December 2009 • Vol. 29 No. 11 | An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association

Web Site Basics: From Design to Content

By Debra Regan, vice president at LexisNexis, part of the Lawyers.Com and Martindale-Hubbell networks since 1999. She can be reached at debra.regan@lexisnexis.com.

Publishing a Web site for your law firm should be a fundamental building block of your business development efforts regardless of the size of your firm. You need a professionally designed site that is built properly so that search engines can find you, and fresh content for establishing an effective Web presence so that prospective clients and search engines will continue to notice you.

1. Don’t think small just because your firm is. A professionally designed Web site will give your practice a leg up on the competition. According to a 2008 Harris Interactive study, 32 percent of solo attorneys and 20 percent of firms with two-to-five attorneys did not even have a Web site, let alone one that exemplifies the quality and user-friendliness of a professionally developed site. This is your opportunity to separate yourself from the “little guys.”

2. Research Web designers’ work. It’s so simple to visit sites by a potential designer. Check navigation, layout, content flow, and first impression. Ask what percentage of the site was designed by the client and how much control the designer had in developing the end product. A designer’s length of time in business suggests a proven track record, which may come with a higher price tag.

3. Make your site search-engine friendly. Besides people, search engine crawlers will also visit your site and spider the pages to add them to their indexes. Make it easy for the crawlers to understand your site structure by including a site map XML file. Be sure you have described each page using title tags and keyword/description meta tags. This is a simple way to let the search engines know what each page is about.

4. Content is king. Nowhere is this statement more critical than when writing for the Web. A poorly written Web site equals few leads and little return on investment. Hire a good writer with a sense for Web copy who can also communicate what you’d like said about your firm. According to a 2009 survey by the Consumer Attorneys of California, online content is the most widely used media form during the legal research process.

5. Speak to your audience. Remember, potential clients did not attend law school, so don’t confuse them with legal jargon. Posting content in plain language and using keywords related to your area of practice will make a Web site more memorable and help increase search engine rankings.

6. Showcase legal expertise. Highlight partners’ expertise, including Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review ratings, certifications, credentials, and degrees. Always communicate the fact that you are familiar with local court procedures. Showcase specific areas of practice. Where possible, add online testimonials from happy clients that focus on their positive assessments of your ability to listen, to communicate, and to guide them through difficult times.

7. Online video offers a glimpse into your personality. A surefire way to generate more leads is to add a video “welcome” to your Web site. When people can actually listen to lawyers’ speaking about their passion for the practice of law, it helps form a lasting impression. According to recent LexisNexis analysis, lawyers’ Web sites have a 60 percent higher click-through rate from directories when they contain an online video.

8. Keep it easy for people to reach you. Your phone number, and preferably a toll-free phone number, should be prominent on the home page and close to the top of the screen so that viewers don’t have to scroll down to find contact information. You should also include a simple e-mail form for prospective clients to fill out in case it is not convenient to make a phone call.

9. Encourage interaction. Consider adding links to published articles or invitations to attend a community event and meet law firm partners. Ask people to sign your guest book or register for your newsletter. This way, you collect names to build a database that can be used in future lead generation. When you give people a reason to return to your site, you engage them.

10. Keep it fresh. Just because your site is off and running, this doesn’t mean your work is done. Search engines look for sites with frequently updated content, so keep the articles and news updates coming. Posting online press releases is a great way to maximize brand presence on both search engines and in major news outlets such as Google News. While weekly updates are ideal, monthly updates are sufficient to keep your site search-engine relevant.

For more than 10 years, LexisNexis, as a trusted brand, has delivered a full suite of online marketing services to lawyers. The in-house LexisNexis “agency” is staffed with search marketing, pay-per-click, video, and Web design experts along with a full team of Web developers with key industry certifications. For more information, visit www.lexisnexis.com/lmc. 




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