The digital age is in full swing. Law firms can no longer survive on referrals alone, and thus must find new ways to drum up business. We’ve found that a well-designed easily discoverable law firm website is one of the most effective tools to help lawyers acquire new leads and drive conversions. In this article we will offer insights that will help you design (or redesign) your law firm’s website, we’ll tell you how you can protect sensitive data online, and we’ll talk about ways you can turn your website into a lean, mean, marketing machine. If you have any questions about the material in this article or would like to offer up your own expertise, please feel free to do so in the comments section below or reach out to us directly.
5 Signs It’s The Best Time to Redesign Your Law Firm’s Website
Your Site is Not Responsive
In this day and age, having a website that looks great on any device has become the norm. Your potential clients don’t want to have to pinch and zoom their way through your site. And just as you do not want to frustrate your clients in person, you certainly do not want to do it online.
Your Site Takes a Long Time to Load
Because so many users will be browsing from their smartphones, you need to have a website that can load quickly. Approximately 47% of people will leave a website if it takes 3 or more seconds to load. Considering how mobile browsers may not perform as well due to dropped signals and spotty connections, you need to make sure you overcompensate for these shortcomings by having an optimized website.
Your Site Does Not Integrate Your Social Media Platforms
Having a Twitter or LinkedIn page for your practice is great. Having links to all of these pages on your website is even better. There are so many ways you can incorporate your social media channels into your site. For example, you can allow visitors to share your blog posts via Twitter, or you can display the links to your Avvo and LinkedIn in your bio. The takeaway here is that your website can and should play a role in centralizing your online presence so that your clients know there are multiple ways to engage with you.
Your Site is Not Leveraging New Technologies
In recent years, there has been an increasing number of new technologies that make online client engagement much more manageable. Now, you can schedule your appointments with clients online and accept payments for your services on your website. Your website can become more than a digitized brochure and go beyond a simple “Call us now!” call-to-action as a way to interact with your clients.
Your Site’s Content Needs an Update
Sometimes, you need a website redesign simply because the content itself is outdated. Perhaps you have a new practice area that you would like to highlight, or maybe you have hired new staff. As your goals change, your site should change with it to mirror your firm’s priorities.
Essential Elements of a Good Attorney Website
If you want to attract new clients in today’s digital world, your law firm needs to have a website. For many potential clients, your site is the first impression they will get of you and your law firm. As such, it is important that your site is easy to find on the web, is well-designed, has a professional feel, and gives your clients the necessary information about you. Here are a few things that make for a good attorney website.
Stating What Law Services Your Firm Offers
It is crucial that your website clearly states the type of legal service or services that your firm offers.
Detailing “About Me” Information For The Firm’s Attorneys
Many clients are curious to learn more about their potential attorney before they commit to a consultation. They’ll usually turn to the internet to do their research, so make sure you include an “about” section on your website that includes the experience, education, pictures and any other useful information.
Letting Clients Know How You Can Help Them
People want to know how you can help them and why they should choose you over another firm. You can illustrate to clients how you can assist them by posting examples of your past cases.
Implementing a Blog on Your Website
A well written and informative blog will give your website a huge SEO boost, which will make it easier for potential clients to find you. Additionally, blogs are a great way to show clients and colleagues that you are an expert in your field.
Remembering to Include Contact Information For Your Law Firm
One of the most common mistakes on an attorney website is failing to include a “contact” section that will allow potential clients to submit their information. A contact form will create a solid lead funnel for your firm. Make sure this information is prominently displayed in several places on your law firm’s website so clients can easily find it and get in touch with you.
Building A Law Firm Website: Where Do You Begin?
The first step to creating your law firm website is establishing a vision. You must have a clear and concise vision for your firm that translates into your website design. To help determine your vision, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are you trying to accomplish by creating this website?
- Who is your clientele?
- What audience will you be targeting?
This will help establish the foundation for what will eventually become your impressive website. Remember, your website is a digital representation of your brand. You need to develop brand awareness on every page. Be sure to ask yourself at every step of the website design if you are satisfied with your site, and if it represents your firm accurately.
Choose A Domain
Once your site is satisfactory, you will want to select a domain name or URL. If you are creating a law firm website, we prefer to use the firm’s name as opposed to a keyword stuffed URL that may cheapen your brand.
What Platform Should I Build It On?
Once the domain is purchased, you are going to want to pick a content management system (CMS). A CMS will allow you to manage your website. There are multiple content management systems in existence; we recommend WordPress. WordPress themes are responsive, meaning they can be viewed seamlessly on a device of any size such as a laptop, tablet or cell phone. Responsive design provides an ideal user experience on mobile devices and helps your mobile organic search rankings. WordPress will allow you to fully customize or add predefined themes to spruce up your site and make it appealing. Among the many advantages of the mentioned content management systems is their versatility. There is no ceiling to the level of customization and functionality that can be created for your website. However, the more complex the vision, the more advanced coding and programming will be required.
Legal Websites Design
Typically, you want to map out the pages of your site by creating a basic sitemap and wireframes. As the skeleton of your law firm website, it will outline the bases and provide a starting point from which to work off of. Designing the homepage is the most challenging part of the legal web design process.
To start, we recommend getting ideas of layout, color schemes and functionality from other sites that you are attracted to. Perhaps you are drawn to the vibrant blues and soft greys, or you were intrigued by the smooth transitions or a particular animation, or maybe you were fascinated that such a minimalistic website could catch your attention so quickly. These are all features and insights that you should observe when building a new site; it will simplify the process and instill confidence in your creative decisions.
Law Firm Website Content Creation
The writing on your website, or copy, is one of the most crucial aspects to consider when building your firm’s website. Essentially, your website copy is your firm’s’ voice online, it must be accurate and informative to avoid problems. Even though it is not intended to be legal advice, your content represents what you stand for on a legal and personal level. When writing copy on your site, you need to consider your audience. You are building this law firm website to attract clients; you should entice them with concise and straightforward content that explains what you do and how you can help. Aside from your audience, your law firm’s site content must be relevant to the search engines, or “SEO friendly.” The heading tags must be used properly, and the content must include relevant search terms that will allow search engines to sufficiently index it. The better your site’s SEO, the easier it will be for potential clients to discover your firm online.
Selecting Imagery for Your Law Firm Website
The imagery and colors of your website will affect your user’s perception of your law firm. These stylistic elements will represent your brand, so choose cohesive design elements for your legal website’s design. Do you want an epic stylized image of a city skyline as your hero image, or do you want a photograph of your office? You should ask yourself these questions when deciding on the imagery. We typically recommend a combination of both stylized images to represent your vision and tell your story, along with photos of your firm.
Now that you have purchased a domain and picked a content management system, built the elements of the site then added content and imagery, and you have optimized the website to be search engine friendly, you are ready to launch your site. But before you launch your law firm’s new website, be sure to do a quality check. Check the content and functionality of every aspect of the site to ensure that it is ready to go live. If it passes the quality check, you are good to go! One of the advantages of building a website on a content management system like WordPress is the ease of edits. It is relatively simple to make changes and updates as needed, so you are not married to a particular concept.
Best Practices to Protect Your Law Firm’s Website From Being Hacked
With Cybercrime at an all-time high, it is imperative to maintain a secure website that lacks vulnerability to hackers. A hacked website is nothing short of embarrassing, but also poses a potentially catastrophic threat to your law firm’s website. Security breaches are an unfortunate inevitability in an age dominated by websites and applications, so it is best practice to stay up to date with website security measures. So how do you stop your law firm’s website from being hacked? Let’s review a list of a few fundamental, yet easy to use, practices that can potentially save your site.
- Backup your site frequently Let’s face it, no matter how extensive your security measures are, websites are still subject to hacking. Prepare for the worst. There are numerous programs and plugins out there that will run scheduled backups of your site files and database, and most hosting companies offer scheduled backups which will allow you to restore your site’s integrity in the event of a hack.
- Update your software One of the simplest and quickest ways for a hacker to infiltrate your law firm’s website is to exploit vulnerabilities in your site and server software. Often, software updates are released to fix security bugs that will leave a site open to hackers. If your site is built in a CMS, such as WordPress, it is critical that you keep your versions, themes, and plugins up to date.
- Use unique usernames and passwords Common usernames and passwords, such as admin and password123 are incredibly easy to exploit by hackers. It is best practice to use unique credentials to access your site dashboard. We recommend using a password manager like LastPass to keep your passwords secure
- Choose a secure host Most hacks occur on the hosting level, to mitigate your site’s risk, it’s important to choose a reputable hosting service. Keep in mind, when selecting a web hosting service the cheapest option is not usually the best option. Search around and try to find a host that runs regular security audits and updates, and if possible find a hosting service that is familiar with the legal industry.
- Get an SSL certificate Securing your website with an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate might not necessarily prevent it from being hacked, but it will protect the information that is passed through your website. Since sensitive information is often given through attorney websites, this can prove to be a valuable security measure. Search engines also favor SSL certificates.
- Use third-party security measures Many security companies will monitor, detect, and clean hacked websites. It can be reassuring to know that your website is under the internet’s neighborhood watch and if it becomes vulnerable or subject to hacking, you will be the first to know. We recommend using Sucuri to maintain your law firm website security. Protecting a website from hackers is never a guarantee, but you can deter them by covering all the angles. It all starts with the necessary preventative measures outlined above, and you don’t have to be a developer or systems admin to execute them.
Website Optimization Tips Every Lawyer Needs
Law Firm Target Market
Before you start marketing your practice, you need to identify your target market. You need to figure out who you want to reach and develop a language on your site that specifically caters to them. Do some research on what kind of interests your target market cares about. Your clients will research you; it should not be a one-way street. If you are unsure who your ideal client is, try the following exercise: Who/What/How/Why? Who are some notable clients you have worked with? What was their conflict? How did you resolve the issue? Why did they stand out? Answering these questions is a great way to filter out who you enjoyed working with and what kind of clients you want to avoid in the future. Start with a list of three clients you enjoyed working with and three you did not. From there analyze trends and then develop an ideal customer.
Optimizing Page Titles
Page titles are a basic concept in SEO and website optimization. They alert search engines to what the content on a specific page relates to – and they are the first thing a person sees about your site in their search results. Google Webmaster Tools recommends page titles be “accurate and descriptive” – so if you are trying to rank for Slip and Fall Personal Injury, your page title should reflect this. You should also insert your primary area of practice into the tag to further specify what exactly your page is about. A good example title for this would be “Slip and Fall Attorney – City, State | Law Firm.” Having a descriptive page title means people will select your website above other in search engines, driving more traffic to your site. You should never have multiple pages with the same titles, or try and stuff keywords into your title. Keyword stuffing makes your site appear spammy and will discourage users from visiting.
Adding Website Meta tags
If your titles get users interested in visiting your site, your meta description is your elevator pitch. Why should someone click on your site and not another result? Having a meta description will give a short preview of the page on search results. A good meta description will be unique and engaging. Meta tags should not be longer than 1-2 sentences. If you would like some examples of meta tags, do a quick search on Google for something that interests you. Take a look at the first five results and read the page descriptions. What descriptions stood out, and why?
The Right Use of Keywords
A long-outdated belief in SEO is “the more keywords, the better.” This is untrue, in fact, superfluous keywords can negatively affect your rankings. Your content is the most important aspect of your site, and you should tactfully insert information relating to your keywords into it. Instead of trying to stuff as many keywords on a page as possible, try thinking of different ways you can reach your keyword audience. There are several keyword tools you can utilize to get a better idea of what the competition is like. We recommend the Google Keyword Planner Tool.
Your users should be able to navigate your website easily. Your potential clients should be able to find the exact information that they are looking for without much confusion. It is important to have a navigation bar or menu with a comprehensible layout on every page. Broken links, the inability to find relevant content, poorly written copy, and low-quality images will send potential clients running. Site speed also affects consumer behavior; approximately 47% of people expect a website to load in 3 seconds or less.
People use multiple devices to access your site including their iPad, iPhone, and computer. Because of this assortment of devices, your site needs to take varying screen sizes into account. If your site is not responsive, it will not be sized appropriately for mobile viewership. Mobile-friendly websites have large sized text, no sideways scrolling, and optimized navigation bars. Google’s search ranking algorithm prioritizes mobile-friendly websites. Here is an example of a non-responsive website versus an optimized mobile website.
Website Optimization Pro tips
Google Analytics and webmaster tools
Google Analytics is a free website analysis service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. It is the most widely used web analytics service on the internet. You can track many different types of user data using Analytics such as user behavior, time spent on site, and conversion rates. All of this information can be compiled into custom dashboards within the platform, below is an example of a 30-day custom dashboard built for a client that tracks visits, organic traffic, popular pages and blogs, social media conversions, conversions (with top converting pages), and a predetermined lead value. The insights and user behavior data collected by Google Analytics has many marketing applications. Failing to install analytics tracking on your website is a mistake.
Google Webmaster Tools
Webmaster Tools goes hand-in-hand with Analytics and is another powerful data collection tool for your rankings success. It allows webmasters to check if their site is being indexed in search engines, and provides tips to optimize the visibility of a website. Webmaster Tools will also provide a list of broken links to within your website, which is incredibly useful for ensuring a great user experience and spotting issues that could impact your ranking. You can also submit a sitemap (discussed later) directly to Google that it will crawl. Even if you feel you won’t don’t know how to use Webmaster Tools, you should be aware of its existence and become familiar with the basics. Lastly, Webmaster Tools gives you keyword insights into your user’s search behavior. Pair Google Analytics to Webmaster Tools Pairing your Google accounts will give you the benefit of both services integrated into one place. This provides combined information about searching habits as well as traffic. This simple step is often overlooked, even though it takes less than five minutes to implement.
Create Goals in Analytics
If you have an executable call-to-action on your website, such as a contact form or appointment scheduler, you want to be able to track the number of people who complete the action. You can do this by creating “Goals” within the Analytics platform. There are many different types of goals, and we encourage you to track all of the relevant ones using unique names to make sure you aren’t mixing data. Below is the full list of trackable actions.
Value of Lead Setup
As you complete your Goals, you have the option to set a “lead value” – the amount of monetary value a single contact has. Calculating this number will take a few months of data to determine but is simple math. We have included an example below. Assume your monthly advertising budget is $2,000 for PPC (Pay per click) and social media advertising. Assume working with that budget allows you to acquire five new leads a month. Out of the five leads you receive, three of them are viable, and one of them hires you for $5,000 initial retainer. From here you will first need to determine your cost per acquisition (CPA). To figure this out using our example all you need to do is divide 5 (total leads) by $2,000. Your total CPA is $400. Next, you want to determine your lead value. The lead value is determined by dividing the retainer by the number of leads it takes to gain one paying client – in this example, the lead value is $1,000 each ($5000/5). This means you have a 20% close rate, and this would also be the approximate value of every conversation you have with a viable lead. Once you have this number in your head, calculating how much you need to invest in advertising and your expected return is much easier to determine.
Verify Contact Form is Working
Imagine a user decides to take action on your website, submits her information, and the form is broken – or worse, the contacts are not being forwarded to you. Test your contact form and information several times before launch. If you notice a dip in conversions, this is a good place to start. Potential clients have dozens of options when it comes to attorney services, don’t turn them away before you can even schedule a conversation.
Meta titles alert search engines to what the content on a specific landing page on site relates to. They are the first thing a user sees when your content appears in search results – it is essential that they are optimized for both Google and your clients. Failure to set meta titles will cause Google to automatically populate them, which can lead to frustration from your users. Here is an example of what Meta titles look like in search results: (Titles underlined in red) Meta titles are also important for social media because they represent the text that will be automatically pulled from an article when it is shared. Moz and Google recommend you keep your titles under 55 characters for proper display. Meta titles can either be edited from your Content Management System (CMS) or from the backend code on your website.
Meta Descriptions are similar to page titles, but are longer and provide more information to a user. They are your website’s “elevator pitch,” allowing a user to see why they should choose your website over competitors. Using the “Best Briefcases” search from above, we have highlighted sample Meta Descriptions below in yellow: Using this example, you can look at how other webmasters are writing their Meta Descriptions and borrow inspiration. The first result focuses on solving a user need for a briefcase by providing a list, while the other results focus on customer reviews. The common denominator here is the perceived value of the briefcases – you can apply this to your firm’s descriptions by adding value to pages. For example, when writing a Meta Description for divorce law, instead of writing “We provide family law services to the Los Angeles, CA area,” try “Let our attorneys relieve the stress of divorce from your plate.” The latter speaks to the pain points of the users searching for your services. Remember to follow best practices when writing your page descriptions and titles.
If you have a site built in WordPress, there are many tools that can help you with titles and descriptions. A useful plugin we recommend is Yoast SEO. Yoast will help you set keywords on individual website pages, and then optimize content to match. You can also directly edit Meta Titles and Descriptions within the Yoast plugin. Yoast can also help with other tedious website optimization tasks such as verifying Google and Bing Analytics if you can’t access the HTML side of your website to add the Analytics script. It also can populate an XML sitemap for you and place it directly on your website.
XML Sitemap Setup
If you do not have a content management system (CMS) that has an integrated SEO platform, you may need to create a sitemap manually. The most common types of sitemaps provided to search engines are written in Extensible Markup Language (XML). An XML sitemap is a list of web pages on your site that should be added to Webmaster Tools for the various search engines. A sitemap also allows web crawlers like Googlebot to intelligently crawl your site. If you do not have a software plugin that can automatically create a sitemap you can either outsource the task to an agency or use an online tool that will populate a list of pages. It is also important to keep the sitemap up to date, creating a new sitemap every time any new content is posted. Make sure you resubmit your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools anytime you update it. Here is an example of our XML Sitemap for your reference.
HTML Sitemap Setup
An XML sitemap is created to cater to search engines. An HTML Sitemap helps users navigate your site. Both are lists of pages, but an HTML Sitemap outlines the structure so that visitors can find any webpage quickly. Ideally, the HTML Sitemap link is placed in the footer of a website. For a good example, please see Apple’s HTML Sitemap: https://www.apple.com/sitemap/
Are your URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) pretty? An example of an “ugly” URL is www.example.com/p=4672. Your website is a landing page of information and should be organized as such. You should give your URLs meaningful structures that make sense to users. For example, one-400.com/contact leads to our website’s contact form. This information is clearly stated by the URL and is simple to say in case a client wants to refer our website verbally. URL structure also helps slightly with SEO rankings, as they verify the content on a given page is related to the title and copy. If you plan on reworking your existing URLs, you will need to do 301 Redirects from your old pages to the new URLs.
301 Redirects alert a server that the location or name of a URL has changed. These are very important for overall website health, especially if you are changing anything on site. Imagine you change your blog structure, and this affects your URL structure. You may not think much about it but later realize every previous link to your blog is now broken. This is frustrating to a user and will lead to a high abandon rate. The process of writing 301 Redirects is performed on a website server level. Once you have added the 301 code to your website, when a user lands on the old or broken URL, the code redirects them to the new page as determined by the webmaster. Below is an image example of this process from Moz. There are many online resources to help you learn how to write 301 Redirects, or if you prefer, you can outsource this process to professionals. Re-writing Redirects is a fairly technical process that can have major traffic and user experience implications, so unless you have a technical background, you may want to leave the task to an expert.
Thanks for reading our website guide. If you have any questions about legal websites design feel free to place them in the comments section below or reach out to us directly.