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 Evergreen content is informational or reference material that never goes out of date.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!

written by 

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.

written by 

Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

Molly Porter on Facebook

Will LinkedIn revolutionize law firm publishing?

Last April, I had the pleasure of sitting down with about 40 of my firm’s lawyers for one-on-one strategy sessions on using LinkedIn. The most commonly asked question was “what can I do with it?” – often from lawyers who had amassed 200, 300, even 1000 connections apiece.

Wake up! It’s time to make the content!

LinkedIn began answering this question last March with LinkedIn Today – a branded newspaper-like application that provides news tailored to your industry, interests and connections. Since then, LinkedIn has launched many additional significant enhancements, including:

  • iPad app – April 26
  • Targeted company updates – June 19
  • Homepage redesign – July 16
  • Profile page redesign – August 20
  • Notifications – September 5
  • Company page redesign – September 6
  • Endorsements –  September 25

These enhancements address user experience, engagement, sharing, content consumption – even gamification (try to make just one endorsement – I dare you!) None of these enhancements, however, addressed publishing and content creation – until last week which saw LinkedIn launch a blogging platform built directly into the profile page.

Right now this feature is limited to about 150 thought leaders and influencers like Richard Branson and President Obama, but I fully expect it to be rolled out to all users eventually.

This is a real game changer for LinkedIn –  for law firm web publishing.

First, I predict that this feature will make LinkedIn as engaging as any other social site – or news platform site (like Forbes.com or HBR.com) for that matter. While LinkedIn users currently spend an average of 18 minutes a month on the site (accepting connections requests and nothing more, like the lawyers in my firm), LinkedIn has no trouble generating revenue via its recruiting solutions. Imagine how much more they can sell (and charge) when people are even more engaged and spending time discovering content and following thought leaders.

Second, this new feature should cause a real shift in the way we marketers think about the lawyer-authors in our firms. Suddenly, all our blessed and branded publishing channels – blogs, microsites, the firm website and email alerts, especially – are competing with a site that has 175 million users, and on which every one of our lawyers probably already had a presence.

If a lawyer wants to publish content – and getting it done via marketing isn’t lightening fast and easy peasy – which do you think he or she is going to choose? What’s better – seamlessly delivering your thoughts to an audience of 500 qualified readers that you know personally, or following established firm protocol and procedure which can be byzantine and bureaucratic? One of these options looks like an easy button to me.

It seems likely that a blogging feature on LinkedIn could be yet another nail in the coffin of  blogging as predicted by Adrian Lurssen. But could it also contribute to the end of the law firm website? After all, biographies are the center of the law firm web universe and LinkedIn has pretty much duplicated and improved every feature of the lawyer bio at this point. Maybe? Maybe not. But it’s an interesting question.

Regardless, if  we are the smart digital marketers that I know we are, we will include LinkedIn among the channels that we must COPE with – Create Once, Publish Everywhere – so that our lawyers and our brands both can benefit from the efforts involved in creating great thought leadership content.

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.

Stickiness

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.”

Quantity

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

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.

written by

Molly Porter on Twitter

Molly Porter on LinkedIn

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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17,000 Morgan Stanley Brand Amplifiers Can’t Be Wrong

The rollout of Morgan Stanley’s social media program to all 17,000 of its financial advisers made big social media news over the last two weeks. In case you hadn’t heard:

Bird in a cage

MSSB’s social media policy restricts and protects – but it also amplifies.

Morgan Stanley’s risk management committee has given the go-ahead for all of the retail brokerage’s financial advisers to use [Twitter and LinkedIn]. The approval follows a year-long trial in which 600 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (MSSB) advisers were allowed to use the sites. (FT.com)

It’s hard to fathom that until a couple of weeks ago, LinkedIn and Twitter were completely off limits to all but 600 MSSB advisers – but that’s the restrictive regulatory environment they’re in.

So the conception and implementation of this program is a massive event in the financial services industry, even if it seems a few years behind everybody else.

How has this news of MSSB’s social media program been received? The blogosphere has been largely negative, calling MSSB’s program totally boring and saying it totally misses the point of social media – at the same time virtually ignoring the rigorous regulatory environment in which Morgan Stanley operates and the sheer magnitude of the program.

But maybe it’s a perfect model for Biglaw?

First, a few observations about the program.

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Much ado about the “biglaw twitter wars”

Infographics are HOT. All the rage. You see them everywhere, on themes from gay rights (broken down by state) to Pinterest user demographics.

Visual.ly Twitter Account Showdown Infographic Generator

Visual.ly Twitter Account Showdown Infographic Generator

Visual.ly is a site devoted to showcasing great infographics, and has a few nifty tools for creating your own. A popular one is the “Twitter Account Showdown” – examples of which can be found here and here . These infographics are quite large and impressive-looking, but Visual.ly makes it very easy to produce one. Just plug in two handles, click a button, and after a bit of data crunching, the “slugfest for supremacy” begins. Being the geek that I am, I’ve tried out visual.ly a few times but was always disappointed when the site timed out on me.

So imagine my excitement when, on Friday, I ran across  a “Twitter Account Showdown” comparing the twitter feeds of my firm and another firm.

Above the Law dubbed it “the biglaw twitter wars,” blogging about it to almost no fanfare.  Certainly the chart is of great interest to me and others in my role, but to the rest of the world? Yeah. Zzzzz.

Needless to say, I found it fascinating. I spent some time looking at the numbers and the actual tweets and twitter histories of both firms, I came up with a few insights gleaned from this  “slugfest for #supremacy” (Visual.ly’s words, not mine). Read on to learn more and to see the infographic.

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