Posted by Sam Borrett, director of Legal Futures Associate Legmark
We can become a little obsessed with blogging and many law firms have embraced this form of content generation for their own websites. But to what end, and is it worth the hassle?
It takes time and money to create updates for your website, and if your partners or solicitors are spending time writing blog posts, they’re missing out on billable hours.
If you’re going to the trouble of squeezing copy out of your staff, or the marketing team is spending time writing updates about the business to keep the blog fresh, then you need to ask yourself – why?
We want to give you some advice and tips in this article to make sure you are getting the best returns on the time and money invested in creating new content, how to go about deciding what subjects to cover, structuring your pages, and when and where to publish and promote your material.
Have a content strategy
You might be using new website content as part of your content marketing strategy, promoting the content through social media for engagement and increasing your audience size. Or you might be working on a backlink campaign or digital PR and utilising the content that way.
Either way, creating new content without a strategy in place could be completely pointless and may be wasting your time and money.
Set objectives for each piece of content and plan several months in advance – you are effectively a publisher, and publishers work on editorial calendars of up to 12 months, sometimes more.
It may be different for different types of content and campaigns depending on the aim (bring in traffic, increase social media engagement, brand awareness, backlinks etc) but setting clear objectives will allow you to measure your success properly and learn for next time.
Critically analyse your data
When was the last time you analysed the data behind those blog posts? For example, how many people land on the website through those updates? How many visitors does each post get per month? How many people engaged with the social media post relating to that content?
If you’ve done the analysis and are happy with the results, then great – crack on.
We find in almost all cases that the data doesn’t support the energy and costs expended in getting the information on the website in the first place.
Not only that but you could inadvertently be negatively affecting your Google rankings for your important commercial search terms.
Feed the Google machine
Google has placed emphasis on EAT content over the last couple of years: Expertise, Authority and Trust.
Let’s be clear – a couple of hundred words on your recent staff bake sale does not demonstrate any of these.
Google doesn’t like ‘thin’ content – essentially anything that isn’t adding value to the site, or to the user intent. This often means random blog posts and content for the sake of content. It could also be duplicate content or automatically-generated pages, and all this could penalise your site if there are significant levels of thin content throughout.
Rather than churn out a short blog post each week, spend the time working on significant EAT content – maybe one every month – that you can actually get some value from.
Do your research first
Content should be led by keyword research, not what you necessarily fancy writing about, and related to the site content as a whole, or to your business services, or to the topical ‘hubs’ of content throughout your site (the ideal way to structure a website currently).
There are a number of tools you can use to find content opportunities based on keyword research, including SEMrush, Ahrefs, and of course Google Search Console. Buzzsumo is great for content ideas that may lend themselves more to social media marketing opportunities.
Other ways to create content can come from reviewing what data you have access to and what interesting or valuable analysis could you create from that data. You might have data held within your business that you can draw on, or submit freedom of information requests to public bodies for data.
You could also work with data that’s available online as we did with our legal sector website performance analysis earlier this year, to generate interesting and useful content for businesses or consumers.
If you are using data, or writing about anything complex, a well-designed infographic can make the content all the richer and much more shareable. It also gives you a linkable asset to help with the all-important backlinks to your website.
This is a tactic we used consistently and very successfully with Bott & Co when creating content around flight delay data. The infographics we designed generated links to the website from leading news publications and high-traffic websites, including the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and The Guardian among others.
Optimise the page structure
Once you have your content plan, maybe some data, and you’ve identified keywords that are important to your business, you need to consider how the content is structured.
Break up the page with headers and stick to short sentences where possible – this makes it easier to read for users and also gives you opportunity to add in header tags, indicating important sections to Google.
Use bullet lists, tables, and images (as long as you are careful on file size so as not to slow the page speed down) as other ways to break up the page and send additional positive signals to the Googlebots crawling your website.
Plan your social posts
Before you publish the page, consider crafting a series of social media posts across platforms (typically Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) with different copy, scheduled for different times of the day. This will give you the ability to analyse what copy worked best for generating engagement, and which times of the day were more successful. This might vary depending on the type of content, of course.
Set small budgets aside for boosting the content on social media for increased amplification. The way that these platforms have developed means that businesses will often need to pay to reach a wider audience.
If you’ve spent time and money creating great content, then go the extra mile and put some money behind promoting it. Even just £25-£50 on Facebook can make a huge difference.
Then monitor the responses. If you find there are lots of positive comments about one or two specific elements of your content, you may decide to draw out those as individual themes that you can expand on for subsequent standalone articles.
Take the easy option?
If all this seems too much like hard work, make a video of a cat doing something funny and stick it on YouTube. Works every time.