Law Blog Post Formats: The “How to” Article
The tenth and last in a series about useful law blog post formats.
The “how to” law blog post is a great way to meet potential clients at the moment they begin researching their legal problem — prior to the selection of legal representation. A “how to” post, well done, builds trust and positions the law firm as a desirable solution provider for the client’s problem.
“How to” posts are also ideal candidates for selection by Google as “Featured Snippets,” those information boxes that Google frequently pins to the top of organic search listings.
Now before you declare, “I am an [incontrovertibly laudable attribute] large firm lawyer, I don’t do ‘how to’ posts” and click away, please hear me out.
”How to” Posts and the Plight Lawyer
DIY types and problem-solvers punch thousands of “how to” queries into Google each day.
Google is often the first place individuals look for answers to critical, “once in a lifetime” legal problems such as criminal arrest, financial difficulties, personal injuries, and motor vehicle mishaps. Google also assists individuals who are attempting legal self-help for less-pressing but nevertheless important legal problems — business formation, estate planning, and real estate transactions, to name a few. Self-help efforts often culminate in the realization that professional assistance is necessary.
“How to” blog posts that anticipate — and answer — common law-related questions will rank well in Google search. “How to” blog posts are strong “top of the funnel” content describing in broad strokes the dimensions of a legal problem. They draw searchers in and invite the creation of a deeper relationship.
Better yet are “how to” articles addressing local laws and courts.
Every lawyer should have a list containing dozens of questions that clients ask on their first office visit. Better yet, they should consult Google Analytics for the keywords that led searchers to their website. (Sleuthing for competitors’ best keywords is also a good strategy.)
These indicators of client concern can be profitably mined “how to” blog post inspiration.
Google Featured Snippets
Aside from providing answers to questions that would-be clients are asking, there is another reason why “how to” posts are valuable: Google Featured Snippets. These are the information boxes prominently displayed near the top of Google search results. Featured Snippets sit just below PPC sponsored results and above all other organic search results.
“How to” and “Frequently Asked Questions” formats are strong candidates for a Featured Snippet listing.
Here, a Cleveland area divorce law firm leapfrogged over both FindLaw and the local county courthouse for the “how to get Cleveland divorce” keyword.
Source: How to Get a Divorce in Ohio Without a Lawyer (And Why You Probably Shouldn’t) (Laubacher & Co., visited Sept. 5, 2017)
Websites fortunate enough to earn Featured Snippet treatment by Google report significant increases in click-through rates and traffic. According to a 2017 study published by SEO tools provider Ahrefs, the Featured Snippet steals about 8.6 percent of the clicks that would have otherwise gone to the top organic listing.
In almost every case, Google selects pages that are already doing well for Featured Snippet status. The Ahrefs study found that 99.58 percent of Featured Snippets point to pages that already rank in top 10 of Google for the target keyword.
A successful strategy for earning Featured Snippet treatment is to frame the question in the blog posts’s title (or a subheading) and then immediately deliver a succinct, one-paragraph answer to that question.
A Rose by Any Other Name
Would smell as sweet.
“How to” blog posts work well for large firms too. They just can’t be packaged as “how to” blog posts.
Even though large law firms are not particularly interested in search engine optimization, they are interested in fostering a reputation for legal acumen and problem-solving ability.
Large firm clients aren’t necessarily looking for how to solve their legal problems. They’re looking for who can solve their legal problems.
Merely being able to define a legal problem and put forth a plausible solution is table stakes in this market. Larger firms must do better. Effective “how to” content for businesses — packaged in business-oriented language like “tactics,” “strategies,” “action plans,” “roadmaps” etc. — ideally demonstrates expertise and experience and an understanding of the client’s industry well beyond mere competence.
Here are a few examples of “how to” content dressed up in business attire:
- ”Guide.” Announcing SPB Recall Publication (Or, “A Guide to Product Recalls: United States & European Union”) (Global Supply Chain Law Blog, July 10, 2015)
- ”Tactics.” Negotiating with Chinese Companies, Part III: Specific Negotiating Tactics (China Law Blog, Oct. 14, 2016)
- ”Game Plan.” A Game Plan for Surviving Construction Defect Litigation (Baker, Burton & Lundy, visited Sept. 5, 2017)
- ”Action Plan.” Don’t Get Stranded without a Data Security Action Plan (Health Care Informatics, Aug. 26, 2016)
- ”Blueprint.” Blueprint for Startups and Small Businesses (Moster Law Firm, visited Sept. 5, 2017)
- ”Roadmap.” Going Native? The FTC’s Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements Provides a Roadmap (TheTMCA.com, Dec. 29, 2016); and Global Legal Roadmap (Hogan Lovells, visited Sept. 5, 2017)
- ”Strategy.” The Privilege of PR: Application of the Attorney-Client Privilege to Crisis Communications and Public Relations in Breach Response Planning (Data Security Law Blog, Jan. 11, 2016)
Warning: Writing what is essentially “how to” content for businesses will test your tolerance for buzzwords.
Assessing the “How to” Article
Pros: “How to” blog posts meet potential clients at the moment they begin researching their legal problem. When well done, they build trust and position the law firm as a desirable solution provider for the client’s problem.
Cons: This type of content is relatively expensive to produce, whether measured in terms of time or money. Wise, well-researched selection of topics is necessary.