Legal content iconsA few minor adjustments will help you avoid alienating your audience, giving your legal content marketing much wider reach.

No one likes to feel stupid. Have you ever been at a dinner party where you are unable to join in the conversation? However clued up you are in your own area, sitting with people making sparkling repartee about some niche area like the development of Norwegian fishing markets will make you feel bored and perhaps a little insecure.

Remember that feeling when you write your next legal content marketing instalment. Are you alienating your audience by assuming too much prior knowledge? Is there a way you can widen your appeal without losing better informed readers? Here are some top tips on how to engage readers at all levels.

1. Define your terms

Not everyone knows that when their neighbour puts a new padlock on a shared gate, there is potentially an infringement of an easement. Even if you are writing about a complex new legal development, spelling out the subject matter in layman’s terms within the first few paragraphs will multiply the rate of imaginary lightbulbs flashing over your readers’ heads.

Using legal language is often unavoidable in discussing case law but that doesn’t preclude you from starting your article with definitions of the key concepts and terms in order to help readers. If you think this might drive away more knowledgeable readers, you could always put explanatory content in a separate box-out section, for example ‘what is an easement?’

2. Break down your article

Writing for the web is about shaping content to fit with the way people read online. Typically people have shorter attention spans when accessing a website, particularly if a tablet or mobile phone is used.

Using headings to break down your article and using short paragraphs of around 3-4 lines each will mean more readers make it all the way to the end. Where a few chunky legal paragraphs on the printed page would be acceptable to most readers, put them on a screen and you will turn readers off.

3. Provide a summary upfront

Most readers landing on your article will be asking themselves: What is this about? Is it something I want to read? If there are no clear pointers to the content of the article, many readers will bounce off elsewhere. How can you keep them?

Without diluting the complexity of your article, you can help to retain readers by using a brief paragraph at the start summarising the content. It also helps to use an illustration, infographic, or multimedia such as video or audio.

4. Link to further reading

The danger of using legal jargon is that readers will either turn off completely, or do a quick Google search to find their own definition of the terms you are using. You can’t be certain they will return to your site, as many will follow the definition to another article, and another…

You can keep readers on your own site by deep-linking, or embedding hyperlinks within your text to previous articles. For example, an article about issues for gay couples looking to use a surrogate could link back to your piece on the legal distinction between civil partnerships and marriage.

Don’t make your readers feel like the simpletons at the party. A few simple tricks can help to make your legal content be more inclusive, without dumbing down the complexity of the article. Why not try it?

Ben Hollom

November 13, 2015