Fortunately, the discussion of websites in the legal industry has mostly changed from, “Do you have a website for your firm?” to “Have you leveraged the latest technology and best practices to fully optimize your site?”
Here are five trends shaping the new standard for law firm websites, so you’ll know smart ways to improve your firm’s site in 2014.
1. The shift toward mobile continues. We’re continuing to see the growth of mobile use far outpacing desktop growth. Most sites seem to have gotten the message, so it’s far less likely to find a site these days that doesn’t have a clickable phone number or that uses Flash modules. Now, the emphasis should be on getting your firm’s brand proposition to stand out on a small screen. Regardless of the device a site visitor is using, the best law firm sites can clearly explain what makes their attorneys unique. (Hint: It’s not the law school they went to.)
2. Websites with regular content updates are now the standard. The gatekeepers of today’s Internet are the search engines and social media outlets. The focus there has shifted over the past years from keyword optimization toward authenticity, distinction of voice, recentness and niche content. Keeping content current and fresh keeps your website relevant. Frequency creates a great repository of information for clients to get an understanding of how you approach the law. If you need to constantly call your IT person to make a change to your website or add an article, it might be time to invest in a content management system.
3. Integration with social networks continues to drive a more human web. If you write content for your website, it is becoming increasingly important to register your authorship on Google+. By so doing, you get the benefit of your headshot (as the author) when your articles are shown in search engines. Also, it’s more important than ever to build the core online presence that allows you to reference your content and your site from networks like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
4. Sites are integrating tools for clients to pay bills, find documents and communicate directly. We’ll continue to see more firm websites that give clients access to a secure location, so that clients have the ability to see their documents or handle bills via the web from any of their devices. It extends the idea of a website to include interactivity that clients can leverage for a great experience. This will become increasingly important as customers move online for all other services. If you can view your medical records online, why not your legal records? Greater accessibility and convenience will be key differentiators.
5. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Websites may be moving beyond mere static brochures, but they still exist as the single most important marketing presence for a law firm. You spend time and money to get clients to your website, and it remains the job of your website to get those same clients to pick up the phone and call. So keep treating every user who visits your firm’s website to clear, compelling content and intuitive navigation, keep measuring your conversion, and keep up the great client service.
Sachin Bhatia is the Vice President of Product overseeing Avvo’s product management and user experience. He will be conducting a website workshop at Lawyernomics 2014. Sachin has spent over 15 years in the Internet business in various product, technical and design roles. He started his career at Microsoft in the travel product group and arrived just in time to help with the initial launch of Expedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @sachbhat.
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