Our last two blog posts have been a bit of a blog series: First, we wrote a blog sample for corporate and employment lawyers. Then, we compared that post to our first blog sample from more than three years ago to highlight two important ways that our legal blogs have changed.
In the second post, though, we punted on a topic that we’ve been watching develop for more than a year, now. During that timeframe, we’ve been steering our attorney clients into what we gauged to be smoother sailing to help them net a better return on their online marketing investment. Now that the seas have settled a bit, we deemed it worthwhile to dedicate an entire blog post to what we would call a huge change in the legal blogging world. That huge change can be summed up in a single sentence.
Evergreen legal blog posts are dying.
Refresher: Evergreen Blog Posts
An evergreen blog post is an article in your blog that has a long “shelf life,” or that will not become irrelevant in a short period of time. They are contrasted with topical blog posts, which deal with current events that become stale, quickly.
But you’re an attorney and used to the casebook method, so here’s some induction.
Examples of evergreen posts on our blog include:
- Our post on using anchor text to boost the SEO power of backlinks
- This article on how long a blog post should be
- Our blog on whether links in your articles should open in a new tab, or not
Examples of topical posts, on the other hand, include:
- Our synopsis of the East Coast Cyberattack of October 21, 2016
- Details about the market share in the search engine world, from February 2017
- No-longer-recent changes in Google’s customer review program
The holding: Topical posts become obsolete. Evergreen posts do not.
Enter: Google’s Freshness Update
One piece of Google’s algorithm since 2011 has been the Freshness Update. The Freshness Update scans social media for backlink trends and uses the findings to promote sites and information that are recent and “running hot.” When a site gets liked and retweeted on social media a lot in a short period of time, Google promotes that site in its search engine because people seem to be very interested in the site, and are more likely to want to find it when they search for something similar to it.
This is great for new articles. Articles that were published awhile ago, though, don’t get as much love. While an old post can still suddenly experience a surge on social media after being rediscovered and shared, the Freshness Update looks on an old timestamp with skepticism.
Evergreen Posts, by Definition, Are Not Fresh
At Myers Freelance, we noticed early on that the old adage that evergreen blog posts could be counted on for slow but steady traffic would take a beating from the Freshness Update. This beating would be even worse when a law firm didn’t have a strong social media presence that could drive traffic to older posts and possibly mitigate the damage of an article’s old timestamp.
From Evergreen Blog Post to Substantive Page
Our way of handling this situation has been to advise clients to keep legal blog posts topical, and to publish evergreen content outside of the blog, in a standalone page on the law firm’s website. Pages like these can be published without a timestamp, eliminating both the temporary pros and the permanent cons that the Freshness Update has for evergreen blog articles. These pages can also be effortlessly edited without feeling the need to disclose an alteration to the original article. They can also be repeatedly linked to from newer, and topical, posts in a legal blog to send SEO juice to these substantive articles, much like a landing page. They can also be written diligently and extensively, without the need to worry about meeting the deadline of your blog’s posting schedule.
But these aren’t the only reasons to shift away from evergreen legal blog posts. At this point, the strongest argument to make the change is because lots of other law firms already have.
A Market Shift Towards Substantive Pages
Law firms are putting more and more money into online marketing. Much of that money has been focused on the middle-tiers of the online marketing funnel—where you can find clients who already think they should hire a lawyer, and are scouring the internet for a good one. That online marketing budget goes towards crafting content that aims for high rankings in transactional queries like:
- Los Angeles DUI attorney
- Hartford premises liability lawyer
- Boston white collar crime defense attorney
It’s gotten to the point that, in most major markets, a 500-word, timestamped blog post that details underage DUIs will almost always be buried in the search engine results page (SERP) by substantive pages that spend 2,000 words or more on the topic. In especially competitive markets, like California or New York City, there will be several of these online treatises jostling for the top spot in the rankings, pushing smaller blog posts into the second page.
The Holding: Evergreen Legal Blog Posts are Dying
Simply put, in some markets, the legal blogging world has gotten competitive enough that blog posts don’t cut it for evergreen concepts, anymore. The Freshness Update at Google has sped up this process, as well. Law firms who want the top rankings need to shuffle their online marketing budget around to dedicate more time, energy, and resources to standalone and substantive pages for the core nuggets of their practice areas, all while keeping their legal blogs churning out topical and timely content.