Every law firm is different. So, every law firm’s marketing tools should be different too. This includes law firm websites. But there are some things that are essential to just about every law firm website. Here are some candidates.
Early on in the website design process, you’re going to need to choose a domain name for your law firm. There are a variety of factors that go into choosing a domain name. A lot folks tend to focus on choosing a domain that will help them get found in search engines. I think you’re better off choosing a domain name for people.
I recommend Smashing Magazine’s Christopher Johnson’s strategy for choosing domain names:
Naming is linguistic design, and a good domain name is an important part of the overall design of a website. A name plays a prominent role when people discover, remember, think about, talk about, search for, or navigate to a website. It establishes a theme for the branding of a website before people even visit it for the first time.
Coming up with a good domain name requires a combination of strategy, imagination and good linguistic design practice.
Too many lawyers and legal marketing people choose domains that are:
- Way too long.
- Boring and difficult to remember.
- Too hard to spell.
- Merely iterations of another domain.
- Designed to exactly or partially match some obscure keyword phrase for which no one is searching.
Instead, consider the following:
- How are the people you’re trying to attract as clients looking for you?
- Is it likely that potential clients and referral sources will look you up by name?
- Can you eloquently communicate information about your practice in your domain?
- Is your chosen domain easy to remember and type into a web browser?
And when it comes to search engines, be sure to follow search engine design and content guidelines. Further, be sure to periodically audit your law firm website from an SEO perspective. Finally, don’t misunderstand how they view redirected domains.
WordPress is open-source. In other words, it’s free for you to use. Which also means that you won’t be held hostage by your internet marketing or hosting provider.
If you do choose WordPress, be sure to guard against the most common WordPress attacks.
Yes, there are many alternative content management systems from which to choose. However, unless you require some special functionality for your law firm’s website that isn’t effectively implemented via WordPress, let us do you a favor. Just use WordPress.
Open up your law firm website on your smartphone or tablet.
How does it look? Is it easy to read? Is it formatted correctly? Or does it have super small text or have design elements appearing in the wrong place?
If not already, very soon most people will probably view your firm’s website on a mobile device. Which probably means that you need to update your law firm website with a responsive design.
While responsive web design isn’t right for every situation, it’s Google’s recommendation for the overwhelming majority of web situations.
It’s essential that your website is optimized for mobile devices. If it’s not, you’re frustrating visitors and losing them to your competitors. It’s really just that simple.
Have you ever visited a website that feels slow? It’s frustrating. For most people, if a site doesn’t load in less than 3 seconds, they’re going to hit the back button. And that time period is getting shorter every day. Users care about site speed and so does Google.
It is absolutely imperative that your pages load fast. Really fast. Like 1 to 2 seconds fast.
Don’t rely on spot-checking your page load times in your browser. Use site speed testing tools.
Talk to your hosting company, web designer and internet marketing consultant about what you can do to increase your site’s speed.
It’s crazy to me that lawyers invest a lot of money in web marketing without even the basic tools for tracking performance. In the very least, you should have a web analytics solution. For most of you, that probably means Google Analytics.
This is really the only way to understand how people are finding your site online and what they’re doing when they get there.
Who You Are
Okay. Now that we’ve gotten most of the technical “stuff” out of the way, it’s time to discuss what should be on your website. You know, the stuff people see. And your mantra for this should be:
Effective communication with the people you want to visit your site.
Obviously, one of the things that some people are likely to expect to find at your website is information about you and/or your law firm.
Make it ridiculously easy for them to find the information about you that they’re looking for. Some easy ones:
- Names and roles of people at your firm.
- Biographical information.
- Means by which they can communicate with you (i..e contact information, forms, downloads, comments, etc).
- Office locations.
Beyond the basics, you should consider adding information about you that demonstrates your knowledge, skill and experience.
How People Can Contact You
Spend some time thinking about how you want people to be able to contact you through your website. On the one hand, you want it to be easy for people to find people. On the other hand, this is the world wide web. If you post your email on your website, chances are that you’re going to get spammed.
In my opinion, that’s not a reason not to list contact information. However, it is a reason to think critically about your processes and systems for handling inquiries to your firm.
What You Do
Yes, obviously you’re a lawyer. But what do you do in terms that have meaning to the people you are trying to attract to your site? Do you write? Do you speak? Do you participate in your local community? What does hiring you to be my lawyer look like?
Work to communicate the value of your services to clients from their perspective.
What You Look Like
Do you think your clients and potential clients care about what you look like? Some probably do. If so, you should put a picture of you on your site.
We often hear objections from lawyers who don’t want to put pictures of themselves on their sites. These usually come from younger lawyers who are concerned that they’re appearance might reflect a lack of experience.
So what are you going to do when your client finally sees you? Just hope that once they’re in your office you can persuade them to stick with you? Wouldn’t it be better for you both for you to be transparent?
Do you really want a client who feels duped from the start?
How You Help Clients
Explaining how you help your clients is one of the most important things you can include on your site.
But don’t explain what you do like you would explain it to another lawyer. Explain what you do in the language of your clients.
In other words, how do you clients explain what you do for them? Don’t guess. Ask them. Remember, your site is not for you.
Why People Hire You
In addition to explaining what you do for your clients, communicate why your clients hire you.
Maybe it’s because you’re the most knowledgeable attorney on your subject in your area. Maybe not.
Maybe you’re more affordable than your competition. Maybe that’s a selling point for you. But consider whether it’s a point you really want to be selling on.
Again, don’t just guess. Ask your clients why they hired you. And for clients that have been with you for a long time, why they stay with you.
What People Who Have Hired You Have to Say About You
This one can be a bit more tricky. Especially for law firms in states that have strict limitations about testimonials, endorsements, etc.
I certainly don’t recommend violating your state’s rules of professional responsibility. Even the dumb ones.
But there’s little question that many potential clients will put some stock into what other clients have to say about you.
And for good reason. A strong reputation with clients can’t be faked. At least not ethically.
What Other People Have to Say About You
In addition to clients, people are also likely to want to know what other people who they trust have to say about you. These might include friends, family, colleagues, judges, opposing counsel, etc.
If you can do it ethically and eloquently, you should provide a means for these people to provide their opinions too.
Why Clients Should Choose You Over Your Competitors
You also need to communicate why someone should choose you over your competition. What is it that you do that your competitors don’t, or even better, can’t?
If you can’t think of reasons why people should hire you over your competition, why would you expect people to hire you?
Once again, while it’s a good idea for you to brainstorm why you think people hire you, there’s simply no substitute for asking people, who hired you, why they hired you.
Stuff People Want to Read
Finally, beyond basic contact, biographical and “marketing” information, you must publish stuff online that people want to read.
Not what you want them to read.
Which means you have to listen. You have to encourage feedback. You have to ask.
Whether it’s your law firm’s primary website, a blog, information portal site or something else, for it to be an effective tool for business development, your website has to contain “stuff” that people want to read.
And for the most part, people don’t want to read advertisements.