The process of building and managing websites continues to change rapidly with new technologies and enhanced visitor expectations. Interned users increasingly demand to be served fast, relevant, and informative pages about any subject, on any device, at any time. If you are involved in managing or marketing your law firm’s website, you are likely aware that having a static brochure site, however professional it may look, is no longer enough to compete for attention from either search engines or visitors.
Mark Schaefer coined the term “content shock” in reference to the steady upward trend of online content creation and consumption. Schaefer believes that marketers “have been lulled into a false sense of security” thinking that internet users will continue to consume more and more content as more becomes available. Given the volume of production, he argues, a continued rise in consumption is simply not possible.
Data compiled by Smart Insights reveals the staggering amount of content introduced online every minute. In a mere 60 seconds, 3.3 million Facebook posts, 448,800 Tweets, and 1440 WordPress posts are published worldwide. According to WordPress.com, over 80 million blog posts and 9 million pages were published in August on their platform and on externally-hosted sites that have the Jetpack plugin installed.
Studies by Moz and Buzzsumo tell a disappointing story about how much attention all of this content receives. Approximately 75% of all blog posts get fewer than 10 social shares and earn no inbound links from external domains.
The response to these sobering statistics must be to start doing things a little bit differently. Make sure your website covers the basics, like having a phone number clearly visible on every page and being mobile-friendly. Then turn your attention to the little things other firms might be ignoring. Put effort into controlling the details that will turn your law firm’s website into a genuine business-building tool. Below are five steps you can take to help avoid missed opportunities with your website.
1. Offer a Robust Search
Many law firm websites squander opportunities to engage visitors because they have a search with poor functionality, or they have no search at all. Visitors who do not immediately see what they need in your content or navigation will not necessarily be lost if they have easy access to a functional search, instead.
Offering visitors the ability to search your website is a basic requirement. To take full advantage of your chance to acquire a client, beef up your search with predictive and suggestive search.
You likely engage with predictive and suggestive search on a daily basis. Predictive searches display a list of suggested keywords and phrases as the user types, as made famous by Google. Suggestive search will propose alternative search terms if a word within the visitor’s query is misspelled. Both predictive and selective search help prevent visitors from reaching a dead end and abandoning your site.
Predictive search can also help point visitors to pages they find useful but may not know to search for. For example, almost all attorney websites categorize content based on a list of practice areas. Practice area naming is fairly standard within the legal industry, but not all prospective clients are in on the lingo. A site with predictive search will be able to suggest the correct term regardless of the visitor’s level of knowledge.
2. Treat Your Website as a Lead Generation Tool
A website may serve many professional functions, like increasing brand awareness or building trust and authority, but underlying these activities is one core objective: to help bring in new clients.
With this philosophy in mind, you can pull design, content, and technology together to generate interest and nurture leads. This creates a marketing ecosystem that engages and tracks prospects who are at varying stages in the hiring decision, offering the best chance of turning them into clients.
A lead-generating website will provide multiple ways to appeal to visitors, and it will test and adjust each method as necessary. For example, your website should provide a hierarchy of calls to action (CTAs). This includes a clearly defined primary CTA, usually an invitation to contact the firm, as well as secondary actions like targeted forms for free downloads or seminar registrations. It should also keep visitors interested and on your site by suggesting related content as they read.
A lead-generating website will also employ a variety of techniques for attracting visitors, from pay-per-click to remarketing to organic SEO. For many law firms, less than half of all traffic will come from the home page. Therefore, secondary pages, especially key practice areas and attorney bio pages, should each be treated as landing pages, written for a distinct audience and built for conversion.
3. Test Website Personalization
E-commerce platforms like Amazon have made personalization an art form. You are greeted by name as you enter the site and served suggestions based on your history and preferences. Increasingly, the content you see on websites and in search results is unique to you; others’ experiences with the same sites will be different.
Internet users are coming to expect such personalization, and it is possible for attorney websites to display personalized content. The version of a page a visitor sees can be based on any number of data points, from location to time to referring url to landing page. If the data exists, it can be harnessed. Some personalization solutions use real machine learning to find patterns in visitor behavior and predict what content will be most appealing to specific types of visitors. Others allow you to create categories and display content based on basic if-then statements.
Personalization offers detailed control over visitor targeting and has the potential of truly changing the way law firms think about websites.
4. Regularly Perform Technical Check-Ups
It is a tragedy for a simple technical error to cause abandoned web pages and lost leads. And yet it happens every day.
A variety of things can cause unexpected website errors. If you are using WordPress or another content management system, automatic core and plugin updates can cause conflicts that, at their most benign, throw off page formatting, and at their worst, prevent pages from functioning at all. Additionally, pages may come to contain broken links because third-party content has moved or been removed, or if you have deleted or combined pages on your own site.
All this is to be expected; no website structure is static. However, broken links and error messages erode user trust and provide a poor experience. Review you links regularly, and when you discover broken links, remove them or redirect them to relevant content. Test forms to be sure they are sending emails to the correct people—and that they are sending at all. Be sure all required fields are clearly delineated, and that error messages for incorrectly entered information are obvious and instructions for fixing the error are easy to follow.
5. Increase Reach with Email Automation
Email marketing may not be new or glamorous, but it has a history of positive outcomes. Email can be used to reach very specific segments of people and can be set to send automatically based on a person’s actions.
You can use automation at its most basic to send newsletters based on your posting activity. You could send an email every time you posted a certain number of blog entries, for example, or you can set a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly email to send whatever posts are available.
An email drip campaign is a more advanced form of automation. A drip campaign will send a series of emails, or drips, with progressive messages focused on specific user interests. For example, if someone downloads an ebook, a drip campaign can be set to send emails relevant to the book’s subject to that person at regular intervals. This will keep your firm in contact with an individual who has expressed interest in a service and could be a potential lead.
Drip campaigns can be set for a variety of actions and can be as granular as you would like. You could, for example, set a drip campaign to send to people who click on a specific link from within an email. And you can set drip campaigns for existing or former clients to prompt them to write a review for your firm.
Whether you choose to use drip campaigns, social media, pay-per-click or traditional press releases, always promote your content. You are putting time and effort into creating and maintaining an up-to-date website, and it will sit sadly unvisited otherwise.
More and better content alone is not the winning equation. Good content must be found by the right people. One blog post that gets 5,000 readers is more helpful to you than 500 blog posts that get one reader. Set your website up for success with a solid technical foundation, then make sure your clients know how to find it.