The inconvenient truth about blogging is that posting fewer than three times a week will consign you to the “hobbyist” category as far as search engines are concerned. And despite what legal blogging mavens might lead you to believe, regardless of how finely crafted and niche-specific your content is, without frequent posts your blog is far less likely to attract significant traffic or readership, achieve high search engine page rank or otherwise contribute to “thought leader” status.
The good news, though, is that even if you’re a solo practitioner, some basic planning and simple content curation techniques can help you generate daily posts without having to write each one from scratch.
A blog content engine is simple to build:
1. Subscribe to enough consistently interesting, diverse content sources in your RSS feed reader to generate a steady, ample flow of raw material – RSS feed readers channel content into a single stream that you can review and manage from an easy-to-use dashboard. I use Google Reader on a Chrome browser because I can bookmark pages and retweet content (via the Buffer client for Twitter) without leaving the page. The more items in your reader, the more choice you’ll have for curated posts.
2. Set up a simple folder structure in your browser and bookmark liberally – I create individual folders for material related to original blog posts I’m currently writing. Stories that I find generally interesting are saved in the current “Week of [Date]” folder, and from that pool I cull items for curated posts.
3. Develop different types of posts for curated content, using standard templates whenever you can – A variety of post formats and styles add interest to your blog, and over time readers will come to expect and look forward to them. Using templates helps you assemble your posts in less time and with less effort.
Once you’ve built your content engine, consider adding some of these alternative blog post styles to your repertoire:
“Headlines” post: Good examples are Above the Law’s weekday bookend “Morning Docket” and “Non-Sequiturs” features. “What I’m Reading” on the Associate’s Mind blog is another variant. This type of post is simply a bulleted list of short phrases teasing a hyperlinked story. Whether themed to reflect your practice niche or interests, or just an eclectic collection of interesting items, you can crank one out in a few minutes. As a bonus, you can highlight each bullet point individually and use Buffer (see above) to automatically generate a day’s worth of tweets.
Guest post: Make it easy on contributors by using a Q&A format. Send them a list of questions on a particular topic so they can provide concise, standalone responses rather than having to write a longer, sustained narrative. They’ll be able to turn their submission around more quickly, too.
For readers, the Q&A format is a welcome change of pace and more visually engaging than continuous prose, so they might be more likely to notice and read the whole post.
“Best of” post: Weekly roundups of interesting stories are reliably popular with readers and easy to produce. Like the “headlines” style, “best of” posts are laundry lists, but differ in that they’re typically formatted more attractively and offer more complete summary statements about the highlighted stories. Samantha Collier recently introduced a “Top 5 Social Media for Law Firms Posts This Week” feature on her Social Media for Law Firms blog.
My preferred variant of the “best of” genre is a single narrative that weaves together several short commentaries on a single theme, or a mashup of disparate topics. Gini Dietrich’s every Friday “Gin and Topics” feature on Spin Sucks is the gold standard.
Video post: Write a brief intro for a favorite YouTube or Vimeo video, embed the link and you’re good to go.
Infographic post: Like “best of” posts, readers love infographic posts. They’re attractive, informative and frequently entertaining. And like video posts, all you need is a brief introduction and the visuals will tell the rest of the story. Infographics are also among the most shared content types.
Do you have any “quick-and-dirty” blogging tips to share?
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Jay Pinkert is a principal with Shatterbox, an Austin-based marketing and communications consultancy that helps professional firms and small businesses generate leads and distinguish their brand through content-driven programs. You can find him on Twitter @FollowtheLawyer.