With online businesses becoming more and more popular, it is more important than ever to have a plan when bringing your law firm into the online sector of the market. Most people usually think that the hardest part of creating an online business is the site-building and hosting process, but the real work starts long before you even get your website online for viewers to see. There are a variety of legal marketing strategies to keep in mind, as well as a faux pas to avoid as early as the planning stages for your website. Here are five of the most common and most detrimental mistakes people make when transitioning their business to the web.
A Lack of Research
The biggest mistake beginners tend to make when building a website is that they don’t do proper research on both the focus of their site, as well as on the competition. When making an online business in general, finding a niche topic that has a potential interest is key. While this mostly relates to subscription or ad-based sites that draw in revenue per click or subscription, many of the basic principles can apply to your law firm’s website.
Finding a niche approach or direction for your site can help increase your odds of being discovered organically online. On the flip side, you also don’t want something that’s completely over-saturated to the point where you’re doomed from the start. Finding a creative spin on how you advertise your firm and landing in that sweet spot between totally obscure and overly saturated is key.
Poor Quality Content
This is a big issue for almost any site, regardless of model or purpose. Many sites just use SEO services to find keywords and then just cram their content full of them with little regard for the actual content quality. This results in a barely readable mess that, while it might get the initial click, won’t retain customers, and actually drive them away pretty quickly. If you were just looking for clicks, this technique might have been fine in the past.
Unfortunately, Google and other search engines have started picking up on these shady digital marketing practices. Google’s Panda update has completely revised portions of their search engine to target such pages and drop them back down to the bottom of the search results list, promoting quality content that people actually would want to read. With that in mind, plan out your content, and put as many keywords in as you can get naturally in the article. Once the keywords start getting in the way of readability, you’ve overdone it.
While overstuffing your pages and creating duplicate pages just for more keywords is definitely a bad thing, that’s not to say you should ignore page optimization altogether. The key is to find a happy medium between keywords and readability. Using keyword search and SEO service tools, find the keywords that best fit your content, and use only the ones you can fit naturally into said content. For example, if you specialize in criminal law, don’t try to stuff the words criminal and law into every available opening on your main page.
It will make the content clunky to read, and at the same time come off as obvious keyword stuffing. Just mention criminal law in key places where it makes sense to emphasize it, such as when introducing your firm and your services. Doing this will ensure you have quality content while still maintaining enough keywords to keep your listing high on the search engines.
Using more keywords that are geared towards your target audience is also a great way to get traffic from people who are looking for specific content. Getting viewers like these is more likely to result in repeat visitors, as they already have an interest in your content, and if the content you provide is of high quality, they are more likely to have a positive experience and either look at other articles on your site or bookmark it to explore later.
While SEO and keywords can take some time to build traction in terms of increasing hits, and it can take a lot of effort to cater your site to Google’s new standards, but the payoff is cost-effective marketing and visibility through achieving pole positions on Google SERP.
Start a Law Blog
While having a website is a great way to let people know about your firm and the services you offer, setting up a law category blog is a great way to demonstrate your expertise. While you’ll want to avoid blogging about specific cases you are working on so as not to break confidentiality and client privilege, commenting on major cases in current events, as well as general law topics such as things to keep in mind or checklists for what to do in certain legal situations (such as steps to take in a divorce, how to best respond to a civil lawsuit, auto insurance law, etc.) is perfectly fine.
The rewards of setting up a law blog are multifaceted. First, as stated before, it lets you demonstrate your expertise in your field, proving that your firm is a solid investment for customers looking for legal aid. Second, blogs allow for open discussion, allowing you to answer questions directly and give general legal advice where possible to readers of your blog. The final benefit, though not as beneficial to the firm and customer growth, is that you can garner an income based on ads run on the blog itself.
When it comes to topics, stick to what you know best, as well as what you find most interesting. For example, if you are an injury and liability attorney who primarily handles auto accident cases and the like, consider writing an article that breaks down liability law into layman’s terms. This will provide your potential clients as well as anyone with a general interest in liability law the groundwork they need to assess whether or not they even have a valid case before coming in for a consultation.
This also means less time spent with clients who refuse to believe they have no case for one reason or another. You’ll still get a few who can’t be reasoned with, but having an article that clearly explains the nuances of liability laws in your state will cut down on those cases considerably. The same kind of article can be written for most disciplines of law, breaking down the basic foundations of building a case and when the best time to get a lawyer involved would be.
Lazy Visual Design
The last piece of the puzzle is how your site actually looks, and the first impressions users get from using your website. One big mistake people make starting out is thinking that being original means shattering the mold when it comes to conventional design standards and concepts. While it’s okay to experiment a little bit, adding a slightly unique twist to make your website engaging, you should try to stick within the fundamental rules of web design.
Have a logo in the header of each page that links back to your homepage, put the navigation bar along the left side column or along the bottom of the page header, and keep your design simple and streamlined. The last thing you want is your page to be so flooded with images and clip art that it ends up looking like those old Geocities pages from back in the mid-90s. On the topic of images, it’s also good to have a solid legal marketing strategy when it comes to assets and site design.
Just because it pops up in a Google image search doesn’t mean it’s free to use. If you use a lot of visual elements such as product photos or stock imagery, consider either contracting a photographer for product photos or purchasing an account for a stock image website where you can purchase images for use. The last thing you want is to be hit with a copyright lawsuit for using images you didn’t know weren’t royalty-free. This mistake is especially embarrassing considering you’re likely advertising your law firm, so you’ll likely take a bit of a blow to your reputation on top of all those fines and legal fees from the DMCA and copyright suits.
While these tips give a general idea of what pitfalls to avoid when bringing your business to the online sector, they only scratch the tip of the iceberg. If you’re just starting out, do some research on SEO services and optimization, Google’s Panda updates, along with some basic web design principles before you even start working on your site digitally. Work out a basic theme on paper, including a brief content map with the different content ideas you are interested in, and a rough layout of a page draft and web map going over the core pages that will make up the framework of your website. Once that’s done, start your research, and after you have a marketing strategy and focus points for your content, begin site-building.