What are you trying to accomplish with your law firm website? Step back for a minute and think about your goals. Your first impression might be that your website’s purpose is much different from that of an online retailer, news source or product manufacturer.
Stop and think about it a bit more closely and you might realize that a law firm’s online goals aren’t so different.
Google identifies five business objectives for websites:
- Selling products or services.
- Collecting contact information for potential leads.
- Encouraging engagement and frequent visitation.
- Providing information users need.
- Driving engagement, awareness and loyalty.
I would argue that every one of those objectives applies to law firm websites. Once you recognize that reality, you can build a stronger online campaign.
Let’s take a look at each objective, and how each one fits with thoughtful and productive legal Web marketing.
1. Selling products or services.
Google lists this as a primary objective for ecommerce websites. Although most law firms don’t use their websites to “sell” in the same sense as Amazon or other online retailers, a website is an important vehicle for delivering the firm’s marketing message.
A well-developed law firm website allows the firm to tell its story and inform potential clients about why they should choose it over the competition. Case results, attorney bios, firm ratings and credentials, authoritative content, videos and professional photography are but a few of the elements that can “sell” a firm online.
There is no “add to cart” button on a law firm’s website, but that doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity to land a client online. An effective legal website leads the potential client down the path of “conversion,” which simply means contacting the firm. That may happen in any of several ways, such as through an online chat, submitting a contact form or most commonly calling the firm’s phone number included on the site.
2. Collecting contact information for potential leads.
Since potential clients can’t “buy now” on an attorney’s website, lead generation really is the site’s purpose. Successful Web campaigns are designed to drive the right type of prospective client to the firm’s site, and get them to connect with the firm.
Relevant and accessible content, smart use of pay-per-click advertising, social media interaction, an intuitive user experience and intelligent design are among the factors that can help drive qualified leads across your online threshold.
Once a potential client has reached out to the firm, it is crucial that firms have an effective intake system to follow up with leads and prevent them from wandering off (or worse, running) to the competition.
3. Encouraging engagement and frequent visitation.
Google cites this as an important objective for content publishers – in other words, news outlets. You’ve never considered your law firm as a part of the media? You should if you want to get the most out of your online marketing dollars.
Providing relevant and engaging information about your practice areas and topics of interest to your potential clients through creative blog posts, social media interaction, infographics and other avenues is critical for cultivating relationships with folks who could provide you with your next big case.
Publishing a fresh stream of stimulating content can also build your site’s credibility with Google and other search engines, making your site (and your firm) more visible on the Web. That will deliver more leads and allow you to sign more cases.
4. Providing information users need.
One of the main reasons people search the Internet is to find answers to help them with a problem. Some of these problems are not very dire – searching Google to find a good cup of coffee in a new city, for example. Others – such as questions about a legal matter – deal with crucial life decisions.
Although a law firm’s website typically can’t solve a person’s individual legal problem, well-drafted content can provide the information the person needs to get a better grasp of his or her situation. It can also help users understand why it is critical for them to get help from an attorney who can provide the counsel they need.
A page on a firm’s site might discuss mistakes that claimants make when seeking workers’ compensation benefits. The page would deliver important information to the potential client, while simultaneously highlighting why consulting with a lawyer is crucial for avoiding common pitfalls. Conversion may take several weeks, but you can bet that the attorney’s site that genuinely helped a potential client is the one he or she will return to when it is time to make a hiring decision.
5. Driving engagement, awareness and loyalty.
This objective focuses on what could succinctly be called “branding.” A firm’s website and social media engagement are powerful tools for cultivating and communicating the firm’s image, often working with the firm’s other marketing efforts.
A firm should use its online presence to highlight its involvement in the community, including involvement in charitable organizations and efforts to improve the lives of the public it serves. It can also show how the firm takes direct action to help community members, for example by sponsoring a scholarship competition.
Intelligent use of social media, blogs and other online resources also give the firm an opportunity to show its face to the public. Photos, videos, blog articles, eblasts and newsletters can provide a glimpse of the people who make up the firm – the people clients will closely work with on their cases. These forms of communication can also strengthen connections with former clients who can provide referrals and repeat business.
Author’s Note: I, along with fellow members of Consultwebs’ Content Team, recently passed the Google Analytics Individual Qualification exam and received Analytics Certification. During preparation for the exam, the team discussed the five business objectives for websites – a topic that Google set out in its training materials.