Why I Blog (Updated to add advice on how NOT to blog)

I hadn’t intended to write on the subject of blogging again, having just done that with my 5-year blawgiversary missive, but sometimes someone writes something that really puts things into perspective.

So today, two looks at other bloggers on the subject:

First out of the box are the folks at Drug and Device Law, which had this to say in the wake of another (well-deserved) selection in the ABA Journal Blawg 100:

We continue this blog for the same reason we started it. That’s to provide up-to-date information and commentary useful to those who, like us, defend pharmaceutical and medical device companies (also vaccines) in product liability litigation, either in law firms or in-house legal departments.  We have strong views on practically all aspects of this subject – we’ve written books and articles – and our big-firm platform allows us the relative luxury of keeping current on a plethora of legal issues, from preemption to ediscovery.  We firmly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, that is, that defense wins anywhere help other defendants (like our clients) win everywhere.

Well, that is OK, but there seems to be something missing. I know they want to provide up-to-date info, but why do they want to do that? In other words, where is the emotional/human factor?

Scott Greenfield, however, hits the nail on the head, I think, summing up my feelings:

I’m going to die one of these days. Maybe sooner rather than later, and likely sooner than most of my readers. I’ll be damned if I die without having anything to show I was here.  I lack the skills to build the Taj Mahal, or write a symphony, or create a tourbillon.  But I can type words onto a computer screen fast enough to put some ideas on virtual paper that serve to demonstrate, at least for a day, that I was here.

That is a worthy perspective. I see, sometimes, the social media fans crowing about numbers of followers or fans or links or whatnots. But no one will carve the number of Twitter followers onto your tombstone when the times comes.

So if you want to write, or use social media to any extent, I think it should be be with a view toward actually enjoying life and getting something out of the exercise. The same thing you would do with any other recreational activity.

Update: Contrast the above comments with those of an SEO “expert.”  Aaron Kelly, writing for Avvo’s Lawyernomics, gives some advice on how to write blogs. It seems to parallel some of my own thoughts — thoughts I put down in an April Fool’s Day post about how to blog.

Basically, he tells people to write for Google’s algorithms, instead of writing for living, breathing, humans. Some of his godawful advice — and can you imagine actually spending part of your valuable, short life doing this stuff? — now follows:

  1. “since the goal is to publish as much unique, quality online content as possible, more emphasis is placed on speed as opposed to wordsmith-ing and editing.”
  2. “it’s important to temper your literary expectations and sacrifice some elegance in favor of volume”
  3. “a premium is placed on speed, many web content articles may not be as polished as print-journalism pieces, as there’s often very little time for editing or research.
  4. In general, you want to keep your web content articles between 400 and 2000 words.
  5. “[xxxxxxx].com is an excellent website from which to order content.”
  6. not everything you publish has to be perfect; sometimes it can be “just good enough” so long as it’s readable and contains the right amount of keywords
  7. “There’s no doubt that lots of well-written, SEO-optimized content will get you noticed online”

About #7? There’s lots of things you can do to get noticed. As an example, I noticed this article.  (Here are a couple other things people have noticed: advertising in the toilet, chasing air crash victims, spamming.) But do you really want to be noticed for dreck?

Want to know why this guy is clueless and his advice is so bad? Because this was his premise:

Search engines:

  1. Love websites and blogs that are frequently updated
  2. Reward sites with high-quality, keyword-rich linkbacks (e.g., links pointing at your site).

If the author wanted to give actual advice about Google, he would write that the Holy Grail of search engines is quality inbound links. This will bring in readers. Want to know how to get them? Write well and be interesting. That’s how writers find readers. Can you think of any writer that became good because of keyword stuffing? Don’t write for Google; write for humans.

And about that prattle about the length of posts being 400-2,000 words? Fuggedabout it. The Gettysburg Address is about 270 words long.


10 Responses Leave a comment

  • Max Kennerly 2011.12.12 at 16:56 | Quote

    Avvo’s advice is so 2010. Google spent the bulk of 2011 punishing people who churned out crap content in bulk. Even Justia, the land of 10,000 dreck blogs, has started telling its bloggers to stop pumping out sludge and start focusing on writing posts that humans will find compelling:


  • Eric Turkewitz 2011.12.12 at 17:04 | Quote

    Avvo’s advice is so 2010.

    You are too kind. I would have said it was so 2003. But even then it would have sucked. Because who would want to actually read it?

  • Mark 2011.12.12 at 18:25 | Quote

    Mr. Turkewitz,

    My name is Mark, and I’m a paralegal at a small boutique personal injury firm in the Midwest. One of my jobs is to update the blog, creating content (I won’t post the link here, because I don’t want to spam your site). I was hoping to pick your brain, and hoping you’d be so kind as to throw a bone to someone just beginning this blogging routine.

    I’ve been doing my best to create content that is not simply a cut and paste job of stories from my local paper. But how do I get people to come to the site? I like your blog (along with a few others) that I read almost daily to get ideas for topics to write about. And I think I’m creating passable content, but how to spread that without leaving comments on other blogs that consist of, “I agree! http://www.blahblahblah.org” or something like that. What is the line between marketing and spam?

    If you (or your readers) have ideas, I’d love to hear them. If you don’t think this is the appropriate avenue and wish to delete this comment, I won’t be offended.

  • Eric Turkewitz 2011.12.12 at 18:38 | Quote


    You will notice that the better bloggers tend to link out to others. They don’t pretend to be an island unto themselves. And when you link out, bloggers will see the incoming links and go see what is being said about them. If you’ve written well, they may start to follow you and, if you write something they think their readers would enjoy, they link out to you and bring new readers in.

  • shg 2011.12.13 at 14:59 | Quote

    With the host’s permission, I would like to respond to Mark as well. I’m troubled that you are a paralegal working for a PI firm (and PI firms aren’t “boutiques,” just PI) and the lawyers can’t be bothered writing a blog, instead shifting to you. A legal blog is written by lawyers. You may be smart. You may be dedicated. You may work your butt off and truly care. But you are not a lawyer.

    As this is being passed off as the work product of your firm, or worse still, a lawyer at your firm, it’s deceptive. You may want people to take notice of your work, but it’s being sold as a lawyer’s work. It’s not.

    As for getting people to notice, almost every legit blawger will excoriate you for trying to sneak your own link into their comments. It a BS move, and only those who are so desperate for comments that they will allow spam will tolerate it. Eric’s suggestion of linking is the best way to get noticed.

    But I must also point out that getting noticed isn’t always a positive. If your efforts aren’t up to par, or are affirmatively wrong or bad, they may rip you to shreds. Notice is a two way street.

    Best of luck, Mark.

  • Ron Miller 2011.12.14 at 14:29 | Quote

    That is a pretty cheap shot at Justia. They put out a great product. Does anyone think their should be tryouts to buy a blog? If a lawyer’s blog is awful, that’s on them, not the people that help you set up your blog. And the idea that Justia is “just now” encouraging quality content is just wrong.

    Max, both you and Eric put out great blogs. I read this blog and Litigation and Trial every week (and link to them). But let’s not get too pious about it. I find sorting through spammy blogs to be a little annoying but, ultimately, you get what you put into all of this. If their blog is garbage, they are unlikely to get rewarded. And as you point out, Google is getting smarter and smarter every day.

  • Beckley Mason 2011.12.14 at 19:55 | Quote

    Excellent post. I’m not a lawyer but I put my name next to everything that goes on our blog, and don’t take that lightly.

    So I guess I’d disagree with the idea that only lawyers should be writing blogs on firm websites, or on any site concerned with legal matters.

    If the content is fresh, well-researched, relevant and accurate, why does it matter who is behind it? There’s a middle ground between a site like this that is very personal and as much about Eric’s experience as a lawyer as it is about the law itself, and blogs that are simply keyword dumps.

    The point is to have interesting content on your site people legitimately want to read link to because it’s fresh information in well-written package.

    Some lawyers feel a calling to express themselves in this medium, some won’t. But all should recognize the value of a strong, innovative blog from a marketing perspective. And as many have noted in these comments, if writers/lawyers abuse the platform, no one is going to read them and Google is going to spank them eventually.

  • A Troll 2011.12.18 at 19:54 | Quote

    Well you must be doing something right.

    From w3snoop.com

    Our records indicate that newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com receives an estimated 1,742 unique visitors each day – a huge amount of traffic!

  • Mark 2011.12.19 at 14:53 | Quote

    Just wanted to thank shg and Eric for the comments. I appreciate the advice and the help.

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