Often when it comes to business, we focus so much on working in the business that we overlook focusing on building the business. While this is true in most business, I think it is especially true with lawyers. So much time is spent with clients and on handling one’s caseload, that little time is dedicated to business necessities, such as marketing. But, without marketing it is very difficult to have business coming in the door. By effectively executing inbound marketing the work of building the practice is executed for you so you can get back to what you are good at - practicing law.
In this series I will discuss four digital media areas law offices should be utilizing to improve their market presence and increase visibility. Today we are focusing on websites, as this is the foundation upon which all other digital marketing is built. Inbound marketing takes prospective clients to one place - your website. So it needs to be up to snuff.
The Importance of Websites
I am always shocked when I find out a firm doesn’t have a website, or their site is only a page or two. This is your storefront on the web - don’t look closed! Even if you are a solo practitioner or a small firm of only a few lawyers, your website is a vital artery for new clients. Since the tools available today - such as WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix - don’t require programming knowledge, anyone can build a robust and aesthetically pleasing site. Gone are the days of going to the Yellow Pages to find a business - the internet is now the yellow pages, and your site is your listing. A poor website - one that looks bad or doesn’t contain enough information - will send visitors to the next listing, meaning you lose business. No website at all might cause potential clients to question whether your firm is still in business.
One of the sites featured in the Lawyerist 10 Best list
Your site should of course cover the basics - what kind of law you practice, where you and your partners and associates are admitted to the bar, and how to contact you. It also needs to be visually appealing and easy to navigate. Don’t have a plain white page that looks like a term paper with a logo. Split unrelated information into different pages - don’t have one page that scrolls forever covering everything. Carefully consider color. If looking at your site hurts visitors’ eyes, they won’t stay. Many people have difficulty reading light text on dark backgrounds - and some browsers won’t render that properly. Does your practice mainly work with older or visually impaired clients? Keep in mind that tiny text is difficult for many people to read. Your logo should be considered as well - does it need an update? The color and style of your logo conveys a subliminal message to prospective clients. Check out this infographic from Inc.com to see if your logo is conveying the right message.
Basic information needs to be easy to find and easy to digest - more detailed information can be provided on other pages. For example, the landing page for types of law you practice should list each practice area and provide a brief description, with the ability to expand (or link to another page) that goes into each practice area in more detail. The landing page for where you practice should list all states, with the ability to expand to show which members of the practice are admitted to that state and how to contact them.
If these basic facts cannot be quickly and easily discerned from your site, visitors will move on to the next one. Make it easy for prospective clients to find what they are looking for, and easy to contact you. Make your phone number very visible, have an online contact form, and, if you have the manpower, add a live chat feature.
Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
What often gets overlooked, but is crucial to increasing traffic, ranking, and visibility, is an area of the site that is dedicated to establishing the firm as a thought leader in the area(s) you practice in. This can be done in one of two ways - having a blog section where topics are discussed (and that is updated frequently), or having an article section that covers relevant topics that isn’t updated quite as frequently. The blog is the better option as static info loses rank if it isn’t updated. You should always view your site as a work in progress - it is never complete. A site that isn’t updated is a site that isn’t visited. Updating your site with relevant information is a key to SEO (search engine optimization). The more you post about topics related to your practice, the higher your ranking and visibility. Those posts will come up in searches related to your practice area, leading people to your site. Even if a new visitor is only seeking an answer from your blog or article, you’ve made an impression and the visitor is more likely to come to you when more help is needed. White papers, infographics, presentations, and other downloadable information can also be used to establish yourself as a thought leader. Have you written article for journals or associations? Get permission to publish them on your site; at the very least link to them on the journal or association’s site.
Highlight Calls to Action
Do you offer free consultations? Do you have a guide providing information regarding your practice area that visitors can download? The more you get visitors to interact with your site, the better chance you have of them becoming clients. Make your offer of a free consultation highly visible, with a link to your contact form. Have a link to download the guide on every page related to that practice area - you could even require a name and email to access the download, so you can reach out and follow up with someone you know has an interest in that area. Calls to action need to provide a clear benefit or value to the visitor or it will be ignored. For more on calls to action, check out this post (among others) on the Hubspot Blog.
Links, Links, Links
Your website is not an island, entire of itself. Nor is your practice. Partnerships with other firms, with vendors, and other third party companies provide referrals to your practice. This is true of your website as well. Links are crucial to building trust - not just from your visitors – but, more importantly, the “trust” factors that search engines use to rank your page in organic search results. A key trust factor is the number of links to your site are from trusted and relevant sources. Work on building relationships with relevant sites so they link back to your site. For example, guest blogging on a related site would provide added exposure and a trusted external link to your site. But don’t think you can just link trade with anyone willing – search engines are smart and will penalize you by lowering your rank if links to your site aren’t from relevant and trusted sources.
Don’t forget to link out of your site (make sure the links are set to open in a new window or tab - you don’t want visitors navigating away from your site fully!) Link to your social media accounts, link to your Avvo page, link to relevant articles and blog posts.
Websites are a key component for any business today. They act as storefront, initial pitchman, brochure, and so much more. A poorly designed site sends visitors away. A well-executed site brings clients in the door.
In the next 3 posts I will cover the best practices for working with digital marketing to drive prospective clients to the beautifully crafted website you’ve built.