said, the naysayers tend to voice the same few concerns. I’ve listed them below (along with my reassurance that they are non-issues).

  • Won’t it hurt my Google Rankings?
    Absolutely not. If you have an existing blog, its Google Page Rank can be easily preserved if you convert it to an integrated blog. And for new blogs, your Google rankings might even improve because an integrated blog can inherit the Google Page Rank of the firm’s greater website.

  • My blog needs its own domain name. Can an integrated blog have a separate domain from the website?
    Yes. An integrated blog can be set up with one of three domain configurations, depending on your preferences. Each has different merits in terms of usability and Search Engine Optimization.
    • Separate domain: waterblog.com
    • Subdomain: waterblog.yourfirm.com
    • Subdirectory: yourfirm.com/waterblog
    • Isn’t a stand-alone blog more credible?
      Some people believe that a stand-alone blog has more “credibility” than one that feels like it’s part of the firm’s website. Personally, I’m very skeptical of this point. However, it’s irrelevant. Firms can choose the degree to which their integrated blogs appear to be part of the website.

      If a firm prefers its blogs to appear independent of its website, each blog can have a very different look. However, most firms will want their blogs to share a similar look and navigational scheme as their website because it will result in increased user engagement. Users are simply more comfortable jumping from website to blog when both sites share a basic look and format.

      Regardless of whether your integrated blog has a wholly different look from your firm’s website, integrated blogs will share the same database as the website – and the shared database is what enables most of the benefits of an integrated blog.

    What do you think?

    Frankly, I’m absolutely convinced that integrated blogs will soon become a standard feature on law firm websites. As firms try to make their websites into true business-development platforms, it only makes sense that they will want to harness their best content by integrating their blogs.

    What do you think? Am I missing something? Please post a comment with your thoughts.

    Comments

    9 comments... read them below or add one.
    1. Jessica Lim says:

      100% agree. I’ve tried to understand the benefit of external, but just don’t get it.

    2. vickie gray says:

      Integrating blogs with websites opens up a big can of worms with some of the lawyer advertising rules. The engagement features of a blog create issues of client confidentiality, etc. This varies state by state but in general I don’t foresee this becoming a trend with larger law firms any time soon.

    3. Mike Bond says:

      I agree but in general I don’t foresee this becoming a trend with larger law firms any time soon. Thanks

    4. James Bliwas says:

      You make an excellent point.

      I’ve talked clients out of keeping their blog separate from the website for a long time. Content marketing is a key marketing tool for law and other professional service firms and why they would want to make it difficult for a visitor who takes the time to read a post to then go check out the lawyer’s bio, or practice area, is beyond me.

      When websites were built on Flash and similar platforms that require a deep understanding of HTML programming to update, perhaps having the blog on a simpler platform made sense. But any law firm that hasn’t redone its website for a while and is still using awkward, cumbersome platforms rather than something like WordPress, has a bigger issue to fix than simply connecting the blog and website.

      The issue you write about is just one reason why many law firm blogs go largely unread, as was the case in the “old days” of printed and mailed newsletters. Ironically, I’m working on a post now about why law blogs don’t get read and having the feature disconnected from the website may be part of the problem.

    5. Amy Spach says:

      Easy-to-understand ideas on uniting two key content work horses, #BetterTogether

    6. Sangeet Kaur says:

      This makes a lot of sense. For law firm websites that lack good and regular fresh content, this could be a solution. Of course disclaimers can always still be put in…that the blogs do not reflect the views of the firm but of the author etc if this is a concern.

    7. Randall Goble says:

      You’re right. It makes no sense to separate them. Blogs are a great opportunity to show thought leadership and personality, which are sorely lacking in most law firm websites.

    8. Robert Hegwood says:

      Well totally agreed with the article. Due to increased competition online marketing of the law firms in London website has never been so effective without using blogs for it. Definitely marketing strategies keep changing with time.

    9. Lisan monsi says:

      Of course I agree with you, regular fresh content and Easy understanding is needed, this process can make both the blog and the website more effective in developing business.

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