Evergreen content: you might be sitting on a goldmine!

Ed. Note: I’m bumping this from the archive because, well, it’s evergreen. 🙂

Because of an upcoming data migration, I’ve been cleaning up old and irrelevant content from our database. After reviewing traffic logs, I soon noticed something that piqued my interest – many of our older alerts were drawing search traffic in large numbers.

Not this kind of Evergreen.

Coincidentally, a case study on “evergreen” content was making the rounds on my social media channels, demonstrating the consistent search referral patterns of evergreen content. Could it be that our high search performers were evergreen too?

First, let’s define evergreen content. It’s not a brochure. It’s not a bio or service description. Evergreen content is informational or reference material that never goes out of date. Popular evergreen content types are “how tos” and definitions of key concepts related to a topic.

Because our firm – like many others – uses reverse chronological order for displaying publications on our site, much of our great evergreen stuff gets buried. As it turns out, we are sitting on a goldmine!

For example, I found one alert over 5 years old that was still generating 4000 visits per year purely from search engine traffic. See it here:

Reviewing the M&A nondisclosure agreement 

Because it was getting so much traffic, I asked the author to review and update it and – perhaps not surprisingly – the subject matter had changed very little. Evergreen!

Let’s put those 4000 visits per year in context:

  • This one alert gets more traffic than all but 3 of the lawyers on our site
  • It also gets more traffic than all but 4 of the services on the site

And the traffic is all coming from search. In order to navigate to it, one would need to know where to look since it’s so buried (before the update, it was on page two of the author’s publication list).

That’s one page, 5 years old bringing 4000 visitors per year to our site – visitors who were looking for something specific and found our firm. That is fantastic for the alert’s author and for our brand.

I also found a more recent alert that has all the signs of becoming evergreen:

CFTC final rule adopts LSOC model for cleared swaps collateral 

How do I know?

  1. Here is the traffic pattern of a typical alert: Large peak on launch, then a quick flattening (this is our Supreme Court ACA alert, by the way). Compare to the pattern in the LSOC alert: It had a much lower initial peak, but the peaks build over time as search kicks in.
  2. Search sends all the traffic. So all those people finding the alert since February are coming from keyword searches that retrieve this alert (see sample below):

I have encouraged the authors to revisit this alert soon to make sure the regulatory landscape has not changed – and to give it a more “evergreen” spin, since it’s so tied to a specific event. But so far, so good! Nearly 2000 visits from search alone this year.

Our biggest challenge – beyond identifying our evergreen content – is to create new ways of marketing and displaying it on our site, so the casual visitor can see it. In the meanwhile, my team and I are going back through all our old content to identify the evergreen superstars – and get them updated if necessary.

To find evergreen content in your own site database, follow these steps:

  1. In Google Analytics, browse to “Site Content”
  2. Click “All Content”
  3. Search on the the directory name that holds your publications (this will be “publications” if you’re a client of H1)
  4. Then start looking at the results that correspond to publication detail pages (many of the top results will be listing pages)
  5. Once you’ve found a page with consistently high peaks of traffic over time, you can search by secondary dimension “Keyword” – which can be found under “Traffic Sources.”

So what do you think? Is evergreen content something you will try? What kinds of evergreen content have you identified on your own site? Tell me about it in the comments!

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Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

Content Strategy for Law Firms

Do you work at a law firm and experience the daily dilemma of trying to keep a digital presence fresh, lively, relevant and useful across dozens of channels?

Content strategy can seem like something entirely different depending on which part of it you touch.

You too? Then why don’t you join my LinkedIn group!

Content Strategy for Law Firms is a networking group for the in-house law firm worker bees who conceive, plan, create, produce, govern, manage and analyze content across a variety of media.

The goal of the group is to learn about the mindset, tools and processes of content strategy so that we get better at our jobs – and maybe, eventually begin to build  cultures of content within our firms.

Why Content Strategy for Law Firms? Why now?

I have long wanted to start a networking group for law firm website folks, and had identified “content strategy” as the missing link among the in-house groups I’m active in.  And frankly, the missing link in many law firms.

In the meantime, my peers Kristin Vasilj and Tina Johns had also been discussing the lack of focused networking opportunities for legal industry people in roles like ours that cross communications, strategy, technology, marketing and business development. So we came together to form this group.

Website creation and content maintenance – done properly – breaks down silos within an organization. From this process springs the idea of  content strategy which plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content – and requires people with a diverse skillset across an organization. Content strategy requires both technical and editorial skills, along with a healthy dose of courage, influence, endurance, ambition and vision.

Content strategy isn’t a new idea. Rachel Lovinger wrote her influential piece on content strategy in 2007 – The Philosphy of Data. And Christina Halvorson – the Martha Stewart of the discipline – has written an excellent book on the topic.

Heck, even I held a content strategy role back in 2000, so the idea has been around for awhile. But look how much the web has changed since then. Many of us have gone from minding a single website of a few hundred pages, to overseeing multiple websites comprising thousands of pages. Add to that multiple social media channels including blogs, client intranets and extranets, the firm intranet and syndication channels, plus the complicating factor of globally distributed teams – and it’s no wonder we need content strategy now!

So let’s get together and talk about content. In the words of Christina Halvorson, it’s time to…

Stop pretending content is somebody else’s problem. Take up the torch for content strategy. Learn it. Practice it. Promote it. It’s time to make content matter.

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Molly Porter on Twitter

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Molly Porter on Facebook

Gamification for law firms – FTW!

I won a prize for tweeting at an event! See for yourself:

The event was One North Interactive’s Experience Lab – a thought-provoking day of conversation about the future of digital marketing in law firms – sure to inform many of my future posts. The challenge was to use the event hashtag #1NLab12 to achieve the highest outreach and/or influence.

The One North team used a Kred Leaderboard to track the hashtag and tweeples throughout the day. Here is a grab of the leaderboard from the end of the day, showing me as the winner in “outreach.” That means I tweeted and retweeted the most 🙂

Click for full size

As the day progressed, Candace Graham @candygram16 posted updates on who was winning – here’s an example.

It dovetailed very nicely with Candace’s talk entitled “Marketing Under the Influence” which dealt with the future of “influence” in legal marketing.

Google+ Profile Completion Meter

Google+ Profile Completion Meter

The Kred leaderboard is an example of gamification – “the use of game mechanics and game design techniques in non-game contexts.” Gamification increases engagement by giving rewards and tapping our natural competitive tendencies.  It certainly worked on me. As soon as I heard about the challenge, I wanted to win! The leaderboard and hashtag kept me engaged throughout the day as well, not only in the content of the program, but virtually and in real life, with the other attendees.  

Gamification is pervasive in social media, from Foursquare’s check in badges to LinkedIn’s profile completion meter.  In fact, Google+ just added a profile completion meter to inspire users to add more personal information.  Gamification is going mainstream too. Gartner predicts that  more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application by 2014. To learn about the four principle means of driving engagement via gamification, read the recent Gartner study.

Dutch law firm Houthoff Buruma has used gamification in an app targeted toward students and recruits that simulates what it’s like to work as a lawyer in their firm.  It caused quite a sensation in legal marketing circles on its release in 2011 – and the firm continues to update it by adding new challenges. From their app store page:

Houthoff Buruma App

An irate client gives you an assignment. Will you succeed?

 The game in HB The App is mission-based and for each completed mission you can compare your scores with other students around the world…You will enter a 360 degree world in which you can navigate around and encounter real people. At the onset, you will be presented with a task which needs to be solved within a certain time frame. There are several business dilemmas attached to this task and the client is waiting in the boardroom for your solutions. Along the way you will have to solve problems and talk to people in order to unlock what you need to complete your mission. Only the quickest thinkers, keenest eyes and management savviest players will succeed and end up on the high score list!

Wonder if the game winners end up with a job at Houthoff Buruma? (H/T to Ichizu of Helios Design for the screen shot.)

For law firms, gamification holds the most promise for internal communications and team building.

For example, PeopleLinx – a social business integration product and consulting service – uses many gamification techniques to engage internal teams in the use of  Linkedin. Built in leaderboards are a great way to leverage lawyers’ inherent competitiveness for the use of LinkedIn – for individual and firm marketing benefits.

And Ben Wightwick of HighQ (enterprise collaboration and publishing software) published a fantastic post on the promise of gamification with the legal industry earlier this year, focused primarily on the use of gamification for internal teams:

[Gamification] can provide shared vision and objectives for leaderless groups or groups spread across the globe. It will influence Legal IT vendors to design their software more intuitively and emphasise collaboration and ultimately humanise and empower staff. Generally when people think of gamification they think of achieving inconsequential ‘badges’ when tasks are complete, but it doesn’t have to be like that at all. Why not build out the concept of a virtual currency, which can be earned against a pre-defined set of tasks collected by a team or department, which in turn could be used against a corporate shopping list, whether that is a team lunch or a drinks trolley on a Friday evening?

Doesn’t that sound like fun?  Wightwick cautions that gamification is not a silver bullet – to that I say gamification FTW! (That’s “For The Win.”)

So, if 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application by 2014 – will your firm have one? At the very least, you should consider using Kred at your next live event.

Update: I found this blog post on the Economist via Ben Wightwick’s Twitter. Takes a dim view of gamification, but I agree with Ben’s assessment that “#gamification ‘lite’ can improve usability, encourage sharing & productivity.” It encouraged sharing at the One North event, that’s for sure.

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Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn


6 big digi-comms strategies for 2013 and beyond

This is an exciting time to be in legal industry digital communications. From Foley and Lardner’s embrace of forward-thinking UX on their website, to the explosive growth of content delivery platforms like JD Supra, it feels like we’re on the cusp of big things. Combined with advances in digital tools available to lawyers and marketers – such as blogs and social media – and the ever increasing reliance of our clients on the web for research and credential checking, digital communications is finally taking its rightful place at the center of the biglaw firm strategic marketing mix.

Your website should transform based on your visitors’ location, interests, browsing history and device.

In light of the potential and with the 2013 planning season upon us, I put together this list of the top-of-mind strategies that legal industry digi-comms types should be thinking about. Many of these strategies represent multi-year commitments of time and resources, but are must-haves for law firms as our clients become more digitally savvy themselves.

If you’re not sure where to start, look at your firm’s Content Management System – a state of the art upgrade will provide many of the features and capabilities listed below.

Top 6 big digi-comms strategies for 2013 and beyond

Personalization – Implicit and explicit personalization allow your site to surface relevant content for your visitors, based on their browsing history or expressed preferences. This is a must-have for large sites and firms with multiple locations and service offerings. Personalization requires a best-of-breed CMS and, for explicit personalization, some means of logging in to the site. (I know that you know this requires cookies and as such will require a disclaimer on your site if you do business in the EU, so I won’t go into that here.)

To develop a personalization strategy, you should start by developing a set of personas. What are your site visitors looking for and what do they hope to accomplish during their visit?  Next, ask yourself –  What else do I want them to see while they’re here?  Personalization allows you do do more targeted cross-selling.

Good piece on Forbes.com about personalization and privacy

COPE – Create Once, Publish Everywhere – More and more, we are asked to deliver our content into external environments and websites – everything from firm-branded microsites to internal applications, client extranets and client-hosted intranets. Key to COPE is the deployment of a state-of-the-art CMS that can support content governance, workflow, production and promotion –  and easily integrate with other properties via web service or API.

Good piece on “divorcing content from form” on Content Marketing Institute

Mobile – Does your firm need a mobile site or a mobile app? Do you know the difference? I gotta confess – I’m still trying to master the distinction. One way to cover yourself – at least when it comes to people browsing via mobile devices – is to use responsive design on your main site. This will allow your site to look great across a variety of devices by dynamically reconfiguring the site layout based on the site visitor’s screen resolution. The downside is extensive up front design exploration and development of at least three versions of each major template on the site. The decision to build an application requires answering some questions: is internet required? What about device features such as camera and location? Got a lot of money? Willing to deal with having your app approved by the App Store?

For more information on making the mobile site versus app decision, see this recent infographic on Mashable.

Lead Generation – The number one question I get is whether or not the website and social channels have led to new business. Other than anecdotal evidence, I don’t have much to offer.  One easy way to get more concrete data would be to map site visitors against the new business development funnel by asking for email addresses at various points in the browsing and content consumption process. Easy peasy, right? Examples: request proposal button, click to chat, simple registration forms. For some reason, not many law firms are doing this, perhaps because of the investment that  processing and acting on this information requires. To get consensus, mine your traffic reports and social sharing stats for insights into how they affect new business development.

Check out this fun e-book 101 Examples of Effective Calls to Action for ideas on generating leads

Social media integration and management – I going to assume that you have share buttons on your content and that you’ve got your social media accounts prominently linked. I’m also going to assume you’ve got a social media calendar and you know how to run campaigns across your channels. What’s next? Enterprise wide social media management that will allow your lawyers and staff to tap into a library of content for their own accounts –  which can even be firm branded and centrally managed. For examples enterprise social media management, look at Socialware, Hearsay Social, Hootesuite Enterprise, Buddy Media (now part of SalesForce) and PeopleLinx.

A convenient list of social media policies and guidelines by Charlene Li of Altimeter Group, in case you’re still at that stage

Big beautiful brand – Dear law firms – it’s time to be more visually engaging! Again, look at what Foley and Larnder is doing with their site – unique long scrolling homepage with CSS3 features, responsive filtering in interior pages, big beautiful fonts for easy reading. For out of industry examples, I love GE.com, GoldmanSachs.com, Bain.com, and GM.com (although I loathe auto-play videos).

Top trend of 2012 – the “Visual Web”

So there are the 6 strategies to have on your radar. Some of you may have already implemented some or all of these. Let me hear about it in the comments!

written by 

Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

“The Big Seed:” How law firms can aim big on the web

The first time I heard the phrase “big seed marketing” it set my gears turning.  I thought – how can law firms use the big seed to reach a larger audience, and increase success that our message reaches the right “ground?” It wasn’t until I spent some time with the humble samara that it all came together.

Every year about this time, the maple tree in our yard starts dropping thousands of “helicopters” – those spinning, double-sided seeds (fruits, actually, called “samaras”) that go everywhere.

This cleverly formed samara finds it way into the most interesting places – like the trunk of my car!

The success of the maple tree depends on these seeds –  and their success depends on how well they spread. A combination of aerodynamic form, a sticky surface, and sheer volume give the “helicopters”  a much better chance finding fertile ground on which they can root.

I can’t help but think of these seeds as a metaphor for digital communications and content marketing. I’m not the first to think this way. The term “big seed marketing” was first coined in 2007 by Duncan Watts and Jonah Peretti, and reintroduced to a new audience by Dan Zarella – Hubspot’s genius social media scientist – in his book “The Heirarchy of Contagiousness.”

In both pieces, the authors build out their ideas with a virus metaphor, rather than sticking with The Big Seed. Watts and Peretti focus on reach – the size of the initial wave of “infection” – to the exclusion of the qualities that help the idea spread. Zarella takes a deep dive into the specific qualities that make an idea “transmissible” and provides a lot of actionable tips (tweet at 4:30 pm, y’all!).

Personally, I’m not sure the virus metaphor can ever work for legal.  But the first time I heard the phrase “big seed marketing” (at the world’s most tweeted webinar) it set my gears turning. This is the power of a great metaphor. I thought – how can law firms use the big seed to reach a larger audience, and increase success that our message reaches the right “ground?” It wasn’t until I spent some time with the humble samara that it all came together in a simple formula:

(Good design + stickiness + quantity) x big reach  = best chance for new growth

Let’s unpack it!

Good design:

The samara’s special shape helps it take advantage of the wind and gravity, allowing it to travel far away from the parent tree – which casts too much shade to allow the seed to grow.

Similarly, you should do what you can to help your content soar. Create an editorial function that ensures your people are  producing high quality content that can be carried on the winds of  interests of your key targets and issues in the marketplace.

Many law firms make the mistake of leaving the editorial function almost entirely to the lawyers. If your “big seed” depends on their interest and availability, you will always be in a reactionary position, not strategic.

A strategic editorial function requires prioritization by the top levels of firm management and oversight by skilled and empowered editorial professionals. Their tools will include: editorial calendar, web-writing guidelines, clear approval and conflict-checking processes, and blueprints for various content types. This is a true communicator role, and should be integrated throughout the marketing function.

The objective should be the regular and frequent creation of relevant content that is cleanly formatted and well-written so it can  flow through various channels unimpeded.

For more on designing an excellent content program, see “Rebalancing for Content – The New Marketing Equation” by Rebecca Lieb.


Samaras have a sticky surface that helps them hitch a ride on animals and feet and noses especially. Again, this ensures they will move further from the parent tree and have greater chances of germinating.

What makes content sticky? According to the book “Made to Stick” – sticky ideas have 6 attributes which give them “SUCCES;”  Simplicity,  Unexpectedness,  Concreteness,  Credibility, Emotions and Stories.

Legal writing, on the other hand, can be very analytical, fact-based and yes, bland, to the detriment of simplicity, surprise and emotion. This might be okay for our lawyer constituency, but we also need to appeal to c-level executives and senior management who may not have a legal background, but play a critical role in legal services procurement. And let’s not forget, lawyers are humans too, and a certain kind of entertainment will always be appreciated.

The Deloitte “entanglement model” (talk about sticky!)  gives us some ideas on how to make our content stickier – by taking cues from B2C content marketing.

“We’re taking some pointers from B2C companies where the content is often short, sweet, and to the point, with the focus on benefits, and people are spoken to in a way they recognize. In the past, we often started with a white paper, with a big piece of thought leadership. We said, ‘What if we flip that around? What if we don’t start with the big thing but with the seed, the small idea?’ Not everyone is interested in a 20-page piece of content. Now we start with shorter pieces, such as our three-minute guides. We then look at the metrics see where the interest is; if there seems to be lot of interest in angle X, we’ll dive a little deeper there.”


Maple trees release literally thousands of seeds over a period of weeks.

Again, look at Deloitte’s entanglement model.

Instead of one big thing – a whitepaper or booklet – what if we acted like the maple tree and released a lot of little things? Or what if we divided our big things into a lot of little things – a chapter a day for 10 days?  Think conversation instead of thought leadership. Then take an inbound marketing approach – release and measure, release and measure – and  use feedback to produce more targeted and relevant stuff. Create a sense of momentum and expectation – then deliver on it. Again, talk about sticky!

Big Reach 

And finally,  start out big! In the words of Brad Smith, “Other people will spread your message, but only if you reach enough people first.”

Once you’ve produced your seeds – give them a big push through all available channels. Conversely, make the most of what you have by publishing it over and over and over in your various channels.

  • Email lists – Email is still king! A great email list is worth its weight in gold. Be sure to communicate with your lists frequently enough that they don’t forget who you are and unsubscribe.
  • Content Syndication – Services such as JD Supra, Lexology, Mondaq can help your content reach a much larger – and oftentimes more qualified – audience.
  • Social Media – This is probably the most important channel for big seed marketing, especially when you have hundreds or even thousands of amplifiers in your organization. For inspiration, look to Morgan Stanley’s social media program where – theoretically – 17,000 financial advisors can tweet a single piece of content. That’s a big seed!
  • SEO  – Give your content a home on a big, well-optimized site, where it can continue to garner views via keyword search over months and even years. Case in point, my firm has evergreen content that is over 10 years old that STILL gets thousands of views a year. Your archiving strategy should take this into account.

And finally – Patience

Did you know that it can take a single maple tree samara years to germinate and produce a tree? Again, this is a pretty good metaphor for the sales funnel in B2B and legal. It can take a very long time for a lead to produce business and typical ROI models don’t always work.

But with a lot of intentionality – and a little luck – your seeds will germinate, like this one.

written by 

Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

PDFs – Pretty Darn Fabulous for content marketing

Legal marketing has a long and complicated relationship with the PDF. When I first arrived on the scene in 2003, PDFs were commonly used for email alerts and newsletters. Almost as an afterthought, they were slapped up onto the firm website, where they would quickly disappear under the flow of new content (the curse of reverse chron). We knew the experience was imperfect, but we had few tools at our disposal to improve it.

I shouldn’t use PDFs on my site? O rly?

Things have changed a lot since then – when you know better, you do better right? Most firms send HTML newsletters and alerts now. These alerts, when done well, contain calls to action that link back to a page on the firm site where the recipient can read the full content and browse further.

Unfortunately, a few myths about PDFs persist in legal marketing circles – that they’re not good for SEO (o rly?), that they end or interrupt the user experience, that they’re unmeasurable and unshareable.

How do we square this way of thinking with the increasing demand for more in-depth, client-focused content?  PDFs are one of the only suitable document formats (along with .mobi and .epub) for the long form content that demonstrates the most value to prospects throughout the sales funnel. And they print beautifully – much more beautifully than many web pages.

So, to those of you who say you shouldn’t use PDFs on your site? Not so fast, my friends.

Granted, the thoughtful use of PDFs on your site requires care and attention – and governance. A decision tree  should be used to justify what gets made into a new page on your site, versus what can (and should) stand alone as a PDF. Then, a set of best practices must be set in place so that the PDF experience is both useful and usable for your site visitors.

Here are a few best practices for using PDFs on your site:

  •  Optimize for search. PDFs are fine for SEO as long as the source file was created in Word or another text editing program so that search engines can crawl them. Do not use Photoshop to create your PDFs, or worse, use a scanner. When creating your PDFs, make sure you fill out the meta data under File>Properties to increase the optimization of your documents. Additionally, the writing rules that govern well-optimized web pages apply to PDFs too. So let’s just stop pretending that PDFs don’t have SEO value – and start working to increase the value they add to our sites.
  • Create landing pages. If you’ve invested the time to create and format content for a PDF, make sure you let that content shine on your site. Give the PDF its own landing page with an abstract of the content, table of contents and cross links to related authors, practices and locations. Include a screen grab of the cover to make the page more visually appealing – and don’t forget the share buttons.
  • Match the content to the form. So what is the best kind of content for a PDF? Obviously, it needs to be long. But not just long – in depth. Good candidates for PDF content include surveys, handbooks, and reports that provide industry or legal insights across a variety of geographies. These tend to require a high level of effort to produce (and may even involve the writing talent of third parties) and a long lead time, but they have a long shelf life and are worth the investment. Make sure you appoint a business owner to all of your PDF longreads so that the content is kept up-to-date as the legal landscape changes.
  • Spread the word. Increase the reach of your longread PDFs by creating campaigns for them. Feature them on the homepage of your site and in banners throughout. Tweet each one numerous times at different times of day with various hashtags. Write separate blog posts for each chapter or section. Tie in a series of webinars around your findings.  You can also spread your PDF love by posting them on Slideshare, ScribD, Google Docs – they don’t call it the “portable” document format for nothing. And bonus – many of these sites have their own social tools and analytics to measure your reach.
  • Upgrade to 2.0 technology.  Finally, consider bringing your PDFs to life through the use of Zmag, NXTbook, 3D Issue, or similar. Many people think these formats are far superior to standard PDF, but I’m not sure I agree. While they look great, the controls may not be as familiar to mainstream law firm web audiences.
  • Publish an eBook. Did you know that PDFs are not optimized for mobile?  Why not publish an eBook alongside your standard PDF for desktop reading? Mobile is quickly becoming the standard for web browsing and your content should take those readers into account. Publishing an eBook requires the same effort in terms of writing, with a few additional steps at the end to publish to Amazon. Here’s a great article to tell you how: How Content Marketers Can Redefine the eBook

So there you have it –  a few thoughts on how strategically created and deployed PDFs can and should play an important part in your content marketing strategy.  Which side of the PDF debate are you on?

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Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

Ten ways your law firm website is foiling your content marketing efforts

Welcome to the third edition of Content Marketing Monday. In my last post on Mishcon De Reya, I explored how content marketing can help transform a firm’s brand. In this week’s post, I look at the current state of law firm websites as a vehicle for content marketing efforts.

“In today’s information age of Marketing and Web 2.0, a company’s website is the key to their entire business.” – Marcus Sheridan via Hubspot

Yep, it’s true. Even with the current focus on social media and content syndication and blogging, your firm’s website will always play a central role in your firm’s business strategy. After all, it’s out there selling for you 24/7. In the words of Chris Brogan “the Web is like your Hollywood agent: It speaks for you whenever you’re not around to comment.” What is your website saying about you and your firm?

HONG KONG - AUG 14, The busiest street, the Sai Yeung Choi Street South

Can your site visitors find what they want? Make it easy for them, and show some fun stuff along the way.

As I noted in my first post in this series, EVERY law firm does content marketing in one form or another – and the firm website is the biggest and most visible channel for distributing all this stuff. Some law firms produce  so much content that their “Hollywood agent” becomes a bloated database of newsletters, alerts and PDFs.  Since the majority of your firm’s content marketing is done by lawyers who could be billing for their time, we  should always ask ourselves if the firm’s site is doing their unbillable effort justice.

For example, one site I looked at had over 2000 publications alone. The listing page for pubs was the typical legal industry reverse chronological list  – sure, there were fields to sort and filter the content by practice, industry, etc, but unless you KNOW what you’re looking for, these fields aren’t very useful. An alert authored yesterday quickly becomes buried under today’s alerts, even if the content is still relevant.

This situation isn’t uncommon. I  look at law firm websites all day long (my own included) and find the same issues over and over and over.  I’ve collected those issues into a list here, in hopes they will be helpful to you. The list of suggestions below runs the gamut from design to information architecture and taxonomy. Some require technical intervention and others simply require better, more concise writing.

So here goes: 10 ways your law firm website is foiling your content marketing:

1) You bury the good stuff under piles of newer good stuff – reverse chronological order is the enemy of good content marketing. Listing pages are about as readable as a phone book.  The reverse chron approach is boring and old-fashioned and keeps useful evergreen content from surfacing at relevant points in the user journey. Break your content out of the reverse chron jail by adding splashy highlights to your big thought pieces throughout your site. Be generous and eyecatching! It’s okay – people will love your stuff.

2) You put too much on a page – resist the urge to post 14 paragraphs of content and 20 outbound links to related pages. Keep your content short and let microcontent and imagery speak for you. Make your links count   –  give them space and let them stand out. Your microcontent should support your claims of experience and knowledge. Make your outbound links a natural next step in the user journey.

3) You put too little on a page – a wall of text is boring to look at, let alone read. Use a variety of fonts and formatting, and – yes –  a photograph or image on your pages. These elements encourage reading and sharing. And remember that a large percentage of your site visitors bypass your homepage all together, via search. Make sure those site visitors get the most important messages on every interior page of your site.

4) You use tiny font – is it just me or are site fonts getting smaller and smaller? Use a large readable font for your content pages. And good news – serif is making a comeback for online reading . YAY. Check out the big beautiful serif font on Milbank’s site. I don’t even need my granny glasses! Protip: for the most gravitas and readability, use Baskerville.

5) You assume your site visitors know legal terminology – 
not all of your clients and prospects are lawyers. Some are C-level executives who play a role in legal procurement. Some are media who are looking for experts for a story. Do you really want to confound them by leading with a long list of your practices? No, I didn’t think so. Why not try grouping your content by business function, like Baker and McKenzie’s “Supporting Your Business” section?

6) You assume your site visitors know legal industry website conventions – News Pubs Events. News Pubs Events.  This phrase has become shorthand in the legal industry for content marketing stuff. We all know what these terms mean, and where we might find an “alert” versus a “press release” – but do your site visitors?  And do they really care what you call your stuff? Maybe you should try some topical labels – this is another chance to express your knowledge simply through wayfinding. Check out this fantastic set of labels on the Bain site.  Whereas most law firms will have a single link for publications, Bain breaks theirs apart into 4 categories covering 28 topics.

Publications on the Bain site.

7) You assume your site visitors know what they’re looking for – There is only one thing worse than a wall of text and it’s a wall of empty search filters. At the very least, your filters should be engaging and work in real time, like this lovely Intelligence page on the Foley & Lardner site. And check out those topics!

8) You don’t ask for any information in return for a download – you worked too hard to produce that content to give it away. Surely it’s worth a name and email address? Set the hurdle low and give immediate gratification. A name and email are probably enough information for you to gather – and provide the download on refresh or email it immediately. Also, don’t forget helpful messages, such as a “thank you” and invitation for feedback.

9) You ask for too much information – Please don’t make your users set up a password for your site or fill out a long form. They’ve got too many passwords to deal with already. Also, don’t make them compose an email (via a mailto link) to someone they’ve never met to ask for a publication. They’re too busy and no one likes to think they might be rejected.

10) You don’t offer a printable PDF version of the best content – PDFs were once considered the bane of a good website experience. Not anymore. A beautiful PDF is a pleasure to read, both online and in print – and can also be emailed to your Kindle for mobile reading. Give your PDFs a fantastic landing page that includes some or all of the content for online reading (and SEO)– and a link to the PDF for printing. Look at this example on the Bain site – “The Chemistry of Enthusiasm.” The landing page is a pleasure to read and the PDF gives additional value.

And last but not least – a BONUS 11th way your website is foiling your content marketing efforts:

You don’t provide share buttons – there is really no excuse for this anymore. The addition of share buttons should be a top priority for anyone running a corporate website. ‘Nuff said.

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Six beautiful HTML5 websites

Content Marketing Monday is on a brief hiatus until next week (busy weekend!). While you’re waiting for the next installment, please enjoy this eye-candy post on HTML5.

HTML5. If you don’t know what it is, better get ramped up fast. It is now THE standard for website development according to the w3c and it’s made for the mobile web – which is soon to become synonymous with the web, period, as more and more people access the web on mobile devices only.

HTML5 is not so new, but it’s hard to find good examples of mainstream corporate sites built in HTML5. Googling “HTML5 sample sites” retrieves a lot of creative implementations, but not too much for rank and file corporate marketing folks such as myself.

So as a public service, I am sharing my favorite HTML5 sites with you here – 3 corporate and 3 legal – and will add to the list as I find more.

As you browse these sites, you will see that they have a few things in common:

  • Excellent use of space (no giant white gulleys down either side of the content area)
  • Fantastic visuals (probably a style thing, but I love it)
  • And elegant moving parts that feel like a natural extension of your mouse finger (and are probably fantastic on a touch screen)

I have provided screen grabs below, but only a visit to each site in question can do them justice. So please click away.  I won’t be offended.

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Announcing – Content Marketing Mondays

What do law firm produced alerts, newsletters, email marketing, magazines, white papers, seminars, blogs and surveys have in common? Not only do make up a good portion of many law firm marketers’ workloads they are all examples of content marketing.

Content marketing is a newish concept that re-brands the longstanding marketing practice of custom publishing for the digital world order. Joe Pulizzi coined the term in the late aughts, and described it exhaustively in his 2009 book “Get Content, Get Customers.

Pulizzi defines content marketing as…

…a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action. 

 History of Content Marketing Infographic

Like this infographic? Get more content marketing information from the Content Marketing Institute.

Sounds familiar! In fact, one of Pulizzi’s case studies features Out-Law.com, the content marketing website of Pinsent Masons, a UK firm.

Content marketing is a smart umbrella description for what we’ve been doing in legal marketing at least since  I joined the industry – and probably long before. It puts the focus on content  at a time when brands need to think like publishers. And use of the the word “content” references the ultimate context for all of our content marketing efforts – the web and other digital media.

And oh yeah – there’s that part about driving profitable customer action, something we all want.

I’m not sure though that law firm marketers think of themselves as “content marketers”  – and certainly not to the degree that professional services and other B2B firms do. After all, is there a biglaw equivalent of McKinsey Quarterly – the ultimate content marketing piece in that space?  Or how about this terrific microsite for the IBM CEO study?

So, in an effort to learn more about the state of content marketing in law firms and to identify best practices, I’m starting a regular series of blog posts called “Content Marketing Mondays.” I’m going to search the web for the best examples of law firm content marketing and feature them here. In each blog post, I will dig in to answer questions such as:

  • How is the content marketing is featured on the firm’s website?
  • What visitor information is required to download or access the content?
  • What kinds of calls to action are used?
  • How does the content speak to the client’s needs or interests?
  • How is the content is disseminated via other channels – such as social media, syndication and search engine marketing?

I will publish the first post in the series next Monday. I have at least three firms I’m itching to feature, and all use content marketing in a very different way. Won’t you join me to find out who gets the honor?

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I am a praise singer! #SML12 follow-up

Chalk it up to beginner’s nerves. Or perhaps it was the breathtaking venue, or the dazzling weather. Any way you slice it, I forgot to say a few things at Hildebrandt-West LegalEdcenter’s Social Media for Law Firms in San Francisco aka #SML12.

The City Club of San Francisco

Allegory of California, 1930-31 (fresco) by Rivera, Diego

The theme of our panel was “Is Content King?” but somehow, I neglected to talk about my firm’s content! How did this happen? My focus was on my role as a web manager and how I employ social media to amplify our content. But the truth is, our content is really pretty fantastic and my job would be about one tenth as enjoyable if it weren’t for the interesting things I get to feature and share on a daily basis.

To open our panel, Adrian Lürssen told a wonderful story about Nelson Mandela’s praise singer. Adrian used the praise singer as a metaphor for content. Your content announces your presence and tells the world how great you are. But as he was telling the story, I was thinking – aren’t marketers praise singers too? So since I have your attention, I’d like to sing the praises of the ingenious and brilliant folks at my firm and the content they produce. This story also demonstrates how the production of great content can help energize and consolidate a global team. Shall we?

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