how current awareness can improve your website

Never underestimate the importance of your firm's website

October 20, 2020
Clare Brown

Premium content aggregator sites like Vable are a great current awareness tool for library and information professionals. However the unprecedented challenges presented by 2020 have required business development teams to revisit their firm’s strategy. Is it possible that content aggregation could also play a part in the ongoing success of your firm?

Content is undoubtedly king. But content without an engaged readership is a waste of time and effort. When your firm’s experts spend time creating valuable original content, it must be read and shared to make the desired impact. In this post, I want to demonstrate why websites are important, what makes a good site, and why you should create content with your audience in mind. 

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What is the current state of business development play?

Business development and client nurturing initiatives such as face-to-face networking events, breakfast round-tables, working lunches, and other in-person meetings are currently out of the question. So how are lawyers managing? Thomson Reuters Acritas surveyed around 800 lawyers about how they were successfully maintaining relationships in the face of these changes. 

Their survey revealed many success stories. Lawyers are flexible and resourceful and remain keen to assist clients in this difficult time. They mention initiatives which seem in line with what they were already doing; tailored advice, regular webinars for small groups, curated email newsletters, and client-lawyer collaborations. 

Lex Mundi’s recent experience of creating closer networks has also been a success story. Using Vable’s news monitoring and aggregation platform, members can search across thousands of relevant articles in real-time. They can identify experts in other jurisdictions and create lasting partnerships - on a firm-wide or individual level. 

Bringing people together is key to business development. However the main difference this year has been the scale of networking. Although some webinars have had hundreds of attendees, a simple video chat is better with fewer people; it’s more personal and less exhausting. This enforced change in communication methods is an opportunity for lawyers to rethink and embrace new ways of engaging with existing clients. 

But what about making contact with potential clients?

Law firm websites have never been more important

A recent survey highlighted the importance of having an online presence. Martindale-Arvo said “the majority of legal consumers start their hiring research using either a search engine (36%) or a recommendation from a friend or family (26%). For most, this then takes them to online review/directory sites (29%) to find out more, or to the actual attorney/ firm website (19%).”

The process outlined above makes clear that your website is everything. When you are thinking about your firm’s site, how would it make a visitor feel? Does it reflect the personality of your firm and really speak to the clients that need you? More importantly, does it have the speed and technology to impress and delight visitors? 

If you are looking for inspiration, take a look at sites created by your competitors. Do they meet the criteria of some of these best legal websites? I’ve enjoyed looking through a selection and have highlighted some key points below. Here is an example of a site which ticks many best practice boxes.

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An example of a good law firm website

When you land on this well designed website it anticipates why you might visit with three eye-catching calls-to-action. These CTAs want to keep you on the site and build a rapport with the visitor.

  • You need help now! - Ask for a free consultation
  • You are researching firms - Check out their cases/reviews
  • You are worried about COVID-19  - Visit their page to find reassurance

They start with links to their Google reviews. Keep scrolling and you are presented with a video - which doesn’t start automatically (thank goodness). If you click to play it, it is a calm, professional address by the senior partner. Further scrolling shows you their practice areas, as well as further opportunities to get in touch. Although they don’t have a blog, they are a treasure trove of FAQs/forms/procedure to demonstrate their expertise. 

I ran this site through a search engine optimisation (SEO) checking page and it performs well. I have information on their SEO, how many visitors they are getting, their popular pages, how they rank on Google, and for what keywords they are ranking. It will also tell you how fast the site loads, and whether the site has any technical issues.

This example should have got you thinking about your site, and how it performs. Although you might have a different target audience, the same rules apply.

  • Does the potential client know how to contact you?
  • Do they know what sets you apart? What makes you the right choice for them?
  • What do other people say about you?
  • Can they use your site as a resource? Will they return? Will they remember you when they have an issue you can help with?
  • Is the site structure clear with a clean design? Is it fast to load? Are there dead links or the dreaded ‘pages under construction’?
  • Are people able to sign up to newsletters or follow RSS feeds for updates?

In the meantime, before you start on anything, take a look at some big name law firm sites from the mid-90s. No matter where you are now, we have come a long way!

You have a great website, now what about the content?

As noted in the example above, although they don’t have a blog, they offer a library of searchable content about their area of law. In a recent podcast, Victoria Blute stressed how important it is to update your site regularly with high quality content. Neglected blogs and old press releases don't leave a great impression on potential clients - or Google.. 

Your published content affects your ability to be found online. The more current and relevant the content, the higher up in search results you will appear. Google defines legal sites as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) content. This means if you create a YMYL page with bad advice or information, it could affect people’s lives adversely. This is bad for Google’s reputation and they will take steps to ensure your site doesn’t appear in search results. 

Ultimately you have to balance the needs of your readers with that of the search engines. SEO and associated metrics are important but you have to create a site with your (potential) clients in mind. If you write for search engines, you end up creating content for robots rather than content which can form the basis of new and profitable relationships. 

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Firms are rising to new challenges in exciting and innovative ways. As we enter 2021, I want your website to be the place where you communicate and engage with the people that need your services. Information is a vital part of firms’ business development strategy in demonstrating expertise, building trust with clients and differentiating yourself from the competition.

Vable wants your expertise to be recognised. Contact us to find out how you can ensure your content is picked up and shared in newsletters and client communications.