The benefits of providing free online content

Staying up-to-date with the latest legal developments has never been easier for practitioners as an increasing number of online resources are providing legal knowledge content for free.

Jordans’ free online content

At Jordan Publishing, following the success of our Family Law website, we have recently launched a number of other free legal knowledge websites. These websites are designed to act as current awareness sites for practitioners and are edited by senior lawyers from various firms and chambers. They provide an additional resource to Jordan Publishing’s Online Services which are designed for more substantive legal research.

Jordans now has free legal news and update websites in the following areas of law: Competition, Employment, Family, International Children, Insolvency, Public and will shortly launch websites in Company, Health and Safety, SME and Charity. Much of the content on these websites can be accessed completely free, while more in-depth analysis requires a modest subscription.

In addition to the websites, Jordans has also launched an online professional directory for family lawyers and has actively participated in social media channels for a number of years.

Jordans launched its first free news and updates website in 2004 with Family Law Newswatch, before “freemium” and “content marketing” became popular business terms. Traffic to the Family Law website grew significantly over the years to the point where it now receives around 26,000 unique visitors per month and is ranked first in Google for important key search terms. In essence the websites combine both the “freemium” and “content marketing” models; they provide free quality content to our target markets to raise brand awareness and they provide an introduction to our premium services.

How you can do it

Having launched free legal content websites, I can offer some advice for anyone thinking of embarking on a similar path for their organisation’s website. The advantages are increased traffic, search engine ranking and brand awareness. However, the amount of work involved should not be underestimated. I have seen a number of firms launch free online news services with lots of energy only to give up a few months down the line.

Before embarking consider what you want to achieve from offering free content. If you only want to increase website traffic, this can be achieved by including useful online resources that don’t require significant work to be regularly updated. These can include glossaries, online calculators, guidance articles and checklists. In my experience, articles that contain useful guidance are particularly good at attracting traffic as they tend to have a longer shelf life than news articles.

If you want to build up a loyal following of visitors who regularly return to your website for your expertise you will need to invest time in writing up-to-date blogs, news articles and analysis. Social media should be included in this strategy. As part of this you can link the RSS feed from your website to your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts using Twitterfeed, for example.

Establishing who your likely website visitors will be should help you determine what sort of content to provide. If you are a barristers’ chambers, your target market is more likely to be solicitors, in which case you may want to write more in-depth regularly updated content to demonstrate your expertise. If on the other hand you are a solicitors firm, you would be better off writing content for the general public written in plain English, providing them with guidance related to services your firm offers. It is worth bearing in mind that while solicitors may return to a chambers website regularly for updates, once a member of public has sorted their legal issue they are unlikely to return to the firm’s website.

There is little point trying to compete with the major media agencies by reporting mainstream news. They will nearly always appear above you in online search results, and people won’t naturally go to your website for this sort of content. Use your specialist knowledge to your advantage and cover issues where mainstream news websites won’t be able match your expertise.

Here is an example of what not to write: a family law firm regularly reported on the latest celebrity divorce gossip, this in my view only served to cheapen their brand and they couldn’t compete with the mainstream media.

An alternative to writing content yourself is to curate online news. This is where you find interesting articles online related to your target reader’s interests and share it with them by linking to it. As the amount of news content online has exploded, there has been a growing demand for websites that find the news that matters. A sophisticated example of this can be seen in LinkedIn Today which curates news from around the web based on an individual’s LinkedIn profile.

Monitor your traffic

Monitor your website traffic (Google Analytics is free), look at what your website visitors are reading and build on the more popular content. You’ll be surprised by what people want to read, often the article you spend hours writing will have a fraction of the hits of something that took you a few minutes.

Finally, don’t give up immediately if you only have a few visitors. It can take time to build up significant traffic and a recent major change to Google’s algorithm has led to it rewarding websites with quality content that are built up over time.

Hugh Logue is the Online Publisher for Jordan Publishing. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.