After spending a couple of hours talking about how law firms need to manage their online web presence, I often get this question. It often comes across in one of two ways, either the person sounds very defeated, or they are trying to challenge the content by saying they spent some money online and didn’t see any benefit.
Either way, the underlying issue is almost always the same. A pretty website doesn’t equal a quality web presence.
An analogy I hear one of our legal marketing experts use a lot is:
You can spend a lot of money on the best performing billboard ever created, but if you put it in the middle of a forest, no one is going to see it.
The same goes for your website. You can have the most expensive and beautiful website ever developed for a law firm, but if people can’t find your website when they are searching for legal services then it doesn’t matter.
Now, don’t get me wrong, your law firm website is a critical part of your online presence. It needs to convey your brand, encourage the right type of prospective clients to take action, and have the right conversion elements to make it easy for them to take that action.
However, while it is a critical part of your online presence, it’s just a part. You need to make sure the parts of your online presence that help your website get found, and visited, are working before worrying about significantly improving your website.
There are agencies out there that just focus on website design and development. They create beautiful (and expensive) custom websites with cool interactive features and encourage you to have a lot of website pages with wonderful content.
However, while they do a great job building websites, many of these agencies don’t regularly work with law firms and don’t know the best way to help a law firm meet the goal of protecting their referrals and growing new leads from the internet.
Unless your goal is to spend a lot of money to have an award-winning website that might get you in a magazine but doesn’t drive any new business to your firm, we recommend starting with a smaller budget for your website and growing over time using analytics and data-driven decisions.
We have created many award-winning websites for our clients, of which we are very proud. However, that came after years of working with them, and these websites were built first to focus on the conversion of website visitors to prospective clients, and second, to show off the latest design tastes.
We are not discounting design. We have amazing designers on staff, and it is critical to our clients’ success.
In fact, once your website is consistently ranking on the first page and driving a lot of traffic every month, then the design and visual representation of your law firm’s brand really provides a competitive difference. Of course, we have data to back that up too.
Based on our data, a law firm website needs to, at a minimum, contain:
- A quality homepage that quickly confirms what areas your law firm focuses on, in order to help the prospective client—with your phone number easy to find near the top of the page
- Attorney profiles for everyone in the firm
- A page for each area of law that you practice
- A contact page that shows your full address, phone number, email address, and a map
Yes, it’s true that we talk about a lot more tactics when it comes to improving and optimizing law firm websites, but until people are visiting your website, those tactics are often overkill.
Simply, make sure you have the foundation above. Then put your marketing investment into the strategies that help your website get found online.
Now, you are probably not starting from scratch but, if you were, here is the order we recommend working on your online presence to see real leads start to flow from your website. (If your website is not consistently generating new leads for your law firm, then maybe you are not as far along as you think)
- Foundation: Create your basic law firm website. Based on the above, if you are a 3-attorney firm that focuses on 2 practice areas your website can be as simple as 7 pages. Half of the visitors to your website will come from a mobile phone, so definitely spend enough with your web agency to make sure the website is built “mobile responsive”
- Protect Your Referrals: Help those that already know you find your website. If someone refers a prospective client to you, make it easy for that prospective client to find your website online. Make sure all your directory listings online are correct, google your firm name and every attorney in your firm and make sure the first page is dominated with correct directory listings or links to your website. Don’t forget about positive online reviews too! See our article about Protecting Your Referrals here.
- New Clients: Work next on strategies to drive people that don’t know about your firm to your website. The top two ways to do this is through Search Engine Marketing (SEM) which is essentially paid online advertising using networks like Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, Avvo, Lawyers.com, etc. or through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which is getting your website organically ranked for your practice areas when someone is not searching with your firm name (e.g. a search like “divorce attorney near me’). Cutting your website budget by $10,000 in the beginning and spending an extra $2000 per month on SEO or SEM is often a much better strategy.
- Track your metrics: When you set your website up, make sure you know where people are coming from that visit your website, or call your firm. Google Analytics should be in place on your website, and we recommend having call tracking setup as well. The ultimate goal of your marketing is to get someone to call your firm and ask for help. If you pay for advertising, online or offline, you should have special tracking phone numbers for those. At a minimum, you want to know your websites unique sessions over time, the conversion rate (sessions divided by people that call or fill out a form), bounce rate, and time on pages. We have many other articles that talk about why you want these metrics and how to use them to drive data-based marketing decisions.
- Optimize Your Website: Based on your analytics, is there some content that people spend more time reading that you can write more about? Are people finding your website but leaving immediately? Is one marketing effort significantly outperforming the other? You want to take your metrics and drive decisions about what to do next to your website. For example, once you have enough consistent new traffic to your website, we typically recommend adding in a 24/7, text/live-chat and call service, for intake after hours. More than 20% of leads come from law firm websites after normal business hours.
- Repeat: Starting at number 2. Can you get more online reviews to protect your referrals? Are your search engine rankings for your initial target keywords starting to move in a positive direction, which allows you to work on a few more target keywords? Do competitors have significantly more backlinks and you need to start carefully acquiring real, quality backlinks? Is there a new paid advertising strategy you want to try? Then review your metrics, optimize and repeat again.
If you want to know more, we walk through all of these steps in step-by-step actionable detail in the latest edition of our book Online Law Practice Strategies.
While your website is a critical component of your online presence, you can see that there is much more to think about than having an expensive, award-winning website.
In fact, we recommend if you are just starting out, focusing on growing your law firm business using online marketing strategies. Spending too much on your website is usually not the best initial use of your marketing dollars.
Don’t build the most expensive billboard in the forest.
Start small, put your marketing dollars toward an ongoing effort to drive traffic to your website, analyze, optimize, and slowly grow your website based on data.
If you want to know our expert, data-driven opinions on the next, best steps for your online marketing efforts, we recommend you take advantage of a 30-minute consultation audit with one of our legal marketing experts.
More ways to learn about how to grow you law firm with online marketing: