Although legal blogs can be major brand development tools for law firms, they are just as likely to become horrible money pits — especially when a legal marketing firm is involved.
Some legal marketers are urging law firms to build offsite blogs as part of a distributed content strategy, but this frequently only benefits the marketing firms giving the advice.
First, some definitions:
- Distributed content: Publishing content such as photos, video, articles, etc., to a variety of places other than your main website, including platforms that you do not own, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Medium. (More here.) It’s packaged as a new concept, but it’s really just jargon for the time-tested tactic of spreading marketing messages.
- Offsite blog: A blog hosted on a different domain than your main website. For example, Marler Clark’s main website is MarlerClark.com but it also runs MarlerBlog.com.
How distributed content works
The gist of this marketing strategy is that placing your content on multiple websites and social media platforms can expand your internet footprint, build your online authority, and ultimately result in more clients and money.
This is all true, but here’s the problem: it is extremely time-consuming to produce and optimize content for multiple platforms. The law firms that aren’t doing this type of online publishing already usually don’t have the in-house talent to do so.
That’s where legal marketers come in.
Marketing agencies are pushing blogging “solutions” to lawyers without regard to whether this strategy is appropriate for a particular firm.
When offsite blogs work
- Niche practice areas: Offsite blogs are useful when a law firm wants to highlight a unique practice area that may alienate some of its regular clients. (e.g. a firm that represents both plaintiffs and defendants in a particular area of law.)
- Standalone brand: A separate website or blog may be appropriate when a lawyer at a firm is a standalone brand such as a TV-lawyer, politician, or someone known for taking controversial cases.
- In-house competition: A separate website or blog may also benefit attorneys or practice groups at large law firms. Particularly when the firm does not provide enough marketing support the new business generation goals of the attorney(s).
- Wonks: Finally, blogs are great for lawyers who love writing about particular areas of the law on a regular basis. These tend to be the most successful blogs despite usually having notoriously clunky designs.
When offsite blogs don’t work
- Small firms: Offsite blogs are not generally appropriate for small firms that specialize in only one or two practice areas. You’re better off having a blog to build-out the content on your main website.
- Bad main website: An offsite blog is not enough to compensate for a poorly designed or confusing main website.
- Scarce resources: Most importantly, a standalone blog is not appropriate for attorneys who do not want to dedicate the time to produce their own content or pay significant amounts of money for a marketing agency to produce quality content.
Law firms often turn to low-cost content providers to get their blogs started. But this is usually ineffective and just a way for legal marketing agencies to lure firms into more expensive service agreements.
Remember: The true cost of a blog is the amount of time and effort that goes into maintaining it. If you’re not ready to be an active participant in your own marketing or willing to fork over gobs of money to a marketing agency, then skip it.
Also, if you see a blog or article advocating for a particular type of legal marketing tactic, ask yourself whether the author works for a company that sells the same service they are advocating for — that may indicate that the distributed content strategy is just a sales pitch for a marketing firm, not a real marketing solution for your firm.