Why Your Law Firm's Blog Probably Sucks
Can we get real here for a minute? Most law firm blogs suck.
They really, really suck. And yours is likely to suck too.
I responded to a question on an online legal marketing group posed by someone whose firm was struggling to re-launch a blog "to promote business and visibility" and improve their Google ranking. But the lawyers "didn't want to participate." She wanted to know how to get it going. I told her to not bother.
That wasn't a criticism of her firm; her experience is very common. I know I’m going to get all sorts of crap from the people who write or sell law firm blogs for a living, but here’s how I perceive the situation: There’s very little chance that any law firm’s blog is going to be especially successful. I know that sounds apocalyptic, but let’s be realistic. Under the best circumstances blogs are very, very hard.
After reading an article about how some firm’s blog magically landed it at the top of Google searches and was a panacea that solved all of its marketing challenges, catapulted it to market leadership, and generated an appalling amount of new revenue, innumerable firms have launched blogs ― without considering that their firm hasn’t historically been able to manage a quarterly newsletter. (They also failed to notice that that sensationalized article was written by someone who sells blogs to law firms for a living.)
In reality, blogs are really freakin’ hard for most law and other professional-services firms. And they’re even harder to read.
Remember, Fishman Marketing designs law firm websites, so we see a lot of long-dead blogs stinking up the firms’ old home pages. Here’s what I’ve seen most consistently:
A law firm excitedly announces its new cleverly named blog and posts 3-4 entries the very first week! (“Look! We’re blogging!”) They submit two posts the next week. Then nothing in week three but posts one more entry in week four. The next one comes 6 months later. Then never again. The date on the “Publications” section on the home page is three years old. Instead of looking like dynamic market leaders, they look ineffectual.
Why? Lawyers are busy. They bill hourly. And writing regularly is really hard. Trust me, I write a couple blogs myself. I’m both opinionated and I enjoy writing, and it’s still hard to push out reasonably meaningful content somewhat consistently.
Exacerbating this is most lawyers’ writing style, which is stiff and stilted. They’re not comfortable writing in the casual 8th-grade style demanded by Internet readers. Internal approvals take too long. No one owns the blog or takes personal responsibility for its long-term success, so posts are assigned on a monthly editorial calendar to a random group of faceless associates, so there’s no consistent style or “voice.” (You know just like The New York Times does.)
Plus, the firm’s leadership has never answered some fundamental questions, like:
Who’s our specific audience?
Why will our blog be better than the countless other existing publications on this topic from paid bloggers or professional publishers like ALM?
Will ours be better written, more entertaining, more targeted, or provide better information?
Will it measurably improve our Google rankings?
And if it does, do we care, i.e. will better SEO generate meaningful revenue?
Our audience is busy; they don't have time to read much, so why would they choose to read our blog over the many other competitors for their precious attention, things like The Wall Street Journal, People magazine, Harry Potter, Facebook, Instagram, porn, or simply going home?
What is the chance we’ll be able to write at least every single week for at least 2-3 years?
I could go on.
Basically, for a blog to be effective, I think you need at least one person who (1) is simply passionate about writing, and (2) has countless interesting opinions about a narrowly focused topic. The world doesn’t need another generic “Law” blog or other broad area that is already being ably covered by a few thousand other blogs that are currently being read by… almost nobody.
There are currently 350 million Tumblr blogs online and hundreds of millions more WordPress blogs (see an example here). How will your blog rise to the top of that immense pile?
My point is, if you’re having this much difficulty getting your very first entry posted, how likely do you think that it’s going to get easier over time? Is this really the best use of Marketing’s time and effort? Aren’t there other proven marketing tools that could have a higher chance of success at your firm?
To throw a bone to the blog-sellers whose neck veins are popping right now, I’m not saying that there aren’t some wildly popular and successful revenue-generating law firm blogs out there. There are. But in my experience, of the incalculable number of legal industry blogs currently in print, they’re the exception.
Consider: Is your blog likely to climb ahead of tens of thousands of other firms’ blogs if you’re already having difficulty getting your very first post written? Sure, maybe, I don’t know your firm.
Hey, I’ll grant you, this is only my personal opinion, I could be wrong. But c’mon, deep down, you know I’m probably not.