If You’re Going to Blog, Skip The Gimmicks

I came across an unfortunate recent post on the Lawyerist (aka “the Puddle”) entitled, “5 Tips to Draw Readers To Your Blog.”

I say unfortunate because, at least on my reading, the post seemed to suggest that, if your legal blog is not getting sufficient readership based on quality writing about compelling topics, perhaps you can “juice” your stats a bit by employing one or more of the following gimmicks (my term):

1. Frame everything in a “top 5” list format;

2. Attack conventional wisdom;

3. Make it funny;

4. Bash law schools;

5. Write about Apple.

6. “Bonus” gimmick: blog about celebrities and sex.

Two of these “tips” are completely legitimate suggestions. Attacking issues from an unconventional angle and weaving in some humor (assuming you’re actually funny) are terrific ways to improve blog posts and enhance readership. But, in my view, the others are bollocks.

The author, Andy Mergendahl, freely admits that it’s only necessary to resort to this gimmickry when all else fails:

“But how to attract readers? Sure, you can . . . strive to write well on topics you’re knowledgeable about. I’ve tried that. I’ve combined my experience with my own independent study to provide a lot of sober advice on good lawyering. Almost all those posts were greeted with a yawn, followed, I suspect, by an immediate click over to Buzzfeed.”

Clearly if your “sober advice on good lawyering” is greeted with a yawn, the solution is to “go blue” or, if even that fails, do some law school bashing.

A couple of other solutions come to mind: blog about something else, or (gasp) don’t blog at all.

I’ll freely admit I crave more readership. I recently had a conversation with my good friend Mark Suster about his blog. Imagine my awe, or was it shame, as I learned that his esteemed blog garners almost as many views in a single day as I boast in an entire year! Talk about blog envy. (No, it’s not always that small. It shrinks when I swim in cold water. I swear it does.)

But regardless how desperate we get for readers, gimmicks aren’t the answer. Leave the racy pictures and stories to Above the Law or The Superficial or whatever. Don’t get controversial for the sake of being controversial. Write what you think and you feel. If it flies in the face of conventional wisdom or raises eyebrows, great. But don’t adopt a pose just to boost your numbers.

Sure, I’ll bust out the occasional “top 5” post. If I’m feeling especially saucy, I might quote Neil Young or pop out some particularly pure alliteration. But not to get more readers. If I use gimmicks at all, it’s because I blog as much for my own enjoyment as anything else. And you should, too.

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