Every year the phone book fairies drop off a few fat yellow books at my house. The last time I actually kept a phone book was right after I moved to Seattle. I was about to start law school and was too cheap to buy a step ladder. Who needs one when you can just stack phone books on a chair, right?
Gone are the days where a lawyer could get clients through an ad in the yellow pages. But you knew that already – that’s why you have a website! The question is: is your website working for you?
Your website is working for you if 1) it makes a potential client want to call/email you and 2) your potential clients can find your website. To accomplish these two goals, your website needs to be designed and written in a client-friendly way and rank high in search engine results.
Client-friendly writing and design
Remember the case briefs you wrote in law school? Short, simple, and to the point, they helped you survive a grilling from that professor who was a little too excited about the Socratic method. You want your website to be like that — short, to the point, easy to find the most important information.
Web users don’t read every word you write — they skim the page very quickly (average time per page is less than 30 seconds). Make sure your site has clean and logical navigation so users can find relevant information. Provide information in small, digestible chunks that are skim-friendly. Finally, try to keep your writing between a 3rd–8th grade reading level (Hint: turn on readability statistics in Microsoft Word to check for readability).
Check out www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/ or www.dailywritingtips.com/10-principles-of-writing-for-the-web/ for useful tips on web writing. I recommend Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works, too.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Google for your firm’s name — is your website the first result that comes up? What if you search Google for <your practice area> + <your location>? Is your website at or near the top? If not, that’s a problem.
Time to do some SEO! There are services that can help you do this, but with a little research and effort, you can do it yourself. A well-written website is a crucial first step. Moving beyond that, make sure you repeat keywords about your services – that potential clients would search on – often. For example, a potential client is probably looking for a “divorce lawyer,” not a “dissolution of marriage lawyer” — make sure you’re writing accordingly.
Links back to your website are crucial as well. Link within your website to relevant other pages, and link back to your website when you comment on industry-related blogs (like this one!).