Lawyer Websites: The good, the bad, and the ugly

What goes into a well-designed law firm website?  A photo of the city skyline? A copy of your latest legal brief?  Your phone number in 6 point font in the footer?  Probably not, and here’s why.

Don’t Be the Prototypical Lawyer Website

The best law firm websites have bold, modern, eye-catching designs.  Ditch the city skyline and leave the gavel and courthouse imagery behind.

Give Clients the Content They Want

Eighteen months have passed since The Rainmaker Blog published Legal Marketing Stats Lawyers Need to Know.  Remember what we learned:

  • 25% of people researching legal topics visit YouTube during the process.  Use video to answer the most common questions that arise during initial client intake.
  • Post substantive content, but not your latest legal brief.  The information you share should be understandable to a lay person.
  • Offer resources, including apps like Our Family Wizard, a shared parenting tool.

Clients Want to Talk to You – Now!

Clients are ready to act when they visit your site.  Don’t bury your phone number in teeny, tiny font in the footer of your website.  It should be prominent – above the fold, easy to find, and presented as a call-to-action.  74% of prospects beginning a search online end up contacting lawyer’s office via phone.

Offer Maps, Directions, Parking, and Transportation Links

Eighty-five percent of clients use online maps to find legal service locations.  Ask your web designer to add a Google Map with a marker to your website.  Offer directions and links to parking and other transportation options.  Include a photo of the outside of your building and surrounding businesses.  This will make your address easier to spot.

Other Important Tips

  • Get expert help with SEO – 62% of legal searches are non-branded (“Your city” “divorce attorney.”)
  • Mobile is increasingly important.  A Google Legal Services Study in 2013 found 69% use both a smartphone and a PC for research.  Ownership of mobile devices has grown exponentially in the last four years.  In 2015 a Pew report suggested that one in five Americans access the Internet only on their smartphones.  If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re missing out.
  • Focus on local.  A FindLaw survey in 2014 found that 71% of people looking for lawyers think it is important to have a local attorney.  Clients don’t want to travel if they can avoid it; they may also assume local attorneys know the local judiciary better.  Whatever the case may be, follow these tips from Five Best Practices for Law Firm Websites.
  • Use Google analytics to learn everything you can about your web traffic: how you acquire visitors, how they behave once they land on your site, and how many you “convert.”  (A measurement of the latter would be how many visitors actually complete an online contact or intake form.)
  • As Lawyerist suggests, ban interstitial pop-ups.  They’re annoying (particularly on mobile) and likely to be blocked anyway by your potential client’s browser.
  • Do include proper attorney profiles.  Five Best Practices for Law Firm Websites suggests including practice areas, a unique differentiator, newsworthy legal issues you’ve resolved, and of course your experience and education.  What else can you include: how about community involvement? Interests? Hobbies? Something, anything that will personalize you a bit more.
  • Yes, you need a headshot and Five Best Practices for Law Firm Websites mentions this too.  Opinions abound about dos and don’ts, and if you’re like me you can usually pick the lawyers out of a headshot lineup.  Try Googling “modern headshot examples.”  Pinterest is a good resource.   Here are some suggestions from a digital photography school.
  • Incorporate social media and link to your blog.  These are pretty much no-brainers.
  • Consider online intake, contact forms, and online scheduling.  While most clients would rather call you, there is an audience who prefers web-based contact and online does have its advantages. If you use practice management software, intake may be built into your product.  Otherwise, look at Lexicata. Scheduling options include Setmore, FlexBooker, and TimeCenter among others.
  • Secure your site – for you and for your visitors. If you collect personally identifiable information, you must have compliant privacy policies.  (A simple contact form is enough to trigger this requirement.)

All Rights Reserved 2017 Beverly Michaelis

SEO Your Website Using Free Directory Listings

With so many good marketing folks to follow on social media, who should you choose? I previously featured two of my favorites here.  Another great contender is Edmund Yan of Yan Media.

seo

I like Edmund because his posts are concrete: he gives you specific content you can act on now. For example, Free Legal Directories Every Law Firm Should Exploit for SEO.

Boost Your Website Ranking

In this post, which is an update of an earlier piece, Edmund talks about how you can boost your website ranking on Google by creating free profiles on legal directories. You may have heard this before, and true enough some of the directories will be ones you already know like Avvo or Findlaw.  But others were new to me.

As Edmund points out, Google’s ranking system is all about popularity.  Add your link to a popular site and ta-da!  You’re popular in Google’s eyes too.  Or at least more popular.

The more popular you are, the more credible you’ll appear in the eyes of Google and the higher you’ll rank on organic search result pages. It’s that simple.

Read the full post on using free legal directories for SEO here.  At the end are six suggestions for must-include content in your directory profiles.

Why You Should Claim Your Directory Profile Even if You Don’t Care About SEO

Even if you don’t need an SEO boost from online legal directories, you should still claim your profile.  Notice I said “claim.”

Whether you set up a profile or not, I can just about guarantee that Avvo has a listing for you.  The same is true for other popular online legal directories.

  • If you want to control what is being said about you, claim your profile.
  • If you want to remove inaccurate information or scurrilous reviews, claim your profile.

This worked for at least one Oregon lawyer who Googled herself and was shocked to discover a bad Avvo review.  She was shocked because she’d never set up an Avvo account.  By claiming her profile she was able to get the information removed.

Thankfully this experience isn’t a recurring one.  Nonetheless, this is one lesson that many lawyers have yet to learn: you need to control (and know) what is being said about you on the Internet.  You may have Google reviews, Yelp reviews, Facebook reviews, or other reviews you don’t know about.

Set Up Alerts When Your Name is Mentioned

A good place to start is by setting up Google Alerts for your name and your business name.  This allows you to receive an email anytime you or your business is mentioned on the Web.

You may also want to try some of the alternatives to Google.  In recent years users have complained that Google Alerts wasn’t working as well for them.  Some prefer Yahoo! Either way do something to learn what is being said so you can take better charge of your online presence.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

Marketing Strategies for Lawyers from #SuperMarket6

Supermarket6June 2 and 3 marked the sixth annual Super Marketing Conference held in Boston, Massachusetts.  As usual, the content and lineup was stellar.  Topics included managing online reviews and profiles, video marketing, website design, and content management.

With over 300 conference tweets, it was easy to capture the “best of,” some of which are featured below. For a more complete curation, see Storify.

Online Reviews

  • 77% of people read online reviews before buying
  • Plant the online review idea early with clients
  • Bad online reviews help improve the credibility of good online reviews on the same site
  • Google tracks review locations, times. Clusters near your office, at same time will be dropped.

Online Profiles

  • Even selfies on help build lawyer visibility, credibility (you can learn from your 12 year olds).
  • If someone’s looking for a lawyer, they are eventually going to Google (verb) their name
  • Users find authenticity on,
  • great place to see questions prospects are asking so you know what to write about on your blog
  • Every 100 “Answers” posted on Avvo Forum leads to 10 contacts. 10% lead gen is pretty cool!

Content and Branding

  • Content for lawyer marketing/branding flows out of a lawyer’s values and story
  • Effective branding requires clarity of message (requires development) with consistent delivery.
  • We don’t buy from logic, we buy from emotion. Your brand must have a happiness campaign. Package your happiness and sell it.
  • Clients hire individuals, not “lawyers” as fungible machines
  • Content must appeal to the audience you are seeking (referral sources v. possible clients)

Why Your Next Client Wants to Hire You

  • What are potential clients looking for? 1) Expertise 46% 2) Trusted Recommendations 37% 3) Trust 30% 4) Location (20mi)
  • Focus your marketing on being the solution that consumers need to address their legal concerns
  • 60% of consumers use mobile to find their attorneys
  • 64% of legal consumers only contact one attorney. 87% hire that attorney.
  • Resounding theme – get your firm on ! Most popular mobile apps used by consumer Facebook and FB Messenger

Video Marketing

  • Use video marketing as means of differentiation, trust, authority
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine. Google owns YouTube. Use YouTube. ~ Marketing Logic for Lawyers
  • Use Schema.org or Wistia to tag videos for beneficial SEO
  • Forget Pay-per-click – the legal market is too saturated (and rates are ridiculously high)
  • Use animated gifs, not embedded videos in your eNewsletters

Read all the “Best of” tweets from the #SuperMarket6 Conference here on Storify.

[All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2016]

30 Twitter Tips on Marketing, Social Media, and Technology

And now my final installment of news that may have passed you by in June.  The best of the best on marketing, social media, and technology posted on Twitter last month:

Marketing and Social Media

Technology

The Paperless Office

Privacy and Security

Cloud Computing

Dictation

Apps

  • Fastcase Tip 23: Utilize the extended toolbar at top and the ‘jump to most relevant paragraph’ option to save you time! (via @fastcase)
  • Quick Look: New Fastcase Android App by @catherinereach (RT @danpinnington RT @JoanHFeldman RT @attnyatwork)

Tech Tips

5 Ways to Increase Your Visibility on the Web

What can you do to increase your visibility among search engines and drive traffic to your Web site? Search engine optimizationIncoming links?  Obviously both help, but the former requires special expertise. The latter involves persuading others, which isn’t always easy.

So how about a solution that is completely within your control and doesn’t require paying for links or hiring a consultant?

Complete Online Profiles

The first stop on your journey should be completing online profiles that point back to your Web site. The most popular free site is LinkedIn.  Others include Avvo, FindLaw, JD Supra, Justia, Lawyers.com, Lawyer Profiles from ConsultWebs, Legal Match, LLRX, Martindale, MyLegal, and Naymz.  A word of caution: know what you’re getting into when you sign up for these services.  Some are free.  Some are not.  Be mindful of advertising and solicitation rules – you may be required to use disclaimers or opt out of certain features entirely (such as lawyer rankings or client testimonials and endorsements). On the plus side, many of these services allow you to share more than just biographical information.  By posting articles, pleadings, forms, and presentations or displaying blog posts and tweets you can take full advantage of your profile. While you’re at it, don’t forget to complete your Google Profile and Google Business Listing.  If others request permission to reproduce or reprint your material, require proper attribution, included a link back to your Web site or blog.

Engage in Social Media

If you haven’t joined social media yet, I hope you do.  It’s fantastic IMHO.  If the King is Facebook, the Queen is Twitter.  I won’t try to reinvent the wheel here.  Instead, visit the Mass LOMAP blog (our law practice management counterparts in Massachusetts). Once there, click in the Search box in the upper left hand corner and enter “Facebook” to find all their great posts on setting up a Facebook business page.  You can also learn a ton from the ABA book, Social Media for LawyersSave some bucks and get it at a discount through the Professional Liability Fund.  From the PLF Web site, select ABA Products.  Once at the ABA Web store, enter the PLF discount code.  Mashable is also a wonderful source for how-tos and breaking news on all things social media.  

Try Social Publishing

Social publishing could easily fall under online profiles or social media, since the whole idea is to set up a profile, then share with others. No matter how you slice it, sites like YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, Scribd, and Docstoc are great places to post photos, videos, PowerPoint presentations, articles, and related content. When your items are published, share them via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.  LLRX also welcomes contributions.

Keep it Free and Local

Are profiles or online listings part of your state or local bar association memberships?  Specialty legal organizations?  Bar sections or committees?  If yes, take advantage! 

Blog!

Obviously you’re a blog reader, or you wouldn’t be here.  But are you blogger?  It takes time and effort, but the best way to raise your visibility is to give search engines what they crave: frequently updated content. That’s what this post is all about – giving you as many avenues as possible to get your material out there.  Tough to do using your Web site, which can be static by comparison.  But a blog fits the bill quite nicely.  You can read more about the process here and compare blogging services here.

Always Keep Ethics in Mind

If you’re not fully informed in the premises, read:

Monitor Your Online Reputation

Now that you’ve jumped in with both feet, you should keep tabs on yourself.  Sound a bit strange?  It won’t if you’ve Googled yourself before.  In addition to the occasional Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, search, sign up to receive alerts whenever your personal and/or business name is used.  Google and Yahoo! both offer Web monitoring services.  Don’t overlook Social Mention, which monitors over 100 social media properties including Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, and YouTube or BoardTracker which searches and tracks threads on forums and message boards.  

Good luck!

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis