Ever wonder why some law-firm websites bring in a steady stream of qualified prospective clients while others, maybe yours, sit on the sidelines? Any lawyer who has run even a few searches on Google realizes that visibility on the Net, generally speaking, has little to do with the competence or reputation of the attorneys at the firm.
What, then, can you do to increase your presence online, attract more traffic, and convert more visitors into paying clients? For starters, I would focus on these three areas:
1. Have a Plan and a Focus; Don’t Be Everything to All People.
Remember Marshall Fields, the once fabled department store, stuffed with Frango Mints, electronics, men’s suits and a variety of restaurants, among other offerings? Now we purchase our chocolate from Godiva, our computers from Apple, our suits from Brooks Brothers and our meals from an ever-increasing variety of ethnic and themed restaurants. Consumers demand specialty stores with a wider selection, more knowledgeable staff, and a more customized solution. The same principal holds true in the legal market place. The severely injured patient / victim, for example, is more apt to call a firm that concentrates on medical malpractice than one who also advertises for family law, civil litigation, and criminal matters. That doesn’t mean you can’t accept other matters, but when it comes to advertising and websites, in particular, the fewer the practice areas, the easier and more effective it is to market.
2. Give Away Your Secrets.
Clients hire you as much for your judgment as for your knowledge and wisdom. Don’t worry about giving away your secrets; there isn’t anything you know that isn’t on already on the web in some form. Google directs traffic to sites that provide the most relevant, timely answers available. Why would Google send a truck accident victim to your general motor vehicle page when your competitor has a responsive blog post comparing and contrasting employer and lease liability? If only you and your mother know how smart you are, it will be difficult to persuade others to knock on your door. As a general rule on the Internet (and life?), the more generous you are with your time and ideas, the more interested you are in genuinely helping people with their problems, the better your will perform on Google. Most lawyers find this concept totally foreign believing that if they share their secrets publicly, no one will pay for them. Exactly the opposite is true. Prospective clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
3. Connect with Others, On and Off the Web.
One of the most important factors in how well your website ranks is the extent to which other reputable sites link to your site. For example, if your firm is listed in a respected online legal directory, such as hg.org (full disclosure: I am a reseller), there will be a link from their site to yours. Those links, taken in aggregate, play a significant role in determining how much authority Google vests in your site and, ultimately, how well you rank in the search engines. How do you convince other sites to link to yours? Become active in the real world. For example, I have participated in my law’s school’s career days, giving lectures and sitting on panels. Unbeknownst to me, Chicago Kent advertised those events on their website and linked to Market JD, my company website.
Creating an online presence that attracts the prospective clients you most want isn’t simply about a pretty design, clean code, and regular updates. Every bit as important is a focused message, substantive content that addresses your prospects’ needs, and community engagement.