CEO Melissa Davis looks at blogging strategy for professional services firms, with expert advice on optimising your blog on social media and for search engines.
In preparation for a training session with a client, I had a look around the web to find some examples of professional service firms that are blogging well. I found two things: many more firms than I expected are blogging, and the majority are not very good at it.
A lack of understanding of the medium and the intended audience is the main issue. I can picture the scenario: the senior partner or the marketing manager decrees, “we need to be blogging, so can you all write something?” Without any training, individuals tend to replicate what they’re used to writing – mostly long form articles and sector updates – which will have a different tone and feel, and are not a good basis for blogging. Lawyers, for example, who are attempting to write a blog will do what they do best – write about cases and what’s in the news. Many of the law firm blogs I came across were write-ups of cases, sometimes with a sentence added at the end offering an opinion.
Who is the audience for such a blog? The only group I can think of who would find that useful is law students. That’s a group that certainly shouldn’t be ignored, but is that really their Tier 1 audience group? I suspect not.
Audience and message – consider who you want to read your blog. Writing an academic piece about an aspect of your sector is great for your peers, trade publications, and possibly junior members of the profession, but probably will not be of interest to clients. Think about what potential clients would like to read – probably the things they’re too embarrassed to ask their clever and expensive solicitor or accountant. If you’re appealing to individuals, they might be asking these questions on Google, so use your blog to provide the answers. If you’re aiming it at other members of the profession, where are the gaps in their knowledge that you can fill?
Once you’re clear about who you want to influence through your writing, you can start to develop your messaging. Get a group to brainstorm the type of information that your audience wants to know. If that exercise generates 30 ideas, then you have 30 blog titles to work on – if you only blog once a fortnight, that’s over a year’s worth of content.
Writing for the web – people read differently online than they do on paper. Website layout has taught people to zigzag their eyes down the screen, ignoring the far right hand side (as this is where adverts tend to be placed, leading to a phenomenon known as RHS blindness). Research using eye-tracking tools shows that people will skim read the page, pausing at sentences in larger fonts or in bold, and at breaks or images, and also that users struggle with dense blocks of text. So, write in short sentences and short paragraphs broken up with sub-headings and bullet points or lists, and always include a header image to illustrate what your piece is about (also important for when you share the blog on social media).
Consider Google – write for your readers rather than search engines, but it is still important to have at least a basic understanding of how search engines work, which will help you to structure your blog.
Where you sit on search engines is determined by closely guarded algorithms, but here are some aspects that can help push your blog up the rankings:
Share on social media – you’ve put in the effort to write a great blog post, now make sure it publishes with the odds stacked in its favour. Social media is your best friend when it comes to encouraging people to read your blog. Write a concise snappy summary, or entice users in with a question or compelling statement. Always include an image and relevant hashtags in your post, along with the direct link (don’t just link to your homepage and make people search around for it – they will not). If shared through the firm’s channels, tag the author – not everyone has a Twitter account but almost everyone is on LinkedIn – and make sure they are prepped to respond to the post with a like and comment to help push it up the newsfeed and get more visibility.
Include a call to action – if someone reads your blog, what do you want them to do next? If you don’t tell them, they’re most likely to navigate away from your site. If you want them to read other blogs on the same subject, let know that they can and include the links. If you want them to call you, tell them – and include your phone number in a ‘click-to-call’ format as an easy next step.