Monthly Archives: May 2014

Market Your Professional Firm With Website Content

The world of website content marketing

This post is sourced in part from my eBook The Ultimate Guide To Website Content For Professional Firms. It is now available as a free download from the sidebar in this blog and at the end of the post.

A while ago I had a small epiphany. Sitting at a conference table with a group of website designers and consultants, I realized my presence that day was largely superfluous. Not much of a revelation, you might think, we’ve all had that feeling in meetings. Except that I was the architect of the online product under discussion, a joint venture with a multinational company. The product was an online database of legal and financial information, written and designed by me, as an employee relations tool for larger employers and companies.

Clearly I was heavily invested in this process.

Not that you could tell from that meeting. It wasn’t ageism that saw me outside this inner IT circle, though I was in some cases decades older than the consultants. At the meeting, the latest of many, I realized the consultants saw the product mostly as a means to showcase their expertise, which was reflected in conversations that largely disregarded the needs of the ultimate customer, the end users who would source it online. Though these consumers would be the final arbiters of its success, the IT consultants pursued an agenda of ever more demanding and time consuming technical “fixes” that in fact seemed to needlessly impede the usability of the product.

There was clearly a disconnect here. As a lawyer and writer, I understood that the product was all about the end users. For the consultants who bandied around state of the art analyses of SEO and meta tags and other technical issues of website design, every meeting seemed an opportunity to consult with each other. I was ignored not because I was older, but because I was irrelevant, despite over a decade in the provision of online information, including the development of the first Australian private online legal information provider, launched by (then) High Court Justice Michael Kirby.

Over time, during which there were significant delays in the development of the online architecture, I worked diligently to not only educate myself about every aspect of the online process (including the search engine optimization and the planned blog), but also to replicate those processes in a series of templates and exemplars. In other words, I tried to create a bridge between the information and the technical aspects of the website, including an understanding of the need for optimized content.

The eBook, which I launch this week,  contains much of what I learned and continued to learn afterwards. Most of that learning has also found a home here at this website, and in my Twitter account. Please take a look around.

Why my eBook & information is for professional firms

I wrote this eBook as a comprehensive guide for professionals – lawyers, accountants and all superannuation, retirement, insurance and financial planning professionals – who have been largely ignored in the proliferating world of content marketing manuals. I believe there is a good reason for this. Service professionals function in a quite specific business culture that does not easily translate to any other commercial environment. Yes, there are operational issues that are similar to other commercial enterprises, but professionals operate under regulatory parameters and stringent legislated rules of conduct.

More important,  it is the client-professional relationship that most directly influences the way professionals should design and execute a website content marketing strategy. And it is here that consultant content strategists, even those of the highest calibre, fail to make a real connection with service professionals. Like it or not, it is difficult for these consultants to understand the communication strategies and skills inherent in that relationship, simply because they have not been there. I hope my eBook addresses this gap.

In the next post I will address the thorny issue of mature professionals and their relationship to the internet.


Should Professional Firms Use WordPress?

Wordpress Logo

Why WordPress for professional firms?

There won’t be many professional firms who choose to build their own website, and though the exercise is certainly educational, it can be frustrating if you have little or no experience. Not to say that it cannot be done, nor that it is not a worthwhile exercise. You will really learn a lot, but be prepared to invest time and effort. My preferred website platform is WordPress.

As the WordPress designers describe it:

“WordPress started as just a blogging system, but has evolved to be used as full content management system and so much more through the thousands of plugins and widgets and themes, WordPress is limited only by your imagination.”

There is a version of WordPress that is hosted free by the creators, WordPress.com, but it is not recommended for any professional. WordPress.org allows you to download a basic website structure which you then host yourself and “own” as a proprietary piece of internet real estate. This is the only option for a professional firm.

There are others blogging platforms, including:

  • Blogger (owned by Google) – it has a very quick setup, drag and drop editing, and is easy to use. Many professionals do so.
  • Tumblr – this is an interesting fusion between a blog and a Twitter-like feed. Now owned by Yahoo.

WordPress advertizes a ‘five minute installation”. That’s true as far as the basic installation is concerned, and it’s a potent marketing line, but the installation is only the very beginning of the WordPress journey. Be warned – people will tell you that WordPress is simple to use, and yes, there are hundreds of books and online tutorials to help you use WordPress (including at WordPress). As well there are thousands of online forums devoted to WordPress, where adherents exchange information (and sometimes insults). But despite the proliferation of helpful advice, the best way to understand WordPress is to use it and allow yourself the time to understand “the way it thinks”.

Get web hosting

If you use WordPress.org,  as I recommend, you will need a domain name and web hosting. Again, there are hundreds of companies that offer this service, but make sure will be happy with the decision for the long-term. Obviously if you have chosen to hire a consultant to build your website, then you can take their advice on these matters, and likely they will handle it for you.

For what it’s worth I use VentraIP for both domain name registration and hosting. I have no business affiliation with them, but my experience over four years has been consistently excellent, and they respond to queries quickly and efficiently. I like the fact their severs are domestically based, though many well known bloggers swear by providers that are in another country. Do some research, make up your own mind.

Get a theme

WordPress gives you a basic structure for your website (or stand alone blog) – a “Theme” builds on that basic structure, like accessorising a piece of clothing to create a different look. In other words, a Theme is a skin for your blog. However, the basic structure of a WordPress site is the same for everyone. Happily for us, WordPress is kind enough to make the code for that structure freely available (called “open source”), so programmers can create “skins” to overlay it. This is achieved by incorporating style “templates” into the WordPress structure. Some of these Themes are free, some are not, and there are plenty of good examples in both camps. Every designer, free or not, offers a gallery to preview the themes. I believe it is always worth the investment in a paid theme, usually around $50 or more.

Should professional firms use WordPress?

This is a complicated issue – you can certainly have a WordPress website built by a consultant/contractor. However, WordPress updates its themes all the time, so it is not a “set and forget” website platform. I love it because I have learned how to make most changes myself, I enjoy the challenge, and I produce content on a regular basis and it would be prohibitive (and unnecessary) to hire a consultant to handle this. However, any website built on your behalf should allow you to edit and add new content on your own.

If you have your website built on a WordPress platform, or do it yourself, these are words of warning from a website reviewer:

“Hiring a WordPress contractor is a very common practice for most non-technical WordPress gurus and the cost can add up over the years – we’ve had our fair share of contractors.  The hiring process could be stressful and you really don’t know what you’re going to get until you pay them to do the work.  Further, when WordPress updates its platform, you may need to hire the contractor again to ensure all the custom work is compatible.”

I love WordPress, in fact in my travels through the web landscape, it’s the most impressive creation out there. It also has a huge “community” and (literally) tens of thousands of “plugins” and “widgets” (tools created by developers, often free) to assist in its evolution. Nevertheless, there can be a steep learning curve because it is not really an intuitive platform. My best advice is to find a local website builder who can give you an honest assessment based on your needs. But if you have the time, and you want control of your website, WordPress is really quite brilliant.

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photo credit: Peregrino Will Reign via photopin


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"Practice Management: How to Get To The Top" by Geoffrey Winn               

Law Institute of Victoria Journal May 2014  

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