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If you are focused on optimizing your law firm’s digital presence for search engines, then you may have wondered whether it is better to keep your legal blog on an internal page within your larger law firm website or migrate it to its own domain. We have answers.
Even SEO (search engine optimization) beginners often realize that one part of creating an effective digital presence is setting your web properties up for success in search engine results. Thus, you are likely aware of basic but important concepts, such as link-building, keyword optimization, title tags, reviews, etc. If not, your website provider has likely explained some of the implications of effectively optimizing your online presence for search engines like Google.
At Justia, one of the most common questions we address with our clients is where their legal blog should live for maximum SEO benefit: should it be within a folder of your website (subfolder), be on a subdomain of your website, or be on its own separate domain?
As with everything in life, there are positives and negatives to each of these approaches. Keep reading this post to learn more about these pros and cons and to find out the advice our SEO experts give on this exact issue.
An internal or subfolder blog is a truly internal blog in that it is a page within your law firm’s website. With this arrangement, the URL for your blog would look something like this: www.yourfirmname.com/blog/.
There are several positive aspects to adopting this approach for your blog:
1. Benefits From Links to Core Domain. With a subfolder blog in your website, a link to your blog, or a blog post, will also be a link to your core website domain. These links could help your website rank higher. In addition, links from your website could help your blog rank higher.
2. Benefits From High-Quality Blog Posts. If you are writing great blog posts (high-quality, original, engaging legal content), then the posts are likely to reflect positively on the website as a whole. It is more likely to be considered a high-quality legal website, lifting up the overall site as a trusted resource in the search engines.
3. Keeps Law Firm Website Content Fresh. An active internal blog can inherently help keep your overall law firm website fresh and up to date. Including a list of recent blog posts on your homepage signals to Google that this is an active, regularly updated website. In addition, users will see your website as a resource with up-to-date knowledge and information.
There are some potentially negative aspects to creating an internal blog:
1. Internal Competition Between Blog Posts & Marketing Pages. The content published on your internal subfolder blog will compete with other content on your law firm’s website. For example, a blog post about increased car accidents or a change in the state law related to car accidents may end up outranking your actual practice area page on car accidents.
Recent blog posts are included in RSS and ATOM feeds published by most blogging software. Many directories that link to blogs (including the Justia Lawyer Directory and Justia BlawgSearch) will grab these RSS/ATOM feeds and include recent post titles with links to the full blog post. These links to the blog posts can increase their search rankings relative to other webpages on the site, leading to the blog post ranking higher than a marketing page.
If your blog post is outranking your marketing page, you need to un-optimize your blog post, and then do another blog post to get sites grabbing the RSS feed to update their links to the posts.
2. Harm From Low-Quality Content. Many internal/subfolder blogs are frequently written solely with the idea of SEO links in mind. This often inherently results in lower-quality, less reader-friendly content. Low-quality content can ultimately tank the whole website’s SEO, which would be a poor outcome for the law firm’s overall marketing efforts.
3. Trouble Getting Links. Obtaining a link for an internal/subfolder blog is more difficult than an independent blog or even a subdomain blog.
4. Diminished Benefit from Crosslinks. When you keep your blog content as an internal page on your website, your crosslinks from the blog to the other parts of your website are just more internal links. They do not offer as much SEO benefit as they would if your blog were housed on an external site with its own domain.
A subdomain blog is connected to your core website domain but, unlike a subfolder blog, is not simply another page on your website. The URL for your blog would look something like this: www.blog.yourfirmname.com.
There are several positive aspects to adopting the subdomain approach for your blog:
1. Benefits From Links to Core Domain. Links to your subdomain blog will also help your core website domain and vice versa. If the website and subdomain are fully crosslinked in the navigation of each, then the links to the subdomain will be nearly equivalent to the links to an internal/subfolder blog.
2. Limit Damage of Low-Quality Posts. If search engines evaluate your blog posts and ultimately determine they are low-quality content, the damage of the poor content quality will tend to be limited to the subdomain, rather than extend to the overall performance of the law firm website housed on the core domain.
3. Refreshed Website Content. Like an internal blog, subdomain blogs can help your law firm avoid issues tied to a static website appearance. Linking to the recent posts on your homepage keeps the overall website fresh and more appealing to repeat visitors. It also helps signal to Google that your website is regularly updated, which is important for SEO.
As with internal blogs, there are some potentially negative aspects of creating a subdomain blog.
1. Internal Competition Between Blog Posts & Marketing Pages. As with an internal subfolder blog, the content published on a subdomain blog may compete with the rest of the law firm’s website for search rankings. Google tends to link only one page from a core domain (*.yourlawfirmname.com) on the first page of results, especially when Google sees the domain and subdomain as related by way of crosslinks. If you have a blog post about new DUI law developments, it could compete with your overall DUI practice page in the Google rankings.
2. Slight Linking Difficulties. It is somewhat harder to get links for a subdomain blog than for an external or independent blog. However, it is still easier to get links for these subdomain blogs than for an internal/subfolder blog.
3. Diminished Benefit from Crosslinks. As internal/subfolder blogs, the crosslinks between a subdomain blog and other pages on your website are seen as internal links, which offer less SEO value than external links.
An external blog is independent of your law firm’s website. With this arrangement, the URL for your blog would appear like www.lawyerblogname.com, while your law firm website would continue to have its own URL such as www.yourfirmname.com.
There are numerous benefits to creating an external blog for your law firm:
1. Increased Editorial Links. It is generally much easier to get editorial links to a blog that is housed on a different domain than your main website and is much easier to get a blog on its own domain linked up than internal/subfolder or subdomain blogs. Increased (and easy) linking helps your blog develop its own editorial authority and rank separately from your law firm website in the search results from relevant queries.
2. High-Value Crosslinks. An external blog allows you to create high-value crosslinks between the blog and the main law firm website. The law firm website benefits from having its internal pages linked by an external source, while the blog benefits from having links to it from the law firm website. This results in improved SEO for both properties.
3. No Google Competition. Because the blog is housed on an external domain, there is no competition as to which page Google will choose to show in the Google search results when faced with a decision between a relevant blog post and a practice area page. If both pages could rank high, Google will show both one from the website and one from the blog. This increased likelihood that both your blog and law firm website will rank on the first page of Google gives you more opportunities to get your law firm in front of potential clients.
4. Limit Damage of Low-Quality Content. Because the blog has an entirely separate identity from the rest of your law firm website, the damage to SEO and search engine rankings presented by low-quality content is limited to the external blog and does not present any impacts to your overall law firm website.
5. Up-To-Date Website Content. External blogs can still be used to keep your law firm website looking fresh and up-to-date with a linked feed of new blog post titles. This keeps your homepage from appearing static and signals updated content to Google. However, integrating these updates from an external blog to your law firm website does require some technical work on the server-side to ensure the loading speed of your main website is not diminished.
Well, more like a single con. The key drawback to this approach is that an external blog results in fewer overall links to your core website domain. However, many directories that would offer links to the blog also offer links to the law firm website, so the impact of fewer connected links may not be overly burdensome for your firm.
The technical work in creating all three blog types is largely the same, so any perception of more work should not influence your decision. Instead, whether you should create an external blog with its own domain, a blog housed on a subdomain, or an internal/subfolder blog largely depends on how well your law firm’s website is already linked and the quality of the blog posts you plan to write.
In most cases of law firms with an older website (more than a couple of years old) setting up a new blog, we recommend an external blog. Your website likely already has ample links from legal and business directories, so the extra links you may receive as the result of an internal blog present less value. Plus, by going this direction, you can leverage the ease of linking up an external blog and take full advantage of the high-value crosslinks from your internal pages to the external domain of your blog.
But if you have an older website with a well-established internal blog, it does not make sense to migrate these posts to a new external blog. It is difficult to get many blog directories to update their listings of a blog URL which is a large part of the advantage to having an external blog. Therefore, if you have a strong internal blog, you should keep it as is.
For many newer law firm websites (less than a couple of years old), we often recommend an internal blog, either through a truly internal blog housed on an internal page (subfolder) or a subdomain blog. This is because the key value for these law firms is getting the links to the core domain.
The type of internal blog you choose depends on different factors that matter for your law firm. Utilizing a subdomain blog allows you to take advantage of easier linking opportunities and, if properly linked to the core domain, will rank just as high as a subfolder blog while mitigating the risk of the main site being impacted by lower quality blog content. Creating a subfolder blog provides your law firm with the value of links more readily and often more quickly, which may be important when you are first starting your website.
That said, you only need one internal blog to get the most valuable links to your core website domain. If you are a newer site but operate multiple blogs, you should only keep one as an internal blog.
If you are going to write lower-quality or very short posts (more like tweets than posts), then you should choose an external blog or subdomain blog. You do not want low-quality blog posts harming your website’s ranking.
Regardless of the type of blog you choose for your law firm, there are core things that all legal marketers should keep in mind along the way. First, you should always strive to write high-quality, original, and relevant content. High-quality content is key to SEO success, and you are simply wasting your efforts if you consistently publish poorer-quality posts. Second, you should wait to submit your blog to directories until you have a good number of quality blog posts. Finally, you should always keep your blog updated with fresh posts to avoid the risk of having any directory links removed, as well as to ensure that Google views your site as one that is regularly updated with new, relevant content for searchers.
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
Lawyers are busy. When you spend your time writing blog posts, you want to ensure that your legal blog is a beneficial piece of your overall marketing strategy that works well with your digital marketing plan and SEO tactics. Therefore, you want to be sure that you are setting yourself up for success by choosing the right type of blog that will offer the most benefits to your law firm.
If you need help determining the type of blog that is the best fit for your firm, or simply need help in setting up an effective blog, the experts at Justia can help. Contact us now to learn more.