Saturday, March 25, 2006

It's all about the links....

There is a conventional wisdom in legal circles that blogs ("blawgs") are great because they can generate traffic and interest which won't be generated by a traditional website, while helping to establish you as an expert. There is truth to this, but the reality is "it's all about the links".

If you have a decent weblog you have a good chance of being linked within the "blogrolls" of other weblogs. You also will periodically have your posts, typically your freshest posts, linked to other weblogs. "Look at 'this really cool thing' Mike wrote over at Crime and Federalism." "Paul Craddick's been a bit slow with the posts lately - is he waiting for something?"

Search engines love links, and more to the point they love natural links. (By "natural links" I mean those inspired by a genuine interest in the linked material, as opposed to links added for the primary or sole purpose of trying to inflate a site's search engine ranking.) Weblogs are a natural source of both.

Search engines also love fresh content, and sometimes give it a boost in their results for a few days after they find it. If you update a blog with any regularity, you are producing fresh content for the search engines.

Also, weblogs typically feature RSS feeds which can create an easy avenue for people to follow your work without actually visiting your site. That is a lot more efficient than trying to create and distribute an online client newsletter.

At the same time, the older material on a traditional site tends to do better in search engine results than do older blog entries. There are a couple of obvious reasons for this. First, although new blog content tends to generate links, linking tends to drop to nothing or near-nothing within a day or two. The absence of fresh links, and the fact that existing links are relegated to archive pages on other blogs, and the passage of the material from the front page of the weblog where it was published, diminishes the value of the linked content to search engine algorithms. In contrast, a traditional collection of quality articles will tend to continue to generate interest and links over time.

In my humble opinion, a law firm will typically benefit from a weblog, but the weblog should be integrated into the firm's site. The firm should build a collection of articles on the firm website, and use the weblog to feature its new article content. By featuring an article on the weblog (e.g., by announcing its publication with a short excerpt and a link), the odds go up that external links (those on other sites) will be directed at the article as opposed to the weblog entry, which in turn should help that article in future search engine results.

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