I get asked this question often. If you were to search for an answer to this question online you would probably find varying levels of blog fluff from internet marketing gurus telling you that there is no right answer to how often a law firm should blog and that you need to think about your goals, time commitment, audience, and so on.
I’m here to tell you how to find the baseline of exactly how often your law firm should publish articles in order to positively affect your Google search rank. It should be states (and I will repeat this) that site size does not automatically equal page rank. However, if you are publishing quality content, what it does do is help your site along in naturally doing all of the things that Google’ algorithm likes, thus positively affecting your page rank. Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to publish content on your website, but this guide will give you a general publication frequency to help your firm catch up to your competitors or stay on top of competitors trying to catch you. Keep in mind that there are a ton of other factors that play into how websites make it to the front page. This article is based on the premise that all other non-content-frequency factors are considered equal. I know, I know, suspend your disbelief for the next 10 minutes.
Outlining some of the factors that affect Google rank will be useful in adjusting the final amount of content that you need to publish. If you are lacking in any of the next areas, you should publish more than the number your competitive analysis provides. If you are doing well in these areas and your competition is not, you can probably lower the amount you will arrive at later in the article.
On-site Factors that can Affect how Often Your Law Firm Should Publish
There are a couple of on-site factors at play that can affect the frequency with which you need to publish and the weight with which Google will give your site credit for the content you publish. Notice that I keep italicizing ‘can’ – that is because none, one, all, or some of these factors can all play together to act as an accelerator or hindrance to how well your blog posts perform in Google’s search algorithm. Think of these as either shortcuts or roadblocks for the number of articles you should be publishing. Managing these factors is not an exact science and is more of a combination of best practices.
1. Keyword Density
Think of this as the total frequency with which words appear in your content and pages compared to the total volume of all the words on your site. You will want to have higher keywords densities for the words that you are chasing without it seeming unnatural. Keywords that you will want to have high densities for include your practice areas, your geography, and client-side issues. In many ways, this metric is directly tethered to the next category, total site size.
2. Total Site Size
Think of this in terms of the total number of pages on your website. If you are just starting out, you are going to fall into that category of needing to publish as much as you possibly can. Some legal websites on the front page for very competitive keywords can have as many as 5,000 pages (consisting of articles, practice descriptions, and news stories).
3. Current Search Rank
Are you already on the front page of Google for your niche? Are you number 8 trying to get to the top spot or are you number 46 trying to crack the front page? If you are already on the front page, figuring out how much you need to publish is easy – you just need to be publishing more often than all of the sites ahead of or behind you. If you are on the seventh page trying to get on the first page, then the answer is probably ‘as much as you possibly can’. If you’re in the middle somewhere, figuring it out can be a little more tricky.
4. Age of Site and Overall Authority
You could write 10 articles about this topic alone, so I will try and keep it short. The age of your domain is becoming an increasingly important factor in the weight and authority that Google gives to your site and the content on it. It’s one of the factors you can’t manufacture and in many ways, other important factors like keyword density and total site size are linked to it. It is simply impossible (in most cases) to be publishing 50 posts or articles a day. So if your competitor’s site has 5,000 pages on it, it has probably been around for a while and naturally enjoys some of the other favorable factors as well. In this sense, domain age is becoming equally as important to, if not moreso, than some of the other factors that go into determining a site’s overall authority.
However, the age of your site is only one of the import factors that go into how Google considers the overall authority of your site. The authority metric dictates how the content that you publish is valued within Google’s algorithm (both on-site and in the search results). Page authority is a somewhat vague factor and no one has definitively figured out how it affects the upward aspirations of websites at any authority level. This is because, 1. many websites don’t maximize the effect of their authority (as applied to search rank); 2. many high authority websites don’t care as much about Google rank because visitors come there on their own; and 3. websites with high authority are probably doing all of the right things anyway (publishing high-value, unique content many times a day that gets linked to on it’s own.)
In theory, if you are a law firm such as Morgan Lewis and have a high authority (6), you should be able to rank for almost any term (related to practice areas) because your site enjoys a relatively high authority rank within Google’s algorithm.
So how does this affect the frequency with which you need to publish? If you are Morgan Lewis, you don’t need to publish nearly as often as a law firm with a lower site authority. This is because the Google rank for almost everything you publish (if formatted and presented properly) will benefit from your authority and have an increased (as compared to the same content on another site) impact on all of the other factors that make a website rank well. The bad news is that page authority is exponential – meaning that if your site has an authority index of 2 and you are chasing a Morgan Lewis (with a page rank of 6-7), you may need to be publishing 2-3 times as often as they are over a long period of time.
Think of page authority as an overall combination of on-site factors that affect how well the content on your site performs in Google search.
5. Overall Quality of Your Site and the Content on it
Another factor is the overall quality and formatting of your site. If your site has non-Google-friendly formatting of titles, subheadings, and descriptions, you have an uphill battle. If the previous content on your site lacks in quality or length, you have an uphill battle. If your content is too similar to other content already published elsewhere on the web, you have an uphill battle. If you website has broken code, is slow to load, or there are problems with the hierarchy or pagination, you have an uphill battle. The format of the content can also make a difference. Does your law firm publish content as a PDF? PDFs are harder to rank than html and can easily be ripped off and duplicated on PDF archive websites. Make sure that your on-site factors are not sandbagging your efforts.
Now that we have covered some of the on-site factors that can help or hurt your publishing efforts in search, how do we determine how often to publish?
Next, Take a Look at the External Factors
1. Look at Other Firms on the First Page of Google
Google your niche and your geography. Take note of the first 10 firms that show up. You can ignore any sites that are not law firms. Law firm websites often have to compete with lead generation and directory sites such as lawyers.com, findlaw.com, avvo.com, and the others. Those sites have huge total site sizes. For the sake of this exercise, ignore those sites.
2. Find out how Much Content Each Firm Publishes per Month
‘Content’ can be considered any page that is added to Google’s index – a blog post, article, newsletter, or press release that results in a new web page being published. For more accurate data, you can use the average for several months worth of data. To find out how many pages a website has had added to Google’s index for a given period of time, you just have to search for that site and change the time settings on the search to either the previous month or an arbitrary amount of time.
First enter this phrase into the Google search bar: “site:WHATEVERWEBSITE.com”. I’ll continue with the Morgan Lewis example. Your search should look like this:
You’ll notice that the search returns about 252,000 results, but that is not the number we will use for the total site size. There are many duplicate and junk results in that 252,000. In our search for a smaller amount of time, the number of junk results are negligible and won’t skew the results too significantly
Next, we will want to change the time parameter for the search to one month. In my example below, I use the average of three months worth of data. Click on ‘search tools’ to expose a drop down menu. From this drop down menu, select ‘Any time’ and select ‘Custom range…’. Then set your custom range of time. All of the pages that are in the search result now are web pages that have been indexed in Google during that time. For our math, we will use the number of pages indexed in Google. Note that this is not always the same as the number of pages published during that time, rather how many were crawled and indexed by Google.
3. Find out how Many Pages Each Firm has in Google’s Index (Site Size)
To find out how the total number of pages a website has in Google’s index, visit Webrankstats.com and enter the domain. Scroll down the results to see how many pages are in Google’s index. A couple of notes: It should be repeated that site size does not equal page rank. Having more pages does, however, allow you to natrually accomplish some of the other things that positively affect your page rank and inbound traffic (such as rank for more terms.) Also, Google likes sites that publish quality content often, so if you are doing all the right things for each new page you are publishing, you help your rank. It goes back to site authority. If you are publishing quality content often, Google will crawl your site more often and give you a higher authority. In short, site size only matters when you are doing everything else properly.
4. Do a Little Math
Let’s use the Philadelphia market at an example of how to do a competitor analysis. I have broken down some of the area’s firms into an area of competition and tracked how often they are publishing content. I took a per month average based on the months December 2012 to February 2013.
I did this exercise with the 10 largest law firms in Philadelphia because I was interested in how often they published content. What I actually found was much more interesting. To read more about what some of the BigLaw firms are doing wrong when it comes to their internet marketing, read “What Are the Big Law Firms Doing Wrong When it Comes to SEO?”.
To demonstrate how to determine the number of posts your firm should be publishing, I will use some realistic, yet very competitive examples. Let’s take a look at ten Philadelphia law firms that show up as the first ten results when you search for ‘Philadelphia personal injury attorney’ (again I ignored directory and lead-gen sites). I chose personal injury because you can probably infer by the fact that these firms are showing up in such a hyper-competitive niche that they are doing most of the right things SEO-wise and have been for some time. This will be a more true example of determining the number of posts to publish.
10 Top Results for Philadelphia SEO for Personal Injury Lawyers :
|Name of Firm||Avg. Monthly Posts||Total Site Size|
|The Lassen Law Firm||2||753|
|Sheridan and Murray||0||117|
|Gay Chacker & Mittin||0||136|
|Messa & Associates||7||685|
|Rosenbaum & Associates||0||162|
Determining how Often to You Need to Publish
If you take the average amount of content that the sites on the front page are publishing, it will give you a baseline of content that you should be publishing. That amount would be great if you were already on the front page, but most sites are trying to catch up. This is where total site size comes in. You’ll notice that most of the sites in our personal injury example have a healthy number of pages on their site but are publishing fairly few posts a month. That is because they are almost all in the mature phase of their content strategy – they are playing from the front. Many of these sites are doing things such as publishing on a network of off-site blogs that they are building. That is good news for us trying to catch them.
If You are Playing from Behind:
Let’s say that you are a Philadelphia personal injury firm with a total site size of 40 pages chasing sites on the front page with an average site size of 499.3.
This is where your current rank comes into play. When determining the amount of time that you are giving yourself to play catch up, find out how far down you are in the search results and adjust the catch up time accordingly. Some things to keep in mind when setting a catch up goal for your site:
1. Unless you are paying people to write your content or have many associates who are writing for you, you will probably want to come up with a realistic content schedule.
2. If you are far down the search results, give yourself more time to catch up to the sites on the front page. This will make your final rank more stable and more natural in Google’s eyes. If a site goes from ranking 130th for ‘Philadelphia bankruptcy attorney’ and one month later is in the top five, Google may think something is up and slow your ascent or wildly fluctuate your rank. Here’s a good theory that we have tested as true: If you are within the top 20 results, feel free to give yourself a time table of one month. If you are between 20-40, give yourself between one and two months to catch up. If you are between 40-100, give yourself three months or longer. Anything beyond 40 is probably not being actively SEO’d and is ranking based on other factors. This is essentially no-man’s land. If you are completely off the search results (over 100), consider cleaning up the on-site issues that are probably holding you back before you begin to devote efforts to publishing content.
3. Remember to log out of Gmail and open an incognito window when determining where you rank for a search term (failing to do so will make you show up much higher than you do).
Let’s go on to say that your site is somewhere down the list and we want to come up with a realistic content schedule of four months to catch up to the sites on the front page. That means that you can determine exactly how often you will need to publish to catch up and surpass the average site size within four months.
Here’s the math from the example:
499.3 (average site size)
– 40 (your site size)
459.3 (the difference is current site size)
+ 4(3.3) (months multiplied by the average number of posts)
472.5 (how many more pages they will have than you after your desired catch up target)
/ 4 (how many months you have to catch up to their total site size)
118 pieces of content a month
So, there you have it – you only have to publish four pieces of content a day for the next four months straight.
Now obviously, 118 posts per month may not be realistic and seem a little surprising. This number essentially falls into the realm of ‘as often as you can’. If you are in this boat – a new site going against established sites in one of the most competitive niches in major market – you may need to adjust your timeline or devote considerable resources to doing all of the other things correctly.
Think about it – a site with 40 total pages probably hasn’t been around for very long. Most of the pages on the front page for this niche have been around for some time. You are essentially condensing several years worth of effort into four months.
The reality is that the difference between firms on the front page and other firms in a less competitive market is usually not very much. In many cases, giving yourself two or three months would be very reasonable, and you may only need to publish 20 pieces of content per month during that time.
Note: If you are already on the front page, adjust the figures to include everyone ahead of you. If you are third, take the averages of the two sites in front of you. If you are already on the front page, dial your target time to 1 month if you wish to do so.
If You are Trying to Stay on Top:
You need to determine how often the next four sites behind you are publishing and multiply it by 1.5. That will ensure that you are publishing more often and make it very difficult for them to catch you by only using a content volume strategy. You should also be doing all of the other things that benefit search rank and website user experience. Create content that potential clients will find fresh, interesting, and useful. You can also always be improving your on-site conversion factors. You can also try building out the sophistication of your efforts. Once firms reach the front page for their main site is when many of them start to create and build off-site blogs that after time can also rank for the same keywords or benefit the main site to keep it’s existing rank. Many other firms start to add issue-specific resource pages, video, audio, and all of the other things that can also benefit your search rank. That is the state that most of the firms in our example are in. That is why we produced such a ridiculous number.
So Why Does This all Matter?
There can be arguments made that site size doesn’t matter and that there are plenty of sites out there outranking sites with with 5,000 pages when they only have 150. This is true, but when deciding on a content schedule, if you are doing everything right, having just as many pages on your site that all rank well will definitely put you on par with the sites that currently rank on the front page. You can also safely assume that as as you publish more and more quality content and your authority rises, that your organic search traffic will increase regardless if you make it to the front page or not. More pages equal more keywords and they allow you to rank for a large number of long-tail keywords that can attract visitors who otherwise would have gone elsewhere.
So there you have it, how to generally determine the frequency with which your firm should be publishing in order to catch up to your search competition. Like I mentioned earlier, there are tons of other factors at play here; but in perfect, simple example where we are comparing apples to apples, this should tell you how often you should be publishing.
Adjust that number based on how your site is performing in any of the areas mentioned in the beginning of this article, how much ground you have to make up, and how quickly you would like to get there.
It’s important to realize that this is not the end-all-be-all. This article is based on the premise that we are comparing websites that have all of the same ranking factors outside of content. Obviously, that is not the real-world case. There are many more issues that come into play in how a law firm makes it to the top of Google search results for its practice area. Further, the quality and topic of your content play into how well your the content (and your site overall) performs moreso than the number of pages. If you are publishing poor quality content, you can publish 1000 blog posts a month and it wouldn’t help long-term.