I subscribe to the daily newsletter of Content Marketing Institute (CMI). It's a highly respected site for content marketing, a thought leader in some areas and a fine guide in many others. I do get the sense sometimes that they repeat their articles, but that's less about duplicate content and more about keeping ideas fresh and - more importantly - updated to align with emerging technologies and trends. In short, CMI is educational, useful and doesn't waste your time with fluff. They present an idea, illustrate it with examples or samples, and link to useful third-party sources that are themselves generally credible.
This observation makes for a neat segue into their latest article on content - "27 Reasons Why Your Content Sucks". While I myself would pick a different word than "suck", I wholly agree with their observations. Their key observation is one that is not new -- good content must be valuable to the reader, rather than to the business that is trying to sell a product or service. The client's frame of mind is important. A sense of being catered to, looked out for and reassured are all effects of "good" content.
I'll leave you to read the CMI article, but here are my consolidated thoughts on what I think small law firms should be alert to when creating content:
It's about the potential client, not you.
You have a brand. For small firms, the brand is synonymous with you and your associates. You don't have the brand of a big law firm to boost your own personal brand. This is not necessarily a bad thing. People sometimes reach out to smaller firms because they feel they may be ignored by big law firms simply because theirs may be a small matter.
But they still need to know that you're good at what you do, and accessible ad supportive.
Which means that you should speak less about how good you are, and more about how great you are serving your clients. One does not preclude the other, but remember your content should be written to cultivate a specific impression in the minds of your readers. Testimonials - when they are detailed and written with a hint of emotion - are excellent in boosting your credibility.
Your other content also has to be service-focused. The good thing is that you already know what clients need. You understand their anxieties, the questions they angst over, the parts of the law that could be tricky for them. When you write, address these concerns. One suggestion: you can write case studies which have a factual tone to them, but which allow you to lay out your expertise, peppered with how you answered client questions with clarity, forthrightness and reassurance. The goal is to have people feeling like they are in good hands, which should compel them to reach out to you.
Dated content is bad optics.
Do you cringe when you see that a website has a blog that is woefully outdated? That's a red flag for site visitors. This is especially so for those seeking legal guidance. People are skittish about getting the law wrong. They expect lawyers to be almost obsessed with accuracy and detail (and rightly so). The optics are bad if a site has an outdated blog post or when the last blog post written more than a year ago. Or if service sections have not been updated with fresh links or new information.
Value is all. And be generous about giving it.
Having my own website and marketing initiatives means that I often relate to the challenges my clients face. It's not an easy thing to decide how much of your expertise to give away when you are creating content to generate leads or build a brand. Do you want competitors to imitate what you do? Do you want to provide valuable content that provides immediate solutions to potential clients, such that they won't need you at all?
I don't really worry over such questions, truth be told. We are not what we say, but what we do. I can write volumes about legal marketing, but in the end, the real value of what I offer lies in its "do-ability". I can teach visitors to my website how to look at their marketing challenges, how to avoid pitfalls, but I also know that my value-add lies in being able to look deeper into their unique challenges that may require some finessing when it comes to solutions and initiatives. Don't think of sharing good content as giving away free advice. It isn't.
SEO is all about good content
Gone are the days when you could stuff your web pages with keywords and get higher rankings on Google or Bing. These days, the search engines actually penalize that stuff content with keywords. What's paramount now is that you provide value in your content, and write your content accordingly, with an eye to what is called "Semantic SEO". Briefly, it's about providing some real guidance, and not simply one sentence answers without context or perspective that does nothing to help a reader with decision-making.
Your practice is no different -- there are no quick fixes in the law, and your content is there to help educate your potential client and reassure her of your guidance when she engages you. By being generous and transparent but discerning in how much you teach or share, you are essentially providing value. Which in and of itself is a great way to build trust in a brand.
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