Vol. 81, No. 9, September
On your mark, get set, Blog!
Here's what you need to know to get your blog up and running.
by Jon Groth & Rob Teuber
Blogs are a hot topic these days: Campaigns have
them, prospective clients read them, and professors teach using them so
why don't more lawyers have them? The fact is,
many lawyers already have blogs and are reaping the rewards of doing so.
A blog is an
online, reverse chronological record of thoughts. Lawyers' blogs usually
focus on the law
or law-related current events. Lawyers interested in starting a blog
certain basic principles before entering the blogosphere.
A prospective blogger must learn how to start a blog. Many
people use one of
three main Web-based services that will host a blog for free. The
and Blogger services are used by millions of
people1 including many Wisconsin
lawyers. Because these services are free, using one of them is the most
likely way lawyers
will become bloggers. Alternatively, people familiar with HTML Web
language and Web
site design can purchase blog software and a domain name and begin
blogging. Or you can
hire someone to create a blog for you.
Choosing the Right Service
Free Services. Blogger, Typepad, and Wordpress are blog services that
accessed via the Web just as you would access an Internet-based email
account2 Through each service, a blogger can
write a blog entry while at any location where Internet access
is available. These services have their pros and cons.
Pros. These services are free and easy to use. A basic
blog can be created in
less than an hour and will contain the basic bells and whistles of blogs
RSS feeds, visitor tracker, and other
features)3 These technical aspects are
and managed by the service provider, and bloggers need not worry about
going down for any extended time. A home computer may crash and lose all
and saved data. Blog services, on the other hand, save a blogger's data
Cons. The domain name of a blog created using one of
these services will
have "wordpress," "blogspot," or "typepad"
in it (another domain name can be purchased
and redirected to the blog but the dominant site will always contain the
service's name). For example, a Wordpress blogger's site will have the
blogger's unique name
first and "wordpress" second
(www.your blog.wordpress.com). The look and feel of these
blogs are limited to a certain number of predetermined designs. This can
make a blog
difficult to personalize4 Users also are
limited to certain free services. For example,
Wordpress and Blogger offer vastly different types of statistics about
blog visitors. Free
service can be good, but bloggers should know its limitations.
Blog Software. Lawyers more serious about blogging might
purchasing and downloading blog software is worthwhile. Cost is the
major downside of blog
software. Purchasing and downloading software also requires the blogger
to have more
advanced technical knowledge. Lawyers using blogging software need to
domain name (that is, your Web address) and rent space on the Internet
to host the blog.
A domain name can cost as little as a few dollars a year. Basic hosting
relatively nominal (options can start around $5 per month), but the more
the site, the more the hosting cost can increase. Finally, a blogger who
purchased software is responsible for all Web site maintenance, which
can be a great hobby
for some bloggers but a painstaking part-time job for others.
Jon Groth, Marquette 2000, is an attorney with
Pitman, Kyle & Sicula S.C.,
Milwaukee, and author of the blogs
www.jonpgroth.com and www.wisconsinpersonalinjuryattorneys.wordpress.com.
Rob Teuber, Marquette 2000 magna cum laude, is an
attorney with Weiss Berzowski
Brady LLP, Milwaukee, and author of the blog
The authors will speak on using blogs, podcasts, and the Internet
business development during the Solo & Small Firm Conference, Oct.
The benefits of purchasing blog software include the ability to create
any Web site using nearly unlimited design choices of theme, color, or
any gadget or feature (like a "flicker" picture frame or news
links from media sources)
is available, and themes can be combined and integrated. This
flexibility gives the
technologically advanced blogger the ability to create a truly unique
Hiring a Web Site Designer. If you prefer to have a Web
site design or
features that are not available through the free services, but you lack
the technical ability
to create your own blog, you can hire someone to create it. Pricing
options vary from
hourly rates to flat fees, and the total cost may reach as high as a few
dollars. Hiring a technician provides all the benefits of purchasing
the ability to have a blog with a unique design. The main benefit of
creating a blog
this way is the ability to insert the blog into a firm's existing Web
site. Because of
the methods that search engines use to rank results, adding a blog to a
site increases the chance that visitors will land on the firm's site
when searching for
certain information5 If the blog is
connected to an existing Web site, the site will
be like a one-stop shop for everything about the firm. (Editor's Note:
on how search engines function, please see "Search Engine
Marketing: Getting Noticed on
the Web" in the July 2008 Wisconsin
Once a blog exists, content must be added. The frequent posting of
blog entries is
a must. Bloggers should post at least three times a week for the first
Thereafter, entries can be added at the blogger's leisure. Remember, a
blog should not
be allowed to sit idle for too long. Delays between new posts of even a
few weeks can
make your blog less relevant to search engines and readers. While
content, a blogger should concentrate on getting the site recognized.
will make a new site available to the major search engines, but blog
search sites like www.justia.com can direct additional traffic to a
Another way to drive Web traffic to a blog is to meet and greet
Reading and commenting on other blogs is just as important as
maintaining regular content
on one's own blog. Comments are what make blogs so
unique6 and bloggers should start reading
and commenting immediately. By commenting on other blogs, the blogger
establish the presence of his or her own blog across the Internet. When
commenting, bloggers should include the Web address of their blog to
direct readers to the site.
To further promote a blog, the Web address should be included on a law
Web site, the signature line of emails, and letterhead. Wherever a
blogger's name appears
on the Internet it should be closely followed by a blog address.
information increases the number of links to a blog and the likelihood
that the blog will appear
at the top of search results.
Tags and Other Must-Have Extras
Several extras can provide a user-friendly atmosphere on a blog.
Although a site
should not be overloaded, a few extras will make a blog look
professional and easier to
Tags and Labels. Every post you write should be tagged or
labeled according to
the contents of the specific post. This is done when creating the blog
choosing what "tags" best identify a particular entry. A blog
post on subrogation law
should contain a tag using key words like "subrogation,"
"lien," and other words that
best describe the post. Most services will allow a post to be described
its topic. The blog service then creates a separate page for each tag.
will recognize and give a higher ranking to Web pages having more posts
with a given tag.
Categories. Bloggers who discuss several topics should
create categories for
each topic. For example, a blogger who writes about taxes, estate
planning, and business
law might want to place each entry on one of these topics in a separate
Categories are similar to, but broader in scope than, tags. Every post
is saved under an
additional page on a blog according to the category discussed. This is
another way to make
a blog user-friendly and easy to read.
RSS. RSS (real simple syndication) feeds are a must
have7 because they allow readers to
subscribe to your site and receive automatic notices whenever you update
content. (Editor's Note: For more information on using RSS, see
"RSS: Making the
Internet Subscribeable" in the August 2006 Wisconsin Lawyer.)
Tag Clouds. Using tag clouds is a helpful way to show
readers what topics are
discussed on the blog. The "cloud" appears on a blog with the
font of each tag sized
according to the frequency of the posts on that topic. The larger the
font, the more
that has been written on that topic and the easier it is for readers to
see which topics
are most popular.
Blogroll. A blogroll is a list of links to other blogs.
It is a helpful way to
show readers the topics that the blogger finds interesting. A blogroll
is usually found on
a blog's sidebar and lists other blogs and Web sites containing useful
information. Blogrolls can be used to create an online network of
bloggers and, with
reciprocal links, can increase Web site traffic.
Properly establishing a blog on the Internet takes time.
Perseverance is the
best attribute a blogger can have. Blogger burnout is one of the top
reasons blogs are
abandoned and left stale, and a stale blog is no more useful than an
outdated Web site.