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The 90/10 Rule for Content and Why We Use It

When you’re writing a legal blog post, targeted page, landing page, or any other type of online legal content marketing, the words that you’re writing should generally do 1 of 2 things:

  1. Inform the reader about the topic you’re covering, or
  2. Boast about the law firm.

An example of the first would be to explain how personal injury law calculates lost wages for self-employed victims. An example of the second would be to talk about the experience of the lawyers at your personal injury firm, how they can maximize a victim’s settlement or verdict, and mention prior case results that are on point.

At Myers Freelance, we follow the 90/10 Rule: At least 90 percent of the page’s content should aim to inform the reader about the legal topic. 10 percent can tout the firm, generally in the call to action at the end of the article or in an ingrained call to action.

Here are 6 specific reasons why we do things this way, though they are all at least loosely based on the same concept: Readers have expectations and the goal of content marketing is to satisfy them.

A donut with 10 percent missing

1. You Already Have Pages Covering Your Firm’s Experience

On every law firm’s website, there should be pages dedicated to each attorney. Each of them should include a biography, the areas that the lawyer practices in, and other relevant details about their expertise in a particular field of the law, such as their publications, certifications, group memberships, and often the results of cases they have worked on. Many firms also have pages entirely dedicated to the firm’s successes, though listing prior case results on either the firm’s description or in a lawyer’s individual page can run afoul of the absurdities of ABA Formal Opinion 480 if not done right.

This information is there for readers to look at if they are interested. Readers who are not interested in it yet but who are subjected to it nonetheless are more likely to see it as a heavy-handed attempt to get them to pick up the phone and call the firm. They clicked on an article called “What are the Elements of Online Defamation?” and now they’re slogging through paragraphs with boilerplate legal marketing slogans like “you may be entitled to financial compensation” and “our lawyers are experienced in…”

Specific content has a specified home on your website. When you include it where it does not necessarily belong, it can rub readers the wrong way when they realize that it is marketing material rather than the useful and on-point information that they came to your site to see.

This is not to say that firm-touting information never belongs in targeted pages or blog posts that explain legal issues. Prior case results in particular are great to use as examples of the legal issue in action, while also showing off your firm’s abilities. If you’re a criminal defense firm talking about the fruit of the poisonous tree, alluding to a case where you successfully excluded evidence after an unlawful search led to information that then led to damning testimony would be appropriate, insightful, and unlikely to push readers away.

2. SEO is About Giving the Readers What They Want

In a similar vein, following the 90/10 Rule ensures that the content on a particular page is what the reader wanted to see when they clicked through the link on the results page.

Search engines all have a single goal in mind: Provide relevant and important webpages for each given search query. Search engines use algorithms to weigh numerous different factors to gauge a web asset’s relevance and importance, and then display the top-scoring sites at the top of the organic listing in the search engine results page (SERP). Those factors include traditional search signals like the use and prevalence of the query’s keywords and phrases on the page, as well as whether there are any backlinks to the web asset from elsewhere on the internet. However, increasingly potent SEO factors are those that focus on user intent or how readers react to the page, like reader metrics.

If you write an article about a legal issue, and then fill it with details about how great your firm is, readers won’t get the information they want. If they go back to the SERP, click on another site listed on it, and then spend time reading that other website, it gives search engines data that screams that your page was not satisfactory which is then used to demote your site in the rankings.

3. It Will Rank Better

Because SEO is about giving readers the information they want, and because touting the firm in articles that purport to provide legal information does not provide that information, it follows that not following the 90/10 Rule is bad SEO. Bad SEO will hamstring your page’s performance in the results page and it will rank worse.

By sticking to the 90/10 Rule, you give readers what they want, get seen by search engines as a relevant and important page for appropriate search queries, and benefit from the better rankings and attendant search traffic that comes with it.

4. It Should Convert Better

The data is still out on this one, but pages that follow the 90/10 Rule should convert readers better than pages that market the firm at the expense of legal substance.

We say “should” because readers that are satisfied with the information on the page are generally going to be more likely to take the next step and contact the firm. However, readers who fall for the firm-touting gambit or who aren’t put off by it may convert at a higher rate than expected.

5. You Will Be Writing the Same Content Over Lots of Pages

If your firm has lots of webpages on its site, and you push your firm’s credentials and experience in all of them, you’re going to start writing content that becomes duplicative over time. There are only so many different ways that you can phrase the same information. Writing the same stuff dozens or even hundreds of times will eventually mean that you repeat yourself.

While odds are low that this is bad enough for you to get penalized for writing duplicate content, it can also turn away users who view more than one page on your firm’s site.

6. The Information Shows Expertise

We also favor the 90/10 Rule because that 90 percent of the content shows your firm’s expertise, while the remaining 10 percent merely tells about it. If you want to show that you understand something well, explain it rather than bringing up the credentials you got that show that you understand it.

You Won’t Get This Content from Writing Mills

For lawyers, there is one big drawback to the 90/10 Rule: You don’t get it with freelance writers who don’t have legal experience, knowledge, or a law degree. Writers charging $0.04/word on sites like Fiverr or Upwork will either:

  1. Learn that the legal research necessary to write the 90 percent of the article will take so long that they end up making a pittance for the article, or
  2. Already know this and will focus on the firm-touting marketing content as a way to cut corners and hit the word count.

With online legal content marketing, you get what you pay for. Lots of law firms scrimp on the writing budget and then fail to see the results they wanted because the writers willing to take the low pay aren’t able to produce the content.