7 Quick Tips to Spruce Up Your Online Image

MC900078751You’ve been working hard on your blog and your social media platforms, but it still feels like something’s missing. Maybe you need a social media makeover. Here are 7 tips to touch up your online image:

1. Use Pictures

Using pictures in your blog posts will help draw attention and set the tone of each post. A comic can get people laughing. Try using a chart to help your reader understand a difficult topic.

2. Change Your Pictures

Change up your profile and cover photos on your social media platforms. You’ll be surprised how many people will “like” the new photos, even if you have used them before. It will also give your company a visibility bump on your followers’ news feeds.

3. Add a Head Shot and By-Line

If you are not the only one contributing to the content of your blog, think about adding a thumbnail-sized head shot and a quick bio to the bottom of your posts. This can personalize your site and let your viewers know whose thoughts they’ve just read.

4. Be Unique

Take some time to look at your competitors’ websites and social media pages. Does yours stand? What makes your site more appealing? If the answer is nothing, think about hiring a web designer to give your site a makeover.

5. Use Color

Lawyers are especially afraid to use too much color on their websites. They are afraid to seem unprofessional. But colors can evoke different emotions from your viewers. So the real question is, how do you want your viewers to feel? Pick colors that help them get there.

6. Check Your Font

Typography is an entire industry centered on the shape of letters. Is the shape of your words playful or serious? Does it suggest competency or trendiness? What do you want your letters to convey? A marketing professional can help you find just the right serif for your style.

7. Try Video

If you’re still feeling stuck in a rut, you could record a video for use on your site or social media page. These videos can talk about your firm, your services, or something unique that you offer your clients.

There are a lot of small (and not so small) changes you can make to your online image that will help you stand out from your competition. Even a simple change can draw attention to your site and help drive more traffic to your blog.

What’s In a Name?

One of the biggest challenges for bloggers is how to make new readers pick their article out of a list of search results. If you are lucky enough or have worked hard enough to appear at the top of Google, your job is much easier. But even as users scroll through Page 1, you need your article to stand out from the rest. You need a good title.

The blog title can be a kind of art form. That is to say it will take time to master and even once you have it down you will still write a clunker now and again. Still, a few guidelines can help you write better titles more consistently and draw more people to your blog.

1.  Keep it Short

Don’t load your title full of keywords or descriptive words. That’s what tags are for. Instead keep it very succinct. If you have more than 10 words, make sure each one is there for a good reason.

2.  Keep it Simple

This one is my personal weakness. Don’t worry about being specific about which court (unless it’s the Supreme Court, then maybe be specific), or the full name of a statute. And don’t get too elaborate with your message. The title is the bait, not the hook, line, and sinker.

3.  Connect to Your Topic, Sort of

Your title should reference the content of your post, obviously, and should not be misleading. But remember that anyone looking at your blog article in a web search is already thinking about your topic. Your content and tags have brought it up based on their key words. Instead of blandly stating what you intend to discuss in the next 500 words, it could be okay if your title is a little quirky, or makes a play on words.

4.  Make it Catchy

This is the part that is most important, and most difficult. It’s important for your blog to make an emotional connection with your readers. Whether they are amused, curious, angry, or pleased, if you can raise their feelings, they’ll be more likely to click on your article, and even read all the way to the end.

Crafting good titles for your blog articles isn’t easy, but it is important. Titles are the headlines on your newspaper, so make sure you take a few minutes to craft something good.

5 Linguistic Tricks to Make Your Words Count

MP900341496Last week I told you the ideal length for your blog posts. But if you are used to longer forms of writing – anything from legal briefs to novels – you might still have trouble hitting that 250-500 word mark. Here are 5 tips to help you cut the fluff and get right to the heart of your blog.

1.  Don’t Worry About Word Count at First

This might seem strange, but don’t fret over your word count during your original draft. Trying to rewrite each sentence as you go will only bog you down and distract you from your topic. Once you have a few blogs that hit the 250-500 target, you’ll start to get a feel for the length. Stop writing when your point is made, and then go back and rework the wordy parts. You’ll find you can drop as much as 50 words without losing any effect.

2.  Don’t Fear Contractions

In the more formal parts of your life you were taught not to use contractions. They were scorned in school and treated like slang. But blogs can be different. Remember my article about tone? Blogs are aimed at your target audience who, unlike the judge in your next big lawsuit, won’t be offended by casual language. It may only save you a few words, but changing ‘did not’ to ‘didn’t’ will do a lot to improve your blog writing.

3.  Justify Every of and to

Formal writing teaches you to overuse phrases like ‘in anticipation of’ or ‘with regard to.’ These linguistic patterns use extra words that bear no real weight. When editing your blog posts, look at all your small words. Can you rewrite the sentence and avoid that ‘of’ or ‘to’? Many times you can, and your tone will be stronger when you anticipate rather than do something ‘in anticipation of’ or write ‘regarding’ something instead of ‘with regard to.’

4.  Use Active Verbs

The passive voice wastes a lot of words. Passive sentences happen when objects have things done to them (‘the ball was thrown by the boy’), rather than when subjects do things to objects (‘the boy threw the ball’). By rewording your sentences using active verbs, you will reduce your word count and increase your words’ impact.

5. Avoid Covering Old Ground

Last week I mentioned cutting out tangents or explanations for later use. The reverse is also true. If you have explained the meaning of a concept before, don’t waste words going back over it again. Instead, use the concept and link it to your previous explanation. If necessary you can summarize to make the concept fit within your new post, but avoid telling your readers the same things over again.

There are lots of ways to tighten your writing style and make your blog more readable. As you write more blogs you will find yourself making these changes automatically, sometimes even in your first draft. You might also find that some changes make their way into your other writing, often for the better.

Finding the Magic Number

MP900309615Once you have found a topic you are passionate about, one of the hardest parts of blogging will be keeping your posts the right length. Too short and it will seem like you have nothing to say. Too long and no one will read it. So how do you strike the balance?

For most blogs the right length is about 250-500 words. If you are like me (and most lawyers) that number will seem extraordinarily low. You are used to taking your time and expounding on exactly what you mean with each word. 500 words won’t begin to be enough.

But it should be. 250 to 500 words is plenty of space to make one concise point. Keeping within that limit will help make sure your posts are focused and easy to understand.

If you find yourself drifting onto a tangent or trying to explain something, that’s okay too. You simply have the beginning of another blog post. Cut out the explanation, open a new window and save it for later. You can always link to the explanation once it is done in case your readers need more information.

There is a place for longer posts (usually called articles or white papers) within your web space, and it may even be appropriate to include an occasional article among your other blog posts. But before you get too excited, articles should still be about 1000-1500 words, and should be used sparingly – only when you are trying to be the ultimate expert on a particular topic.

Why the strict limits? It’s all about your audience. Internet readers don’t have to invest much energy into finding your article, so they aren’t as likely to put a lot of energy into reading it. They are looking for a quick answer to their Google search, not an in-depth treatise on the topic. Even the most interesting articles, if they carry on too long, will get the dreaded comment: TL:DR (Too Long: Didn’t Read).

If you want to improve your reputation as an expert in the field and as a go-to person in your industry, work on keeping your word count down. You will find over time, your writing becomes clearer, more concise, and more attractive to your audience.

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