Building a better blog
BY Ryan Conley
Your blog is a great outreach tool to increase the public’s awareness of your firm. But you probably would love to get a few more readers. And perhaps your writing could use a little polish. Check out these tips and give your blog some extra attention.
What Your Blog Should and Should Not Be
First, what is the purpose of a law blog and why is it valuable? Your blog is not simply a marketing tool. The end goal is to increase your firm’s exposure, of course, but do not focus single-mindedly on marketing your firm. Instead, focus on being a source of good information.
If you did not grow up with the Internet, it may be difficult to understand that young consumers and business owners can develop trust in your firm without ever meeting you or even speaking with you. Your online presence is the first impression you will make to these individuals. Demonstrating your expertise and objectivity through quality blog content will capture their attention, keep them coming back for more, and keep you in the running when they are looking for a lawyer.
Therefore, your most valuable blog posts will be those in which you explain some aspect of the law or perhaps a recent development in your practice area. Only an expert can explain law with the detail necessary for accuracy, while still keeping it simple enough for a layman to understand and enjoy reading.
Keep the Reader’s Attention
Readers have many sources of content competing for their screen time. That means you have to grab and hold the reader’s attention.
A classic tip for effective writing is: “2nd draft = 1st draft – 10 percent” Most writing contains many unnecessary words. Legal documents are often very wordy because nothing can be left open to interpretation. Entertainment is the furthest thing from your mind when writing a legal document. Blog posts, on the other hand, must be concise, or they will bore the reader.
First, you need a good title. Make it short, catchy, and specific to the content of the post. Try to use a keyword relating to your practice.
Posts that are broken up into bite-size pieces are great for readers who might not be motivated to spend a lot of time reading one thing. Titles like “Top Tips for Avoiding a Personal Injury Lawsuit” or “Five Bankruptcy Exemptions You May Not Know” can convince people to read at least the first item. Make it interesting enough and you will hold their attention.
Instead of telling a story from beginning to end, consider starting with the payoff. A busy reader who has just finished reading your first paragraph and still has no idea where you are going is not likely to continue. On the other hand, if the point of the post is explained in the first paragraph, the reader, whose interest has been piqued, is more likely to read on for more background and details.
The best way to keep your posts concise is to leave out information that does not get your point across. After you complete your first draft, read each paragraph, then each sentence, with a critical eye. If it does not need to be there, take it out. This will go a long way toward keeping the reader’s attention. Next, look for unnecessary wordiness within each sentence. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Avoid beginning sentences with expletives. These are phrases such as “it is” or “there are.” For instance, “there are two expert witnesses for the defense” is better said as, “the defense has two expert witnesses.”
- Avoid normalizations, which are noun forms of verbs often appearing in sentences in which the main verb is a form of “be.” For example, “his intent was to persuade the judge” should be rephrased as, “he intended to persuade the judge.”
- Avoid circumlocutions, which are long phrases that can be shortened to a word or two while keeping the same meaning. For instance, instead of “At this point in time,” simply say “now,” and instead of “in light of the fact that,” say “why.”
The difference between good writing and great writing is in details like these. If you want to take your writing skills to the next level, you can find a lot more tips like these on websites such as the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
Make it Interactive
Solicit comments on your blog posts. Most blogging platforms have an option for built-in commenting. If you are wary of spam or other unwelcome comments, you can easily set an option to pre-approve comments before they are published. Your readers are often well-versed in the matters about which you write. They are a valuable source of input.
Engage those who post the best comments with replies. Readers love to interact with experts in their field of interest and are far more likely to return to and link to blogs where they can do that.
Incorporate regular blog writing into your schedule and stick with it. The more frequently you can publish good content, the better. One post per month should be the bare minimum, and one or two per week is a good goal to work toward. Try to find colleagues or industry experts to contribute guest posts. Readers will return more often if they can count on there being something new to check out, and it helps with search engine rankings as well.
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