How Do You Get Lawyers To Blog?

Reddit user KatissimusDorsi wrote to the /r/SEO subreddit asking for advice about how to get lawyers at one of his client’s firms to blog about their expertise.

Here’s what he (although it could be a ‘she!’) said:

We have a long-standing client who recently started paying for us to do monthly SEO maintenance on their site. They’re a law firm in a fairly specific niche. The website has the basics – profiles of all the attorneys, history of the firm, services they provide, contact info, a small resources section.

It’s common to hear lawyers complain about being bugged by their boss to update their website. From the perspective of the lawyers at the firm, it’s an added hassle that they’re not being paid any extra for. Most lawyers have little interest in writing for the public, and find it an arduous task.

The request for help closed like this:

I’ve mentioned repeatedly that doing just even a tad bit of social media / blogging would be helpful, but that’s not really something they want to do – which I understand considering they’re overworked attorneys.

We can’t really write the content for them as they are a super-specialized industry. The best we can do is write a small news announcement when they participate in an event (2-3 times per year) or win an award (1-2 times per year) and get some external links from that.

I feel like I should be able to do something more for them, but their few competitors in the area are beating them handily in rankings due to their active blogs / social media presence.

I’m fairly new to SEO, so I want to make sure I’m not missing something else I could be doing. Any advice?

This is a common problem not just with lawyers, but with most companies. The knowledge that’s compelling to potential customers is locked up within the heads of the employees. And those employees are rarely also talented writers. A task that takes a professional an hour would take them four hours.

Here’s the way that I resolve this dilemma:

Ghostwrite for the lawyers.

The lawyers who work for the firm will tend to really resent any commands from the boss to blog for the firm. What you should do is bill them time to interview the lawyers about the relevant topics for the niche, write based on the interviews in the voice of the lawyers who work for the firm, and then have it all vetted by the client before you post it.

You can also use the material from a single ~hour long interview for multiple posts. Pick topics that their clients usually need help with that are relevant to the keyword research you’ve already done. Ask them what terms that clients use when talking about the given legal specialty. Feed those terms into keyword research, and build content around that.

So that is where law firms tend to go wrong — they nag their employees to blog and they tend to think they have better things to do (which they usually do). To do this well you will have to learn a lot about their given niche, which you will probably do naturally by working with them.

This interview method is the most time efficient way to generate unique, relevant material for a corporate blog. Ghostwriting also makes it appear more authentic to readers than if you try to write a post in a disembodied corporate voice. If the interview subject isn’t comfortable appearing as the writer, treat them as if they’re a notable person being interviewed in depth by a journalist.

An Answer To “PPC or SEO?”

On the /r/PPC subreddit (where I’ve picked up more than a few clients — hi there!), someone asked about whether to invest in PPC or SEO. This was the answer:

These kinds of questions are just confusing for new advertisers.

The answer is that it depends on your goals, budget, and market. If you have infinite budget and funding, then the answer is “do both and invest lots into both.” Almost everyone doesn’t, so you have to come up with a plan that matches the circumstances of the company.

Additionally, depending on the market and the skill level of the practitioners, the time frame for payoff can be very different. Although the typical statement is that SEO is a long term investment, it can often deliver payoff quickly. It depends entirely on the market.

I would say, like Perry Marshall and others do, to start with a pared down PPC campaign, get data on customer behavior, use that data to inform which keywords you go after in SEO/general marketing, and proceed from there. It’s easier to get data faster with PPC, so it helps to start with that before going full throttle into SEO.

Other people on the subreddit (which is almost entirely made up of professional PPCers) tended to agree. Thinking that you can advertise a business only using PPC is usually going to not work, outside a few oddball markets.

Developing a durable competitive edge requires using  more than one marketing channel. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying to make a fast sale.

Speaking of Perry Marshall, I’m going to steal the 10 step order he gives for building out marketing for most websites from his excellent 80/20 Sales and Marketing.

Here it is (from page 82):

  1. Google AdWords
  2. SEO
  3. Other PPCs like Bing and display advertising
  4. Email promotions
  5. Social media*
  6. Affiliates
  7. Direct Mail
  8. Banner ads and ad networks
  9. Press releases
  10. Print advertising, TV, and radio

The * is just to indicate that social media doesn’t really work very well, or is hard to manage profitably, for a lot of product categories.

The reason why the channels are in this order really has to do with the level of control that you can exercise over them. AdWords provides you with more granular control over what search terms that your ads appear on. It also gives you live data that you can use to find out which words you can craft an offer for that results in them pulling out their credit cards.

Print, TV, and radio are all both expensive and powerful. Although the aggregate spending on print has plummeted (less so in magazines, because they’re targeted to niche markets), it’s still a heavy hitter. But it can be a risky one to jump into without all the foundations in place.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in SEO

I typically don’t listen to many podcasts (reading is so much faster), but I made an exception for this interview between Kurt Elster from Ethercycle and Kai Davis, an ecommmerce consultant located in Eugene, Oregon.

Here’s the interview. There’s also a full text transcript.

If you’re like me and would rather read, here’s Kai’s click-baity-titled article on a similar topic.

There’s good and bad news about the state of SEO today. Kai writes:

What’s different about SEO now as compared to Search Engine Optimization two years ago is the need to focus on strategies that help you attract high-quality links by improving your visitors’ experience.

When it comes to getting more traffic, you need links from high-quality, relevant websites. And the best way to attract high-quality, relevant links is be aiming to make yourself more relevant and helpful to searchers.

Unfortunately, the conversation often focuses on ‘link building’, when it should focus on ‘how to delight visitors’ or ‘how to build a better business.’

When you get started improving the quality and relevance of your website, you’ll attract more links. If you’re creating educational, relevant content on your site — articles, resources, how-to guides, courses, tutorials, case studies, etc — that add value to your visitors’ lives, you’ll see more links, more traffic, and more sales.

But! It can take much, much longer to see results now than it used to. Depending on how optimized your site is and how invested in SEO your competitors are, it can take months to see your site slowly, incrementally creep up in the rankings.

I’d say that it depends on the market and what the goals are. In any competitive market, what Kai’s saying here is true.

The mentality that’s needed now is really more of a sales-marketing-and-public-relations mindset as it relates to actually getting links. From the perspective of buyers of SEO services, they’re caught between the ‘black-box’ type providers who charge nothing and provide no information about what they’re doing and the kind who can only honestly promise long-term results with a sustained effort.

Also, because every industry of any significant size has a big web publishing community now, it’s less important to bait links from large websites outside the niche and any proximate markets. While it can help in some situations, what’s really important is setting up workable business relationships (which happen to include some linking back and forth) in order to get much out of any investment into SEO.

One positive is that, because search is a mostly mature technology (at least on Google’s end), there’s a lot more comprehensible information about how it works.

The trouble with that is that, with greater information availability, and far more easy-to-use tools, it’s also far more competitive in a lot of markets.

The other key point Kai makes during the interview is about company size and staffing:

Kai: I know, right? I built my practice from the beginning to say, “I want to work with a very small number of clients but deliver the best results possible for them. That’s a different attack than a lot of SEO companies or a lot of consultants. They say, “Hey, we want to work with 50 or 100 different clients.” To do that, you might end up having to staff up or cut corners. I say, “I want to run an independent practice. I want to work with six exceptional clients at a time, and deliver to them the best results possible.”

It’s not hard to set up an agency that just hires anyone who walks in the door, spams and cold-calls the world, signs clients up for packages that range from $300/month to $2,000 a month, submits the client sites to a bunch of directories, pockets the earnings, and sends out robo-reports to the clients, who have trouble getting anyone actually knowledgeable on the phone.

It’s a more challenging task entirely to integrate search into a more comprehensive digital marketing effort. That’s really where SEO has been migrating as a category for the last few years or so — it’s still a specialty, but it’s much more connected to other categories within marketing than it was once seen to be.

While scale can confer certain advantages to larger agencies (it’s easier for them to automate), they tend to cut back on direct service and attention to the unique needs of a client. The generic approach rarely returns out-sized results.

Marketing is competitive. To win competitions, you need an advantage. Generic services can’t confer a significant advantage. That’s why it’s important to work with a company that can craft a unique plan for your company and your market.