by Noreen Fishman
Creating a blog to help clients and prospects, and in the process, support and promote your law practice online can reap great rewards. Blogs serve as a great focal point for creating content and sharing information with your audience.
One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make once you decide to build a blog is which platform to use. There are several choices available, most of which are free to use, all with their own pros and cons. The best fit for your law firm is going to depend on your own individual needs and skill level. Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular blogging platforms that would prove useful for a lawyer or law firm looking to build a bigger online presence.
WordPress is, without a doubt, the most popular blogging platform in the world. More than a quarter of all websites on the Internet are using WordPress software. Two versions of WordPress exist with a very important difference:
WordPress.com: If you go to WordPress.com you can sign up for a blog that is hosted and maintained by Automattic, the company that owns WordPress. In short, this means that they will keep the blog online and take care of updating and maintaining all the software while you concentrate on the content.
By default you will be given a subdomain on the wordpress.com domain; something like http://example.wordpress.com. You can also register and use your own domain name if you would like to do so.
WordPress.org: When you go to WordPress.org, you’ll be presented with the option of downloading the WordPress software so that you can install it on your own hosting account. This option is obviously more complicated to set up (although not very difficult), but gives you complete control over everything that happens with your blog, for better or worse.
To use the software downloaded from WordPress.org, you must have your own web hosting account and domain name. Depending on exactly what you want to do and your skill level, you may need the help of technical support, web designers, etc.
Advantages: The main advantage of the WordPress platform is flexibility. Both versions of WordPress allow for the installation of themes, which change the appearance of the blog, and plugins, which add more functionality. Some WordPress sites are so heavily modified through themes and plugins that you wouldn’t even recognize them as blogs anymore. See: Use WordPress for Your Law Firm Website and Blog.
In addition to flexibility, once you have things set up, WordPress is easy to use. A built in editor allows you to type in whatever you would like to post and everything is automatically published to the website when you’re done. Editing, adding pictures, videos, etc. is intuitive and fast.
Disadvantages: The flexibility of WordPress can also prove to be a problem. Too many choices. It’s easy to overcomplicate things by going too far with the installation of plugins, themes and so on. Each new piece added to the puzzle becomes something that must be updated and maintained in addition to the main WordPress software.
For example, let’s say you’ve installed a particular plugin that allows for a certain type of content manipulation. Eventually the WordPress software is updated to a new version and the plugin you have been using stops working. When you try to update the plugin as well, you find that it is no longer being maintained and you have to remove it if you want your site to work properly.
Medium has been growing in popularity as a blogging platform. The site has managed to build up quite a bit of authority with search engines, giving Medium posts good results in search results. This is a big attraction for bloggers looking to get more eyes on their writing.
Advantages: The biggest advantage to Medium is that everything is done for you, leaving you to worry about writing and nothing more. When you sign up for an account with Medium, you’ll be given a profile page that ends up looking just like the front page of a blog as you fill it with new articles.
Another big advantage to publishing on Medium is that they already have an audience browsing through their site. People can see your posts as they browse other areas. You may very well be able to build an audience quicker by publishing on Medium than publishing on your own blog.
Everything is hosted on Medium’s servers. All software maintenance and updates are taken care of for you.
Disadvantages: Although Medium is easy to use, is also very restrictive. Every account on the site shares the same design and functionality. It is not possible to change the appearance of your Medium page or install any plugins. They don’t offer the option to use your own domain either.
In short, when you sign up for Medium, you’re signing up to be able to post your content on their site. They control everything except what you write.
Tumblr is known as a “microblogging” platform. It is designed for posting short messages anecdotes, stories, and images that are intended to be shared through social media. There is also a fairly large community of active users on Tumblr who regularly promote and engage with each other’s work.
Advantages: Tumblr is both free and extremely easy to use. Everything is hosted and maintained on their servers. All you have to do is provide the content. The interface is also consistently rated as the easiest to use of almost any blogging platform available.
There are plenty of customization options available, too. When you sign up, you’ll get a subdomain off the tumblr.com domain to use, but you can also register and use your own if you like. There are many different designs you can choose from to customize the look of your law firm’s Tumblr blog as well. Some are free to use, others must be purchased.
Disadvantages: Tumblr is easy to use, but somewhat restrictive as well. The short form content design might not give a law firm the space needed to generate valuable and informative pieces. The easy to use interface comes at the price of missing features that you would find on other blogging platforms.
Although the look is customizable, other options are not. There is no way to install any plugins or extensions to change functionality.
LinkedIn is, of course, a social media network, but it also provides a valuable means of publishing content similar to a blog. You’re most likely already familiar with LinkedIn as a space for creating and nurturing professional relationships. This makes it a great place to share relevant content, too.
Advantages: LinkedIn is free to use and you can publish as much as you want. Your followers will also get a notification when you publish something, so you’re more likely to get eyes on your articles right away.
In addition to pushing articles out to your own followers, if you happen to get something featured in their Pulse library, you could see an incredible jump in your readership and audience very quickly. LinkedIn also has a very high authority with search engines, meaning that anything you publish on their network has a good chance of showing up in higher positions within search results. See: How Lawyers Can Get Their Articles Published on LinkedIn Pulse.
Disadvantages: Although LinkedIn can help get your content in front of your followers, you don’t get much more benefit from it. You audience is going to see the content on LinkedIn rather than on your own website. You lose the opportunity to do things like expose them to your branding or try to collect an email address. It’s also within LinkedIn’s terms that they get the rights to any articles you publish on their platform. This might not be beneficial for what you are trying to do.
Squarespace is a premium (paid) platform. Plans run from about $10 to about $30 per month depending on what you want and how you choose to pay. You can easily set up a blog through Squarespace, but the system allows for much more. One can quickly integrate blogging, ecommerce, photo galleries and other options with absolutely no previous technical skill.
Advantages: Squarespace has one of the most amazing administrative and design interfaces around. Absolutely everything can be done through a “drag & drop” interface based on countless templates. You can literally pick up all the pieces and put them exactly where you want them and the Squarespace system will make it happen. You won’t ever need to search through HTML or any other code to change something.
Even though you have countless options for customization, including using your own domain name, everything is still hosted and maintained on the Squarespace servers. You’ll never have to worry about updating or patching any software. You can even find plugins and external themes available to bring customization possibilities to new levels.
Disadvantages: Although it really doesn’t cost much for what is provided, there are obviously other cheap or free alternatives. One would need to weigh whether or not the benefits make a big enough difference to justify the costs.
Perhaps it’s not a genuine disadvantage, but, depending on your goals, Squarespace could be overkill. If you’re looking for a full featured content management system that will let you manipulate photos and videos in addition to blogging, and maybe even sell some things directly from your site, Squarespace outshines the competition. If all you need, though, is a platform to create a straightforward blog, you probably won’t need a great deal of the features that Squarespace charges for.
Compare And Choose
One of the best things about comparing blogging platform is that many of them are free. This allows for plenty of testing to see which system you prefer. Don’t be afraid to sign up for a free account and explore what’s available. In the case of paid options, look for free trials or send an email and request one.
As your blog grows, so will your audience (and your client list). The sooner you get one set up, the better. Don’t rush though. Take your time, do your research and make your choice carefully. You’ll be working with your blog for a long time. You’ll definitely want to make sure you choose the platform that is right for you.
Noreen Fishman is the Director of Client Services at Good2bSocial, LLC