A website is a law firm’s number one marketing vehicle — equal parts front office, information source, and publicity machine.
As a result, your site should be the primary focus of your marketing efforts and where you invest the bulk of your marketing budget.
Having created and overhauled many firm’s sites, I was happy to provide a brief overview and some tips when LexisNexis launched the highly successful Lexis Practice Advisor℠ Canada (LPAC) in Spring 2014. LPAC provides tools and guidance for transactional matters in an online format geared primarily to small and mid-size firms. I am LPAC’s exclusive contributor of legal marketing and business development content.
While not exhaustive, my Law Firm Websites Reference Guide in PDF format was released in Fall 2014 and is also noted below.
Law Firm Websites – Best Practice Tips
Your website needs to tightly target the audience you want to attract. Decisions pertaining to content, design and technical formats must stem from considering the needs of those who will visit your site. Doing so will also help you avoid website sameness.
Visitors to your site may come to it directly or by way of a search engine. Serving your target audience by providing content that is relevant, meaningful and helpful is job one. Job two is helping them find your site by using search engine techniques that anyone – including you – can implement.
In doing so, you will never have to pay to rank high on any search, and instead will do so organically and at no cost.
Websites aren’t called that for nothing. Search engine “spiders” crawl “web”-sites looking for food. Feed them good content that is continually updated and you’ll see strong results.
Tactics for High Rankings
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Intuitive navigation
- Writing for online users
- Cross-linking within the site
- Content and tools
Content is King — Design is Secondary
Problematic site symptoms can include:
- Illegible font
- Limiting view on the page
- Unclear intention
- Stale information
- Unmatched to firm culture or individual’s personality
- Unsearchable, uncopyable text
- Unnecessary distractions
Online Business Strategy
- “Let your fingers do the walking” meant Yellow Pages
- Legal information was difficult to access
- Online brochures revealed nothing
- International exposure 24 hours a day
- Legal information is readily and easily available
- Interactive plus personality = attractive and engaging
Recipe for disaster
- Being everything to everybody
- Stealing from competitors
- Focusing on design instead of content
- Legal speak
Recipe for success
- Focus on your strengths
- Be yourself
- Tightly written and easily understood copy
- Design supports copy and brand
SEO — How Not to be Found
- A splash page or copy-free home page
- Blank or repetitive title pages
- Lack of keywords in copy
- No cross-links within the site itself
SEO — Spider Food: “Web”-site search engine “spiders” need food
On-page — You have 100% control
- Page titles – 65 characters including spaces
- Meta descriptions – 156 characters including spaces
- Keyword density – don’t overuse
- Site structure and navigation – users must find what they want in three clicks or less
- Cross-links to other pages within the site
Off-page — How other sites affect yours
- Links and page rank
- Page reputation
- Anchor text
- Link popularity
SEO — How Does Your Site Look?
- Go to Google, use the “cache” search
- In search box, enter cache:yourdomain.com
- Google’s memory of how your site looks
- Look for searchable content that describes the firm
- Next to no searchable text = poor ranking
Top 10 Website Tips
- Exchange value for time — clients will spend more time on your site if you provide value and insight.
- Create client-focused content — focus on client problems and explain how you can help.
- Eliminate jargon — speak in simple terms (less intimidating, higher search results).
- Content trumps design — simple and easy to read; flashy design dates a site and downloading takes time.
- Interact but don’t intrude — email, newsletter and blog signups, etc. enable interaction.
- Communicate with character — provide a sense of the personality and culture of firm.
- Know your users via analytics — monitor traffic, learn what pages and downloads are accessed, search for patterns, provide more of what is accessed most.
- Make everything easy — help users scan, simplify signups, make pages load fast, navigate in three clicks or less.
- Keep up with the times — check the site at least monthly to refresh content and test for technical glitches.
- Your site is your number one marketing vehicle — equal parts front office, information source, and publicity machine and therefore, should be your biggest marketing investment.
Heather Suttie is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on legal market strategy and management of legal services firms.
For 25 years, she has advised leaders of premier law firms and legal service providers worldwide — Global to Solo | BigLaw to NewLaw — on innovative strategies pertaining to business, markets, management, and clients.
The result is accelerated performance achieved through a distinctive one of one legal market position and sustained competitive advantage leading to greater market share, revenue, and profits.
The effect is accomplishment of the prime objective — To Win.