The Website Battle

The practice I’m designing requires a strong online presence. But, starting from scratch, I want to use smart strategies to build my platform.

Having spent years reading books and listening to podcasts about content marketing, I know that principles stay the same but tactics constantly shift. I’m not a fan of wasting time, so I needed to define a content strategy that’s effective and that I’m likely to keep up with for years.

Ideas From The Crowd

I took to the Twitter Machine to get people’s sense of what kind of content will get results.

I’ve mentioned before that practicing in a small county comes with all kinds of weirdness. Rockport doesn’t have many lawyers. Winning the online battle should theoretically be easy, but this business could expand. And the legal directories always dominate the Google love. I want to win the front page.

So, the first person to respond – certified online ninja genius Gyi Tsakalakis – asked the right question: “What is your objective?”

I told him that I do want to get to the first page. But the bigger concern for me is building authority. I don’t believe words are enough for a long term business, so I’d rather spend the same amount of time becoming known for something unique.

In response, Gyi told me not to focus on word count and sent me to a helpful article on Moz. In it, Moz’s expert-on-hand Jeff Baker says covering all the bases matters more than number of words. That sounds reasonable to me. 

Specifically, Baker advises that I look at the competition from the front page and see what their content covers. If one front-page lawyer covers X and Y, and the other lawyer’s post covers X and Z, the smart play is to write a post that covers X, Y, and Z together.

Meaning, create the content that covers everything. Hard as that sounds, it doesn’t actually require the most words. It requires the most focus.

The article is definitely worth your time, and I recommend it.

From the Trenches

After talking to the expert, I engaged with a few practitioners on the ground.

Donivan Flowers from Tyler said, “Many people write massive essays that nobody reads. TLDR. One thing I did was write short posts with relevant info with links to additional info on my own site.”

My buddy in Arizona, John Skiba, said, “After writing over 500 blog posts on bankruptcy I understand not wanting to write the ‘boring’ stuff, but if you are writing to drive business I believe you need to focus your content on what your ideal client needs and wants while adding your insight and personality.”

And Chris McKinney in San Antonio summarized it all well: “Move away from blogging in an traditional chrono-centric way and into building an information-rich site with lots of articles segregated by topical area.”

I’m not remotely disagreeing with Chris here (that’s never a good idea), but what he suggests may be the hardest way to build a website’s content. Although these super helpful, super organized posts focused on client questions are the dream, I wonder whether I have the discipline to create them.

I mean, look at this blog, which is really just my daily ramblings about what I experience as I (re)launch. The chrono-centric (or, rambling old man) posts are easy and interesting to write.

So I need a methodology I can keep up with over time. Some organizing principle that helps me stay on track and create a content-rich site. And a podcast helped me find that principle.

The Method

I recently listened to an episode of The Law Entrepreneur, relevantly titled “Building a Thriving Solo Practice in a Small Town.”

Neil Tyra spoke with small town practitioner Parker Layrisson about many things, but I found the bit about his website fascinating. He employs what he calls the “blog to bait to book” approach. And he starts by going backward.

Parker knew he was eventually going to write a book – The Accident Handbook – so he created a robust outline for it. Then he got writing on his website.

As he put it in the podcast, he’d find a spare hour wherever he could and write a 500 word blog post that fit somewhere in the outline. Then he’d dress it up with a stock photo or two and share it to his Facebook group. And he had a lot of results from sharing it on social.

“Facebook was probably our biggest marketing victory,” he said. “You can create your own message on Facebook.”

After he shared about ten of these blog posts, he’d collect them into a free report. He’d hire a graphic designer to clean it all up (I assume using a service like Fiverr) and put it on the website. It became a lead generator for email addresses.

So, at this point, he has some 10 blog posts about a subject, plus a lead generation piece targeted to the specific post that brought the consumer to his site. That kind of intent-specific pathway is crucial, as Gyi and others said above. He can then use an email marketing tool (he said he uses Infusionsoft, but there are cheaper options) to take those consumers on a custom journey based on what blog post originally interested them.

After a whole bunch of these free reports, he had enough to publish the book he’d originally outlined. It’s a book-as-you-go approach, which is genius. Blog posts may be a commodity in our industry, but a hard cover book is a rarity. By going this route, Parker won short term and long term gains. Pretty smart.

There are a lot of tools to learn in there, and Parker admitted that it took him time to sort them all out. But he started with a book outline. That kept his content relevant and, I assume, made the blog creation less of a chore. As someone who tries every day to think of what matters for this blog, I understand the value of a thoughtful outline. This is a good path.

My Rockport Reality

I don’t know how much any of this matters in terms of getting to the top of Google in Rockport, Texas. It’s a small market. I once had a lawyer offer me his Rockport website for $25k because it always comes up on the front page, and yet his site consists of fewer than 20 pages of bad content. It’s just not that hard to win here.

But we all need a reason to create. It can’t just be to satisfy a search engine. What we publish reflects who we are, and I hope you’ll be thoughtful about the authority you build as you write.

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