I know negativity isn’t the best way to make a first impression. But honesty is a great way to make a first impression, right? So I’m going to rant truthfully and ask you this: instead of looking at this as a guy trashing other marketers and agencies — I won’t name any names, by the way — look at it as a kernel of truth and free advice.
Your blog content, or rather the blog content written by your legal marketing company, sucks.
How do I know this? I’ve worked for a few those companies. I had pay my bills too. Also, I cringe whenever I do a Google search for legal information, and land on a blog post that promises the answer, and instead I get 300 words of blathering marketing copy that shows that the person who wrote it has no idea what the answer actually is.
Also, my 30 second resume: I’ve been writing online SEO-focused content for a decade, I teach CLEs on ethical legal marketing, and I’ve written literally thousands – many thousands – of articles and blawgs for lawyers and legal information websites.
Problematic (Sucky) Content
Does this sound familiar?
Whether or not you can expunge your traffic tickets varies greatly on the facts of your case. Expungement is very important because it will clear your record of your offenses. Some tickets can never be expunged from your driving record, while others may be. It is important to consult with an attorney who is experienced in these matters to determine if you are eligible. The benefits of expunging your tickets include lower insurance rates and less chance of your license being suspended down the line.
Note that I was searching for, “can my traffic tickets be expunged?” And because I was doing a research project for an attorney across multiple states, I dug deep into the Google search results — down to page 4 or five — to see if the answer varied amongst the states.
Now, if I was the client to looking for an answer to my question, would that marketing copy get me to call the firm? I can’t speak for every human on earth, but I’ll tell you that personally, no way in hell would I call that attorney. That is a blathering non-answer that tells me that the person who wrote it has no freaking clue what they were talking about.
Who wrote it? At the top, it says “on behalf of [redacted] law firm.” Embarrassing for that firm, I guess, but it’s standard operating procedure for many marketing agencies to write “on behalf of” content.
How Content Mills at Marketing Agencies Really Work
Let me tell you little bit about how content at these marketing agencies works. After all, I got my start as a content writer for a legal information website that was part of a corporation that also provided legal marketing services. I’ve been an SEO strategist for a legal marketing agency, reviewing dozens of lawyers’ websites. And I’ve done freelance legal marketing and content writing for about a decade. Oh, and I’ve been the customer of one of the Big Agencies when I was in-house at a mid-sized Family Law firm in Southern California. I’ve seen a lot of shit, in other words.
Here are three ways these agencies get content: the first is to hire full-time writers, either on a contract or permanent basis. These writers may or may not be lawyers. They are given a quota of a certain number of articles per day or per week (mine was six posts per day, five days per week, which made me a helluva writer, albeit a burned out and tired one after three years). The other two ways are to hire freelancers on a pay-per-post or pay-per-word basis. I’ve done both of those as well.
Now, at the place where I had a daily quota, most writers would write the bare minimum number of words, slap on a call to action such as “contact us today for a free consultation” at the end, and call it a day. I couldn’t bring myself to write such crap, so I would often stay late and write much longer posts, covering the fine points of the topic, and all too often inserting the lyrics of Shania Twain to illustrate points. Maybe all that effort and creativity is why I burned out.
On the pay-per-word basis, there is great incentive to write as much like a lawyer as possible — being verbose pays the bills. This is not necessarily a bad strategy for search engine optimization (SEO), as longform content does tend to typically beat those 300 word “blawgs” in the rankings. On the other hand, if done poorly, longform content will just bore your reader – you may rank on Google, but you won’t convert readers to potential clients.
And then there is the pay-per-post model. Obviously, you want to do as little work as possible to get paid, so you try to hit the word minimums. It has the same disadvantages of the quota system. Hilariously, for one vendor, I tried to write more than the minimum and was told repeatedly to cut my post down and include less legal information and more marketing copy. Gross.
How Do You Get Great Content?
I don’t know the secret to finding great content writers, other than auditioning a ton of them and finding people who are passionate about writing in-depth pieces that truly cover the content, answer the user’s questions, and entertain readers enough to keep them around. But I can tell you this: those 300-word blobs (blahbs? blawbs?) written on your behalf, on your website, are doing absolutely nothing for your law firm. They not only don’t rank well in the search results, and don’t bring in much, if any, web traffic or potential client leads, but they make your firm look like it has no idea what it is talking about.
If you are struggling to fill your content pages, here is a strategy we used at one of my old firms: make the associates do it. Partners will never have time to write the content, nor do they want to. Plus, they typically have higher billable hour rates than the associates do. Instead, make it a game: associates are tasked with answering questions about their own practice areas, either ones they come across frequently with clients or ones they don’t have an answer to. As they read through the practice guides to find the answers, they can translate that material to layspeak in the form of a blog post.
And if you’re a true solo … get some law student interns, find the time to write it yourself, or audition content writers until you find someone who can punch out more than a 300 word minimum blah blah blawg, stuffed with non-answers and marketing speak.
Bottom line: great content is really hard. If it were easy, we’d all be ranking and we’d all have websites stuffed with treatises on our practice areas, perfectly tailored to laypeople. But almost nobody actually does.