Gone are the days when your customers would look at the bulky business directory to find help with their legal matters. Nowadays, most of your law firm's new customers will find you via word of mouth or through your online presence. And even if they knock on your door because of a trustworthy referral, I can assure you they had a good look at your website before calling in.
So how do you take full advantage of your law firm's website? How can you increase the probability that a visitor will actually get in touch with you? Here are some handy tips, specially tailored to websites for lawyers:
Custom made, pre-built or DIY?
A law firm's website has to look and feel professional and serious. You are not selling cupcakes, you are offering your vast knowledge and hard earned experience to clients that are looking for the best in their field. So you have to show them you are the best, starting with your website.
If you want top of the line, you can hire a marketing agency to design your entire website, from your logo to your law firm's biography to the staff's headshots. But most small and medium law firms can't afford to spend thousands in a custom made site, at least not straight away.
There are some brilliant managed websites companies that provide pay per month solutions, so you get fantastic professional looking sites at a fraction of the cost. A great one specialised exclusively in law firms is Zaliet. It caters for pretty much every law firm's size and budget.
Now, if you are tech savvy and have the time, you can always build your own website from scratch using tools like Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace and many more. If this is you, there are a few things you need to know to get the best out of your website and actually getting found in the world wide web:
Let's start with Google Juice
Google Juice is the colloquial name for PageRank, the algorithm used by Google to rank websites in its search engines. According to Google:
PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.
Why is this important to you? In simple words, the more "juice" you have, the highest you'll appear when someone searches for the keywords that are relevant to your law firm.
You can get Google Juice in a number of ways, but the basics of it is having a website with a clear structure and a SEO strategy in place.
SEO for Law Firms
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process by which your page is visible in a web search engine's unpaid or "organic" results. The majority of web traffic is driven by search engines like Google, Yahoo! or Bing. SEO is a very complex process that considers many variables, but the basic aspects to a good SEO strategy are not hard and quite easy to implement:
- Have a clear website structure. Google "crawls" your website looking for keywords that will rank your site according to its relevance when a user enters a search query. Messy websites might not get crawled in their entirety, as some of the pages might be unintentionally hidden. So make it simple: Homepage, a few categories (ie. Specialties, Our People, About Us, Contact) and a few subcategories under those if needed.
- Define relevant keywords. Define how you want people to find you. It is very unlikely that your law firm is going to appear first when someone searches "Best Law Firm in Australia", however, you might make it to the top ten results of "Personal Injury Lawyer in Hornsby" with some good SEO. So try to find what your clients would type into Google to find you and subtly spread those keywords around your site.
- Include Meta Descriptions . So you have your keywords, what's next? Each page on your site has the option to add a short description to it. This will appear as a 2-3 line description on Google under the link and will directly affect your SEO. Try to include your keywords in this description when possible, but be careful not to overdo it.
- Use the Alt Image field. Including images in your website is always a good practice. Not only does it makes it more visually appealing, but it's a little known way of improving your SEO too. Each image has the option of an Alt Image description. Technically, this is the text that would appear instead of the image in case it doesn't load. But including your keywords in the Alt Image field, even when the text won't be seen normally in your site, it will be detected by the search engines, boosting your Google Juice.
- Write a Blog. If you have the time and dedication, a blog is a brilliant way of improving your SEO. Not only will it drive traffic to your website, it will also position you as an expert in your area. Write quality content, good and useful articles are shared online fast. Try to keep it constant, it's better to write once a month rather than 3 posts in a week and then nothing for a year.
A few extra tips
- Have a clear and easy to find contact form, ideally in the top right corner of your homepage.
- It's a good idea to have names, photos and a short bio of the lawyers in the firm. Remember that your clients are engaging not only with a company but with the people working there.
- If you have social media accounts, link them to your website and vice versa. It's common practice to place the icons somewhere in the footer of your site.
- Keep track on how your site is doing with Google Analytics, an extremely powerful tool that will give you a full view on what is working and what isn't in your website. It will show you the traffic, where it's coming from, which ones are the most popular pages, etc.