Bob Ambrogi started off his presentation by saying that he takes an ‘editorial’ view of lawyer websites and their content. He warns that you need a writer who understands the legal industry – preferably a former lawyer—to write your website, rather than just any old marketing professional.
Ambrogi also stressed the importance of having a ‘theme’ for your website based upon what makes you different, and making your website client-centric. Too many lawyers use their websites as ways to ‘massage their egos’ and talk only about themselves, rather than making their site useful for clients.
Not surprisingly, the session also stressed the importance of your practice area descriptions and lawyer biography pages, since these are the most commonly viewed pages on lawyer websites (and according to the presenters, the most poorly done).
Since viewers have short attention spans, it is important to emphasize the most important parts of your experience first and leave history and education for the end of your bio, rather than writing your bio in chronological order.
Ambrogi also stressed the use of facts, rather than hyperbole in your web copy. I call this showing or demonstrating your expertise, rather than simply telling your readers you are experienced. Use facts, statistics and stories unique to you and your practice so that someone else would be unable to take your copy and put their name on it. Make it compelling.
Also not surprisingly, the presenters stressed the need to update your site and keep it current. Steve Matthews reminded the audience that the more you update, the more Google comes back to index your site, and the more prominently you will figure in search engine results.
You want your clients and potential clients to recognize themselves and their problems when they read the content on your website. Use representative clients and case studies (as your jurisdiction’s ethical rules allows) to demonstrate the kind of work you do for clients.
The presenters also recommended a News or Press Room section on your site, even going so far as to suggest that lawyers consider establishing separate RSS feeds for different practice areas and just for firm news to encourage local journalists to follow those feeds.
Although I agree with this recommendation, I’m always cautious about this with my own clients unless I am sure that they have the manpower and commitment to keep this portion of the site up to date. There’s nothing worse than a website with a news or press section that does not contain any recent information.
Additional Web Content Tips
- Segment your copy; break out unique topics into their own pages
- Be scannable – Use lists, bullets, short paragraphs and break up text with headers and subheads. Long blocks of text turn web visitors off
- Stick to natural language - do not write for search engines – build a body of work for long term traffic
- Don't forget your calls to action to let web visitors know what you want them to do next. If it is a call to your firm, be sure to include the name of the primary contact person for that practice area or issue.
Optimizing your site for search engines
Steve Matthews recommends a number of strategies (which don't have to be expensive) for improving your SEO (search engine optimization). Here are some of Matthews’ suggestions:
- Do keyword research to determine what keywords and phrases are being used to search for the information and issues related to your area of practice.
- Make your page and post titles and headlines descriptive – use keywords here, too
- Links are foundation of all major search engines – make sure you have links from quality organizations and similar subject pages, a good mix of links to your home page and "deep links" directly to other specific pages on your site. You want a flow of new links to your site plus 'aged' links to the site
- Link text should be descriptive and match the title of the document or page it is linked to
- Take advantage of the Meta Description field to provide a short description of each page
- Change the url structure of your pages to include keywords in the url, rather than gobbledy- gook of numbers, letters and symbols to keep your pages more memorable and user friendly
- Be consistent. The search engines like consistency. Create a style guide for your website (as well as your other online participation). For example, when writing your firm’s address, if you abbreviate Street as St., you should ensure that your address is written that way consistently throughout the site.
Other ways to maximize your website’s effectiveness
Drive traffic to your site by registering your account and completely filling in all information in places such as Google Places, Bing and Yahoo maps, Yp.com, yelp.com, citysearch, dexknows.com and others. Incorporate your logo, photos, videos and other information to increase your visibility and drive traffic to your site.
Photo credit: http://flic.kr/p/2vys1q