Somewhere in America, the ball is currently being hoisted to usher the new year. How are you going to make the most of your new blogging year? What can you to get your 2018 blog off right?

In this 2-part blog, I’m out to get your 2018 blog off to the right start. Whether a new law blog is part of your 2018 marketing plan, or you are hoping to kick your existing web marketing plan up to the next level, here are some tips to start the year on a strong note.

1. Identify Your Blogging Niche

At this point, there are thousands of legal blogs available on the Internet. If you want to cultivate a strong readership, you need to stand out. One of the best ways to do this is to identify a blogging niche.

A blogging niche doesn’t have to mean you do something no one else does. Even a general practitioner can find a way to reach readers in a new way. You could:

  • Write about an obscure area of the law or niche practice without much online competition
  • Take a tone that is fun, snarky, sarcastic, or otherwise unique to read
  • Focus on geography if you work in a rural area without a lot of legal competition
  • Connect legal issues to some unique hobby or interest

If your law blog already exists, it may take some work to redefine your niche and steer your posts in that direction, but you will reap the reward of increased followers and a regular readership.

2. Define Your Target Readers

Once you have your blogging niche established, you can use it to define your target readers. Who needs to read what you’re writing? Who is going to be drawn to your writing style? Whose questions are you answering? Define your target reader based on:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geography
  • Legal need or interest
  • Sense of humor
  • Educational level
  • Socio-economic status
  • Profession or industry

Go ahead and be specific when defining the target of your bull’s eye. Not everyone who reads your blog will have all the traits you’re targeting, but most will share something in common with your ideal reader, and ultimately the ideal client.

Remember that your readership target is a private, internal calculation. In this context it is okay to say you prefer to represent a particular type of person. You know many of your clients will fall in the outside rings of the target. They could be great clients, even though they aren’t what you picture as ideal.

3. Make A Blogging Content Plan

Now you know what will set your blog apart, and who will be reading your blog. It’s time to figure out what you will write. In theory, you could generate your posts on the fly day after day or week after week. You could write blindly, without a plan. But doing so will cause your blog to meander and miss the point from time to time.

By taking the time at the start of the New Year to draw up a blogging content plan, you can keep your blog on track and at the same time, speed up your everyday writing. It guides your topics from post to post and takes advantages of seasonal trends, holidays, and other time-related hooks to connect with readers.

There’s nothing to say you can’t interrupt your blogging calendar to respond to important news issues, or legal developments. But the content plan will bring you back on track when your practice area is having a slow news day.

4. Connect Your Blog and Social Media Platforms

It probably goes without saying that a blog post is only as useful as it is visible. If you want more readers, you need to get it in front of more people. One way to do this that doesn’t take much time (or money) is to connect your law blog to your existing social media platforms.

Depending on the content management system your website uses (like WordPress, or Drupal), it may be relatively simple to install a plug-in that allows you to connect your blog with your firm’s Facebook page or a Twitter account. But you don’t have to be super tech-savvy to share your blog posts on social media. Ultimately it is as simple as this: every time a new blog post goes live, write a post on your favorite social media platforms.

There are ways to optimize your social media usage that vary based on the platform, like the use (or non-use) of hashtags, and the best way to use images to attract clicks. But even if you simply post the title of your blog and a link, it will be better than simply blogging alone.

5. Master the Call to Action

The “Call to Action” is one of the most important parts of a blog. It’s what turns readers into actors. It tells the people reading your blog what you want them to do next. Unfortunately, many lawyers resist making use of a strong call to action. They feel it turns posts into “advertising” and that word leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

The ABA and some state bars have clarified the rules about web marketing and blogging. A few simple disclaimers can insulate your blog from complaints about attorney advertising. Assuming you take reasonable steps to research and edit your blog posts, the benefit of directing readers to contact your firm or schedule a consultation far outweighs the unlikely chance that a typo could result in advertising malpractice.

2018 can be the year your blog drives growth in your business. But it takes a clear plan, and a commitment to follow it through the year. Next week, I’ll give you some tips to make sure your New Year’s blogging resolution doesn’t fizzle by February.

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She provides blogging and web content for lawyers and small businesses. If you need help with blogging in 2018, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.