Building Websites & Blogs – Important Findings to Drive Business Leads
Professional, polished websites and blogs are essential for law firm marketing, given that 78 percent of business decision-makers and 65 percent of consumers make online searches integral to finding a lawyer. But just being online sets the bar low.
If you have a website that is rarely updated, hard to navigate, or lacks SEO fundamentals, you are likely doing yourself and your firm a disservice. Customers may think that you don't take your marketing and messaging seriously, and it can specifically raise serious problems in four major areas:
Marketing Effectiveness. A study of more than 50 law firm websites done for the Association of Legal Administrators by a leading marketing firm showed that "law firm websites are more alike than different. That's not surprising given the industry bias toward precedent, but it makes for lousy marketing." Of the firms in this survey, 79% used the same website navigation design, nearly 60% used bland stock photo illustrations, and only 44% had a distinguishing brand message. Firms with websites this bland are wasting money by not standing out from their competitors. When designing your site, ask yourself if your personality and your professional beliefs are clearly being presented. Does your website make you standout, or fit in?
Visitor Conversion/Lead Generation. Having a professionally designed website can ensure more potential clients reaching your site actually call for consultations. Template websites limit how you can present content. For instance, our studies show site visitors are more likely to call when contact info is prominently displayed in the areas of the page visitors look at first. If your template cannot accommodate flexibility, and if your designer is not aware of such conversion essentials, your site's performance will suffer.
Visibility/Search-ability. Your website or blog is of little use if potential clients can't find you using search engines. Yet a leading web technology guru assessed law firm websites and found many problems with the "metatags" that lets search engines find website pages. For example, he wrote, "Often, title tags of extremely low value are used, such as 'Welcome to XYZ Law firm,' on every page. These title tags are of almost no value in searches aimed at finding a lawyer for a particular legal need (such as a search for a 'Phoenix accident lawyer')." SEO can be daunting, but a professional marketing organization should always be able to explain to you the key benefits of SEO and how it will help your firm drive leads.
Ethics. Few generic website designers know that the American Bar Association's e-lawyering Task Force has created specific ethical best practices for the accuracy and quality of website information. That includes full and accurate contact information, dates on which content was placed and reviewed, compliance with the jurisdictional rules where the lawyer is practiced (for example, you can't say you're an "expert" in a practice if you haven't received certification in it from your state bar), disclaimers on legal advice, and proper privacy notices. If your website was designed by someone unfamiliar with the legal industry, they may be unaware of these guidelines. Ignorance is not bliss in this case and these and other issues can cause bar disciplinary problems for you and your firm, regardless if you actually built the site yourself or not
Ultimately, you get what you pay for. You may choose to build your own website, and that's fine. But if you are paying a marketing agency to build your site for you, remember to ask about these key elements. If your web designer doesn't craft a site with custom illustrations and copy, one that meets Bar requirements and that has the kind of "Domain Authority" that makes it searchable and visible, rethink your web design strategy before you waste time and money.
1 "Digital Marketing 2010," Greenfield/Belser, March, 2010; "Legal Marketing in Turbulent Times," New York State Bar Association Journal, September, 2009
2 "Best Practice Guidelines for Legal Information Web Site Providers," American Bar Association,
3 "From Bland to Brand," Burkey Belser, ALA Legal Management
4 "Ten Lead-Killing Mistakes Law Firms Make on Their Websites," Jeff Lantz, Legal Marketing Technology, January, 2011
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