The cost of creating a sophisticated website for a top firm is frequently in the $500,000-$1 million range. This is a significant investment and, like all similar capital expenditures, should be maintained and supported for maximum value throughout the website’s effective lifetime. Firms are advised to budget about 30 to 40 percent of their investment for annual maintenance and website enhancements.
Yet digital marketing experiences in the legal sector are often constructed and then left to wallow until just before the point of irrelevance, sometimes followed by a rush to resuscitate and revive the user experience before all value is lost. Often, such efforts are too little, too late.
Clients and prospects frequently visit your website to evaluate your services to build up their understanding of your attorneys, your firm’s experience, and your value. When they do, they are engaging with your firm’s brand online. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your firm’s sophistication by providing visitors with an online user experience that evokes the expertise and service offerings that your attorneys provide their clients.
Completely rebuilding your firm’s online presence after letting it age into oblivion has a significant impact on internal team resources and budgets. The pace of change at most law firms doesn’t match the rate at which web technology and digital marketing tools advance, and large-budget projects often demand complicated political navigation through the approval process.
As today’s leading technology products prove, the most successful digital experiences are the result of ongoing iterative development and refinement — an evolutionary, not revolutionary, process.
Continuous improvement is also the best way to ensure that your firm employs modern web development technologies and avoids extensive (and expensive) rebuilds.
If It Isn’t Broke, Don’t Replace It — Improve It
Not every firm needs the most technologically advanced website, but every firm does need a site that looks and feels contemporary, works effectively and efficiently, and conveys sophistication and expertise. An aging site relays none of this and gives clients and prospects a negative, if invalid, perspective of the firm.
As vendors phase out technologies, firms are under extreme pressure to replace or kill systems, and this costly, resource-intensive cycle continues. Replacing a firm’s entire site fails to leverage the knowledge and experience that a firm’s marketing team gained while creating the prior version of the site.
Contrast this with fast, continuous improvement of site systems and software, which ensures that your websites, proposal generators, and digital marketing experiences stay on the cutting edge and deliver maximum value for your firm.
A client of mine, Winston & Strawn, is a terrific example of a large law firm committed to iterative development of its website to ensure that it remains elegant, relevant, and user-friendly. Its current website launched several years ago but, through continuous development, has remained on the cutting edge of both technology and content development.
Winston & Strawn’s continuous improvement of its site includes significant search optimization and the recent incorporation of an extensive video gallery showcasing content about the firm, its attorneys, and its approach to the practice of law. All these enhancements are made with an eye toward increased client engagement while using visitor traffic analytics to help drive content development decisions.
Following an iterative process similar to the modern agile development protocol is critical for marketing leaders looking to maximize budgets and value for their firms.
Keep It Fresh to Impress
Some typical mistakes firms make when updating a site include failing to think about the long-term needs of the website, attempting unnecessarily to rewrite marketing content that took years to accumulate, and — perhaps most important — neglecting to consistently model the site with clients in mind.
While these missteps are common, the rewards of iteratively updating a site far outweigh the risks. Here are five ways to ensure you are continuously enhancing the value of your firm’s website:
- Integrate fully with Google Analytics: To ensure accurate data tracking, your firm should have teams dedicated to website analytics review and search optimization. Sites that were created using outdated web development technologies don’t always support today’s search engine optimization requirements. Invalid coding, a lack of mobile functionality, or meaningless URLs that are unfriendly to SEO won’t allow a firm to amplify its online presence or track client engagement with its site.
- Ace Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test: Make sure your site is mobile-friendly by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to determine where improvements are needed. The tool gives your site either a green or red light. If your firm’s site is already compatible with mobile, just a bit of fine-tuning could bring it up to Google’s standards. Website enhancement initiatives help you update site features and functionality for new web browsers, mobile devices, and screen sizes. Concentrating your efforts on optimizing for mobile in just a few places — such as the home and contact pages of your site — would be a quick win.
- Deploy video content across all platforms and browsers: Enhance video content delivery on your site by replacing old Flash-based web features with modern HTML5-based solutions. To further serve your clients and prospects, introduce new website sections and features, such as a video gallery, attorney bio videos, a portal for firm alumni, or industry-focused tools, databases, and calculators. For optimal efficacy, ensure you have tracking set up to view analytics on how your users interact with video and other tools on your site.
- Provide social media content and meta information: Ensure your website provides appropriate meta information for optimal sharing on social media networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This allows visitors to share your content with optimized titles, headlines, and images.
- Provide visitors with an effective and efficient search function: Start by categorizing your content. Key searchable features about attorneys, recent legal matters, and blog posts should be treated as distinct attributes in search engine results. Help users find attorneys by name, specialty, clerkships, office, or language (to name a few) by publishing these specific fields. Or simply allow for keyword searches by type of content. Consider including alternate search terms (e.g., clients may search for “David Jones” or “Dave Jones”) and making adaptations to accommodate multiple languages.
Although the constant upkeep of an active firm’s heavily trafficked website might seem like a staggering task, doing your due diligence regularly can really pay off.
Small Steps Lead to Big Rewards
One of the easiest ways to effectively rework your firm’s website is to make sure that the site’s content is truly up-to-date. While this might sound simple, it’s an extremely important step to ensure that the website accurately reflects the firm and its accomplishments. Key to this is having an easy-to-use, user-friendly content management system to support your content marketing needs.
This includes detailing recent key cases won and deals made by the firm, making sure attorney bios are current and highlight qualities that would appeal to prospective clients, and consistently updating attorney photos so clients can recognize them when they walk into the office (and so your biography page doesn’t look like a high school yearbook).
Considering the hefty investment needed to create a brand-new website, dedicating the time and resources required to consistently rework a site should play an important part in every firm’s overall marketing efforts.