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Should Legal Blogs Be Monetized – If so…. How?

“Should Legal Blogs Ever Be Monetized?” asked by @chrischeatham on Twitter.

“Should I try to make money on my blog?” is a question I hear a lot from bloggers of many niches and while ultimately the answer will vary from blogger to blogger depending upon their own circumstances and the focus of their blog – there are some topics which present challenges when it comes to monetization.

While I don’t pretend to be an expert in the legal blogging niche I suspect that as a topic it is probably one such niche that is challenging to make money directly from.

Let me share a few disorganized thoughts that perhaps some legal bloggers (and other business bloggers as some of this is relevant to other niches) can expand upon and share their experiences of.

Indirect vs Direct Income

My initial reaction to the question above is that legal blogs are probably better suited for monetization through ‘indirect’ methods than ‘direct’ ones. You can read more on this distinction in my posts on direct and indirect monetization but essentially what I’m thinking is that using direct methods of making money from a blog (like by selling advertising) are probably not going to be as successful as indirect methods. In fact I’d probably steer clear of running ads on a legal blog at all and stick with indirect methods.

Indirect methods that may work might include:

  • selling your own services (consulting, legal advice, speaking, training, events etc)
  • writing and selling an ebook, real book or some other kind of resource
  • membership areas (for example if you had specialized focus that people might be willing to pay to join a community on)
  • classifieds/job board

Once again, I’m not overly familiar with the niche so perhaps some of the above isn’t quite on the mark and perhaps there are other more obvious indirect earners for legal blogs.

Promoting Competitors with Advertising

I did chat with one legal blogger recently who showed me his blog which he was monetizing with AdSense. While the main point of his blog was to build his profile drive business to himself as a lawyer he told me proudly that he was making reasonable money on a per click level from the AdSense ads which he was excited about – however when I viewed his blog I immediately saw ads for other lawyers and companies offering services that this blogger himself offered.

One of the problems of using AdSense as someone trying to ‘sell yourself’ in some way from your blog (and in fact many other types of ads) on a blog is that to make money you are sending people away from your blog – quite often to your own competitors. For this reason I’d probably avoid advertising on a blog through a network where you didn’t have much control over who could target ads for your blog.

The Flip Side of AdSense

Of course for every recommendation there is a flipside and as I mentioned in the above example the blogger was reporting healthy earnings on a per click level with his legal blog. He specialized in a focused area of law (a particular type of personal injury) and as a result AdSense earnings were higher than for some other topics.

IF you were not blogging with the motivation of selling yourself (indirect earnings) then perhaps the AdSense thing could in fact be something to explore as you wouldn’t be sending people to competitors.

Affiliate Marketing

If developing their own product or resource to sell isn’t something that a legal blogger has time to do then there could be scope to develop an affiliate relationship with someone else who has got some kind of product. The key would be to find a product that you believed in and that was of a high quality (don’t recommend a shoddy product as it’ll impact your reputation) and then find relevant and genuine ways to promote it to your audience.

Premium Advertising/Sponsorship

The last piece of advice that comes to mind is more aimed at legal blogs who might have built up a fairly substantial readership. It involves running advertising with a limited number of high quality and non competing advertisers.

For example I was recently speaking with a blogger in another business field who had just landed a sponsorship deal to run ads on their blog for the premium conference within their niche. They were proud of the sponsorship and were confident that if anything it would enhance their blogs standing in the eyes of their readers rather than anything else.

In this way you have very limited advertising on your blog but it is of a high level (and good earning potential). It also remains relevant to the audience and topic yet not sending people to your competitors.

Personally – if I were a legal blogger I’d still stick to the indirect methods than running advertising on my blog (unless the ads were highly relevant, on topic and from a reputable advertiser) – what about you?

They’re just a few of my thoughts on how to monetize a legal blog – what do you think?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I monetize my site from sponsors, Adsense demeans a blog.

    Thanks,
    Nate

  2. Funny, Richard Gibson who writes for the WSJ, asked me a similar question. I write the BizOp News, a legal blog about franchising and other distributorships.

    Richard asked: “Didn’t I think that there was some conflict of interest in writing about due diligence and allowing adsense on the The BizOp News?”

    My answer was: “The basic message in The BizOp News is how to spot the differences between the sales or promotional material push a franchise or distribution and what the actual opportunity is.

    Legally, this is because when you sign a franchise agreement, you will be signing a document that says you didn’t rely upon anything other than the representations in the agreement and disclosure document.

    So, I want my readers to look critically at all the advertisments, use some of the compliance tools to analyze the ad, and hopefully report back.”

    The entire post can be read here: http://www.bizop.ca/blog2/adsense-and-fraud/authority-and-adsense.html

  3. Agree with you on the Flip Side of Adsense especially when your a Legal Blogger. You should think twice before adding adsense ads or you might end up losing potential customers and just sending people to competitors.

  4. SImple answer to the question. Legal bloggers who are using a blog to build their reputation as a lawyer. Position themselves as a thought leader or opinion shaper in the legal profession, should NOT put ads on their blogs. Sponsored ads or not.

    The purpose of a lawyer blogging is not to monetize their blogs with ads. It is to provide information to the public in a form and fashion they can use and understand. Ads do nothing to help that. Additionally, in the end, the lawyer is selling their services. That should be where they monetize their blog.

  5. tim says:

    I’ve heard that artists with blogs or websites should stay away of adsense and the like for the same reason.

  6. Blog Expert says:

    I would definitely use affiliate products if I was him. You would probably be able to make more money and it is not like you are selling services but just products. And then if someone would need a service for legal things they could hire you. That would make more sense.

  7. To expand on my comment above, here is a post I wrote against ads on lawyer blogs. http://is.gd/nSeA

  8. Tim Evans says:

    I came here to add to the discussion, but I see Grant had said what I was going to say.

    If you blog about something other than your area of practice, then feel free to put ads on your blog, but I don’t think ads belong on pages dealing totally with you or your practice.

  9. p@r@noid says:

    I agree with your point of view…
    If anyone is giving any service and using adsense…
    80% is chances of getting his competitor advertisement.
    Though if one uses the affiliate marketing in a smarter way then he can do great…
    Like writing a great post on SEO and then selling a book related to advance SEO…

    Atleast I make good money from this technique of mine… :)

  10. Amy Derby says:

    The ultimate purpose of most legal blogs is generally one or more of these: to get the lawyer more business, to brand online as an expert in his practice area, to attract media attention for the lawyer’s business, to draw attention to issues within the law or legal community. I have yet to see a case where a legal blog would benefit from third-party ads, and some states have laws against attorneys soliciting business via a website. There are also ethical issues to consider.

    For a news or hobby blog that just happens to be written by a lawyer? That might be a different story. But I don’t include those in my definition of “legal blog”.

  11. Robin says:

    I would think, in a field like this, trading ads with services you utilize in your business, would be one of the best ways to go. Medical, clerical, real estate agents…what ever your legal niche is, running there ads not only strenthens your business ties, while pointing visitors to services they are apt to need, but you avoid boosting the competition. Adsense or another network, could even be customized to run ads like this.

  12. Tripp Atkins says:

    I think legal blogging (and perhaps all service related industries) are different than other types of blogs because, in the end, you are selling yourself.

    It seems to me that putting Adsense or other ads on a legal blog to generate some immediate income is pretty short-sighted for the lawyer’s marketing plan. My opinion is that it cheapens the site when the blog is intended to market the lawyer or firm.

  13. Rohit says:

    Darren, it’s good to see that many twitterers are responsible for these posts on Problogger.

    This post on monetizing legal blogs is informative.

  14. Dhiaqis says:

    I think legal blogger should focus on producing services and information products. They can be provide free membership site as a platform. Maybe likes insurance industry.

  15. Well I think this will be applicable not only on this niche but things which you offered can be applicable on every kind of blog. Some of them are really good and less popular but once you will be able to grip on that you will earn quite a good amount.

  16. Pam says:

    As Amy pointed out, as lawyers we have ethics rules that must be followed. Those rules differ by state. Reputation building and other indirect monetization may be the only permissible methods for lawyers. The Florida Bar just rejected a proposal to treat lawyer webpages the same as print ads partly in recognition of the indirect nature of webpages. We haven’t considered blog rules yet, but given time I’m sure it will surface as an issue.

  17. Abdulrehman says:

    Twitter is empowering more than 30% of articles on famous blogs, nice article! BTW, darren I just sent you an email through your contact form for the fourth time, please check it and reply. Thanks!

  18. I think that if legal blog has traffic then blogger should think of monetizing his or her blog because you can’t just throw away a chance of making money.
    —————————————————–
    Mohammad Afaq
    Free Website Traffic

  19. There are actually network affiliate firms that you can sign-up for and choose the types of ads you want to present on your sidebar that run the gamut of every type of product from education to finance.

    If you go to my blog on the righthand side you will see an affiliate button from someone I do business with, as well as two other banners that I chose. I forget which both of them are but one if to let people search through franchise opportunities.

    If anyone is interested in the firm that provides it let me know and I would be happy to make the introduction.

    Mike

  20. SaveFewBucks says:

    You are right. The purpose of each blog has to be clearly defined, before deciding whether to do direct advertizing on that or not. In the example above, the blog is supposed to drive up sales of his main business. But showing adsense means he might lose some sales to his competitors. So, I would steer away from that. I might choose more indirect methods like sell text links for non-related companies, placing their advertisements, putting amazon ads etc. Those ensure that I earn money, and do not lose to my competitors as well.
    ——————————————————————————————-
    Ishan
    http://SaveFewBucks.blogspot.com

  21. Darren,

    There are many ways that law firms can monetize blogs and not just indirectly. First, as I posted here – http://www.myshingle.com/2008/11/articles/tech-web/should-lawyers-accept-ads-on-their-blogs-why-not/ – there are opportunities for high end sponsorships that can enhance a blogger’s reputation. I do not endorse affiliate deals, Google ads or tip jars because they can seem cheesy on a law firm site, but there are many companies that would be very interested in sponsoring a law firm site.

    Second, there is also the idea of offering for fee content. In my field (energy regulatory), most of the information reporters charge several thousand dollars a year. At the same time, it is almost impossible to keep up with all developments in this complex and changing area for free. A lawyer in a high end practice area could sell memberships for $20 or $30 a month to supplement revenue. This would enable them to hire people to work for the blog.

    Finally, lawyers need to recognize the value of their sites. Logos like ABA Top 100 Blawg or Alltop are just another form of advertising. If lawyers are willing to post those ads for free, they should not reject paid ads out of hand.

  22. Hi Darren

    That was a really interesting and thought-provoking blog. I am a legal blogger – I wrtie Jobsworth, a blog about employment law and it ahs been going for 6 months now. Readership is building up slowly and steadily and I’ve got several plans in mind for expanding the offering. My aims are very similar to the other legal (personal injury) blog you refer to. Direct advertising is one of the things I’ve been thinking about but have almost certainly rejected for the reasons you set out and also because it just doesn’t “feel right”, if that isn’t sounding too pompous. My firm has built up its business in the real (as opposed to the virtual) world since 2000 by word of mouth and we never advertise in magazines or elsewhere. I want to carry on with that in the virtual world, which is much better suited to “word of mouth” referral than the real world. The forms of indirect marketing you suggest are all areas I’ve thought of (apart from the classifieds board idea – not sure how that would work) and want to investigate further.

    At the moment my first priority is to try and produce quality copy that is topical and I’d like to think it is working. My main concern though is that whilst I get some comments and enquiries from readers, it is hard to turn them into fee paying clients. The analogy is often given that people can buy a suit off the peg rather than going to savile Row for a bespoke item and why can’t lawyers offer that service. The difficulty in most areas of law, apart from personal injury, wills and conveyancing perhaps, is that all legal issues turn on their own facts and to be able to advise you properly your lawyer has to spend time getting to understand the case, and money is, of course, chargeable, time. The challenge isn’t just to promote oneself but to find ways of making legal advice accessible once you have “hooked” someone.

    I’d welcome your thoughts on this.

    Finally, may I just say how useful I find your blog? it’s been really helpful in giving me ideas on my own offering.

    Best regards

    Michael

  23. I’m a blogger from 1999 on legal blogs in Italy.

    I use adsense, sell databases, sell ebooks, i’m a consultant, i sell videos.

    But mostly I spread documents and infos for free, because users after need a consultant to explain them.

    I’m proud to talk about all italian blog, and spread their ads: there is no problem, it’s not a way to loose money.

    Perhaps because i’m not a lawyer.

    But you think every consultant is different, I want to let my users compare what i do instead of the others. I strongly use videos and podcast, and this put me in front of every other consultant in Italy.

    So i use adsense because in my niche i’m really different from the others, and i want to be compared.

    Good blog,
    Spataro
    founder of IusOnDemand srl

  24. ah, an info: to italian lawyers adsense and every ad is forbidden on their professional sites.

    So several of them “register” their site as a newspaper, and then offer news with the newspaper which has the same name of the firm.

    Locally there have different limits on the content they can publish.

    Instead actually nobody is against lawyers promoting themselves by adsense.

  25. Harry says:

    Its your blog so you have the key what you would like to put on it and what not to put.

  26. phenom says:

    I monetize my blog only from Adsense.
    Should try out the new MSFT adsense….still in beta though.

    http://health.okguru.com

  27. I think it would be difficult and I maybe the bloggers own products, such as an ebook would be best. The question would be though is the blogger a legal expert or is he just blogging about legal issues, If he is not a legal expert, then Adsense would not be a bad venue.

  28. Perhaps if they were monetized, their ridiculous fees would go down…

  29. i monitize all of my blogs, except my personal blog :)

  30. Frank says:

    I honestly think AdSense Ads works the best if you get a lot of quality traffic to your blog. If you don’t, it’s going to be difficult to earn any revenue. Although, I believe everyone has their own methods to monetizing their blog and should stick with what works best for them.

  31. mattotoole says:

    Most legal blogs are done for links back to law firm sites for SEO purposes, as there’s little reason for anyone to link to a law firm site organically.

    As others have pointed out, US lawyers are severely restricted in how they can advertise. They usually can’t cross-promote other businesses related to their law practice either.

    So monetizing a legal blog is probably not viable for lawyers in the US, though rules do vary state by state.

  32. Lawrence Lee says:

    I’m a blogger writing about real estate articles. I think we should have ask ourselves the purpose of writing of our blog in the first place. Of course for myself, I’m a real estate agent. I write blog to make money. Initially I used Adsense to generate earnings but after a few months i stopped using totally as the clicks are pathetic. So I focus on writing articles that gives advises to the general public and in turn hope that they could use my service. This is where I make my money from. Adsense ads gives other competitors to leech my potential clients away.
    Maybe for legal blogs you can keep you customer in your blog longer and used chat like Zopim to engage them to have a conversation with you. This will acheive two objectives. One, you are able to provide a service on the spot at an instance, Two, you are also able to make money from the advise you have given.

  33. In my 20 years as an attorney, I strongly agree that AdSense should not be on any professional legal blog. To me, it injects a bias which has no place in my legal blog.

    Let me explain.

    I started an accident blog about 6 months ago with the sole intent to provide people relevant information that I believe consumers would like to know about (such as posts about accident prevention). There’s a good book by David Meerman Scott “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” that helped me along the way.

    Along the way, I’ve written about a wide range of subjects. Here’s an article I wrote about emerging technology which would help prevent car accidents caused by cell phone usage while driving.

    http://www.seriousaccidents.com/accident-blog/car-technology-accident-blog/utah-medical-student-inspires-car-accident-prevention-smart-key/

    We also tell people why the car accident occurred so hopefully people can learn from others’ mistakes.

    Having worked as an insurance defense attorney and Corporate America, I know how the other side works. I switched sides not to make money but to feel that I contribute to the greater good. In working for the insurance companies, I found that they take advantage of people and even find it humorous at times.

    Car accident lawyers work for the people, and — in my opinion — we value people over property in the legal system.

    When it comes to starting a legal blog, it’s important to remember that we’re writing for people and not for profit or “spiders.” We gain a trusting leadership from our blog and a satisfaction that we’re working to help educate our readers about auto accident claims. Maybe we’ll attract a client that read the blog, and that would be a good thing too.

    So, in my opinion, a legal blog should not have advertising. It should be — at most — an indirect source of income.

  34. JOE GELB says:

    I would not mind promoting my competition if it was making me over ten buck a day.

  35. Joel Rothman says:

    I have been blogging for 3 1/2 years and have never placed ads on my blog, the Nutritional and Dietary Supplement Law Blog at http://nutricompliance.com. I write about the supplement industry and I want to maintain my non-commercial status and avoid taking sides or appearing like I am taking sides. My ancillary regulatory consulting business, NutriCompliance, is listed as the sponsor of the blog, but there is no payment for that, it’s just a way of letting people know about the business and its services.

    I try to promote other lawyers like me who practice in the fields of IP and supplement regulation as much as possible. It’s just good will. A legal blog is not supposed to make money directly. If it does so indirectly, by attracting clients, that is great.

  36. Timon Weller says:

    I don’t see why not to monetize, It is just another niche, I would go for affiliate programs related to it in preference and maybe some contextual ads such as infolinks or bidvertiser.

    If you ask me. unless you are wealthy, you are crazy not to monetize in at least one of two ways on any blog.. It in no way lowers a websites worth as long as it is done right.

  37. Alfred says:

    I think using google adsense is a good idea however there are many other ways to monetize while blogging adsense is just one of them

  38. Seth says:

    Advertising is difficult… especially depending on your niche.

    Legal Blogs: Should be able to advertise their services and make money through targeted sponsorships. I think it might be distracting though.

    I am not planning on adsense on any legal blogs soon!

  39. I monetize also my blog only from Adsense.

    LLC