What is a blog, you ask? Short for “Web Log,” it’s an increasingly popular way to self-publish online. You can actually syndicate your articles, making this a great way for experts to showcase their specialized knowledge.
Think of a blog as a form of an online journal, with frequent postings and observations on items of interest. Most blogs focus on a narrow subject area, which is ideal for experts. Hyperlinks to articles, websites and other blogs make this a very interactive medium that encourages audience participation.
The Pew Internet Study estimates that about 11% of Internet users – translating to 50 million people – are regular blog readers. Technorati, which claims to be the authority on what’s going on in the world of weblogs, tracks almost 42 million blogs.
Lawyers are active bloggers. According to an online survey conducted by Blogads.com late last year, 6.1% of bloggers work in the legal profession. The Litigation Section of the American Bar Association discovered that the majority of section members surveyed read at least one blog regularly and almost 20% publish their own blog.
The best way to understand a blog is to look at a few. The Google Blog has a very simple appearance. By contrast, some blogs in the legal market can be very sophisticated, like E-Discovery Law offered by Preston Gates & Ellis LLP or the ERISA Blog maintained by The Law Office of B. Janell Grenier. Law Professor Blogs offers a rich network of links to law blogs maintained by legal academics.
Three reasons to start a blog
1. Blog software is frequently free or nominally priced
2. Blogs increase your search engine rankings
3. Postings get widespread distribution through syndication
If you like to write and have information to share about your area of expertise, a blog can be a great marketing tool.
Three cautions before you start blogging
Look before you leap into a blog. Launching a professional looking blog requires careful advance planning. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
1. Create a strategic framework for the type of information you intend to publish
2. Post new content frequently to keep your blog fresh
3. Take advantage of syndication features to maximize the reach of your blog
Basically, make sure you have the time to maintain your blog with high quality and timely information. Just because you get named as an expert on a big case is no excuse to neglect or abandon your blog.
Blog publishing services
Now, let’s say you are interested and want to find out more about launching a blog. One place to start is with your website hosting service. Chances are you can link a blog to your website for a small additional monthly fee. I host with GoDaddy for example, and they offer blog software for as little as $2.99 per month.
Leading blog services include Blogger (owned by Google), TypePad and Moveable Type (both owned by Six Apart Ltd.), and WordPress. LexBlog targets the legal market with a full-service offering that includes strategic design, implementation and training.
Blog features encourage interaction
The beauty of the blog is the way it allows you to organize, archive and syndicate your articles. Here are a few features you should consider:
Archives A calendar on the front page of your blog can link readers to articles posted on a certain date. You can also organize articles by author or alphabetically.
Blogrolls Present your readers with a sidebar list of other blogs on related topics that you recommend.
Email a friend Add a button to your blog for easy emailing.
News Feeds. RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) is a blog technique that allows you to easily distribute your postings to other blogs. Interested parties can also come to your blog and quickly set up an automatic feed of your news for publication on their site. Read more about feeds at Wikipedia.
Reader Feedback Allow your readers to comment on your blog postings to maximize audience interest. Some of the techniques used for this purpose include trackbacks, pingbacks or comment moderation.
Permalinks Give your postings a static URL so that readers can easily share links or revisit a favorite posting.