If you are proceeding through the steps, then you have identified a niche practice area that interests you and that you want to dominate, you selected a killer domain name with great SEO potential, and you built your first website.
Now you need to begin filling that website with content. If you are going to leave it as a static website, then you need to fill it with enough content that most of the questions a client would have about the topic are answered. But for purposes of this article, I am going to assume that you created a blog and need to start adding articles. A static website is great for search results, and I recommend that you create static websites for each of your niches. But as I explain here and here, static websites and blogs serve different purposes. It is your blogs that will establish you as an expert in your field. Your blogs, filled with epic articles, show off your expertise.
Notice that I said EPIC articles. If you post generic articles that just report on the latest cases or developments in your area, those will not serve to establish you as an expert. They have value, because they show that you are staying current in your practice area and add fresh content to your blog, but building your reputation comes from the epic articles that show off your knowledge.
So let me show you what constitutes an epic article, and how to create them.
Rule 1 for Epic Content Creation – You must bring something new to the discussion.
There’s a current GEICO commercial campaign that you have probably seen, that demonstrates the first rule I use when creating content. One person turns to the other and says, “Did you know 15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance?”
The other person answers, “everyone knows that.”
To which the first person answers, “But did you know that . . .” and he provides some factoid that is then acted out in the commercial.
When I write a blog post, I ask myself, “what additional information or analysis can I provide that clients and other attorneys would not know but for reading this article?”
If the imaginary attorney in my mind responds to the article with, “everyone knows that”, then I have not yet made the article epic.
One of my own epic moments illustrates the point. I had a case where my client loaned $200,000 to someone, and was never repaid. The defendant had lied about having a company that would back up the loan. It always frustrated me that someone who steals money using a scam has no real downside. If the case is proven, damages are normally limited to the amount that was stolen, and there is no basis for the recovery of attorney fees. Sure, I can sue for fraud and seek punitive damages, but punitive damages are tied to net worth, and people of this ilk seldom own anything. So in this case instead of just suing for breach of contract and fraud, I added a cause of action for criminal theft, and under that Penal Code section, my client was awarded treble damages and attorney fees. An $800,000 judgment as a way to punish someone who stole $200,000. Pretty epic. The verdict was upheld on appeal in a reported decision.
Many articles were written about that case, but they all just reported the facts and the result. To epically report on a case like that, you need to explain the impact of the case on future cases. Some great articles can come out of a case like that. Here are some headlines that could be the making of epic articles:
How to Recover Attorney Fees in a Conversion Action.
How to Recover Punitive Damages in a Conversion Action with No Financial Evidence.
How to Triple the Damages in a Conversion Action.
You get the idea. Don’t just report on a court opinion, create an article that shows the potential client or other attorney what can be done with the law created by that opinion.
If you are going to utilize content marketing to promote yourself and your firm, then you should take the time to read Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi, who is a recognized expert on the subject. Pulizzi defines content marketing in two ways:
“Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Or the more precise definition that I prefer:
“Content marketing is owning media as opposed to renting it.”
So how do you create epic content?
Creating epic content is actually pretty easy, it just takes more time and thought, and that is why 95% of the articles you read on-line are not epic. That’s a very good thing, because as with most things in life, it makes it easy to distinguish yourself just by exerting a little extra effort.
The simple formula for creating epic content is to answer the most common questions that are in the minds of your potential clients.
The toughest challenge most attorneys face in this regard is to stop thinking like attorneys. I need you to go through the mental exercise of going around your brain with a vacuum and sucking all your legal knowledge into a jar. A little painful, but worth it. Thus stripped of your legal expertise, look at your niche practice area through the mind of a potential client, and write down all of the questions they could ask (and here’s the important part) in the way they would ask those questions.
This exercise provides a source for many epic articles, but at the same time it also ferrets out all the best keywords to use in those articles. Defamation is one of my main practice areas, but a huge percentage of my potential clients don’t even know that word, or if they do know the word, they spell it wrong (“deformation” is a popular choice). The same is true of libel. Most of them have heard of slander, and that will be the word of choice, as in, “someone slandered me on Yelp.” And lest you think I’m dealing with uneducated people, my clients are almost all professionals, including many a plastic surgeon.
So, when I write for that audience, I need to use their terminology so that their searches will still lead to my articles. Of course that does not mean that I use the wrong terminology, just that I get it into the article so I hit those keywords. It can be as easy as writing something like:
Defamation (not “deformation” as some like to spell it) can consist of slander or libel. When someone speaks the false statement to another, that is slander, and when the communication is in writing, that is libel.
With the record thus corrected, and the keywords used, you can move onto your brilliant thoughts. You may now flip the switch on your vacuum cleaner and blow all your legal knowledge back into your brain.
Do not dumb down your content.
After this discussion, you might think you need you need to dumb down your content, but that would be a big mistake. You want to keep your writing approachable, but you must show your expertise, and clients become amazingly sophisticated as they research the issues presented by their cases.
If you go here, I provide a detailed discussion of why you should not dumb down your articles, but to summarize, I have clients calling me about a code section that 99% of attorneys have never heard of, because it’s just not something that would come up in their practice. Yet these potential clients have researched defamation and found out about anti-SLAPP motions, and have researched anti-SLAPP motions and found out about the exclusions, and have discovered the “business versus business” exclusion set forth in California Civil Code section 425.17, and call me to ask if I will fight an anti-SLAPP motion they are facing based on that section. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“My attorney is a really good guy, but I asked him about that section and he did not even know what it is. I see that you have written about that code section, and have defeated anti-SLAPP motions on that basis, so I’d really like you to fight the anti-SLAPP motion.”
If a client reads two articles about a given statute, one where the attorney simply states that the statute exists and what it says, and another where the attorney provides a very in-depth discussion of the statute and how it can be used to win a case, which attorney do you think the client will hire?
Your first ten blog articles.
First you need to create a list of the ten questions your clients are most likely to ask about your area of the law. If you can come up with more than ten, all the better. You are going to create articles that answer each of those ten questions, and that will be the foundation of your blog. If you have any problem coming up with ten articles, then you just aren’t breaking it down enough.
Let’s say I decide that people might be interested in reading about summary judgment motions. That is actually a very good topic, because someone who has just been informed by their attorney that a summary judgment motion is an option, or that the other side has brought one, might be interested in learning more.
I could write one article about summary judgment motions, but that topic could be broken down into several epic topics. Let’s brainstorm just a few:
Five Essential Ingredients to a Winning Declaration on a Motion for Summary Judgment.
How to Craft a Separate Statement That Avoids Disputed Statements of Fact.
How to Respond to a Separate Statement of Facts (and the Little Known Rule that Will Save Hours).
Three Things You Must Do Immediately When Served With a Motion For Summary Judgment.
Why You Should NOT Seek Summary Adjudication with Your Motion For Summary Judgment.
There are five articles (and I’d be interested in reading them all) I came up with from just a few seconds of brainstorming. These are the sort of articles that will help to establish you as an expert to both potential clients and other attorneys. Best of all, these articles are “evergreen” because, absent some drastic change in the law, the answers won’t change. For the remainder of your legal practice, you can periodically push these same articles out to your social networks.
A word about landing pages.
Take the top the top ten questions that your potential clients ask, write articles for each of those questions, and then take the information contained in those articles, and summarize it down to a single article to use as your landing page. Most people new to the blogging concept have this idea that people come in through the landing page (which by default is the latest blog posts), and then move out through the blog from there. In reality, most visitors to your site, at least the ones who come via an Internet search, will land on whatever page best responds to their search terms.
For this reason, you must view every post you create as a potential landing page, and include a call to action that moves the reader to more information. If you are a divorce attorney, and you write an article entitled “How to Maximize Your Share of the 401k”, someone coming to that page is no doubt looking for the information, because that is where the keywords they used took them. They will absorb that information and leave, without ever learning that you are a brilliant divorce attorney. The only chance you have of snagging that client is if that is the single most important concern they have about their divorce, and that one article convinces them you are the expert on that topic.
Since you can’t rely on a single article to win over the client, you want to keep him on your site so he has longer to form the opinion that you are the person for the job. To avoid a “bounce” (where a visitor has no further interaction with your site beyond the first page they landed on), every post you create should have a call to action that leads the visitor to another page. I recommend that you direct them back to a static landing page that provides a summary of the entire niche area, and offer links to specific topics. In case the person does come to your blog by typing in your domain name, this static page should be the starting point. If you leave the default setting whereby everyone is taken to the latest blog posts, many visitors will scan the page, see no articles that interest them, and leave. Without a static landing page, your bounce rate will always be subject to the vagaries of which articles happen to appear on the page at that moment in time.
The “sweet spot” for Google recognition.
According to tests that have been done, your blog won’t really start killing in the search engine results until you have between 24 and 51 epic articles. That is not to say that your blog will not be generating new clients while you are creating all those articles. The usual SEO rules apply, and your first article could bring you clients if it is responsive to their search terms. The point here is that Google will finally say, “Holy cow, look at this great site” and elevate your site in the rankings somewhere in that sweet spot of 24 to 51 articles, if they are sufficiently epic.
If that seems a little daunting, that’s understandable. But as the old saying goes, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Writing just two epic articles per week means that you can become a recognized expert, and create a website that will cause Google to stand up and take notice, in just four to six months. You probably attended law school for three years or more. Can’t you invest a few months to become the recognized expert in your area of the law?
Ideas for more articles.
As set forth above, ideas for the first ten or so articles should come pretty easy. Whenever you find yourself out of ideas, look to see if the article ideas can be broken down further. But in case your muse lets you down before you fill your blog with the magical 24 to 51 articles, next we’ll look at techniques for coming up with articles ideas.