Friday, July 31, 2009

Blogging Tips and Tricks

I started this blog 4 1/2 years ago, a time when blogging was not nearly so widespread as it is now. After all that time, I'm wondering if I have any useful advice to pass on to other prospective legal bloggers. It has taken me a long time to hit my stride as a blogger (actually, I'm not sure I have even hit it yet); I wonder if I can save others some time. My answer to my own question is probably not. Everyone has to approach this in their own way, and decide for themselves if it is worthwhile. I cannot tell anyone how to do it. I can only give some of my own experiences. So here goes, in the ever-popular Q and A format:

Q: Is blogging a useful marketing tool?
A: I would say the jury is still out on that for me. I set up this blog instead of a traditional law firm website, because I find traditional websites fairly useless. I still would not say that the blog drives a lot of potential clients to my door. What it does do is to allow a potential client to find out more about me, both in terms of checking out my credentials and expertise, and in terms of finding out whether my style and interests are compatible with those of someone who might want to retain my services. A blog allows people much greater opportunity to gain some insight into you as a person than a traditional website.

Q: Does blogging provide a useful forum for the exchange of ideas?
A: Yes, but it has taken a long time to build up enough readership to get any feedback from blogging. I originally thought that this blog might be a good place to try out some of my ideas on reforming the code of civil procedure, and similar legal issues, and I do post stuff like that sometimes, but I get very limited feedback. What blogging actually does is to force you to think through your own ideas. It's more of a diary than a dialogue, though it can be both.

Q: Is it important that a blog have a theme?
A: I have decided it is absolutely critical. The problem with this particular blog that you are now reading is that it does not have a well-defined theme. I have decided that that is why it has taken me so long to become any good at blogging, and I am still working on better defining the purpose of this blog. The way that I finally started to get better at blogging was actually to start another blog. I started blogging about politics on the Obama campaign website in late 2007, and developed a voice and a point of view on that site. Then I started my own blog on politics in the fall of 2008, which started with that well-developed point of view. It's called hope and change, and its purpose to be relentlessly positive about changes that are occurring in this country. I write about things that I am passionate about, and I always try to keep my posts in line with the theme and tone of voice of that blog. As a result, that blog is much more active than this one. I have made 93 posts on my politics blog in less than a year, while this one only has 44 posts after more than 4 years. (For a couple of years, this blog went almost completely moribund, because I couldn't figure out what to do with it.) But starting that second blog helped me make this one more active and effective. Where I really went overboard was starting yet a third blog just a few months ago, to discuss mediation, which I did because I thought it was a good idea to separate my discussions of my mediation practice from those of my litigation practice. That blog, called Mediation's Place, also has a well-defined theme and a point of view. Therefore my newest blog is in some ways also more successful than my original blog.

Q: How often should you post to your blog?
A: I have read that quantity is more important than quality, and I think, sadly, that that might be true, but I am somewhat resistant to the idea of just posting a lot of quick links to other people's stuff, or random offhand notes that are not well-written or well thought-out. It is probably true that the more you post, the more traffic you drive to your site, but then you have to wonder whether your only object is to drive a lot of traffic to your site. If your object is to help yourself develop your own ideas and style, and to help people who want to find out more about you, then maybe you shouldn't care about how many people actually read your blog. But of course we all care about that too, so I guess I would advise trying to post regularly.

Q: How else do you drive traffic to your blog?
A: Besides posting regularly and having something interesting to say, it is also helpful to post comments on other people's blogs, and link back to your blog. Bloggers form a large community, and spend a lot of time talking to each other. Listing your blog in blog directories also seems to be of some use.

Q: What do you blog about?
A: Anything that interests me. If you're not interested in the subject, and you don't have anything particularly compelling to say about it, what's the point? But I do think that whatever I am posting about should always fit in somehow with the theme of the blog. Maybe if you're The Huffington Post, you can get away with talking about anything in the world, and you can fit in multiple points of view. But even the Huffington Post has a guiding spirit, albeit a fairly eclectic one. If you're not as well known as Arianna Huffington, then I don't think you can expect anyone to read your blog regularly unless they can expect to see postings on a particular subject matter, or from a certain perspective. Because I have three blogs, it is now easier to find a place to put a posting on whatever I might be thinking about, but I still try to make it fit in somehow with the theme and purpose of the blog.

Q: How do you strike a balance between the personal and the professional?
A: I do that by having one personal blog and two professional blogs. But even on the professional blogs, it is sometimes difficult to decide how casual or personal to make my postings. Of course I have certain standards of professionalism, and I want to make my postings on legal issues authoritative and erudite. But at the same time I recognize that I am not writing law review articles here. Also, I do think it's permissible, even desirable, to let your personality show through even on a professional site. On the other hand, you aren't likely to see any family pictures on this site. That kind of stuff is for facebook.

Q: Do you ever revise your posts?
A: I know there are some journalists who try to adhere to standards similar to those used by newspapers and magazines. Once it appears in print, it is somehow a matter of record, and revisions should be shown as such. I do not feel bound by such constraints, and I revise previous posts whenever I think of something I want to change, or see a way to improve the writing. This post, for example, I have already edited twice to add several more questions and answers, including this one.


Eugene Lee 3:14 PM  

Mr. Markowitz, I think you have a wonderful blog here. And I agree with your thoughts on blogging. I think Michael Fox has similar sentiments about blogging over at "jottings by an employer's lawyer". Anyway, keep up the good work!

bbrian017 4:05 PM  

Finding and converting leads using a blog is very hard. You need to build your page rank, determine specific keywords to rank for and in the end you gain new leads and prospects. It's really hard to do and many people are unsuccessful.

I think one of the most successful companies that did this was SAP. It's a software company and they have about 50 - 100 blogs regarding ERP Software. Thy say 80% of the 100% SEO ERP search terms will lead you to the SAP web site eventually.

That's amazing! Perhaps you're approaching it wrong. If this is your only blog than that
's a problem. You need many blogs many many blogs.

Great read! I voted for you at blognegage thanks for submitting!

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