When I’m not out fighting crime, I make websites for law firms and help law firms get more clients from people searching for lawyers on Google. Like me, you’ve probably come across a lot of lawyers’ websites over the years. Some look very professional and polished, others have a simple layout and look but get the job done, and others are just plain awful.
That being said, the same type of website isn’t necessarily good for two different law firms. If you have a beautiful aesthetic and layout, it may not suit attorneys with different goals.
Different goals – what do you mean?
Law firm websites perform two significant functions:
1.Impressing people who have heard of you and are referred to your firm; and
2.Impressing people who haven’t heard of you, and found you through the Internet.
Each scenario requires a different type of website. At JurisPage, we work with both types, but here’s a run-down of the different types of law firm websites.
While I make the distinction “referral-oriented site” vs. “search-oriented site”, it’s probably easiest to think of it as “business card” vs. “advertisement”.
The business card type of site is for someone that you meet or has heard of you and just really needs to know that you are a lawyer, have an office, and have a phone number to call. The advertisement type of site is for people who need a lawyer, but don’t know who to choose. The advertisement site is meant to help that visitor choose you.
Referral Oriented Law Firm Websites
A significant majority of the law firm websites that I come across today fall within this category, whether they know it or not. What I mean by that is, the “advertisement” sites have a particular layout, architecture, and SEO structure that not only enable them to be found in Google, but they also direct the visitor to call the firm. If your site doesn’t have the advertisement-like setup, the site should intended for referrals.
Many attorneys create a site thinking, hoping, that they will get search engine traffic out of it, but it’s not automatic. Also, most lawyers are not online marketers, so they don’t know what to look for
Elements of an Effective Law Firm Website
First, what’s your site built on top of? What’s your foundation? A good foundation, or, in computer-speak CMS (aka content management system) is the backbone of your site. It manages all of your pages, posts, and content. A good CMS / foundation will get you started in terms of search engine visibility. A bad CMS will set you back. If you’re starting from scratch, there’s no point in going with a bad CMS.
What this ultimately comes down to is – if it’s not already, your site should be built on top of Wordpress. Wordpress, in my experience, is the single-most search engine friendly platform for websites. It’s the platform we at JurisPage use for all of our client sites. It’s part of the reason 20+% of all websites live on the Internet are powered by Wordpress. You may be thinking, “Isn’t that just a blogging platform?” Nope. It’s much more than that. It’s a content management system that can be the back-end of your website.
In my experience, sites built using proprietary platforms by domain hosting companies like 1&1 and GoDaddy get very poor visibility in search engine results. Also, Wix, while it may be somewhat easy to use, does a very poor job of getting your site found. Why, you may be wondering? A few reasons – no SEO-friendly blog, limited metatag management, no 301 redirects.
If you have a law firm website built on Wix or GoDaddy’s website builder, I’m not saying that you can’t get your site visibility in search engine results; I’m just saying that it should be more difficult to do so.
If you use a website template for your site, it will likely look like you’re using a template for your site. Having a site that looks personalized will be more impressive to clients. The layout of the site should be in the same layout that many landing pages are – large headline at the top of the page, informative text, and calls-to-action in the form of contact forms and large phone numbers.
Testimonials / Social Proof
If someone visits your site for the first time and came to you through Google, they have no reason to trust you, or any other attorney for that matter. Adding testimonials (aka “social proof”) helps build trust with prospective clients. Other examples of social proof are “Settlements / Verdicts” pages. Showing how skillful and competent you are eases the hesitation of your prospective clients, and makes them more comfortable about giving you a call rather than checking out another firm’s website and calling them.
I’ve discussed landing pages in the past:
·Effective law firm landing pages (Part 1) – What Not to Do
but what it comes down to is that when someone “lands” on your firm’s website on a particular page, that page should be written and laid out specifically to get the visitor to read about your practice and immediately call you or fill out a contact form.
As I mention in the landing page articles, good landing pages are all about:
- Headlines and copy that are relevant to the user’s search;
- Strong calls-to-action to get the visitor to contact you
- Social proof / testimonials that bolster your reputation
- Easy-to-read, uncluttered layout
Search Engine Optimization
All of your pages, posts, and images on your site need to be optimized for search engines. This means making sure your page content uses the right keywords (but also is readable / not written for a machine) while also having the appropriate SEO tags, like your <title> and <meta-description> tags.
If you don’t know if your site and posts have SEO tags set up, they probably don’t. If you don’t spend time working on your SEO or having your Internet marketing firm working on it for you, it’s going to be very difficult to rank well in search engines for keywords related to your practice area.
If you’re a bankruptcy lawyer in Houston, your site won’t be on page 1 of Google for “Houston bankruptcy lawyer” if you aren’t creating new content, and SEOing that new content.
Some people think that “good” SEO is showing up on page 1 of Google for their name or their firm’s name. That should be a default, really. If you search for your name, provided that your name is not John Smith or something incredibly common, your firm’s website should be the first result in Google searches.
One of the best ways to bring in new clients to your firm’s website is through blogging. Write for your clients, not for yourself or other lawyers. Write posts that are answers to common questions you get in your day-to-day practice from new clients. Use this as a strategy and you’ll be reaching exactly those types of people. Oh, and blog regularly. The more the better. Give yourself 2 hours per week to just sit at your desk and write new content, and you’ll have tons of posts in no time.
Your site must be mobile-friendly / responsive. We have a whole post dedicated to the importance of mobile websites for law firms.
Related: What is a Responsive Website?
In short, you can tell if your site is mobile-responsive if, when you resize your web browser window, your site’s dimensions modify to fit the width of your screen. If you look at your site on a mobile phone, a mobile-responsive site fits within your viewing screen’s width, and you shouldn’t have to zoom in on any text to be able to read it. Mobile is up to 40% of all web searches and is growing. It’s essential and non-negotiable. If your site isn’t built on a mobile platform, may already be losing out on prospective clients searching for attorneys on their tablets and phones.
See what you’re doing right and wrong. How many visitors are you getting each month? Are they increasing? Which content on your site is more popular? Using analytics can give you great feedback and progress monitoring.
Lastly – as effective as your site is, please don’t forget about the applicable ethics rules. Don’t say you’re the “best” attorney. If you’re in New York, don’t forget about the “attorney advertising” disclaimer. Best practices recommend mentioning that the site is for informational purposes only, not legal advice, and that there’s no attorney-client relationship by visiting the site.
I hope these tips helped. Following these steps to create an effective law firm website can mean a significant difference in traffic and ultimately new clients. If you have any tips for creating an effective law firm website, we’d love to hear them in the comments section below.