Clients often do online research to find attorneys. That research often includes learning more about their case or problem by reading law firm website content. But, they don’t always read everything you write.
People don’t read online content the same way they read a newspaper or magazine. People rarely read web pages from start to finish. Instead, they scan pages looking for words and sentences that reveal where they should read the text in full.
Attorneys who provide detailed and specific long-form content on their law firm websites and blogs are likely to reach more potential clients. That detailed content has value for potential clients. But that information also needs to engage potential clients and align with how they read web content.
Does your law firm’s content need be easy to skim for information? Does it need to be easy to read as long form content? The answer to both questions is “Yes.” Yet, that may seem challenging to some attorneys. In-depth (but skimmable) content is achievable. Here’s how.
1. Start your law firm blog post paragraphs with the most valuable information.
“Don’t bury the lead!”
Journalists are discouraged from placing the most important or engaging information after the first paragraph of a story. Attorneys may want to avoid burying that content, too.
Make your headers and content work together to help potential clients. Use headers to organize your content and guide your reader, then add your content so that the most compelling information is available, first. This arrangement lets web visitors to do minimal work to find the answers they need.
2. Use headers to organize law firm website content.
People often read full newspaper articles or book chapters from start to finish. But print media is a different experience than reading online. Many, if not most people, skim content for the information they need. Cues like headers are a part of the online reading process.
It’s no surprise that people skim: People receive 5x as much information today as they did in 1986. Getting the news used to mean reading a newspaper a few decades ago. Now, many people use news aggregates. The internet and the 24-hour news cycle create an endless amount of information to take in.
With so much information and so little time, potential clients must choose what they pay attention to. Your potential clients will look for the information that’s most relevant to them.
How web visitors read your law firm blog posts
People even scan search engine results, which is why it’s a good idea for attorneys to optimize law firm website content. When a potential client finds a result that interests them, they might read it from top to bottom. However, it’s more likely they’ll look for cues to tell them where they can quickly find an answer.
Once they have that information, they may spend more time engaging with the rest of your content. But first, they’re likely to search for a specific piece of content that answers their question. If they can’t find it immediately, they may leave your website to find that information elsewhere.
Why attorneys should use headers in law firm website content
Headers organize your content and guide potential clients to the information they’re most interested in.
Headers help readers understand the structure of law firm website content at a glance, which aids overall comprehension. People scan for content online, and headers make scanning easy. They break up the content to make it easier on readers’ eyes and organize the points of your post. This lets readers access information fast without working too hard to find it.
Content without headers often becomes large blocks of undifferentiated text. (Attorneys should avoid large blocks of text in general by keeping to smaller paragraphs.)
Your potential clients are in a hurry. Without headers to guide them, they may overlook or skim text that’s valuable to their case or problem.
An example of the value of headers
Let’s use a criminal defense blog post as an example.
Someone asks Google a question such as, “Can someone be convicted of a burglary if they were somewhere else when the burglary happened?” In the returned search results, this person finds a blog post you’ve written about possible defenses for a burglary case.
In this blog post, you discuss each of the possible defenses to burglary, but you write in large blocks of text and don’t use headers. It’s a detailed piece with lots of information.
But, without headers, your post looks complicated to read. This web visitor may feel overwhelmed. Short on time and unable to find a header such as “Using An Alibi Defense,” to guide them, this person gives up and looks for an answer somewhere else.
3. Use infographics on your law firm’s website
There’s been a dramatic increase in online visual aids since the mid-2000s. Knowing how people read online makes it easy to see why visualizations such as infographics are so popular.
Infographics are a nice visual break from text. They’re often a compelling alternative (or accompanying) presentation to written content. They can summarize the most critical takeaway points of your text in a way that engages and entertains readers. Just as headers help readers find text information quickly, infographics are useful to readers facing information overload. Infographics can help persuade readers when they accompany your text and can be more engaging than text alone.
Many of your potential clients don’t have a legal background. Adding infographics to your content can improve subject comprehension better than text alone, and infographics can make your information easier to recall. Good infographics that tell stories are highly shareable and make text content shareable, too. That can increase website traffic and encourage readers to share infographics with others.
If you’re ready to begin creating infographics for your law firm’s website, here are some good tools to get you started:
4. Use bold and italics (sparingly) to emphasize content
Using bold or* italics can increase how fast a potential client can skim the body of your law firm’s content.
We know many readers skim and scan content for pertinent information. Using bold and italics can act speed bumps that force them to observe important elements.
Try bolding an important sentence or term, but aim to use bold and italic as little as possible. If you bold or italicize too many things, the effect of those emphases is diminished. As Matthew Butterick writes in “Practical Typography”:
If everything is emphasized, then nothing is emphasized.
*Butterick notes that one should view these emphases as “mutually exclusive.”
5. Use bulleted lists to enhance readability
Bulleted and numbered lists are another good visual speed bump because they:
- Create white space in large blocks of text
- Give your potential clients a break from scanning
- Often single out essential information
Like bold and italic emphasis, use bulleted lists sparingly. Make them count. Here are 3 practical tips on using bullets in your law firm blog posts:
- Keep bullets short and of a similar length.
- Don’t use too many of them in a single list.
- Use bullets for the most important information in a blog post.
You can also use bullets to introduce readers to the topics in a blog post, or at the end to summarize the main points of your post.
Readable content is both detailed and skimmable.
Saying that potential clients want content that’s both detailed and easy to ignore in favor of one small piece of information may sound contradictory. But publishing content that is both detailed and skimmable is what makes it readable online. Writing content that accommodates the needs of your potential clients — and their increasingly short attention spans — gives your law firm a better opportunity to educate and connect with them.