If you still doubt the influence a great looking website has on consumer behavior then you’ll want to read on. The good folks over at BrightLocal published a post titled “What local consumers want from local business websites” in which they surveyed a consumer group to determine how a website influence their purchasing decisions. While the post is written for local businesses in general, there are few things attorneys in particular can learn from the write up so here they go.

Many firms out there view their website mainly as a brochure intended to inform the visitor about the firm’s practice areas and experience. While that may have served them well in the early 2000′s those types of sites do not bode well with today’s online consumer. To try and determine what a consumer wants most from a a site, BrightLocal decided to ask consumers 4 questions:

  1. When considering which local business to use, which of these statements about ‘local business websites’ applies most to you?
  2. What information is most important on a local business website? (Select up to 3).
  3. Which factors make you want to use a local business the most?
  4. Which factors are most likely to stop you from using a local business?

The key findings in the answers are as follows.

Question 1 –When considering which local business to use, which of these statements about ‘local business websites’ applies most to you?:

– 36% of respondents say that a clear & smart website gives a local business more credibility
– 32% of respondents indicated that they are more likely to contact a local business if they have a website
– Having a clear and smart website was particularly important to people over the age of 55 (estate planning attorney listen up)

Question 2 –What information is most important on a local business website? (Select up to 3):

– Products, pricing, location and phone number were rated as the most important items consumers look for on a website
– Least important factors were testimonials, website speed and accreditations (I still think website speed is very important!)

Question 3 – Which factors make you want to use a local business the most?:

– Closeness or proximity was the most important factor in deciding whether or not to use a local business
– Clear contact details and company information
– Testimonials, website style & photos also have an impact in final decision making

Question 4 – Which factors are most likely to stop you from using a local business?:

– Having no phone number, no price list and poor content are major ‘turnoffs’ for local customers
– Customers are less likely to be put off by lack of reviews or poor quality photos – these are more easily forgiven

While, some of these answer may seem to lend themselves to a retail oriented business, may of these still apply to service based business such as law firms. While I think the finding about a clear and professional looking website speak for themselves, I wanted to point out a few other things starting with Question 2 – What information on a site is most important. For law firms, listing practice areas are typically the equivalent of how a retail business might list products. While this makes sense for the law firm, it doesn’t always make sense for the consumer. Often times, the consumer doesn’t necessary know how their specific needs translate into a general area of law. Here is an example of what I mean:

Typical Categorization of Services:

example of poor site navigation | website design

Sample of site that uses more specific service descriptions:

good law firm website navigation examples

Why is this important? Say someone has been made aware that they should consider a living trust. While we in the industry that the person you go to is a estate planning attorney, if there is no clear listing for that particular offering when a general consumer visits your site, they may abandon you as a potential provider unless there is a clear indication that you offer that service in particular. In the latter example, there is a clear indication of “Estate Planning Solutions” as well as the particular high value and high traffic service that is offered by the firm that will resonate with a prospect seeking such services. Listing specific services that your firm offers not only adds SEO value to your firm’s site, it helps create a better consumer experience and increases the likelihood that your site will generate meaningful prospects for you.

With regards to question 3, there is little that a law firm can do by way of proximity to a prospective client. However, you can make your location and methods for contacting you as clear as possible. The easiest way to do this is to make sure that you phone number is to be found on the header and footer of every page on your site. Additionally, you’ll want a clear and professionally looking contact page that not only lists your firm’s address, but also provides a map, contact form and appointment scheduler*. If you have additional locations, be sure to list those as well.

Finally, where possible, it may help a law firm stand out above the crowd when they are transparent in their pricing. Don’t publish your hourly rate for sure, but if you offer flat fee limited scope offerings don’t be shy about letting people know what they are. A friend of mine just asked me for a price on an employee arbitration agreement indicating that he cannot find out what an attorney would charge him for such a thing. Obviously there is demand for such flat fee pricing and consumers what to know what that pricing is upfront wherever possible.

I’d be interested in hearing your comments below, or if you would like to learn more about this subject feel free to send us an email at info[at]one-400.com.

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