Blogging for Law Firms: Be a Lint Roller for Ideas

The all-powerful Google search algorithm now commands us to post fresh, frequent content if we want to be noticed. Easier said than done, right? Where are all the story ideas going to come from?

Short of a natural Barbara Cartland-esque gift for prolific writing, most bloggers will benefit from cultivating habits of constant vigilance, hunting and collecting. I call my system the lint roller approach because I cover a lot of area in a short amount of time, picking up a lot of small things I otherwise might have overlooked.

The estimable Heidi Cohen observed last week:

“While people collect everything from stamps to back issues of National Geographic, to be an effective writer or blogger you must always be gathering new ideas. To this end, capture ideas for articles, headlines and graphics whenever and wherever you’re inspired. Jot them down before they vanish into thin air. You can use an old-fashioned pencil and notebook or modern electronic device. It’s important to build the habit of securing the inspiration for future use….Organize your notes so that you’ve got most of your article started. Contrary to what you may believe, once you build this writing habit it’ll be second nature and will yield a stockpile of partially written articles.”

Which leads naturally to another useful piece of advice:

“Have an editorial calendar. By planning out your writing schedule for the near future, you’re subconsciously preprogramming your mind to look for specific types of information [emphasis added].”

How to Build an Inventory of Blog Post Ideas

  • Cram your RSS reader with subscriptions – The more raw material you process, the higher your yield of valuable ideas and links. I’ve found that a large number — actually, hundreds a day — of headlines to scan is actually a great forcing function. It prevents me from dwelling too long on individual stories. When I find an interesting headline/blurb, I save the link in a folder and move on. I read them more closely when I’m actually drafting the post. The whole process takes 10-15 minutes a day, which is far less than the time it used to take me trying to research specific ideas in a linear fashion.
  • Set up and monitor Twitter hashtags and lists – If you use a Twitter management dashboard like TweetDeck or HootSuite, create dedicated channels to monitor the tweet streams of the bloggers you follow in your RSS reader, as well as other prolific/favorite idea generators.
  • Plug even fragmentary ideas into an editorial calendar – A lot of my posts start their life as a draft headline entered in to my WordPress editorial calendar plugin — another forcing function. Deadlines — even self-imposed ones — very effectively concentrate the mind.
  • Divide ideas into “breaking” and “evergreen” — Breaking news — like major jury verdicts, high court decisions and Apple rumors — are great for both SEO and organic traffic. Don’t get so wound up finishing evergreen posts that you miss opportunities to ride the momentum of trending topics with your own quick, brief take on the subject.

Do you think that changes in SEO are making blogging for law firms more trouble than it’s worth? Should law firms shift their content marketing focus to other distribution platforms, like JD Supra and SlideShare, and guest posting on more trafficked blogs?

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