This is the next post in my Website Options for Law Firms series. In this article I’ll be discussing the “Blogger” platform that is owned and operated by Google. I decided to discuss Blogger as it is one of the world’s most popular free blogging platforms and it is used by many attorneys. While Blogger can be useful in certain situations, it shouldn’t be seen as a feasible option for an attorney’s primary website.
Blogger was created in the late 1990’s. It was established by the now defunct Pyra Labs, of which Twitter co-founder Evan Williams was a key figure. The company was acquired by Google in 2003 and receives a good amount of credit for popularizing blogging and bringing the idea of maintaining a blog to the masses. The service remains owned and operated by Google and is one of the search engine’s most popular products.
Blogger is a free service. It is an online platform through which a blog can be created and maintained with relative ease. Google offers this service for free as a way facilitating content creation on the web; the more content that there is on the web then the higher the chance Google has to buy and sell ads.
Blogger is simple and easy to use, as far as web development programs go, and can be used by a layperson with little or no web building experience. You pick the look and feel of your new blog from a selection of pre-designed templates. You can then use a “drag and drop” interface to add “widgets” to your site’s sidebar and footer. These widgets add extra functionality to your site, such as contact forms, etc. There is a fair collection of these widgets to choose from which means there are a number of options for adding functionality to your new site.
Blogger’s target user group is people with little or no web design knowledge. While the service does offer the ability to edit your site’s HTML and CSS, it is fair to say that anyone using Blogger isn’t going to dive deeply into these areas; one who feels comfortable editing HTML is likely going to be using a more advanced platform. The ease of use in Blogger has its trade-offs. The easy to use architecture reduces the extent to which the average user will be able to customize their site in terms of appearance, functionality, and a number of other areas. The greatest drawback is that the average user will not be able to use Blogger to build a static website – it will be for maintaining a blog only.
Lawyers can quickly build a blog with the Blogger platform
To demonstrate the ease with which Blogger can be used to generate a blog, I decided to build a test site. In roughly twenty minutes I had established the site. In addition to the blog’s home page, I had created an “About Us” and “Contact” page and added them to a navigation bar along the top of the site (the twenty minute setup time obviously didn’t include writing content for these pages). I was able to quickly use drag and drop widgets to add videos from my You Tube channel, a link area where readers could access my blog categories, and a biographical section on myself (pulled from Google+). While the screenshot below doesn’t cover the entire site, I also added a disclaimer at the bottom of the page.
For my test site I only used the drag and drop tools (and did not use the HTML editor) as this is the likely scenario under which most attorneys using the service will find themselves operating. Given the ease with which this blog was set up I actually found it visually appealing.
Ranking Blogger in relation to other website design services and products used by attorneys
There are a few key factors by which I’m going to rank Blogger, as well as other services, used by attorneys. These are cost, ease of use, SEO potential, and how well the platform is suited for the ever-changing web environment.
Blogger’s cost can’t be argued with – since it’s free
Blogger is a free platform – enough said.
Blogger’s ease of use has made it an option of choice for many attorneys
Blogger simply can’t be beaten for attorneys who need an easy to use blogging platform that provides a fair amount of functionality. To be blunt, an attorney who can’t stumble his or her way through creating a decent looking Blogger site probably shouldn’t be attempting to build their own site to begin with. While there may be some options that are easier to use, their functionality are so limited that it would be hard to justify even building a site on them.
Attorneys should be aware that Blogger’s SEO potential has improved but still has a long way to go
Google has added several features to Blogger over the years that help with optimizing a site for search. This includes the ability to use custom URL’s for posts and the ability to add Meta descriptions, which help search engines determine what the subject matter of a post is. The content creation tools also include the ability to use <H> tags which help Google understand the hierarchy of a given article. If you are using Blogger then you need to make sure you are using each of these features.
Blogger has several limitations from an SEO standpoint. I want to stress, however, that an attorney relying on Blogger (no disrespect intended to those who are) is unlikely to be knowledgeable of the finer points of SEO. As a result, those using Blogger wouldn’t likely use the tools which I find the platform lacking even if they were available. That being said, the service lacks several tools and features that search engines wish to see for tagging content and optimizing files. Also, Blogger sites tend to run slowly, by the standards that Google cares about, as they become more filled with content. These technological issues will hurt a site in search. Again, some of these issues can be fixed by editing a Blogger site’s HTML but the bottom line is that one who is able to do so is likely using a more advanced platform anyway.
Attorneys should consider whether Blogger is good for the changing web environment
The web is changing rapidly. The rise of smart phones and tablets have led to a host of new form factors for which a website must be able to render appropriately (not to mention the many new form factors arriving over the next few years). While I have some issues with how mobile devices handle a Blogger site (which I won’t repeat here as it would be a “techie” discussion) the bottom line is that Google is serious about the “post-PC” web and can be counted on to continue developing Blogger for new form factors.
Conclusions for attorneys who wish to use Blogger
While Blogger is an easy to use platform it should not be considered a primary option for your legal website. The fact that most lawyers will only be able to use the service as a blog, and not a static site, makes using it as your primary web presence problematic at best. It is problematic because Google will often return static sites to searchers looking for an attorney. While blogging is crucial to SEO, most attorneys are better served by having their blog be part of a static website.
For attorneys who want to maintain a separate blog, then the platform can provide a good first-foray before moving onto a platform like WordPress. Also, while Blogger has come a long way in terms of SEO value, it still lacks several key features that are needed if a site wants to score consistently high in search.
It must be remembered that the goal of a legal website is to bring in business. Relying on Blogger is going to put you well behind your competition.