by Susan Van Dyke
So, your long-awaited Web site is finally online… or long forgotten. The partners eventually agreed what to post, everyone drafted a biography and smiled for the camera. Phew! Now you can get back to practising law.
Not so fast, Eddy. If you’ve done most of the (thankless) work yourself, you know how much time, energy and persuasion it took – and that was just to get agreement on the background colour. Now, don’t you want your site to work as hard as you did in creating it?
Think of it this way: you’ve spent countless hours writing a book, and on completion you drop it off at the bookstore. Yup, with a sigh of relief you just chuck it through the door, turn and run. Wiping your hands, your work is done. Hardly. No one can find it, or even knows it exists.
Unlike a book, no Web site is static. Take a serious look at your site and think about how it can work even harder for you. Consider:
- Site optimization. Huh? Rankings and Web sites are akin to sales people and insurance services. You must have good ones. The key words that describe your firm should result in a first-page ranking for your site in search-engine results. Test your firm’s results by searching for words that describe your firm or practice (e.g., construction law). If you don’t appear in the first two pages of results, important web traffic is walking right past your door. To improve rankings, you can pay for placement, encourage other reputable sites to post a link to your site, revisit and improve your meta tags (descriptors of your site used by search engines) and drive visitors to your site – search engines favour sites with a well-worn path.
- Write for your audience, not your colleagues. Many sites are introspective and written for the benefit of other lawyers. Remember to minimize legalese, use plain language and define terms when necessary.
- Reduce, Recycle, Reuse. Every presentation, article or opinion memo can be posted on your site. Be sure to sanitize the material of client names or identifiers first.
- Accessibility. Provide direct access by listing the lawyers’ direct phone and e-mail addresses. Anything else is just a roadblock, and will annoy and irritate your clients or prospects.
- Buck up. Some of you need a lot of help with web design. Fancy design isn’t necessary, but good design will be immeasurably helpful. Even a small budget can improve the effectiveness of your site.
- “You are here.” Don’t let visitors get lost. Lead them to the best parts, but also provide site maps, headers or sidebar menus, so information is found quickly.
- Web stats! Almost all web hosts will provide basic monthly usage numbers at no charge. You’ll see what pages are accessed most often, where visitors are located, the time spent on each page, entry and exit pages and more, depending on your host’s reporting package.
- Update that bio. Review your biography regularly. What’s changed? What’s new? Take a good look at the photos – don’t get me going on photos again (see BarTalk, October 2003, Vol. 15/No. 5)!
- Include your address. All your corporate materials should include your Web site address, particularly your e-mail signature block on the bottom of outgoing e-mail.
- Refer to your site. Now that your site is packed with great articles, use it to promote the firm and save you time. Post FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) for client groups and prospects who need basic information. E-mail articles by sending a quick note and a web-page link, rather than by attaching a document.
Susan Van Dyke, Principal, Van Dyke Marketing & Communications, is a law firm marketing consultant and can be reached at 604.876.7769 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was published in the April 2004 issue of BarTalk. © 2004 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.