Over the last 30 years our online dependence on the web has increased dramatically. As has the number of websites. If your law firm website looks out of date or is underperforming you run the risk of being left behind your competitors.

Successful law firm websites accommodate the changing needs of their clients. Tailoring a website to what clients respond to, providing modern designs and valuable content has changed the digital marketing landscape. Why are these changes taking place? Because people aren’t browsing the web or shopping the way they used to. Their habits have changed not only for goods but for legal services too.

Early law firm websites

If we cast our mind back to the law firm websites of the 90s or earlier, compared to today’s sites we think clunky, slow and rudimentary. In these days your website was really an online business card. It listed what you did and where you were located and how to contact you. Then we got sophisticated and made it look like an online brochure!

By the late 1990s, we saw the beginning of visitor-focused design, and words like structure, navigation, appearance, and usability became important.

Over the last decade websites have evolved even further. Social media and search engine optimisation have changed the way companies do business and challenged web developers to keep up with new trends. Law firm websites are used to attract potential clients, the good websites help convert potential to actual.

If you have an out of date website, you should note that it can be ‘carbon dated’ based on the techniques and technologies that were used to build it.

The practical reality is however that if your website is not up to date, does not provide valuable information to your visitors and generate leads then you need to do something about it or suffer the consequences of losing market share to your competitors.

Search engines

Being aware of how important search engines, and particularly Google, are to the success of your marketing efforts is critical to all law firms. Search engine rankings and how your website appears in search is becoming more important every day, although that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spend thousands of dollars on search engine optimisation – at least get the basics right.

Today, if your website is not technically designed to meet search engine performance requirements, it runs the risk of being penalised by search engines which will result in decreased search engine rankings. The lower you rank the less likely you will attract visitor attention. The best example of this is being mobile friendly, if your law firm website is not adaptable to viewing on a mobile device you will be penalised by Google.

Regular, effective website audits will identify such issues and remedy them before they negatively impact your ranking and ultimately your business potential.

Respect the user experience

Websites that aren’t reviewed regularly often fall-out-of-favour with visitors as they become cumbersome to use. If the navigation does not work as effectively as it should, if the images are out-of-date and no longer depict a modern world environment, if page load speeds are incredibly slow and if the overall functionality of the website is no longer as smooth as it should be, then this all adversely impacts on the user experience.

Remember, you only have a few seconds to impress your visitors so it’s important that your law firm’s website maximises this opportunity by providing an experience worthy of their time

Google Analytics

Take advantage of free tools from Google. Google Analytics is a free service from Google that collects data about your website visitors and traffic. To get started just visit Google Analytics and click on ‘Start for free’. Once you’ve got everything set up, or if you need help setting it up, let us know and we can help get your tracking code onto your website for you.

This process provides you with valuable information about where your website visitors are coming from and how they are interacting with your website.

You need to be found on Google Maps

I had a meeting with a law firm the other day and typed their name into my phone as I was unfamiliar with the area and walked 10 minutes to their “office” – it turns out this was their old address. When I eventually met up with them (late) and told them what happened they said, “Yeah so many clients make that mistake”.

Everyone uses Google Maps so make sure your listings are up to date.

You might also have noticed that Google is showing Google Map listings on top and often above all other non-paid search results? Just do a search for a lawyer or area of law in your suburb or town and have a look at how much of the page is taken up with map results.

Often the top few results are paid ads, followed by the map results, and then firm websites below that. Clearly, it’s important to get on this list, and it’s not too difficult.

As Google says, "Get your free Business Profile on Google My Business to start building visibility in Google Maps and Google Search in your local community".

You can set up your Google Maps/My Business listing here: Google My Business  Again, if you need help setting it up, let us know.

The delusional lawyer

Lawyers are good at developing arguments. Whilst that might be good for your clients it’s not good when you need to objectively assess your firm’s website. The problem is that lawyers generally have a lack of understanding about the shortcomings of their own website.

For us it’s a reminder of the famous scene from Monty Python’s The Holy Grail when King Arthur was sword fighting the Black Knight who, after having both arms cut off, wanted to continue fighting, saying it was just a flesh wound and “I’ve had worse”.

Firms that claim to be ‘cutting-edge’ and ‘modern’ continue to have a website that to everyone else (read ‘reasonable man’) looks old and horribly dated. The smooth and silky motherhood statements don’t make sense on these websites and can be seen for what they are - nonsense. I could list firms now that today, enjoy a good reputation and who have competent practitioners who claim to be modern and IT savvy and yet have a website that to anyone (except themselves) is pathetic.

How to waste money on SEO and AdWords

If you have a poor or underperforming website, you don’t want to compound this problem by spending SEO dollars on it. Lawyers have come to us saying they are spending thousands of dollars each month on SEO and AdWords and are dismayed when we say it is all for nothing. It’s because their website itself is no good.

Upgrading your law firm website, or at least undertaking a critical review, should be the first thing you do before spending any money on SEO or AdWords.

Just because you are spending money to attract new leads doesn’t mean that you will receive new enquiries. The problem we regularly see is that if a website is in need of an upgrade people can be brought to the site, thanks to the AdWords or SEO campaign, but the enquiries just bounce off the website and never make contact because there is nothing on the website to make them want to call you.

This can be a hard truth for some lawyers because it forces them to acknowledge that their website might be inadequate.

Today’s website should be a fee generator

Today your website should act like a sales tool, attracting people who are potential leads, providing them with valuable information, encouraging them to come back and finally converting them into clients, or at least making them act. The action you want a lead to take is to give you a call or fill out an online form to identify themselves as a person looking for legal help.

Most lawyers are confident that they can convert most leads once contact is made with them. We regularly hear that number to be about 80%.

The people not converted usually fall into common categories like; you don’t do that type of work or they are ‘tyre-kicking’ time wasters. The fact remains, the constant data we get is that lawyers just want to get the phone to ring or the online enquiry to be made - then it’s up to you.

Where to from here?

No one knows how this evolutionary story of law firm websites will conclude. We think it’s safe to say that we’ve only just begun.

We do know though, that it makes good sense if you have a good conversion rate, and given the increasing trend for people to find legal help online, that your website be as up to date as it can, as user friendly as your viewers expect it to be and as prominent as possible according to the search engines, to give yourself the best chance to attract the call or enquiry so you can convert the lead into a client.

If you are serious about getting a new or upgraded website and want to get our 12 Law Firm Website Essentials, call me on 0417018 109 or email me [email protected]

About the author
Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood

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.
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