The following are content-specific questions that were answered during a recent Q and A session and transcribed for our readers. Please excuse any discrepancies in the transcription.
“The more content, the better”
When it comes to writing content, the way that we approach it is that every single blog or page you do is an opportunity for another person to find you. The analogy I sparsely use in this kind of situation is, if you are fishing, every piece of content that you write, with a clear direction and clear strategy, it is an opportunity to cast another hook into the water.
On the surface, writing more content is better. From an SEO perspective, this is not always the case. When Google is crawling your website, it is very difficult, even with a properly set up sitemap, to emphasize which pages have more importance than others. Meaning that there are some sitemaps that display a setting such as weight, but the weight is arbitrary, and Google does not observe this.
Your homepage, even though it is the main page on the website, would be considered the most important page. Everything below that may be considered of equal importance. When you create tons of content for very specific topics that don’t get search volume, what may happen is this takes away time from robots or crawlers, or how Google will crawl your website on a periodic basis to know if you’ve added anything or refreshed anything. They may perceive one of these lesser pages of equal importance, compared to a main practice area page. You would never want a very specific city with a low population, with a very specific practice area, to have the same weight as your main car accident page or your main personal injury page, for example.
Whenever you are doing content, make sure that you have a clear vision for what these pages are going to do, backed up by potentially trends you’re seeing or data that you have. The concept of crawl budget comes into play with building out your website. Adding random blogs, regurgitating the news, or hyper-specific or hyper-niche practice area pages may deter not only people but also Google from spending time and their focus on crawling the pages that matter on your website the most.
“Should I only focus on content that has search volume?”
This is a great segue from the previous topic as I just mentioned, you do not want to create content from both a resource standpoint and the Google indexing standpoint, which is not verifiably getting traffic. The thing about SEO tools such as SEMrus, Ahrefs, and Moz is that these are great tools for checking your volume for short-tail keywords, but often they miss the mark when it comes to long-tail keywords. The longer a search term is, the more likely it is that people are going to search it in different ways. We know that from a short tail perspective, someone typing in, let us say for a criminal defense lawyer, it is going to be the city, plus criminal defense lawyer, or law firm, or defense, or anything of that nature.
If you start to increase the length of the search query, the variations of words used start to increase exponentially from, “do I need a lawyer for my DUI case?” or “should I have a lawyer?” or “what would happen if I didn’t have a lawyer?”. Considering how many different ways people search for long-tailed, it becomes clear that any tool’s not going to be able to verify a common theme of how people search in that manner. If you were to try to verify this way, you would always see that the search volume is zero. That being the case, which should never deter you from doing a long-tailed search term, just because you do not see the volume. There are just too many variations of how it is searched. If it is a zero from whatever tool that you use for a short tail, that does not mean that people do not search it whatsoever, the search volume may be negligible. It just must be a little bit more intuitive and based on historical data at that point or completely foregone altogether.
“Only lawyers should be writing content for law firms.”
This has been a topic for quite some time. I do not think it is hotly debated. The short answer for this is for B2C firms, for personal injury, criminal defense, family, lawyers tend to write for other lawyers. I can imagine that writing lots of papers and briefs and legal documentation in law school for three years and beyond has really indoctrinated lawyers to want to write in a certain style that does not always carry over to the average consumer, from both a personability to accessibility standpoint. A website is, at the end of the day, a marketing material. Therefore, whether some of us like it or not, the copy on a law firm website is marketing copy. As we know, there is a disclaimer on websites that says that this is a form of advertisement and does not establish a client-lawyer relationship in any manner.
The copy does not really work well to go in that direction. At the of the day, for as little as some lawyers would want to hear it, you do want marketers to write the copy, and of course, have a very deep understanding of how to interpret any statutes or laws that will be presented on the website. They should know the nuances of writing for criminal, versus personal injury, versus family, and have experience doing so. A legal writer or legal content writer is best suited to write the copy for a marketing website, and a lawyer certainly could edit and should verify anything related to or close to providing legal advice, which most of the time, copies should not. There is not anything in my experience that provides a benefit for having a lawyer write your average website copy, except in the case of very specific and complex legal matters.
“I don’t always have to create new content. There are services that give me permission to use their blogs if I pay a small fee.”
In some instances, I have heard of law firms going to a service where they are able to, for lack of a better word, lease content and put it on their website. This has been prevalent in estate planning, where a lot of writers fall short of being able to write concisely and accurately for matters related to estate planning, probate, wills, trusts, and so on. The issue of course is not only that you are not going to get value from being the originating author of the content, but you could subject your website to the consequences of duplicator plagiarized content. The short answer is, do not use the services that let you borrow or “rent” this type of content. Though I do not always think that you are going to get dinged for plagiarism or duplicate content, since that is not a widespread penalty, it certainly will not provide any SEO value whatsoever. Most people that are reading it will not spend time on those blogs.
“What is the minimum word count for blogs and pages nowadays?”
This has evolved a lot over time. When I started doing SEO just over a decade ago, many people were doing blogs that were about 350 words or four hundred words, pages were not too much more. It is hard to believe that we even got any of our points across with such a limited word count. Oftentimes even the intro and the outro could be several hundred words alone. People are really stuck in a word goal and that threshold and getting where it needed to be and getting it on its way. Over the past decade, it is evolved into more of an actual useful approach to providing content, where blogs do not have to have a limit to get the point across. It is just whatever the word count is to get that point across.
Focusing on, potentially, more specific topics so you do not write about something for thousands and thousands of words, but just write about it from every angle and comprehensively. Not really focusing on hitting a goal, just making sure that you get your entire point across, and that is the same with pages. It is common for many legal blogs to be at least 750 words at this point, and pages to be between 1000 and 1250 words. For pages, it is also going to be relative to the competition. If you have other law firms that are writing about a legal topic or practice area in the thousands of words, your target for that page can no longer be 1000 or 1200 or so. You will have to raise the bar higher to compete with the content marketing SEO side of things for your content to be able to be competitive.
If you are at one thousand words with a practice area page, let us say at the main practice area page, and some of your competition has pages that are 3000, 4000, 5000 words, you do have to set the bar to that range for that page to perform when people search for your law firm. At that point, it will require your pages to be extensive or long-form. What that requires is often adding many more subtopics or subcategories, testimonials, case results, data, statistics, anecdotes, and other forms of content within that page, to build it out to be seen from a Google search.
“Why would I pay a premium for content with an agency when there are plenty of freelancers that can write for me at a fraction of the cost?”
This is a fantastic question. Agencies might charge you on a per piece of content basis, $50, $100, $150. If you were to go out and work with a freelancer, oftentimes they can do a price per word arrangement on a low end. And I would not recommend this, but you might get content for six or eight cents a word. Once writers get a little bit more experienced and talented, you could see 10 or 12 cents, and more, 20, 30 cents. If you had a 1000-word piece of content and it was ten cents a word, that already is $100.
It is not that uncommon for a talented writer to charge that amount, but the premium would come from an agency. If it was more than that point, there are multiple reasons. The first is consistently understanding your voice, your tone, your differentiators, your unique selling proposition. Being able to communicate with you in a potentially more professional way, having a deeper understanding of your law firm and your goals, and how you want to present yourself online.
It could also be that a freelancer is typically not going to be well-versed in everything that contributes to a great piece of content. They could be a good writer, but not a particularly good editor or not a good researcher or familiar with finding credible sources. They also might not be able to contribute to a strategy. They might not be able to find topics for blogs and pages that are going to benefit your firm the most. In addition to that, it is not very common for a great writer to also be a great SEO. Once you get that content, you do want a team to do the proper onsite optimization for that content to have the highest likelihood of generating traffic for you afterward.
“Who exactly is writing the content for me?”
This will be a different answer depending on the agency you speak to, of course. I hope each one would be transparent. For us, we have a complete in-house team comprised of over 10 US-based writers that are trained and exposed to exclusively legal content. There is a dedicated editor. There are several content strategists. There is a content manager. There are SEOs that also helped optimize it. It is very much a concerted effort to do the best content possible.
To my knowledge, most other agencies, not to be disparaging, will have one of three approaches. A: They will either have in-house writers that are not particularly good, or the agency does not spend time training them to have a high standard. B: They do have a pool of freelance writers or C: they work with another vendor to completely outsource the content. I am not going to say that some of these approaches are completely off if they are yielding good quality content. But there is always going to be a gap when you do not have an in-house team working for you because they will never be truly vested in your company or take pride in the content having an impact on your business. Since they can see analytics and leads and have pride and receive praise when the content that they write has an impact on your law firm. These writers feel a connection with doing a quality job because of their genuine interest in the positive impact that it has on a particular client that they know their team is working on.