Competition for attention online is rife, and never before has it been more intense amongst the legal community than now. Writing opinion articles, legal advice, case studies and factual Q&As for your website is one of the cornerstones of a good SEO strategy, but keywords alone won’t make an interesting read. Here is how you draw in the audience, and make sure they read till the end.
1) Start with a good headline
A great headline has the potential to increase traffic to your site by several hundred percent – a crucial point yet one many seem to forget. Try using questions and action verbs – specifically find, get, learn, join, see and read.
People love lists so try setting the scene for an easy-to-read piece using numbers and words such as reasons, ways, tips, secrets, techniques, strategies, facts and methods. An example could be: “Five ways employment law could improve your maternity leave.” Or “The secret to getting the best settlement agreement.”
Another popular trick is to appeal to our innate distrust. The suggestion that we might have been manipulated often prompts additional clicks. An example could be: “Is your employer telling the truth about your paternity rights?”
2) Audience, angle and language
Typically, eight out of ten people will read a headline but only to out of ten will go on to read the full article.
Before you put pen to paper, be very clear about what the story is, who it is relevant to and why. The answer to those questions should dictate your headline, the introduction and which bits of information you chose to include, or discard. If you aren’t sure, then your reader might be equally confused and leave.
Always use language your audience will understand, but avoid unnecessary technical expressions and abbreviations.
Think about what your audience already knows, such as industry terms and pieces of legislation. For example, if you are writing a piece about discrimination for a senior HR audience, you can probably delete this sentence: “The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination based on disability, gender, race, religion, gender etc.” Likewise, explaining what is meant by ‘protected characteristics’ might be useful for your SEO campaign, but it could also leave your reader feeling jaded and patronised.
3) Keeping attention
The typical human attention span is just eight seconds. Any piece of text that looks too long, wordy or difficult to read will not make the cut.
Make sure you get the five Ws across in your first couple of sentences: who, what, when, where and why.
Using bullet points, sub-headings and pictures to break up your article can make it easier and more interesting to read.
4) Grammar and style matters
Good writing is a gift that comes naturally to some but most pieces still benefit from a good edit. You are the legal expert, not a journalist so don’t beat yourself up if prose doesn’t flow from your pen. Never be afraid to ask a colleague or a copywriting professional to check and tweak your blogs before they are published. The goal is to make your article the best it can be so that it attracts potential new clients or inspires existing ones, so don’t be precious.
Use plain words instead of complicated terms where possible. Why use ‘persons’ if you can just say ‘people’? Or ‘purchase’ when you can simply say ‘buy’?
Always spell and grammar check everything before it goes live. The Economist style guide is a good starting point for common errors, clichés and correct use of punctuation, abbreviations and capital letters. Or refer to your firm’s in-house style guide.
5) Write for humans, not robots
Finally, forget about SEO while you are writing. Understandably, you want your piece to meet all the latest criteria for a page 1 ranking, but not at the expense of your reader. 500 clicks are useless if no one actually reads the article. Write for your reader, not for Google’s robots. The piece can always be tweaked at the end to hit the mark on all counts.
With a strong network of media contacts and in-depth knowledge of professional services, Christina advises a range of businesses and law firms on media and business development initiatives.