In this article , I provide an overview of the benefits of content marketing and discuss five ways that law firms can develop more-effective online content. The article targets an audience of small firm lawyers in particular–these lawyers are most likely to be trying to write their own marketing content and are also strong candidates for professional content marketing services.

If you are seeking to grow your practice, content marketing may be the way to go. Potential clients in all practice areas are turning to the Internet to find lawyers more now than ever before.

As a solo or small firm lawyer who spends some time on the Internet, you may be familiar with the concept of “content marketing.” With more and more prospects turning to the web to look for lawyers, content marketing is quickly becoming an essential tool for law firms to build their books of business.

Content marketing serves a number of important functions when it comes to targeting potential clients online. These include:

  • Positioning you as an expert in your practice area (and geographic area, if applicable)
  • Demonstrating that your firm can answer the types of questions potential clients are asking
  • Enhancing your law firm’s search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Providing opportunities to engage and get found on social media

Lots of small law firms are using content marketing. Lots. Trust us, we know. If you are considering implementing a content marketing plan for your law firm in 2016, here are some thoughts to keep in mind.

1. Be specific (and honest) about your geographic reach and practice areas.

While it can be tempting to try to extend your reach, with content marketing this will typically be a struggle. Think about it this way: How many lawyers are there in California? The State Bar of California reports that it has more than 185,500 active members.

But, how many small business litigation lawyers are there in Irvine? Or, auto accident lawyers in Citrus Heights? Well, we don’t know exactly. But it’s certainly not nearly as many. When you are trying to get found, the smaller the pool of competition, the greater your chances of success. This principle applies directly to the SEO and social media benefits of content marketing. Knowing what audience to target (and how to target it) is one of the first steps toward getting found online.

Of course, if you truly maintain a state-wide or national practice, there are still ways to get found. It will just likely take more work (and a larger investment) than focusing on a local area.

2. See the law from your clients’ point of view.

When writing for the web, you need to see the issues from your clients’ point of view. Unfortunately, while it might be a great topic for a bar journal article, your prospects just don’t care that your local appellate court recently departed from long-standing precedent to issue a ruling that calls into question current practices in civil procedure.

What clients do care about is getting answers to their questions. They also care about minimizing the burdens of seeking legal help. So, maybe that case isn’t so irrelevant after all. Is it now easier for your clients to seek remedies in court? Are clients in your specific practice areas going to benefit from the ruling (and if so, how)? If you are struggling to find things to write about, these could be ways to make use of an otherwise relatively-inaccessible topic.

3. Focus on readability and think about content as an element of design.

But, even with the right topic, if you don’t convey it in a way that is both reader-friendly and web-friendly, you are going to struggle to find an audience. This is one of the great struggles of content marketing: You need to put in the time to produce high-quality content that is going to be consumed in, at most, a matter of minutes.

If readers cannot follow along and quickly and easily see that you have something important or useful to say, your content will not have done its job. As a result, web content must be clear and concise, and in many ways must also have an element of design.

4. Keep your bar association’s ethical rules in mind.

This should be a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning in any discussion of content marketing for lawyers. If your state bar prohibits publicizing results, do not publicize your results. You may even need to stay away from phrases like, “as our record demonstrates” (though this type of cliché might be the type of thing you stay away from regardless). Also, of course, don’t call yourself an “expert,” avoid crossing the line into legal advice, and generally avoid any sort of misleading statements and unsupported representations that could draw the local ethics committee’s ire.

5. Think about ways to keep people coming back for more.

One great article is not going to cut it when it comes to content marketing. You need to be consistently delivering quality content that helps promote your firm in the online space while providing visibility (read: search-ability) to your potential clients. We know that many lawyers struggle to consistently come up with topics that work for content marketing. Developing valuable, creative and click-worthy topics is a big part of what we do to help keep law firms visible online.

If you are trying to do your own content marketing, you need to think about ways to keep people coming back for more. This means consistently delivering fresh content in a format that speaks to your intended audience.

Series and multi-part articles can be great ways to deliver lots of valuable content in web-friendly, bite-sized chunks. But, you also need to be careful not to alienate readers with empty hooks or empty or repetitive content. Content marketing for law firms is roughly equal parts art, science, and the law, and too much of any one ingredient can sour the entire recipe.

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