Several times a week we are asked by our clients whether they should put a badge on their law firm’s website or blog. Typically the badge signifies some type of honor or membership in a group. Some of the badges are available for purchase (even though they are “awards”) and others are available for “free.”
Badges are counterproductive to your law firm’s website’s objectives
If one of the primary purposes of your firm’s website is to keep your clients and potential clients engaged with you, and to inspire potential clients to contact you, then it’s in your best interest to keep them on your website. Unfortunately, most of the badges that we’ve seen do quite the opposite.
For example, Avvo Badges typically link to your profile on Avvo. If you pay Avvo then your competitor’s ads are not featured on your profile, but they are still just a couple of clicks away. So when you advertise that you are X rating according to Avvo and use their badge, you are inviting your potential clients to leave your site where you have no competition, and go to a destination where all of your competition is featured. For a detailed treatment on the subject, see this article by Dustin Christensen. The main points are:
- You are helping Avvo’s Google rankings and hurting your own;
- You are diverting your potential clients away from your firm.
There are a plethora of badges available to lawyers. Three of the most commonly used are:
- “Best Lawyers”
- “Super Lawyers”
- “Martindale Hubbell” Badges
Why lawyers feel compelled to display the badges
Lawyers often feel compelled to display these badges because their competition does. They reason that if I don’t show the honor, and my competitors do, then my potential clients may think that my competitor is a better choice for their cases.
At LawLytics we have conducted usability studies, some of which include badges. What we found is that most people ignore the badges, or don’t even notice them. The reason is that they look a lot like advertisements that most internet users are used to ignoring.
Most viable potential clients carefully digest the content on your firm’s website that is relevant to them. Absent evidence of a positive emotional response from potential clients to these badges, it’s our opinion that lawyers should bravely omit them from their websites.
But omitting the badges does not mean omitting the “honor.” Your attorney bio on your website tells your story. If you, or your firm, was selected as a “Superlawyer” or a “Best Law Firm” or is AV rated, you can still talk about it on your website. Simply saying that you have been selected as a Superlawyer based for X years in a row in your bio is actually more effective than displaying the Superlawyer bling (at least according to our usability testing). And it’s free.
The free method that avoids commoditizing you, the lawyer
If you have been selected for an honor and you have to pay for the display materials (ie, buy advertising), there is a way around it that is as effective (or even more effective). Typically these (marketing) companies that give out awards will send you a formal letter informing you of the honor. Often times it includes an order form to buy advertising from them. To provide your potential clients social proof (usually not necessary), you might consider scanning that letter and simply posting it on your firm’s website. Frame it and hang it in your office. Include it in a printed information pack that you send to potential clients.
Emphasize what really matters instead of the fluff
Make your website more about the social proof that comes from serving your clients well. List your accomplishments. Display recommendations and thank you notes from your clients. Explain how you help your clients. List the CLEs that you’ve presented at. List the boards that you serve on.
If you feel you must display a badge
Make sure that the badge does not link to your competition. Make sure that all links included in the badge are “no follow” links, so that you aren’t helping to build up a legal marketing company’s Google ranking at the expense of your own ranking. Think about giving the badge a position of diminished prominence on your site. You may have earned the badge, but it’s not going to set you apart from your competition, and it’s certainly not your firm’s unique selling proposition.