If you have read our recent white paper -The Futility of Chasing Silver Bullets: What Search Techniques Unlock Law Firm Website Success? (download here) - then you know that performing well for "long-tail" and informational search is critical for your online marketing success, and that one integral component of this approach is the frequent publication of fresh, relevant content.

Luckily for you, that's exactly what blogs are designed to address. So how do you maximize the value of your blog through smart optimization techniques? Whether you are an experienced blogger looking to revitalize your presence or are looking for a solid foundation of optimization principles upon which to base your new blog, the four practices below, if followed consistently, can deliver excellent results.

For optimal performance, avoid "geography + practice term + attorney" phrases or slightly-disguised sales pitches. Focus instead on the questions your potential clients need answers to.

Targeting "head terms" (e.g., "New York divorce lawyer" or "Ohio criminal defense attorney") can still be an important part of your overall optimization strategy, but as our research clearly demonstrates, there is significantly more opportunity to drive visibility and acquire new clients by focusing on queries like "how long does a divorce take in New York" or "will I go to jail for marijuana arrest."

These long-tail searches drive the vast majority of blog visibility, and represent the largest opportunity to attract new visitors (and new potential clients) to your blog. So when planning out your blogging activity, put answering the sorts of questions your potential clients may have the top of your list. See our earlier article on Q&A posts for details and suggestions.

Likewise, creating a large number of blog posts designed to do little but "sell" your services to potential clients is unlikely to result in high levels of visibility. Consider that your blog is an opportunity to inform and influence searchers who are not looking for a lawyer today, but have some question or need relevant to your practice. Think of each visitor to your blog as the seed of a potential future contact or referral. Should you try to turn each visitor into a lead through aggressive marketing language and calls to action? Or should you nurture the impression that you are knowledgeable, capable and helpful - and above all, trustworthy?

The reality is that you often cannot do both at the same time, and that the latter approach is much more effective over time at helping to grow your reputation and your practice. Read our earlier article, Engagement and Conversion-Oriented Language, for more on this subject.

In summary, while it is still a good idea to ensure that relevant practice-related and geographical terms are included in the title of your blog post as well as in the post itself, try to avoid over-using "head term" phrases or including too much overt marketing language in your posts. This will help you focus on the types of topics (and search phrases) more people are likely to respond to when searching for legal information and perspective.

For blogs, performance is not only driven by what you write about, but also by how often you write about it. To maximize results, ramp up your publication schedule.

In a recent independent study, it was found that brands blogging 15 or more times per month saw the greatest benefits. From our own experience, we see that customers whose blogs receive three to five posts per week often exceed expectations in terms of visibility and traffic.

For customers whose blogs currently receive fewer posts per week, the answer can be as simple as setting aside time to blog more frequently. Simple, but perhaps not always easy. You may find that creating a formal schedule - including automatic reminders through your email client or smart phone calendar - can be of great assistance in helping you adhere to a more active blogging regimen.

Most of our customers, however, have some level of content support from FindLaw writers. If you have a Blog Service Essential or Premium, you may be wondering how best to integrate your own blog writing with the content you already receive on a regular basis. This leads us to our next point ...

Optimizing blog performance is not just about attracting visitors. You have to engage your visitors if you want to build the level of trust that leads to contacts and referrals.

Writing for engagement has been a common theme running throughout our training materials. We suggest you start with a refresher course by re-reading the following articles:

In these you will find a number of suggestions that can help you create unique content that powerfully engages your blog visitors. Our best recommendation moving forward is to focus on making the content you create as relevant as possible. But how do you do this?

The best place to start is by taking a position. If you are like most of our customers, you benefit from FindLaw content services to support your own activities. You will notice that most of the content we provide is current events-oriented and relatively neutral in tone. This sort of timely, topical and informative content is one essential component to the performance equation, and you can multiply the impact of your blog by complementing news-based pieces with personal commentary, inside perspective and powerful advocacy for your position on issues that impact your potential clients or society at large.

While we certainly don't encourage you to court controversy just for the sake of blog performance, we can't emphasize enough the importance of giving your blog readers insight into what makes you tick as a professional, as an attorney and as a firm. Feel free to blog about issues that may not tie directly to a type of case you handle or a type of potential client you would like to target. Talk about why you do what you do. Share stories about what it takes to achieve a positive result, and what it feels like to win in a challenging case. Let your readers see your passion for the law and for serving the interests of your clients. If you can demonstrate through your blog posts that you are powerfully engaged in conversations that matter, your readers will likewise be more likely to engage.

Blog comments are performance gold on many levels. Set aside time each week to moderate reader comments.

We've written extensively about the value of comment moderation here, so we won't repeat the basic points. Suffice it to say that publishing reader comments can be integral to optimizing your blog for performance. Not only are reader comments another source of fresh, topical content for your blog - and content you don't have to take the time to create, at that - but they also can play a powerful role in signaling to future readers that your blog (and therefore your firm) is a trusted source of valuable information.

This means that, over time, actively moderating reader comments can increase both the number of visitors to your blog as well as the level of engagement on your blog. If you want to take your blog performance to the next level, you will set aside a little time each week to review, redact if necessary, publish and respond to reader comments.

In conclusion: Increasing frequency of publication and enhancing reader engagement are central to creating optimal blog performance.

We hope we've provided a valuable introduction (or refresher course) to some of the key principles and practices that drive blog performance. As always, if you have a question about blogging best practices or a suggestion for a future discussion, please leave a comment below.