In my latest Slaw column on distributed publishing, I talked about the benefits of going beyond a solitary law firm website, and using additional narrowly-focused, single-topic sites to create a robust network of firm-owned sites. In this post, I want to share several key things to consider when increasing your firm’s publishing efforts, starting with why it’s so important to get practice groups publishing in their own right.
5. Mission Critical? Must Blog.
Mission critical practice areas should maintain a blog. If your firm’s reputation is based on a specific service, or a limited number of core-services, those areas require dedicated, regular, online commentary. Blogs take time, and are lots of work, but including multiple authors and sharing the workload will help. And the alternative is that your competitor will virtually assume your off-line reputation.
4. A Dedication to Publication
Each practice area or service line should have dedicated publishing. If an area of practice is important enough to list on your website, it deserves publishing attention — at least on an annual basis. For lesser groups or services, having a dedicated web property may not be feasible, but writing articles or papers certainly is. For example, even if your estates group is one of your smallest practices, they could still issue periodic, topical articles such as “The Top 10 Wills & Estates Developments of 2012”. Publishing regularly, even if not at a particularly high volume, shows that your lawyers are keeping their skills and knowledge up to date.
3. Think Links
Maintain tight link structures between firm-owned websites and the sponsoring practice group pages within the firm website. Rather than linking to the firm homepage (which likely gets enough link juice already), route links from the blog or other microsite to the most appropriate practice or service page on the main firm website. These pages inspire more calls, are more relevant to incoming users, and make much better use of the link juice coming in from outside properties.
2. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Don’t extend your web presence too far or too fast! Ideas are cheap, but execution can truly be expensive, both in terms of time and money. Many firms who start a successful blog will suddenly see the business value being delivered (not just money, but relationships and opportunities) and become tempted to expand. Rapidly. They want to start five blogs! This can be a huge mistake unless firms are honest with themselves, and fully appreciate the amount of time a good blog takes.
1. Take What’s Yours
That is, demand authorship citation when you’re publishing outside your firm’s network. When lawyers publish online, those contributions must be recognized with links back to that lawyer’s profile page on the firm website. Links remain an important form of currency to search engine rankings, so firms need to be ‘paid’ with inbound links when they write online. For example, the byline paragraph below an article you contribute to an online magazine should be accompanied with a link. Not to the firm’s homepage, but to your lawyer bio page.
So to repeat my original proposition: in the year 2012, for many law firms, a single website is not optimal. It’s now simply a home base, a jumping-off point. How many websites does your firm need? You’ll arrive at your answer by identifying your priority service lines. Once you’ve determined which practice areas or services you can’t afford to ignore, carefully and realistically establish the amount of time required to maintain these prospective web properties. Only then should your firm expand its content marketing into other areas. Firm profitability and web publishing need to be intimately connected, with each website made to prove its worth!
Next week, I’ll continue this series with the first of four specific ways to grow your network of distributed publication.