If you’ve ever been on the other side of a legal issue, then you know how harrowing the experience can be — especially the first time. So you can imagine how your potential clients are feeling when they searching for an attorney to solve their legal problems. They’re looking for someone they can trust — someone who is highly competent but doesn’t talk down to them. And more than likely, they’re looking for that attorney online. When they choose their advocate, will it be you? Your website will likely be the judge (no pun intended).
In order to create a website that makes you the clear choice and drives your practice forward, look for these elements to be firmly in place:
The Visible Elements
Clear, Informative Content
People are visiting your website for real reasons. They need support and solutions for troubling legal issues. They have questions they need answered — questions about the law and questions about you. And they want those answers delivered to them in language that’s clear and approachable. It’s the job of your website to meet those requirements with thorough, accessible, convincing content that helps them choose you as their advocate.
Great home pages and informative “About Our Firm” pages are a good start. But the kind of content your website needs goes much deeper than a brief introduction. Your prospective clients will be searching for specific information about the law and about you. They want to know your areas of practice and get a sense of your expertise — and they’re not alone. The search engines are looking at your pages, too.
Because the search engines determine your page rank, they have a direct influence on the number of people who view your website. And the search engines are looking for strong, original content that’s both fresh and relevant. The good news is there’s a way to provide readers with the information they need and prove your worth to the search engines at the same time, and that’s with a blog.
A blog is your opportunity to discuss legal issues of local and national interest. It’s the place where you provide helpful answers to common questions. And when you post topics of interest regularly, you’ll be building name recognition for yourself and your firm and establishing your online authority. Add all these together, and you’ve got content that keeps readers coming back to your website, improves your ranking with the search engines, and brings clients to your door.
The Personal Touch
When you meet a potential client face-to-face, you probably greet him or her with a warm handshake and a friendly smile. Your website should provide the same warm, friendly welcome to visitors. Avoid turning your attorney bio into a resume — instead, make it the place where you share your story. Describe a few courtroom victories you’re especially proud of, and include a bit of personal information so readers can feel connected to you. Make sure you use a current, professionally taken photograph that presents you in the best light possible.
Then, add the little things that will mean a lot to your visitors. Make yourself available to respond to questions or set up consultations with an easy-to-use contact form. List your areas of practice prominently throughout the site to clarify the issues you’re best suited to handle. And don’t forget your ultimate goal — bringing people to your office! Add your firm’s address and telephone number to each page along with a map showing your location. As an extra-helpful touch, you may want to consider including parking instructions or public transportation routes, too.
There’s one more visible element to a great website, and that’s testimonials. Call it social proof, the bandwagon effect, or simply the power of a good recommendation. People are simply more likely to choose your services if others have already done so successfully. Your testimonials are social proof — and you need them on your website.
Whether or not you have a single page devoted to client testimonials, make sure you have one or two testimonials displayed on each page of your website. Keep in mind: Testimonials have far greater weight and credibility when they’re accompanied by photos. If you have former clients who might be willing to add a photo to their testimonials, by all means ask them.
The Hidden Elements
In order to have a website that really works, you’ve got to pay attention to more than words on a page. Some of the most important features of your website will be the things your potential clients won’t even notice unless they’re missing or broken. First and foremost among these is load time. Slow load time causes visitors to leave your site before they’ve even seen it, so your website has got to load fast.
Interestingly enough, slow load time can also cause your page to appear further back on search pages. The search engines don’t like slow pages, and your visibility depends on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the like. And load time isn’t the only thing engines are looking for. There are a number of other things you can do to maximize your value with search engines, and most of them fall into the category of search engine optimization, or SEO.
Keep the search engines happy
Start your SEO with metadata that gets results — like a legal citation, metadata is information about information. In this case, metadata is the information you give the search engines so they understand what’s on your page. At the very minimum you’ll need a clear title tag and a concisely-worded meta description tag for each page in your site.
SEO will also include the judicious use of keywords in the content of your website and internal links between pages. It’s also a good idea to link to respected outside sources of authoritative information; examples might include links to state legislation, county court websites, or legal aid organizations.
Finally, consider the various ways your potential clients might be accessing your website. It’s no longer a given that they’re using a computer. Smartphones and tablets display pages much differently than computers do, and to reach the widest audience, you’ve got to be prepared.
The best practice here is to use responsive design, meaning that your website will either adapt to screen size with multiple layouts in fixed widths or respond to screen size with multiple grid layouts that are fluid. Check out the current state of your firm’s website by viewing it on your smartphone — you may be surprised at what you see.
Consider the following
A great website isn’t a static document. To keep attracting views and rank well in searches, it’s got to keep changing and improving. It’s a complicated task — one you may or may not be suited for. If you suspect you’re not cut out for the job, contact a professional web designer. It’s an investment you won’t regret.
Also, feel free to download our 10 Step Checklist for Your Website Redesign.