Drawing business nationally and internationally with a blog that mostly copies from, links to, and comments on snippets from other sources.
David P. Vandagriff specializes in reviewing contracts for authors who publish both traditionally and independently. He also provides other contract and negotiation-related services. He writes The Passive Voice blog using his persona The Passive Guy.
Initially, The Passive Guy was an anonymous persona, but Mr. Vandagriff has since unveiled himself and writes his blog with flair and personality, often making snarky comments about the traditional publishing business. His blog is located at http://www.thepassivevoice.com/. He maintains a separate website at http://www.contract-counsel.com/. He is based out of Provo, Utah.
1. Are you generating leads for your law practice through your two web properties, and can you trace those leads directly to those properties?
Yes, I get leads from them, but I get the majority of my leads from client referrals.
I can sometimes trace leads directly to my blog and website, but most of the time I only know how they came to me if they tell me. They’ll tell me they saw my website or read a blog post I wrote. Their first contact comes to me through e-mail in my Web form and whatever they say on that is how I know where they found me, if they say anything at all about that.
When I’m talking to them, it would be better, from a marketing standpoint, if I asked them how they found me, but I try to focus on the client issues and deal with those.
2. One of the things I notice about your blog is that you often copy a snippet from another web property, comment on that, and then link to the original source. How does that blogging strategy work for you in generating new leads for your practice?
It seems to work pretty well. It’s become the most common facet of the blog.
I get a lot of comments from other bloggers who tell me their traffic has exploded and they couldn’t figure out what it was, but when they went and read what I wrote they figured out where the traffic was coming from. It generates goodwill on a fairly frequent basis. Those bloggers might never need an attorney, but I think it raises my profile a bit. It works pretty well.
Some people have commented that it’s a unique kind of style, but it’s a personal preference that I take into the blog.
3. You post multiple times a day. How important is that in your marketing strategy?
As I was doing research on the Web about independent publishing, I considered doing it that way. One of the things that is important to me as an attorney representing authors is to develop my own style as a publisher and to know what’s going on in the business. As I find something interesting, I copy the parts that resonate most with me and make my own comment on it.
WordPress allows you to schedule blog posts, so I usually write my posts at one time and schedule them to appear at different times during the day. One reason I do that is to encourage people to come back to the blog more than once a day when something new shows up.
The blog also auto-generates a tweet every time a new post shows up. By spreading the posts out like that I generate several leads throughout the day. It generates new traffic to the blog and I get a higher engagement. I use http://delivr.com/ to auto-generate my tweets.
4. Your website and blog are both on WordPress. How instrumental is WordPress to your Web presence and what made you decide to build both your website and your blog on the platform?
I decided to use WordPress because it is widely used. There are a ton of plug-ins and a lot of themes you can use to personalize the site. It’s a flexible and powerful platform. I’ve used it on other sites as well. It’s very robust when you have it running on a good host.
With WordPress, you don’t have to know any programming languages. You don’t have to hire a website developer and pay out a lot of money. It’s easy to build web pages and to build a decent website without a lot of technical knowledge.
5. What kind of WordPress plugins are you using and how do they help you in your blog marketing?
I use a plug-in that allows people to edit their comments. It’s called WP Ajax Edit Comments and it allows my commentators to go back and edit a comment if they’ve spelled something wrong or want to rewrite a sentence.
I also have a contact form plug-in so people can contact me.
I’ve got some security plug-ins. There’s also a plug-in for Feedburner so people can subscribe to my RSS feed. A fair number of people follow the RSS feed. There’s a separate one for e-mail followers.
I use Google Analytics. I have a plug-in for that. And there’s one for Quantcast, which is a second analytics program.
Some plug-ins are tied to widgets. I’ve got my most popular posts, which show up in the sidebar and list the most popular posts over the past couple of weeks. There’s an upcoming posts plug-in so people can see what’s coming up in the future.
SEO Master optimizes posts for search engine marketing purposes.
A mobile plug-in allows people to see the site on their Smartphone. It’s called WPtouch.
Then I have some performance plug-ins designed to help the posts load faster. I use wp-optimize and wp-smush.it, which reduces the size of images and makes the blog perform better.
And I have one plug-in that helps me manage comments. Comments should be respectful, not nasty. I operate on the philosophy that the bad drives out the good. So I have a plug-in that allows me to close out comments on posts. It’s called One Click Close Comments.
6. What are the most important WordPress tactics for blogging? How about for website building?
It’s beneficial to have frequent blog posts. You can’t just let it sit. Ideally, I’d like my visitors to see something new when they come back. A great many people come in more than once a day. I can tell by the timing of their comments.
Plus, it builds community around the blog. I have two commentators who post consistent comments and one of the things that I’ve said is the comments are the best part of the blog because I have attracted some smart people who keep the discussion going.
I learn from the comments all the time. A good discussion on a post is very helpful. That’s one of the things I think about when I decide what to post about. I consider myself an editor.
Basically, I pull up the best information that is really important or interesting. From a marketing standpoint, that’s one of the things that has helped the blog do fairly well.
Another thing is, you want to have security very tight, so I have plug-ins that tell me when changes are being made to the blog or when an attempt to hack into it has been made. I want to keep out the hackers. I also run regular backups in case it goes down. The blog has almost 104,000 comments, and there are almost 7,500 blog posts, so there’s some value in those archives. I run backups on a regular basis to preserve that. I am very resistant to hacking attempts.
WordPress is very simple. I’ve built several different websites and I like WordPress because it’s easier to build a static website with it than with other tools. Behind the scenes, maintenance is very robust, and it’s simple to use. If somebody asks me to do something for them, I immediately turn to WordPress even if a blog isn’t going to be involved. It’s easy to build pages. WordPress allows me to do a lot of things quickly and easily.
And there are a variety of tools available for it. The whole ecosystem developed around WordPress is of primary value.
7. It seems like guest blogging is quite popular right now. Have you considered getting into that?
I get a lot of requests for that and my response is always to write something on your own blog and send me a link. I’ll take a look at it and link to it if I like it. It’s a win-win.
If it’s good, I’ll link to it and it will drive traffic to your blog. If it turns out not to be very good, then I am in a position to say, “I’m sorry, but I’m not going to use your blog post.” That strategy works better for me.
8. You mentioned that you have an e-mail newsletter. How often do you send that out?
It’s automatically generated every day. It’s a daily newsletter with links to my newest blog posts. Some people don’t want to use RSS or don’t know how it works, and it doesn’t work on a smartphone as well as email does. I don’t actually write a newsletter; it’s just another way to deliver my frequent blog posts to my readers. It’s generated with a plug-in.
9. What other marketing tactics do you use in conjunction with blogging and website promotion to attract new leads for your practice?
The area I’m in is exotic. I’m not practicing family law or focusing on a geographic location. Authors are not like some business people who constantly need help with attorneys and have tons of legal issues.
Being online allows me to reach out all around the world. I have clients in several countries. If they receive a contract from a New York publisher, they probably don’t have anybody in Germany who is going to understand New York law. From that standpoint, I don’t need other types of marketing. Online is the only marketing I need.
10. If you had to identify the most important thing for lawyers when setting up their WordPress blogs and websites, what would that be?
Make it attractive. WordPress is great. You can get free themes to give you a good look. You can also pay for premium themes. But it needs to be attractive.
As someone who looks at a lot of websites, I’d say don’t use a theme that everyone else uses.
The other thing is, if you’re going to blog, do it frequently so that things change. If people are going to follow you, they are going to want to see what’s going on.
E-mail newsletters are good. And Feedburner. Set your blog up so that people can get your blog posts delivered to them and return to your blog frequently.
I don’t feel I need to write a lot about my topic to demonstrate my expertise. My audience is intelligent. I’d rather write frequent short posts than infrequent longer posts. If I want to, I can go back to a blog post later, if my readers want to know more about it, and I can flesh it out a little more. There are times when I’ve done long blog posts, but if you post infrequently, then you’ll get less traffic. I have other things to do besides blog all day long.
I also try to write in a conversational style. My criticism of attorney websites is that they are stuffy and use a lot of corporate-speak. Put some personality into it.
11. What other suggestions do you have for lawyers regarding attracting new clients or generating leads from using WordPress as a publishing platform?
Pay attention to Twitter. I get 20% of my incoming traffic from Twitter. Using Twitter to receive information isn’t something I do, but a lot of other people like getting information that way.
A lot of my visitors come to my blog because they follow certain topics or follow me on Twitter. That’s something not everyone thinks about, but it works.
I don’t use Twitter that much, but other people do and you have to go where your audience is.