How to Start a Law Firm Blog | Part 3
This post is from the first blog I started, called “How to Start a Law Firm.” Over the years I’ve moved to different sites a few times and wanted to catalog all of my content in one place. If an article refers to a link and there is no link, sorry, that’s consequence of the move. Enjoy!
Okay, we’re on to part 3 of my series on how to start a law firm blog. Remember, if you aren’t interested in law firm marketing or thinking about how to market your law firm, you aren’t going to be successful when you open your shop. If you’ve missed the first two, you can read them here:
Today we’re moving on to part 3. What’s part 3 going to be about? Glad you asked. Today we’re going to talk about setting your blog up internally so it’s easy for you to use, it’s safe and secure, and Google loves it. Ready! Great! Let’s get started.
I Realized My Last Post Left Things a Little Incomplete
At some point I promise we are actually going to get to the point where we talk about what’s going into each post you’re writing (in the mean time you can write some – you can always adjust them later – and no matter what you write, it can’t be wrong!), but for now we want to make sure we get your blog set up so that it runs like a well oiled machine.
My last post fell a little bit short of that. So today we’re going to go through the internal tools of wordpress and help you get set up so your law firm blog is liked by you, by your readers, and by Google. Here we go.
The Dashboard Generally
When you log in to your account (remember, it’s your site name with “/wp-admin” after it) you’ll see the dashboard. It has some stuff on the side – posts, media, links, etc. all the way down to settings and BWS plugins. This is what we’re going to be working with today. We’re going to tweak some of these things so you love your blog.
Blog Set Up Should Accomplish Three Goals
At the end of the day you want your blog set up to accomplish three things:
1. Professional Look (you want people to think you’re legit);
2. Ease of use (you want people to be able to get around easily);
3. SEO friendly (you want Google to like you).
We’re going to tackle each one of these separately, but in a sequential order. That means you should be able to go from the beginning of this post to the end and have your blog set up and ready to go.
The Professional Look | Choosing a Theme
The look of your blog, in my opinion, at this point, just needs to be clean. It should be better than what mine looks like, but not much (and we’re going to tackle the header (the top of the blog – the image) in the next post). You do this with a wordpress “theme.”
The great thing about wordpress is that it’s been set up so you don’t need to know much, if any, html to build a site. They’ve pre-built the thing. You just pick what you like and roll from there.
A wordpress “theme” is a perfect example of that. A “theme” is simply a self-contained package that displays graphic elements on your site, like color, style and size, columns, and other layout elements. It basically gives you a professional look without having to write code.
Choosing a Theme – The Golden Rule
The golden rule for choosing a theme is this: don’t waste too much time! This is exactly the type of thing that I’d spend hours on only to later realize it’s not that important in the long run. So I’m trying to help you from wasting that time.
My advice is to set aside 15 minutes, look through the themes, and pick one you like – or make it really easy and just go with the theme I suggest. I would never steer you wrong!
To be a good theme it needs to meet two goals:
1. Look professional enough to be respectable;
2. Needs to be unique enough to stand out from the crowd.
How to Search Themes – It’s Easier Than You Think
Looking at themes is easy.
1. Click on Appearance in the left sidebar.
2. Click on “Themes” and pick the options you want (I’d recommend at least 2 columns – but don’t get too picky).
3. Click find themes.
4. Start looking at the themes that pop up – if you don’t like what you see, change the options.
How to Install a New Theme
Let’s say you find one you like, then what? It’s really easy. It’s a three step process:
1. Click “Install.”
2. Click “install now.”
3. Click “preview” or “activate.”
You’re all done! This, by the way, is a common theme with wordpress, and one reason people like it so much – it’s built so that almost anyone can at least get something basic going.
The Starting a Law Firm Blog Theme
My theme, and the theme I’d recommend you use, is the default theme – “Twentyeleven.” It does everything you’re going to want, it’s easy to work with, and Google likes it good enough. I’d recommend giving it a test drive to see how it works out for you.
The Fun Part | Setting Up Your Blog After Install
I’m totally lying. This isn’t the fun part. The fun part is writing the posts. But, this part is important, because it’s going to make everything run smoothly later. The most important thing to remember for this section is don’t worry about why you do this, just do it. It’s kind of like some legal rules – you don’t ask why because they exist – you just work with them.
To make this easy, I’m just going to give you, in order, the buttons you push and then, if you need to type in anything, what you need to type in. It will look like this, for example: Settings/General/Site Title – type in the title of your site. Got it? Good.
Actually, we might as well start with the general settings – it’s easy.
Settings/General Set Up
Site Title – put in the title of your site. I’d recommend your firm name and then whatever you do. For example, mine would be “CMS Law Firm’s DUI Defense Blog.” If you want to try to come up with something catchy, go for it.
Tagline – say a few things about what your blog is about. Again, if you can fit some keywords in, that is great.
WordPress address and site address – these are the same – just your URL (for this site it’s http://startingyourlawfirm.com).
Leave the membership box unchecked, new user default role is subscriber, and pick the timezone, date, and time formats that you like. The week can start whenever you want (it’s your site!)
When you’re done, don’t forget to click save changes.
I’d pretty much leave these as is. Text box at 30 lines, formatting boxes checked the default way (I don’t even know what “correct invalidly nested XHTML automatically means), and the default stuff in the default mode.
One thing you do want to do on this page is scroll down to the “post via email” section and delete the information in the boxes. That eliminates the possibility of anyone hacking into your site and posting remotely.
I’d leave everything else the way it is – and don’t forget to save the changes.
For me, I have the settings set as: front page displays latest post; blog pages show 5 at most; syndication feeds show 5 at most; and the rest as defaulted.
These are the settings for your comments. These are important settings for a couple of reasons: (1) they’ll let you know when other people are talking about you; and (2) they’ll help you keep out spammers.
Default Article Settings – check all the boxes.
Other Comment Settings – I have checked “commenters must fill out name and email” and break comments up.
Email Me Whenever – both boxes checked.
Before a Comment Appears – it must be approved by an administrator (if you don’t do this you’ll catch incredible amounts of spam).
Comment Moderation – leave it and everything else as is. Don’t forget to save your changes.
Just leave these settings as is unless you want to mess around with it and see what happens.
Make sure this one is set to “allow search engines to index this site.” This lets the search engines find you. VERY IMPORTANT.
Permalinks are basically the way your links are set up for each individual post. For example, if you look at my latest post, it’s got the date and then the title of the post. I just changed mine actually to just have the name. That’s all you want (it will help with the search engines and it will help people know what that page is about). Just click on the “post name” button and save it.
Okay, that’s about it for the Settings tab. Now we’re going to move on to a little bit more customization. We’re going to follow the same pattern we have been up to this point.
The first thing you want to do is delete the default user that’s in the list. That’s a security risk. Just hit “delete” under the “default” name.
The second thing you want to do is make yourself the administrator. At the top of the page is a button that says “add new.” Click it and add yourself – make sure you label yourself an administrator.
In the future, if you want to add authors (associate attorney, for example) or let someone in to customize your site (we’ll talk about this later), this is where you do it.
Plugins are just another thing that make wordpress amazing. What plugins do is allow you to customize your site with small html “packets” that work with your site to make it unique. For today, we’re just going to talk about the plugins you’ve got to have for your site. There are literally hundreds or thousands of other possible plugins to use.
Getting a plugin is really easy. All you have to do is click Plugins/Add New/ and type in the name of the plugin you’re looking for in the search box. When it comes up you click install and activate, and you’re good to go.
Okay, on to the must-have plugins for your blog.
A “captcha” is simply that things that asks you to do a simple math question or type a word into a box before it will allow you to submit something. It helps prevent spam. And once you get your blog up and running you’re going to get spam like crazy.
I just use the first one that pops up – it’s beatyorangewpcomment captcha. If you don’t like it, look for one that you do like.
As I said above, permalinks are great because they let you know when someone links to your site. What this plugin will do is make sure each post has it’s own permalink so you can tell where links are going to specifically.
All in One SEO Pack
This plugin makes it easy for you to add a title, description and keywords for your website generally and each individual post. And, so you know, the title is the thing that shows up in the search results (this will usually be the title of your post), the description is that short snippet that shows up with the search engines, and the keywords are metadata that are inserted into each of your posts (people can’t see that but Google can).
It’s a good tool to have for your blog.
Don’t worry about why you want to have this for now, just download it as a plugin. We’re going to talk about it in a later post.
WP Super Cache
This plugin makes your website load super fast. You’re going to want this as your site gets more and more posts on it (and when you start adding videos and podcasts to your site.
For this one, once you download it you’ll see a message that you have to take one more step. So take the extra step. Click on “turn this plugin on” or whatever it says. It will take you to a page that looks really complicated but isn’t. All you have to do is click the button from “caching off” to “caching on” and you’re done.
Google XML SiteMap
This will make Google like your site better. In the immortal words of that guy that used to sell those rotisserie cookers on infomercials – “set it and forget it!” Make sure you search for it with “sitemap” as one word.
No Self Pings
This will keep you from blowing up with pings when you link to your own posts. Trust me, without this the pings are really annoying.
Like Google analytics, we’ll get to this later. Just install it for now so when we need it it’s there.
WP DB Backup
Just like it sounds, it lets you back up all your blog data. Might as well do it just in case, right?
Once you do this go to Tools/Backup and set up your options. I just have it email it to me once a week. When the new one comes in you can delete the old backup.
Delete Hello Dolly
This isn’t a plugin to get, it’s one to delete. You can see it in your list of plugins. It’s useless so you might as well free up a little room on your blog.
We’re Done for Now!
It only took me 2200 words to get done with this post! That’s fantastic.
If you’ve made it this far I wanted to let you know I’m thinking about making this into a free ebook for people to download. That way you don’t have to click all around looking for the good stuff – it’s all right in front of you. What do you think?
And, as always, I love comments, thoughts, questions. If you try something here and it doesn’t work, let me know so I can fix it or explain it better. And, also, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter! There’s great stuff in there that I don’t talk about here! Thanks for reading!
About Me: Christopher Small is the owner of CMS Law Firm, the author of this, the starting a law firm blog, and The Seattle DUI Guy. I love talking business as much as I love being a lawyer. Thanks for letting me share with you!
Click here to read part 4!!