Stop right there! Before you take step one to create your law firm’s new website, pause to figure out what it is you really want your website to do—and who you want it to attract. Define your intended visitors as narrowly as possible. Do you want to appeal to recently injured autoworkers, for example, or in-house counsel of global technology corporations? Those are two very different websites.
Start with a Basic Checklist
Ready now? Here is a fistful of basic, but absolutely critical, things to keep in mind as you get started on your new website.
- Find and buy your own domain name. Make it a .com address. Use your name plus “PC” or “law,” combine last names or use the firm specialty for a suitable domain name (e.g., workerscomplawyer.com). Location is another great way to get a domain that stands out. If you’re going with a location-based domain, be as local as your target audience. Try not to use initials, hyphens or unintelligible spellings. Print out any contender and look for inappropriate words—they can and do sneak in.
- Choose your tools. If you plan to do it yourself, there are options … your hosting company may have all the modules or widgets and mechanisms for you to manipulate your site’s content and offerings (called a Content Management System, or CMS), or you can learn to use a desktop software program such as Dreamweaver or a web-based application such as WordPress.
- Be a good host. From the moment visitors land on your site, they should be easily led through its pages to the intended conclusion … whether that’s signing up for your newsletter, making a call or setting up an appointment. So, when you are creating pages and adding links, put yourself in the minds of your visitors. Tell them how you can help and then tell them how to contact you for that help.
- Content will always be king. Sprinkle words in your web copy that those who are trying to find you will put into Google or other search engines. (For a simple example, you may practice “trusts and estates” but potential clients are likely searching for “wills”). Write about how you help your clients, not about the tools or processes you use to do it.
- Be perfectly clear. Use language that speaks to your audience, have clear and easy-to-follow navigation, include professional head shots of firm personnel and prominently post the firm’s location.
- Get an editor. You will need professionally edited text that has been proofread by someone other than you. Make sure that all links and pages are tested from an “outside” computer, making any errors apparent. By this I mean a computer that was not involved with drafting or loading the content, so nothing is stored in the cache memory.
- Trash the Flash. Steer clear of Flash intros, large picture or audio files or anything that slows load time. If you have to put a “Skip This” somewhere on the page, just skip it altogether. Flash intros not only cause lengthy load times, they can disrupt search engines from properly spidering your website. You have less than seven seconds to capture a site visitor’s interest so don’t waste it on anything unnecessary.
- Be easy to reach. For SEO purposes it doesn’t hurt to publish a Google Map on your contact page. Statistically speaking, you will get more contacts if you also list an e-mail address on your landing pages and home page. However, to avoid spam, use a generic address, such as “contact” or “info” @yourdomain.com.
- Refresh regularly. You want to make sure that you add fresh content to your website on a regular basis—two to three times per seven- to ten-day period. Some painless content can be found by listing partner speaking engagements, publishing articles written by associates or including the latest issue of the firm’s newsletter.
Andrea Cannavina is President/CEO of LegalTypist, Inc., and helps sole practitioners, law firms and companies that service the legal industry upgrade their business processes to digital in order to get more done with less—less employees, less equipment and less stress!
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- Nine Questions to Ask About Your Website by Deborah McMurray
- Deconstruct Your Competitors’ Websites by Steve Matthews
- How to Behave in an Online World by Andrea Cannavina
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