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By: Joseph Bryant
As an SEO expert and freelance web creator, I am often asked by attorneys, “Why can’t I find myself on Google?” or the dreaded question from attorney turned web designer, “What do you think of my site?” It would be better that I not name any law firms in particular and hope they just take some recommendations.
1. Make a website – Many lawyers still do not have a website. Considering that you can have a very simple page at less than $100 per year, there is simply no excuse unless you are planning your retirement. YellowPages are out and Google is in. A number of surveys show that lawyers get business primarily in three ways: (1) by reputation, (2) by referral, (3) from the web. All other sources are a teency tincy (my 4 yo’s words) portion of your business.
(a) A website can toot your own horn 24/7 and share your reputation. Other people can shout your name through the clouds, the Internet Cloud that is. If you have a website they can refer others to it. If I have a lawyer recommendation that I want to post on Twitter and I am limited to only 140 characters, it would be best to send people to a website than figure out a way to shine a light in a 2 inch square.
(b) If you do not have a website, your referral sources can’t use the 2nd best tool for getting you business (1st Best Tool coming soon). Imagine how nice it would be to have a marketing sales force functioning 24/7… that is your website. Your referral network can send their family, friends, and clients directly to your website. Visiting a site referred by a trusted source helps to sell the firm to the one in need of a lawyer.
(c) Many more people with no previous experience with a lawyer are relying on the web to find an attorney. Get ready to close your eyes and relax after you read the question…A storm has just gone through and the wind knocked a tree branch down on top of your electrical box on the side of your house and you need an electrician NOW. Which search engine do you use to find one? Notice I didn’t ask if you were using the web? Studies show that most people are using the web to search for vendors. Right now, Google has 95% of the market share for searches done through a smart phone. From the desktop, Google has 67%, Yahoo has 15%, AOL has about 3%. Remember that.
2. Get a Google + Local Page (previously known as Google Place Page) – You just read the numbers, did you know most people calling from a list go right from the listings that pop up from Google’s Place Pages? Did you know clients can review you and leave recommendations there? So your two step process is: (a) get the Google Place Page, (b) send your favorite clients an email letting them know you have one now and that you would really appreciate their comments left on your new Google place page.
3. Update the lawyer listings. Martindale-Hubbell, www.Lawyers.com , www.IndyBar.com , www.attorneylocate.com , www.superlawyers.com , www.helplinelaw.com , www.superpages.com , Indianapolis.lawinfo.com , www.findlaw.com , www.lawyer.com , Indiana.statelawyers.com all have something in common… they are on the first page of Google when looking for lawyers in Indianapolis (and elsewhere). Many of those sites are free to join or you are likely already a member through bar membership.
4. Contact your friends, family, and business contacts that have websites and ask if you can be linked on to their site in an appropriate way.
5. Do you use LinkedIn? You should be doing that anyway so make sure you add your website listing there too, along with any other social media sites you may use like FaceBook or Twitter, but also in reverse. Make sure the firm’s website lists the LinkedIn profiles of the attorneys in the firm.
6. Hire a professional to review the design on the site. Most of the time, they are not expensive until they start to build a site or worse, try to fix a bad website. Check the design though for ease of navigation, and type styles and sizes. Are you using more than 3 Fonts? Shame on you. Do you have animated GIF files on your site? Flog yourself if you do. It should be clean and most of all – simple. What color scheme are you using? Does it look dated? That can happen really quickly.
7. Start a blog on the site. The major search engines look at websites that are “fresh” with new content and ranks them more favorably. Those blog posts should have the same words mixed up in it as one would use to find your firm in a search engine. A blog DOES NOT need to provide legal advice. Often what attract others are the horror/success stories, NOT RANTS. No one wants to hear you complain. Tell a story about a terrible situation a client was in and how you helped them turn the problem around. I do tax so an example might be about a new client that you are helping because the CPA that did the return had a typo from entering a W2 and now that it is being amended, you will be getting them back an extra $1500 in their refund… or… a client with children was paying a private sitter to watch the children at home because of a special need, but not medically required, she just didn’t trust the day care, but because it wasn’t a daycare, she did not know she could claim the expenses for the child care credit so I was able to find her an extra $600.
8. Put your website address on all the papers that leave the office. Put it on the business cards. Put it on the paralegal’s business cards. WHAT? The paralegal doesn’t have business cards. Shame on you. Put it on your invoices. Every advertisement should have it too.
9. When designing the website, it must be functional in its purpose. It isn’t to boost your ego. It is a tool to get clients in the door and to keep them informed. I know I said it needed to be simple, but that did not mean empty so one of the most important pieces… make sure there is a phone number they can call to reach the office in a conspicuous spot on the page. Do not make them hunt for a way to contact you.
10. Add Google Analytics to the site and assign a person to track it and report monthly. You need to figure out who is getting to the site, when they are getting there, and how often. Are you getting most of your traffic right before the office opens? Are you getting it right at the end of the day? Lunch time? Would it be wise to stagger staff hours, so some come in at 8am and others at 9am, leaving at 4:30 and 5:30, respectively? Will it make a difference? If you do international work with China, do you need to keep a person at the office over night? Seeing the change in analytics over time also lets you know if you are reaching clients with your website. Are you getting an increase in traffic? Is it slowing down? Do you need to redesign it and keep it fresh? Are people reading your blog? Does the content of the blog need to change?
Joseph Bryant is the current Technology Director of the Indiana Paralegal Association, the Director of Marketing for the Madison County Young Professionals Group, and webmaster and designer of websites for 4 law firms and a bar association. In addition to working for a couple attorneys on contract and doing Domestic Relations Mediation, he also works seasonally at H&R Block preparing tax returns, providing audit assistance, and briefing attorneys on how taxation may affect a client’s case. You can connect with Joseph Bryant at http://www.linkedin.com/in/taxprojoe
A special thanks to Joe for sharing these terrific tips regarding firm websites with us.
We’ll see you on that coveted, paralegal holiday otherwise known as “Friday,” TPSers. Until then, may you manage the multitude of crises that come your way like a stealth, crisis-diffusing ninja! Like Robert Frost said: “The best way out is always through.”
You = through
We’ll see you next time!