My Shingle

Should Lawyers Accept Ads on Their Blogs? Why Not?

by Carolyn Elefant on November 11, 2008 · 10 comments

in New Marketing Ideas, Tech & Web, Websites and Blogs

Print Friendly

[Above is the video that inspired this post (HT www.twitter.com/chrisbrogan)]

Even as many bloggers have looked to advertising as a way to generate an income stream from their blogs, up until relatively recently, I didn’t think that lawyers should include ads on a law firm blog.  (I realize that you’ve seen ads at MyShingle but this isn’t my law firm’s blog, rather, it’s a separate venture).  I felt that advertising on a lawyer web log was unprofessional and might convey the impression that the firm didn’t have the money to support the blog and needed cash from ads to keep its blog, and even its firm afloat.  (As a caveat, I will note that I do not endorse use of tip jars which do reek a bit of desperation at a law firm site).

But over time, I’ve changed my hardcore views.  I think that a well reputed advertiser can enhance a lawyer’s credibility rather than detract from it.   For example, a client or competitor who sees an ad from a travel agency or airline at a law blog specializing in international adoption would think “Wow, my lawyer must have a great reputation and a wide following to attract this type of advertiser.”  Second, and more importantly, the reality is that new lawyers need to squeeze out every little bit of cash from every corner to keep their firms afloat in the early months.  As I’ve posted before, cutting costs and keeping overhead low can make a difference in your bottom line starting out.  But finding other revenue sources, such as toll bridge type agreements is also important.  Even if you’re just able to collect a hundred dollars a month from your site, that income can pay for other costs – maybe some business lunches or a CLE- that you might otherwise forego.  And it’s also passive income, meaning that it’s an added bonus on top of something that you’re doing already.

Generating money from a law firm blog also gives an extra psychological push to keep churning out quality posts.  Lawyers know that blogging helps market a practice, but as we all do with marketing, sometimes it’s easy to set it aside, particularly when the returns aren’t immediate.  But ad revenue from blogs is something that will flow from a well read, targeted blog and knowing that there’s an immediate return, can give extra incentive to post regularly.

If you do decide to start accepting ads, here are a couple of quick do’s and don’ts (please ad to the list!)

1.  Sell your blog’s target audience and stickiness. Chances are that as an average law blogger, you may not get more than a few hundred hits a day (and for many law bloggers, it’s far less, so don’t feel embarrassed!).  But, if your site is packed with content, your stats will probably show that those who visit are sticking around for a while.  At this site, I’ll get a large number of hits daily where visitors linger for 10, 15 or as long as 20 minutes – a veritable lifetime on the Internet.  Your stats and keywords will also give you an idea of the type of traffic you get, which can help you target advertisers more accurately.

2.  Set policies.  Obviously, you don’t want the family law firm across the street taking out an ad on your blog.  Nor would a criminal defense attorney want to post ads from America’s Most Wanted or some other site that might lead readers to think that they could be set up for an arrest by calling the lawyer.  Develop policies that ensure that you can steer clear of conflicts and that give you ample discretion to reject an ad.

3.  Avoid affiliate deals and Google ads Even though my law.com ad is an affiliate ad, I made an exception because I felt that a relationship with the mainstream legal media would enhance my blog’s credibility and broaden my audience.  That might be a reason to accept an affiliate deal, but otherwise, affiliate ads take up space and (in my experience) don’t generate much money.  You’re better off taking a straight up ad for a lower fee than an affiliate ad.  As for Google ads, in my view, they are not very professional looking and fall in the “tip jar” category of over desperation.

4.  How do I find advertisers? Take a look at the video that leads off this story.

What do you think?  Will you be adding ads to your site?  Why or why not?

  • Eric Turkewitz

    My views mirror yours, to a great extent. I was first very opposed to ads. I thought there was a great danger in “uglifying” blogs with ads:
    Better Blogging: 12 Tips
    I now have one ad, for Law.com, for the same reason you do; the relationship brings in more visitors. I wrote about that subject here:
    A Personal Injury Blog Grows Up (Welcome ALM Readers)
    I think the gut reaction of any blogger to an offer to run ads should be “no.” An exception can be made if there is a compelling reason for it.
    It seems that if a law blogger did want to allow ads, then the ones to accept might deal with books on the law, or legal services (Westlaw or Lexis, stenographic services, etc.)
    In general, though, it is the type of thing most people should stay far away from.

  • Eric Turkewitz

    My views mirror yours, to a great extent. I was first very opposed to ads. I thought there was a great danger in “uglifying” blogs with ads:
    Better Blogging: 12 Tips
    I now have one ad, for Law.com, for the same reason you do; the relationship brings in more visitors. I wrote about that subject here:
    A Personal Injury Blog Grows Up (Welcome ALM Readers)
    I think the gut reaction of any blogger to an offer to run ads should be “no.” An exception can be made if there is a compelling reason for it.
    It seems that if a law blogger did want to allow ads, then the ones to accept might deal with books on the law, or legal services (Westlaw or Lexis, stenographic services, etc.)
    In general, though, it is the type of thing most people should stay far away from.

  • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

    The video, rough as it is, makes one very big point, but leaves one similarly big question unanswered. What is the cost of a blog ad? It was one of the basic questions asked of him by the potential advertising, and one that went unanswered.
    For many, the amount involved is a very important consideration. Whether one would reach out to potential advertising as shown, and put ads on their blogs, would certainly be influenced by whether one would receive $10 a month or $1000.

  • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

    The video, rough as it is, makes one very big point, but leaves one similarly big question unanswered. What is the cost of a blog ad? It was one of the basic questions asked of him by the potential advertising, and one that went unanswered.
    For many, the amount involved is a very important consideration. Whether one would reach out to potential advertising as shown, and put ads on their blogs, would certainly be influenced by whether one would receive $10 a month or $1000.

  • http://www.avvo.com Mark Britton

    I think this is great advice Carolyn. The reality is that the “free content” age is upon us and one of the only ways to support this free content is through advertising. Think of your blogs like magazines. Fill it up with amazing content, and then you shouldn’t feel guilty at all about advertising around it. Does the Legal Times or even Newsweek feel guilty about taking advertising? Nope, and either should you. We will all become more comfortable with this as the free content age progresses.
    I do think Carolyn’s admonitions are right on point however. Advertising is a devilish thing and you must make sure that you are always serving your readers rather than your advertisers. It was a challenge we had at Expedia and it is something we pay particular attention to as we continue to roll-out our advertising platform at Avvo.
    Mark
    CEO, Avvo
    http://www.avvo.com

  • http://www.avvo.com Mark Britton

    I think this is great advice Carolyn. The reality is that the “free content” age is upon us and one of the only ways to support this free content is through advertising. Think of your blogs like magazines. Fill it up with amazing content, and then you shouldn’t feel guilty at all about advertising around it. Does the Legal Times or even Newsweek feel guilty about taking advertising? Nope, and either should you. We will all become more comfortable with this as the free content age progresses.
    I do think Carolyn’s admonitions are right on point however. Advertising is a devilish thing and you must make sure that you are always serving your readers rather than your advertisers. It was a challenge we had at Expedia and it is something we pay particular attention to as we continue to roll-out our advertising platform at Avvo.
    Mark
    CEO, Avvo
    http://www.avvo.com

  • http://www.thestartuplawyer.com Ryan

    I’ve gone back and forth with google ads on my blog. My hesitance for them is primarily for the ‘professional’ appearance factor. My goal is to attract clients not clicks. But the ad revenue can take care of all your hosting/domain(s)/fax/phone costs.
    I haven’t noticed any less potential client inquiries when the ads are present, though.
    Eventually, I’ll probably go to a sponsored advertisement.

  • http://www.thestartuplawyer.com Ryan

    I’ve gone back and forth with google ads on my blog. My hesitance for them is primarily for the ‘professional’ appearance factor. My goal is to attract clients not clicks. But the ad revenue can take care of all your hosting/domain(s)/fax/phone costs.
    I haven’t noticed any less potential client inquiries when the ads are present, though.
    Eventually, I’ll probably go to a sponsored advertisement.

  • http://67.225.230.212/~sh1ngl3 Carolyn Elefant

    Eric, Mark, Ryan – I think all of us are on the same page here. Eric, I think you are most cautious, but that also makes sense because I think that as a personal injury attorney dealing with consumers, you must take care to convey a very professional appearance at your site. Ryan, I know that you deal with high tech and biz companies, which may be more accustomed to seeing ads at sites.
    As for Scott – your point is well taken. It is very difficult to find information about the going rate for ads, and cost does a make a difference. It doesn’t make sense to muck up the look of a site with a dozen $10 ads, but one tasteful ad from a reputable company for $120/month might be different (or the price point may be higher for some).

  • http://67.225.230.212/~sh1ngl3 Carolyn Elefant

    Eric, Mark, Ryan – I think all of us are on the same page here. Eric, I think you are most cautious, but that also makes sense because I think that as a personal injury attorney dealing with consumers, you must take care to convey a very professional appearance at your site. Ryan, I know that you deal with high tech and biz companies, which may be more accustomed to seeing ads at sites.
    As for Scott – your point is well taken. It is very difficult to find information about the going rate for ads, and cost does a make a difference. It doesn’t make sense to muck up the look of a site with a dozen $10 ads, but one tasteful ad from a reputable company for $120/month might be different (or the price point may be higher for some).

Previous post:

Next post: