How to Improve Your Law Firm’s Website

by Oct 15, 2019

Do you want your law firm’s website to perform better?

In this post, we’ll show you the framework for identifying and removing the roadblocks to your website’s success. We’ll discuss the essential things to consider and understand about a website that isn’t producing the results that you want. Each firm’s specific circumstances are different. However, some general best practices tend to work for most small law firms and solo practitioners.

Many lawyers suffer from the sunk-cost fallacy when it comes to their firm’s website. Do you feel like your website is holding you back? If so, the best thing to do for your firm’s long-term success is to define your goals and understand your options to make the best strategic decisions.

Why is my law firm’s website failing? 

If your website isn’t performing as you’d like, the first step is to diagnose your website’s problem(s) accurately. 

Most lawyers suspect that their website isn’t working because they aren’t getting as many leads or new clients as they’d like. And a lack of business is a compelling reason to make a change. However, it’s important to make sure that you’re changing the right things. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to diagnosing the problem(s) with their law firm’s website, attorneys often blame red herrings. When attorneys make changes because of red herrings, they end up confused. This is preventable when you understand the real causes of website failure.

The two general reasons that law firm websites fail to perform well

There are only two general reasons why your website isn’t performing well. Either your site isn’t attracting a sufficient number of qualified potential clients, or your site is failing to convert viable potential clients into leads. Sometimes it’s a combination of both of these.

If your law firm’s website isn’t attracting qualified potential clients, nothing else you can do matters. For most lawyers, this problem is the product of buying into the wrong online client acquisition methods, and/or their search engine optimization (SEO) is poor. It results in many of your firm’s viable potential clients finding your competitors’ websites before they find yours.

If your website does receive visits from qualified potential clients, but they’re not contacting you, your law firm’s website is failing despite itself. When a website fails to convert potential clients, the site design, the website’s content, or both are often the problem.

Content problems are the common denominator in most underperforming websites. Your website’s content is the most crucial ingredient in SEO. It’s also the most crucial part of converting qualified visitors into engaged leads. It’s so important that law firms that won’t commit to content are unlikely to achieve any lasting success online.

Below, we’ll explore common law firm website problems. We’ll start with the issues surrounding law firm website design; then, we’ll look at SEO, and then we’ll look at website content.

What attorneys need to know about ineffective law firm website designs

Your firm’s website is often the first impression that many of your potential clients will have of you and your law firm. As a result, you’ll need your website to create an intellectual and emotional connection with them.

Your website should look great and set your firm apart from the crowd. Unfortunately, this is why so many lawyers end up paying for bells and whistles that can have the opposite effect.

Ultimately, potential clients must believe in your competence. However, they first need to make an emotional conclusion that you are a human being that they relate to.

If your website contains bells and whistles, your potential clients may experience the following when they visit your site:

  1. They associate motion and flashiness with advertisements, which most web users are trained to ignore.
  2. They have to work harder to consume the information that they need.
  3. They conclude that you’re covering up a lack of substance with style.
  4. They feel uneasy or anxious.

Any one of these reactions makes it likely that a potential client will not clear the hurdle of concluding that you’re a human being that they like.

A novel website design may win design agency awards. But those awards are not based on the real-world conversion of website visitors into clients. Novel designs are expensive. And conversion rates decrease when fancy designs distract your potential clients and make them work for the information they need.

What makes a law firm website design effective?

Potential clients don’t visit a law firm website to entertain themselves. They don’t want — or need — to be dazzled. Your potential clients want information, relief, or at least hope. Your potential clients are thinking about one thing when they visit your law firm’s website. They’re thinking about themselves.

So what do your potential clients need to see, read, or hear to feel calm or relieved? What will help them logically ratify an emotional buying decision? What does your law firm’s website need to do to the potential client to cause them to like you and trust you? What does it need to do to help them believe you’re an expert and compel them to contact your firm?

For starters, your website needs to be professional looking. There is a huge difference in performance between a fancy website with useless bells and whistles and a website that your potential clients see as professional. 

Unfortunately, design agencies often degrade attorneys’ conversion potential with bells and whistles. And cheap do-it-yourself (DIY) websites also set attorneys up for failure because they often look unprofessional.

Your site needs to be predictable. It needs to be easy to read and navigate. For example, a simple dropdown menu is better than one that takes over the whole screen, or one that flies in from the side.

Logically lay out your site so that your potential client anticipates that she’ll find information in certain places and feels good about herself when she is correct.

Your site should make it clear what you want your potential client to do without shouting at them. Your potential client will see your “Contact Us” button when they want to without flashing arrows pointing at it.

Your design should respect your potential clients. It should respect their intelligence, their dignity, and their time. If your fancy website design is underperforming, there’s a good chance that it’s sending the opposite message.

If you’re in this boat, consider the design mistakes of your past as an expensive lesson and make the necessary corrections. 

What are some ineffective law firm SEO strategies?

The best law firm website traffic comes from qualified potential clients who find your law firm website through the search engines and who click on the free listings. These potential clients are generally more serious, more focused, and more educated and affluent than potential clients who click on paid advertising. Free search engine traffic is more cost-effective and more sustainable. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the science of positioning your law firm’s website to appear prominently in search results.

Attorneys have become the preferred targets for SEO snake oil salespeople for several reasons. 

  1. Attorneys have money to spend; 
  2. It’s prohibitively expensive for many attorneys to compete using paid advertising; 
  3. Attorneys are busy, and many don’t have the time or inclination to learn the basics of SEO that would easily protect them from SEO grift.

Common ineffective law firm SEO strategies

Some of the practices commonly sold to attorneys can harm their website’s standings with Google. These practices are not only ineffective, but the guidelines conspicuously published by Google prohibit them.

The crown jewel of SEO salespeople is something they like to refer to as “off-page optimization” or “off-site optimization.” It’s an expensive-sounding way of saying:

“We’re doing things to benefit your site that we can’t quantify, prove, or explain, but that are valuable nonetheless.” 

Is your website is failing despite the inclusion of “off-site optimization” on your bill? If so, you can usually assume that the money you’re wasting is neither helping or hurting your law firm (unless “off-site optimization” includes link building).

If your website is failing and you have purchased “link building” services — either now or in the past — there’s a significant possibility that your website’s ability to rank well with the search engines has been compromised. 

You should never buy links, nor pay somebody to solicit links for you. This includes doing business with legal marketing companies that link their clients’ websites to each other. It also includes soliciting links in exchange for non-monetary value, including as a prerequisite for being considered for a prize or scholarship. 

Note: If you’ve already done this, or think you may have, we can run a scan for you as part of the LawLytics setup process, which will tell us where the problems are. We can then show you how, or help you mitigate the negative effects of these links so that your website can start to recover.

As an aside: Some legal directories use the promise of links as a sales tool to get you to buy their listings. With a few exceptions, these directory links are not dangerous. However, they also don’t move the needle in terms of search ranking. If you aren’t getting leads or website visitors from a directory listing, there’s no reason to keep the listing for SEO purposes.

Another favorite sales tool of the SEO salesperson is selling keyword optimization. While there is clean up that can be done to web pages that can cause them to rank better, once a page is optimized, it tends to stay optimized. Attorneys often pay for ongoing optimization. In the best-case scenario, they waste money because the company doesn’t do anything. In the worst-case scenario, the company changes words on the page and code of the website regularly, which is usually counterproductive.

According to CNBC, 16% of the positions at Google require a doctorate degree. That makes Google the employer with the highest percentage of Ph.Ds. As a general rule, if you’ve paid somebody to try to game the search engines, rest assured that the search engines are smarter than the individual or company you hired. And when your vendor gets caught, they get caught on your behalf.

If someone promises you SEO magic, it will inevitably reveal itself as an illusion. But while there is no such thing as SEO magic, there’s something better: a predictable formula that will turn your website into an appreciating, revenue-generating asset. 

What do I need to know about doing law firm SEO effectively?

The great thing about real SEO is that it’s straightforward. There are only three things that attorneys need to do consistently to have world-class SEO:

  1. Create high-quality content that is geared toward your potential clients. (More on that below.)
  2. Make sure that the content is well-structured.
  3. Ignore everything else.

Can inbound links be helpful? Yes — but only when you earn them. Earning a link to your website means that other relevant websites share a link to specific information on your website to give their readers additional context or value. Earning a link means that the owner of the property linking to your page adds the link without being solicited, paid, or otherwise incentivized. 

Good links come naturally and without effort as a byproduct of creating great content. The smart people at Google and the software that they have created can tell the difference between a natural link and a non-natural one.

What is the difference between ineffective and effective law firm website content?

If your content does any of the following, it may be the cause of your website’s struggles:

Does it talk exclusively about your law firm? Does it read like advertising copy? If so, intelligent, qualified, and engaged search engine users will likely hit the back button on their browsers.

Does your site fail to educate potential clients? If so, it will turn off potential clients who are in the research phase of their search for legal information or help. 

Does it fail to make an emotional connection that inspires trust? If so, it will turn off potential clients who are at the point in their search where they know they are going to hire a lawyer and are trying to decide which one.

Search engines make their money by providing quality answers to the questions their users ask. Providing quality answers keeps these people using search engines, which enables the search engine to sell advertising. For Google to feature your website in its free search results, your website must do an excellent job of answering the questions potential clients ask of the search engine. 

Show them what you know by giving them more information that most marketers possess. Thousands of marketers can easily describe you as the best attorney in your practice area and location. The problem is that any attorney can make these statements, as can any non-attorney who decides they want to do marketing for attorneys. It’s easy to do. It’s the route of least resistance for lawyers, and it’s something most marketers can sell to attorneys without any training, background, or skills.

The result is hundreds of thousands of lawyers all declaring essentially the same things on their websites. If your site is delivering general information, you’re not differentiating your firm from your competitors. Most importantly, you’re not giving your clients, your potential clients, and the search engines anything of value.

Lastly, if your content is written for the search engines, rather than for your potential clients, you’re going to fail. Search engines are finely tuned to reward the prose that is best for their human users. The content on your website must show potential clients that you care about them and their goals. It must also prove that you’ve successfully helped people just like them, and establish you as an expert.

There is a simple trick that makes doing all of this very easy: 

You should write the way your potential clients think

But how do you do that? Pay attention to how your clients talk to you. Observe how they respond to your answers. When you do, you’ll have a blueprint for what to say and how to say it. Thinking this way is not easy, and most marketers can’t do it for you. But taking the time to make this writing a habit will ensure that your firm’s website will be successful.

Learn more about improving your law firm’s website with LawLytics

LawLytics members have the opportunity to capture more business at a much lower overall cost by leveraging what they talk about every day. Our software makes it easy for you to write for your potential clients. When you’re a LawLytics member, we’ll work with you to turn content creation from something mysterious into something enjoyable and rewarding. 

To see how easy it is to improve your law firm’s website with LawLytics, schedule an interactive, 20-minute demo with us.

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