5 Reasons Your Law Firm Website Is Failing

law firm website fail11 5 Reasons Your Law Firm Website Is FailingYou’ve received the emails, attended the conferences, and heard the pitches, but you still are not seeing results from your law firm website in terms of new business. While there are a multitude of reasons why your website might be failing to generate new clients, here are 5 that we see all the time.

5.  Bad Site Architecture

Bad website architecture is one of the most common law firm web marketing problems. A long, long, time ago (which is the past 10-15 years on the web) many law firms were sold websites by developers who failed to consider the impact that their site designs and architectures would have on their search marketing. In fairness, very few web developers were considering these issues (and many still are not). Ultimately, having poor website architecture may significantly impact your ability to generate new clients from the web.

Some sites are built on technologies that are very difficult for search engines to read. If the search engine can’t read your website, it’s not going to serve up your site in its results. How can you tell search engines can read your website? For starters, view the Google cache:

googlecache11 5 Reasons Your Law Firm Website Is Failing

If the cached version of your site is blank, missing text, gibberish, etc, you may have a site architecture problem. Further, poor site architecture may make it very difficult to add new articles, pages, and other forms of content to your site. While search engines are constantly getting better at reading sites with bad architecture, many believe that technical performance of your website (including architecture and load speed) are becoming more heavily weighted by the search engines.

If you’re looking for a new architecture, I recommend checking out these content management platforms:  WordPress, Blogger, and Moveable Type.

4.  Poor Use of HTML

Poor use of HTML can really hurt your law firm web marketing efforts. Many law firms want to brand their websites with their firm name by using the firm name in web page titles, headers, etc. While there is no doubt that branding is very important to marketing your law firm on the web, it shouldn’t be done at the detriment of on-page optimizations. How can you tell if your website isn’t making good use of important HTML tags? Check out this post on title tags.

Luckily, if you’re using a quality content management platform, like those listed above, most of the HTML issues that you might face are automatically resolved by the software. Just be sure to use on-topic keywords in the titles, headers, and links of your website content.

3.  Poor Conversion Optimization

Conversion optimization is all about encouraging a visitor to your website to take some kind of action. This might take the form of calling your law firm, emailing you, or submitting a form on your website. We see a lot of law firm websites that generate a lot of visitor traffic, but fail to convert that traffic into a new potential client because they lack properly implemented calls to action.

While there is no “right answer” when it comes to optimizing for conversion, you want to be sure that you have several ways for a visitor to interact with your website (and law firm) that are highly visible and easy to use. To truly maximize the amount of traffic that converts into a potential client lead, you’ll need to test and measure different calls to action on your site.

If you use WordPress, there are many free plugins available to implement web forms. If you’re looking for a more robust solution, I like working with Form Assembly.

2.  Poor Link Profile

Ultimately, in order for your website to generate organic search engine traffic that will turn into new business for your firm, you have to acquire links to your website. Without opening the entire link-building can of worms, it’s helpful to understand that links are votes for your website in the eyes of the search engines. One way to get links to your website is simply to “write a lot of great content”.

If you write great posts, articles, etc, on the topics that are relevant to your practice, chances are that someone will link to it. Admittedly, attracting a large quantity of strong links simply by writing great content is not as easy as it may sound. However, good content needs to be the foundation of your web marketing. The words on your website matter not only to Google, but more importantly, to the visitors to your site.

As you might suspect, there are many other ways of building links to your website. Some good, some bad, some really bad. While I won’t break down the entire law firm web marketing landscape here, don’t be afraid to ask your law firm web marketing provider about links. Many of the major law firm website, blog, and directory platforms have link networks already established. This can be very helpful to your website’s search engine visibility. However, be careful. There is a very fine line between “acceptable link network” and “link farm”. Unfortunately, there’s no bright-line rule and ultimately the search engines are the final arbitrator of what is acceptable and what is not. Feel free to contact me directly if you’d like more information on this topic.

1. Content Deficiencies

Most content deficiencies can be broken into two major groups. Lack of content and poorly written content.

Lack of Content

If your website has the “standard four pages” (home, attorney profile, practice areas, and contact), and nothing else, you are going to have a very hard time getting new business from the web. In order to grow your search engine visibility, you must grow your website/blog too. This means consistently adding new pages, articles, posts, and other forms of content to your website.

While many lawyers are able to find the time to produce frequent quality content, and even enjoy it, many others simply lack the time or desire to write for their website/blog. While some blogging experts argue that if you can’t make time to write you shouldn’t have a blog at all, I humbly disagree.

There are many ways to ethically publish quality content to your website. Admittedly, there are many ways that might damage your reputation and be plainly unethical. However, the subject of content publication shouldn’t be viewed as an either you write it yourself or forget about having a web presence proposition. You just may be surprised by the number of flourishing law firm websites that aren’t authored solely by the lawyers at the firm.

Poorly Written Content

While the frequency of content is important, it’s not as important as its quality. Poorly written content doesn’t only refer to bad writing. It includes any writing that doesn’t achieve the goals of the author. In other words, you may be the most prolific writer on the subject of criminal defense law in your state. However, if your goal is to increase the number of criminal legal services consumers contacting you through your website, writing a law review article on the evolution of Miranda warnings in your state is unlikely to accomplish that goal.

Quality web content speaks to your target audience, positions you as an expert on the subject, and communicates your law firm’s marketing message. Some general guidelines to keep in mind include avoiding legalese, writing at a level commensurate with your target audience, and trying (as hard as it may be) to keep things interesting.

(photo: Cranky Media Guy)

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  • http://www.bestlegalresource.com Lori T. Williams

    I agree with these points. It is shocking to me that there are still solo and small firm attorneys without websites, and those with antequated websites are a close second. I frequently refer the attorneys that I’m providing consulting services for, to affordable marketing specialists in our local area so they can have a modern, effective website for <$1,000. Lori Williams, Owner/Managing Attorney of Your Legal Resource, PLLC, http://www.bestlegalresource.com.

  • http://www.barancle.com Tim Baran

    Very useful post! Transferring to a content management framework is not terribly complicated and not as costly as some would have you believe. Using open source options that Gyi recommended can result in a solid platform on which to grow at costs comparable to those mentioned in Lori’s comment.

    Sure content is king but if it’s sitting in the dumpster, it’s of no use.

  • http://www.impirus.com Kelly Spradley

    Gyi,
    This is an excellent article. I would only add one point: Your site is failing because you have to go through a third party to make changes. When this is the case, your site is more likely to be neglected.

  • http://www.attorneysync.com Gyi Tsakalakis

    @Kelly

    Great point. I have been astonished as to how difficult many web marketing companies make it for their clients to make additions/modifications to their sites. Even some the major players make it virtually impossible to make simple site edits.

    I have seen site edits take as long as 2-3 weeks to be implemented after a request.

    Even worse, some of these companies flat-out refuse to make simple changes upon request.

  • http://www.AschemanSmith.com Landon Ascheman

    I have to agree with Lori. We started out with a basic website that I designed. Within a few months we hired Emily Yost to redesign the website (http://www.emsster.com/) probably one of the smartest things we have done. Not only did our peak traffic at the old site become the average, but we were able to easily modify everything in the site at will. (and it cost a fraction of some of the companies that generally corner the market in the legal world)

  • http://esquireinteractive.com/ Jeff Lantz

    Good points about why law firm websites fail. From a bandiing perspective, I believe that one of the primary reasons that law firm websites fail is that they are typically designed around highighting attorney accomplishments, credentials, speaking engagements, and trial and transactions. With most websites, very little is written about what the attorney or firm is going to do for the client.

    As a result, even if the site is well-built for SEO and architecture purposes, the site is devoid of any message that resonates with prosepctive clients (who are often desparately searching for an attorney who understands their matter).

    Law firm websites in general are much more effective as a client-development tool if more time and emphasis is spent on creating effective branding and messages that will appeal to clients, and less focus is placed on highlighting the credentials of firm attorneys.