Let’s say you’re about to meet an important new client. You select a carefully designed outfit, groom your hair, and tuck your paperwork into a good satchel. You do all this because you know first impressions are important, right? You need to look the part so that a potential client has confidence in your abilities.
Your website is more or less playing the same role. Consider it a standin for meeting new clients, lots of them, online. Your practice deserves a well presented website, while also serving the informational needs of potential clients.
Identifying your targets and value props
Where does most of your new business come from, or where do you think it will come from? Knowing this is helpful when designing your law firm website so that you can optimize to the best strategy.
For example, if most of your business comes through direct client or colleague referrals, you might want to design a site that feels more personal, with your name and face front and center so that it feels like potential contacts are meeting a real human being. In contrast, if you practice a specific type of law that is more likely to be searched online as a topic by potential clients, then you’ll want to make sure that your topical niche is most prominent.
Spend some time at the outset identifying the key factors of your firm’s identity, as well as the types of clients you plan to target. This will help you keep your website focused on communicating your primary value proposition.
What content to include: The basic rule for any website design is to make it easy for your site visitors (normally called UX or user experience). What information are they looking for? What tasks are they trying to accomplish? For most law firm websites, these needs will likely be met by including, at minimum, the following three pieces of content
- Homepage statement: For many visitors, your homepage will be their starting point, so this is a good place to include a succinct statement about what your firm is all about. This might describe your area of law, the types of cases or clients you specialize in, or whatever else differentiates you. Provide a means for visitors to quickly assess if they’re in the right place. The value of your business should be stated immediately.
- Contact info: Ultimately, you want potential clients to give you a call, right? Make it easy for them by putting your phone number, email address, or link to a contact form directly on the homepage, above the fold so that users don’t have to scroll to find it. By the way, if you’ve done a good job crafting your homepage statement, you’re more likely to get better leads because those who call you will know that you’re the type of firm or lawyer they’re looking for.
- Qualifications: Selecting an attorney is a big decision for any client, so you need to provide some proof of your effectiveness. A summary of your top verdicts, settlements, or client testimonials can help build your case. Your qualifications can sit on a separate tab, but keep in mind that visitors who find you through search might inadvertently bypass your homepage (if they’re searching by specific case types, for example), so be sure the page can stand on its own and describe your primary value proposition.
Getting found: Search engine optimization (SEO) doesn’t have to be complicated. Don’t overthink it. Just deploy these basic tricks to help your site float higher in search results on Google, Yahoo or Bing (to name a few).
Meta tags: These are little pieces of information that sit “behind” your webpage to help search engines and browsers parse and display content on your pages. Focus on the title tags, url, description tags, and don’t worry about the rest.
The title tag categorizes the topic of your page and is displayed in search listings. For example, a good title tag for your homepage would be the name of your firm and/or the type of law you practice. (Example: Brown & Associates: Contract Law Experts) Limit these to 50 or 60 characters, since the rest will be cut off from the display results.
Here’s an example:
Description tags appear in search results directly below the title tag, so they’re a good place to summarize your primary value proposition and include your strongest keyword(s). Most search engines truncate descriptions at 160 characters. (In our above image, you can see the meta description in gray “The Best Lawyers in America….”).
Directories: Directory listings (which are really inbound links) serve as little signposts pointing to your website. So, rather than just relying on people searching for your website alone, get your firm listed in as many directories as possible, even general ones like the American Bar Association as well as your local Bar Association. Regional directories can be particularly effective, as these will help search engines prioritize your content as more relevant.
For a complete guide to SEO, visit our favorite SEO-sters at MOZ.
Selecting a platform
You’ll likely be choosing between WordPress and Squarespace. Both are high quality, both are easy to use. Squarespace is more user friendly for people who lack design skills but want to create their site on their own. You can choose a template and literally drag and drop elements where you want them. WordPress is more customizable, and therefore can be somewhat more difficult to use if you lack coding chops. But if your site has specific needs outside of a predesigned template, WordPress is probably a better choice.
Overall, give your website the attention it deserves so that it can serve as a potential business building tool. You should be proud to show it to clients. And since most lawyers don’t necessarily count web design and coding as part of their primary skill set, don’t be afraid to hire the help that you need to get your site to reflect the quality of your practice.
More questions on getting started? Ask our marketing experts @ Headnote & leave a comment below.