Is your law firm website working for you? If it is the practice of law is made so much easier. New work streams in, the staff are busy doing work rather than asking for work to do and you don’t need to worry about the cash flow. Despite this though, so many lawyers we speak to say their website is not working. Worse they do nothing about it.
Is this you? Many lawyers don’t know what to do to address their websites shortcomings and many don’t know exactly what is wrong with it. Some turn to web designers for help but get confused with gobbledygook that would confuse a High Court Judge.
In this brief article we share the top five law firm website issues we encounter (and have already encountered in 2019) from lawyers like you and offer some solutions to help. Do some of these problems sound familiar?
“I am embarrassed about my website but haven’t had the time to fix it”
If you find your own website an embarrassment just imagine what your best clients and referrers think when they check it out (today). As a business owner we understand you are busy. However, if you accept that people are being referred to you and possibly your competitors too as an option, every day that goes by is financially harming your firm and you directly. If you are embarrassed then in all probability so are your best clients and referrers. It reflects poorly on them too.
This is a terrible problem to have because your website should project your firm even better than it actually is – you want it to punch above its weight. Yet you are doing the exact opposite. The solution is obvious; you need to inform yourself about what to change and how to change it, to address its shortcomings. We also find that many lawyers identify some issues but the real deficiencies are elsewhere on the site. On top of this many non obvious issues can also be found in the back-end with the site structure and page metadata. Our best advice is to be open minded, understand exactly what you want from your website and to ask questions and be informed.
“My website needs content but I don’t know what to write or how to write it”
Most lawyers appreciate that it is fundamental to ensure your website is content rich. The problem of making a website rich with content however is multi-faceted. First you need to find the time to write the content; know what to write; have an over-arching idea of how all the content from the different pages on your website will look overall.
The other issue here is that the drafting skills a lawyer has are different to the skills needed to present your services on your new user-friendly website.
There is an art to writing legal content. You may have numerous website readers land on your site who may be your perfect client with a legal problem you would love to fix. Is your website working for you? Before you get the chance to have a compelling chat with them on the phone and convert them into a client, your website needs to do that job without you. It needs to be able to explain the complex, simply; to demonstrate your deep knowledge without appearing boastful or arrogant; to know when and where to sell your services on a website and where not to.
Also many lawyers have the wrong idea about how much content is the right amount. You need to be smart and know what Google likes - do you? What did your last web guy say or did that question never come up?
“I think the web developer I’ve spoken to is clueless about law firms”
Just as it is when you hear a non-lawyer ask the wrong questions in a social setting about someone’s legal problem and then pursue an irrelevant line of thinking, so it is when a web developer is clueless about law firms and law firm websites. The problem is you don’t know what the right questions are. We see so many examples of this with “finished” law firm websites. This problem is compounded when the lawyer invests money in AdWords and SEO too when the website really isn't ready to work for you.
We can help, the benefits we bring to the table are that we have been in your shoes and we understand law firm marketing. As former lawyers of many years, we understand the legal profession intimately, how potential clients interact with you and can communicate with you in a way you can understand. We have also worked through these same issues with many law firms. Moreover we can also guide you through the process as we know the right questions to ask on issues that you may not have asked or considered. We recognise that it is your website being built but just as it is with your clients, you need a trusted adviser to speak up and alert the client to issues they may not appreciate.
“Our SEO just isn’t working but I want to invest in it”
One common complaint we hear is that a lawyer is working with a SEO agency but unfortunately is not seeing the results they were promised and have no insight into what the SEO agency is doing.
To explain – for SEO to work you need to understand what work the firm wants to attract and to optimise the website for attracting that work - to get your website working for you. Usually an SEO expert will need work to be done on the 'front end' content of the website, the part that everyone can see, and they will also need to check the ‘back-end’ of the website to ensure search engines can find the firm and interpret the content on the website, this is called Metadata and affects what appears on search engine result pages when a website comes up for certain queries. It usually includes the title of the page and its descriptive text below the title, called the Meta description.
To give you a simple example we recently saw a firm that essentially relies on commercial, property and estates work focusing on many esoteric words including "defamation law". If you don’t understand the firm and the work they are really seeking the SEO agency can be wasting the firm’s money. Unfortunately, we can’t get away from this. In our view most SEO sold at street level is low quality, largely ineffective and unsustainable.
Many small, local SEO companies are still trying to outsmart Google’s hundreds of data scientists and spam team!
If you are working with a SEO company and not seeing the results you were promised and have no insight into what they are doing then you should urgently consider getting a second opinion.
“I am paying for AdWords but it’s not helping”
This lawyer had been paying for an AdWords campaign for months costing her many thousands of dollars and was getting no return. She could have been paying triple and would have got the same result.
Of course there may be a problem with the AdWords campaign itself but the first thing to analyse is the website. This too applies to your SEO campaign. In both situations the lawyers were throwing good money after bad, the investment needed to go into the website itself not an AdWords campaign.
If the website is not up to scratch, looks bad and does not have the right content the conversion is less likely to happen. In the worst cases, conversions are non-existent and people immediately ‘bounce away’ rather than engaging with the website.
Having a lack of conversions means that if you’re running AdWords ads you’ve spent money getting people to your website but you aren’t getting a return on your advertising investment.
In the case we describe here it was clear to us the problem was with her website. No matter how good or well-intended an AdWords agency might be, it doesn’t make any difference if the problem is the firm’s website. So there needs to be an objective assessment of the website itself.
Is your law firm's website working for you? Your move!
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About the author
Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.