Five Best Practices for Law Firm Websites
Whether you are a small or large firm with hundreds of attorneys, your website is likely the foundation of business development and new client lead generation. There is certainly a lot of advice out there on how to make a website effective, perhaps so much information that it might be difficult to determine where to start.
To that end, following are five best practices for developing and managing a law firm website focused on lead generation: web platform, SEO, content, contact information, and social media.
1. Choose the Right Web Platform
Most law firms do not require complex functionality like e-commerce or a client portal. But all websites in 2017 should be mobile or responsive (easily viewed on a smartphone), and have a user-friendly content management system (CMS), allowing designated staff to edit the website. WordPress is the most popular platform because it addresses both these requirements, while being cost effective. Check out some of the prepackaged law firm theme options here.: Beside platform, make sure that your law firm website has Google Analytics code so you can measure all that traffic that results from our next topic, SEO.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Local SEO
Most website platforms have plug-ins or widgets that help the user “install” required information to achieve natural, organic or free search engine traffic, also called search engine optimization (SEO). Proper SEO determines your website rank or authority on a search engine results page (SERP). Of course, most users only click-through on the top 1-3 search positions. And because law and legal keywords are extremely competitive, these top positions can be difficult to achieve. That said, legal and all websites require the following on-page SEO:
- Page Titles (keyword rich, 60 characters)
- Meta descriptions (keyword rich, 150 characters)
- Alt or image tags (keyword rich)
- Sitemaps and XML Sitemap Submission
- Redirects/301 Redirect
- URL structure (keyword-rich, dashes between words)
As mentioned, most platforms have plugins to assist with above. Otherwise, a qualified consultant can be hired. Beside the above on-page SEO, off-page “link-building” is still important. Guest blogging and directory submission are key tactics.
Local SEO, or “Local Citations,” is a process of submitting your contact information to local directories, while ensuring consistency of name, address, and phone number (NAP). Which directories? Check out this blog: Local Search for Small Law Firms: 25+ Places to Get Your Firm Listed.
3. Website Content
Did you know that attorney profiles are often the most visited pages on a firm’s website? As much as 56% of visitors to a law firm’s website will visit the attorney profiles (Above The Law). To capitalize on this interest, make sure each attorney profile has:
- Practice areas
- Professional headshot
- Unique differentiator
- Newsworthy legal issues you’ve resolved
- Experience and education
Qualifications and education are important to prospective clients, but remember it is also important that they like you! Consider adding a level of personalization to build a connection with clients.
It is important that prospective clients know what you can do for them. Have a page on your website that lists your top practice areas, which can link to individual pages for sub practice areas or further information. Consider linking to attorney profiles that specialize in each practice area to aid in the hiring process.
In addition to helping visitors find the information they need, practice area pages can provide an SEO benefit for your website. Many visitors who find your website through a search engine will be searching for practice area + location (ex: real estate law firm Chicago). Having practice area pages can help you get found in search engines.
Having a blog on your website is a great way to position you or your firm as a subject matter expert on legal issues. Beyond credibility, blogging has SEO benefits and helps prospective clients find your website on search engines. TIP: Maintain a blog frequency of six or more blogs per month. Here are examples of content ideas for lawyers who blog.
Recommendations from third parties are often more trusted than from the source itself. Build trust and credibility by adding client testimonials, awards and recognition to your website. You can even embed or link to reviews on third party sites (e.g. Yelp or Google) as an additional source.
4. Contact Information
This may seem very obvious, but you’d be surprised how many websites don’t have contact information easily accessible. Here are some tips to consider:
- Add a phone number in the header of your website so it appears on every page.
- As we mentioned before, many of your visitors will be on their mobile devices, so consider making phone numbers on your website click-to-call links to streamline the process for mobile users.
- Include a link to a contact page in your primary navigation. Your contact page should include a general inquiry form.
- Include email addresses or phone numbers for individual attorneys on their profile pages (discussed below)
- In addition to contact information, create registration pages to capture prospective client information. To ensure registrations, offer useful or education information, and use a simple form with only a few required fields.
5. Social Media
If your target is business clients, LinkedIn will likely be your most important social media network. Establish a LinkedIn personal profile, company page, and possibly a group. Post updates to your company page and profile, and participate in relevant groups. YouTube has a lot of search authority, so write a keyword-rich description, and create a short overview video and videos for key practice areas.
Many lawyers and potential clients use Twitter to listen in to and join conversations, share news, and build influence. Create a Twitter handle (profile) for your firm, yourself, or both; start following relevant profiles; share news with your followers; and build out your name on the site.
While you may think that Facebook is questionable for your practice, it is still important to at least create a page for your business. Facebook is one of the top ten ‘local citations,’ and will, at a minimum, improve your search authority locally. Knowing this, some consumer-facing attorneys can have success on Facebook, both by sharing news and through advertising.
There are good reasons to still use Google+ or Google My Business (which integrates with Google Maps). For more information on claiming your business on Google My Business and establishing a presence on YouTube through your Google+ Page, as well as other social media tips for lawyers, read this guide to social media optimization for lawyers.
Matthew Horn. Matthew is a co-founder of Legal Services Link. He launched the company to create an online platform where those with legal needs and attorneys easily connect, exchange information, and enter into engagements. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School.