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Law Firm Web Design: Tips and Techniques

By Richard Granat, CEO DirectLaw, Inc.                                                                                                               

Unless your Web site is findable when people search on keywords related to your law practice, you will not get any new leads. Without traffic to your Web site, you will have no new prospects and no conversions from prospects to clients, and therefore no sales. If your goal is to use DirectLaw to acquire new, web-based clients and to generate new streams of revenue, your Web site needs to be found on the Web.

Below is a checklist of what we have learned about making your Web site "findable":

  • The first rule is good content. What drives search engine results is unique content on your Web pages -- content that makes a contribution in your area of practice. This can be in the form of articles, frequently asked questions, videos, audio podcasts, and other media elements that reflect your distinctive voice and are substantively meaningful. You have to find the time to invest in creating content that is remarkable. You have to add themed content frequently.

    See: Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by Ann Handley & C.C. Chapman (2011)
  • A blog helps enormously in keeping fresh content on your Web site. You should blog in the area of your practice. Your blog should be integrated within your Web site, so you are developing one brand and not two brands. You need to make time to regularly post to a blog, perhaps two or three times a week. (If we create a Web site for you it comes integrated with a WordPress blog that you can use immediately).
  • Keywords: The pages you have should have sufficient keyword density to get you noticed in your specialty area, and those keywords and page description must be built into the meta-tags for each page.

    See: The Findability Formula: The easy, Non-Technical Approach to Search Engine Marketing by Heather Lutze (2010)
  • The Title Tag: Pay attention to the title tag on each page. The Page Title (or title tag) is the most important set of words you write and search engines notice. Put the most important keywords in your Page Title. When picking the Page Title for your home page, consider putting your name, or law firm name at the end of the title, and the most important keyword(s) first. This allows your most important keywords to have more weight. Try one or two keyword phrases. The Page Title should be no more than 65 characters. Each page should have its own unique title. Don't forget to add an effective page description. Keep your page description short and use your keywords in the description. Every page should have a unique page description.
  • Users scan content. Learn how to write for the web, by writing at a high school level, using sub-headlines, and break up your text in paragraphs.

    See: Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content That Works by Janice Reddish (2007).
  • Employ "best practice" navigation schemes and standard web conventions that are recognizable and easy to use. Don't try and be original and re-invent the wheel, even if your graphics designer says it "looks beautiful." You are aiming for functionality and a quick loading web site with "beauty" as a secondary criteria. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't have a well designed web site, just don't focus on just the "pretty" pictures, with apologies to your graphic designer. Unfortunately, most graphic designers are not inbound marketing specialists. Having a "gorgeous" Web site can be one of your goals, but not if functionality and Web site findability is sacrificed.

  • "Best Practice" means as a minimum:
    1. A home button on every page;
    2. Links in the left hand column, because the eye reads left to right;
    3. Standardized colors for links and links visited;
    4. A footer with complete contact information on every page, including a phone number.
  • Flash: Minimize the use of Flash as the search engines don't see Flash. Don't overload the site with graphics as it creates a slow loading site, and when you do use graphics make sure you use the tag and insert text on every graphic. The search engines don't see graphics.
  • Contact: Use a contact form on the home page, if not every page, usually in the right hand column. If not the form itself, then a link to a form. This is one of the calls to action that is necessary to connect with prospects.
  • Social Media: If you don't have a Twitter account and a Facebook account, sign up for each and show links to these accounts on your home page. Start using them in your practice area as a channel for distributing information about developments in your practice area. Twitter and Facebook complement your blog efforts and the three functions should be orchestrated together into a social media marketing strategy - a way of getting the word out about your law practice and amplifying your voice in an area of law in an ethically compliant way. Today, a law firm's online marketing strategy has to incorporate a social media component in order to be fully realized. There are obvious things you should avoid when using social media, such as not disclosing client information, or facts about a client's case. If you use good judgment, you can avoid ethical pitfalls. Don't let discussions within state bar associations deter you from using social media as part of your marketing strategy. By the time you wait until everyone says it's, it will be too late.
  • Profile Page: Pay attention to your profile. Your name should be stated in the beginning of the profile completely, as in Ms. Ann Jones, but the rest of the profile should be written as your story, in the first person, using your first name, rather than Ms. Jones. Use a head shot that has been taken by a professional. The profile should be written so that it is search engine optimized. When a user visits your Web site, one of the first pages they check out will be your profile. If they don't like what they see, they are gone from your Web site in 30 seconds. If you have a rating from AVVO or other rating services, post a link to these rating services on your profile page. Prospects will check out these rating services anyway, so make it easy for them. Be as transparent as possible.
  • Domain Names: When you buy your domain name, signup for a 5-year term. The extra few dollars will pay off in better search engine recognition. It is as small factor, but everything helps, because the competition to rank on the first page of Google, for example, is intense. Try and incorporate one or more keywords into your domain name.
  • RSS Feed: There should be an RSS feed on your home page, or a way for you to collect e-mails for a periodic newsletter about developments in your substantive area of law. Collecting e-mails from prospects is the basis for creating follow-up e-mail marketing campaigns which push out your expertise to prospects in the form of updates on law in particular area.
  • FAQ:  Have a FAQ about your practice which describes how you practice; how you price your services; when you expect to get paid, both offline and online.
  • Measure results:
    1. Make sure you install Google Analytics on your site;
    2. Set up Google Alerts to follow your law firm name and topics within your law practice that you are following;
    3. Use a service to monitor your rankings within the search engine engines and to assess whether you are gaining or losing ground.
  • We end with Point 1. The most important recommendation that we have is to incorporate state-specific legal content on your web site which informs existing and potential clients about a legal subject. This could be in the form of a FAQ, a video, or a podcast. Any video about your practice or practice area will help with SEO.
    If you contract for one of our web sites, we provide generic legal information/content, but this should be supplemented by pages that you write that are state specific and written in your authentic voice. If you want web sites to link to you, and want to be successful in getting good placement within Google/Bing/Yahoo, this is what you must do. You must begin to think of yourself as a publisher of legal content, not only as a lawyer.

You must do all these things to be successful. It is hard work. It is not a walk in the park.

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