Last week, Moiré Marketing Partners attended the Los Angeles Legal Marketing Association’s Continuing Marketing Education Conference, where law firm leaders and marketers gathered to discuss the pressing issues facing their firms. One of the most common themes we heard was the need to update law firm websites and improve their search engine rankings.
By now, most law firms have websites. However, many of the conference speakers and attendees expressed a high level of dissatisfaction with their current sites—particularly if their firm’s site was three years old or more. One particular area of concern was with their firm’s Google rankings. Not only was the firm affected by poor Google rankings, but so were its key rainmakers and growing areas of practice. They were quite vocal about their frustration over how little time they had to develop a competitive online strategy that would better position their firm and their lawyers on the web. Oh, how they wish they had the time and a plan!
Successful legal websites need comprehensive plans and strategies, including specific SEO objectives. These strategic web and SEO plans must be unique to each firm, developed with the specific business goals and objectives for that firm and its lawyers. Off-the-shelf solutions are simply not going to cut it in this competitive environment. The speakers and attendees we talked to wanted positive results that would ultimately support the firm’s business development efforts.
Strategic web planning requires research and purpose, while taking into account the firm’s culture so that it rings true with its current clients and street reputation, or “organic brand." Websites should also be more than a repository for your practice area descriptions and attorney bios (the “firm brochure on the web” approach). Law firm websites need to be informative, engaging and easy to navigate, ultimately providing value to clients as opposed to being focused on the firm, or “firm-centric." This simple strategic approach helps better position the firm and its lawyers against its principal competitors.
A strategically effective law firm website should include as many of these elements as possible:
- A clear purpose and distinct message that appeals to your target reader
- Information that appeals to clients and the industries you serve rather than yourself
- Excellent design that includes meaningful imagery and strategic architecture, so visitors know what to do or where to go to find the information they are searching for
- Well-formatted attorney bios designed for the scanning reader
- Engaging client case studies (in states where permitted)
- Testimonials (in states where permitted) as a third-party validation of your firm and attorneys’ successes
- Newsletters, white papers and breaking news on recent changes in key practice areas of the firm
- Short videos
- SEO coding
- Links to social media networks and well written Wikipedia listings
- A mobile-friendly companion site where your information downloads quickly on hand-held devices, featuring interactive tools that allow visitors to call an attorney or send an email directly from smart phones or PDAs.
Building an effective law firm website to include positive search engine results requires a well-crafted plan. However, unlike sites built three years ago, today’s law firm website should be an extension of your business development efforts and not just a mar/com tool. So what are you waiting for? The time is now to take action, even if that means bringing in outside assistance. Remember, if you don’t control your website, you will lose control of your firm’s market perception and the market will take over that perception for you—and no one wants that.
What’s your firm’s strategic web and SEO plans for 2011? Let us hear from you.