Canadian Lawyer

November/December 2019

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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BACK PAGE OPINION 70 www.canadianlawyermag.com Should lawyers still blog? Yes, but times have changed and blogs must change with them I STARTED blogging for my practice 10 years ago. When I first started out, I knew very little about web marketing or blogs. Attending meetups and other networking events then, I started to hear non-lawyers, including many tech startup people, talk about the web, blogs and social media. I needed clients for the new competition law practice I had opened after returning to Vancouver from London and — without law firm marketing support — I decided to try blogging. After a few inquiries, I was referred to the person who built my first blog. Built on a WordPress platform, that site has today become three interlinked blogs that each generate traffic and leads. When I first started blogging, I remember being asked by lawyers in larger firms whether I thought any client would actually retain a lawyer writing for a blog. That was a common skepticism then and, to some extent, still is. Yet this perception has also changed over the past few years, with more large firms either launching their own practice-specific blogs or contributing to aggregator sites to gain higher visibility for their lawyers. The marketing objective for my practice is threefold: Gain high visibility on key search engines (principally Google and Bing); be seen as a subject matter expert in my areas of prac- tice; and maintain and obtain new clients. Each of my three blogs is focused on a single practice area (e.g., competition law or advertising law), with overviews of the key legal topics within that area; short, inter- linked and keyword-rich blog posts; and a professional biography. The lead generation benefits of blogging remain strong. For example, the GC of a major U.S. consumer products company recently contacted me after reading my blog posts, while several other major new U.S. consumer product company clients have been generated from my advertising law posts. Despite changes to legal blogging over the past few years, many of the core strategies to gain web visibility have not changed much. These include: • Using short and clear posts that show your expertise and insight as a subject matter expert; • Including clear branding statements; i.e., what you do and what distinguishes you from your competition; • Employing SEO fundamentals, including keyword-rich content and titles, optimized meta titles and descriptions, and keywords and interlinked content; • Using keyword-rich domain names; search engines like them and potential clients find them (for example, in my case competitionlawyer.ca or canadianadvertisinglaw.com); • Using microsites: platforms built around a single practice area with content optimized to reflect a particular area of practice); • Gearing your entire platform toward a geographic market (e.g., Toronto) if it is important for your practice; this includes optimizing keywords, including URL, meta descriptions, biography and blog posts. Yet, while the core benefits of legal blog- ging — visibility, brand strengthening and lead generation — have not changed over the past 10 years, some things certainly have. While there were about 300 legal blogs in Canada a decade ago, there are now more than 650, according to www.lawblogs.ca. Leading the Canadian law blog count are civil litigation (23 blogs), wills and estates (27), intellectual property (31), criminal law (39), labour and employment (53) and personal injury (59). There are also more publishing platforms available now, including LinkedIn, Twitter, aggregator blogs and specialized practice direc- tories. Practically, this means there is signifi- cantly more legal content being published and likely means that it's correspondingly more challenging to be seen by potential clients. Or, to put it another way, there is a lot more "noise" on the web than there was 10 years ago. Potential clients are reading blog posts and articles less in real time and more during a search for a specific type of lawyer for a particular file. I also think some in-house clients are less willing to rely on external counsel assurances that "we have someone down the hall" that can do it and are increas- ingly searching for specialist advice on the web. Lawyer blogging is more challenging and there is a good deal more "content fatigue," but high-quality, timely content still gener- ates good traffic and great new clients. "When I meet other lawyers . . . they still ask whether I generate any business from my blogs or say, 'Our firm wouldn't likely attract clients from the internet.'" Steve Szentesi is a competition and advertising lawyer based in Toronto. He is a former adjunct professor of competition law at the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Law, author of several competition law publications and lawyer-editor for Practical Law Canada Competition.

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