Keeping the content on your website up to date is essential if you wish to be ranked well by Google. Not only does material need to be fresh, but it needs to be original. Whether you do this via a news section or a blog depends on your communications strategy, internal resources and the commitment of the team.
Either a news section or a blog can help by:
- raising the firm’s profile and highlighting expertise;
- making your site easier to find by potential clients, media etc; and
- generating links and boosting traffic to your website.
Which is best?
First consider how they differ. A blog differs from the traditional news section 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 website. 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 gains easy publicity by association.
- Standalone – if your blog is not an integral part of your main website, then any links into your main site will be valuable in terms of boosting its credibility to Google (see “recognition” below).
- Original – 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.
Maximise the impact
Whether you decide to write a news item or a blog post, you can maximise its impact and make 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 three Rs:
- 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.
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.
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 be careful – Google penalises you if it sees “over-seeding”).
For example, compare the following (the underlining indicates key phrases, not links):
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.
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?
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 main website.
With news items, consider whether you can include links to service pages which you are trying to promote within your own website. The first example above would include links to: Pharmacy page, Selling a company page, and Tax planning page.
Whilst these links are not weighted quite as much as external links, they do still have value.
Most valuable are links from third party websites, such as venables.co.uk or a media website 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 items often work just as well.
Sue Bramall is Managing Director of Berners Marketing, a consultancy specialising in marketing and business development exclusively for law firms. Services include development of websites, legal content and marketing consultancy.