CHECKLIST: One dozen law firm website issues that may stem retention or referral
January 5, 2016
Here are the “12 Signs of Out-Of-Date Website Content” posted on The Cyber Advocate (www.thecyberadvocate.com). We agree any of this may cause those referred to you or your firm to pause and possibly reconsider retaining you or making a referral on your behalf. You want to avoid having a hard-earned word-of-mouth referral tripped up by these issues. Our comments on this post appear in italics.
1) You have “dated” content, and it’s old
There are plenty of things that you can put on your website that are a lot more authentic if they contain a date: important news, recent cases, and blog posts. However, if the last piece of “Important News” happened in 2013, your last important case was in 2010, and your most recent blog post is 20 months old, your website will look neglected. We often suggest older information in bio and on news pages be deleted, or dates just dropped if it doesn’t render the information misleading.
2) Your list of attorneys is inaccurate
Attorneys who have left the firm are still listed, but new attorneys haven’t been added – not something that works well for your law firm’s credibility. Given the mobility of attorneys, it may not take much time for your list of attorneys to become outdated. In most states, having lawyers who are no longer in your firm is deemed unethical; no different than having them on stationery. We have developed best practices for dealing with recently retired, deceased and temporarily disabled lawyers. Contact us for details.
3) Your website contains lawyer-centric bios and practice areas
If your website contains information that makes your attorneys feel good, it’s probably going to (at best) only impress other attorneys. An attorney bio that reads like a Martindale® resume, but fails to address how you can help potential clients right up front, is outdated. Your online bio is your single most important promotional document. We’ve written best practices for bio pages, too. Contact us for details.
Same goes for your practice areas – failing to begin by how your law firm helps your clients is a sign of a poorly thought out website. If your website content isn’t directed at your potential clients, it’s an out-of-date waste.
4) Old photos
If the photos on your website are more than a haircut’s difference between how you look since they’ve been taken, they’re out of date. Why would you use pictures that no longer look like you? Whether you’ve gained or lost weight, or gone a little more gray/bald, your photos need to be you. Perhaps the most common complaint we hear–“I went to a meeting and met lawyer A. Back at my office I went to their website to confirm I remembered his/her name correctly, but I didn’t see anyone there who looked like the person I met.”
Also, make sure that your photos don’t contain styles that just look horribly dated. While it might seem petty, attorneys wearing coats with outdated lapels, in some markets, even wearing a coat and or tie, will look out of touch.
5) Your website doesn’t contain video
No, this one isn’t universal yet, but it should be. The power of video content on a website is immense. Websites that refuse to harness the power of video are quickly looking old and outdated. Good video is hard to do, and not cheap…but you should try. Want to see how firms approach video? Visit www.wcsr.com or www.foley.com.
6) Your website is home page-centric
In the early days of the internet, people went to a website’s home page, and from there went to the related pages, like attorney bios and practice areas. Not anymore. People can get to most of the individual pages they’re looking for without ever going to your home page. Moreover, more people are following links to individual important pages, rather than the link to your home page.Traffic to the New York Times home page dropped about half last year because readers prefer linking directly to the work of reporters. This is why we believe that lawyers get hired, not firms.
Websites that put all of their effort into a home page, only to have sparse, unhelpful attorney bio or representative cases information, are not designed for this modern reality.
7) Poor/outdated design
There are those websites like the one I discussed above where the formatting of the page was so old that it just didn’t render right on your browser. That’s probably extreme, but there are other design elements that become outdated too. Does your website rely on Adobe Flash? It’s not going to work well on a mobile device then! How about menu bars that aren’t easy to read or access? That’s going to frustrate your visitors. Right now, we tell our clients they are going to largely replace their sites every three years. It’s a capital budget expense and should be budgeted as such.
Another key issue is branding. Do you use consistent branding across all of your marketing? A few years back, this wasn’t a major concern for most law firms, but it has risen in prominence. If your website’s branding isn’t consistent with your letterhead, that’s a major problem!
8) The website isn’t mobile friendly
I’ve spoken about this recently, but this issue is important beyond just Google’s algorithm (change in April 2015). More and more people are searching for attorneys on the internet. Yet even well-established law firms have websites that, when you load them on your smartphone, require a lot of pinch-to-view actions to navigate. A website that isn’t mobile friendly is out of date. And, under Google’s newest search formula, it will be penalized and pushed down in search results.
9) Website SEO is non-existent or fails to use current best practices
Regardless whether the company who built your website “optimized” it for SEO when it was published, those standards are frequently changing. What worked yesterday to boost your search engine ranking might not work tomorrow. Worse, it might be that what worked yesterday has been flagged by Google as being improper, resulting in your website being penalized. Updating your website content includes addressing SEO. Every firm needs a SEO strategy, even if it’s basic and simply ensures the firm name and lawyer names appear properly in search. You have to check this regularly. It’s no different than getting periodic car maintenance.
10) The website contains no/outdated social media
If your law firm isn’t yet active on social media, then your website isn’t the only thing that needs an update. Failing to include ways to find/follow your law firm on social media, while once viewed as gimmicky, is a huge mistake. For one, your social presence is now a significant factor in Google’s search algorithm. For another, it means your law firm has decided not to participate in the conversation. At a minimum, referral-based practices must embrace and be active on LinkedIn®–those that are not are simply leaving work on the table, according to business surveys.
11) No intake forms/contact info on your pages
Every page of your website needs to (prominently) feature at least two different ways to contact your law firm. The two most popular are a phone number and an email address. It can also include things like an intake or contact form or your law firm’s mailing address. Like I discussed above, people aren’t visiting your home page anymore, so every page they might visit needs to educate them on how you can be reached. Put that phone number and email at the top of the page, too. Most people who visit your bios are looking for that information.
12) Broken links
Most law firm websites include some version of representative clients, important cases, and a list of organizations that are significant to the law firm or the practice areas. However, linking to these groups can be tough sometimes, because companies change names (and domains) all the time. Linking to a representative client that is no longer in business or has merged with another company can result in embarrassment if a potential client is directed to a “page not found” error message when they click on it. We’d prefer you not have links that take visitors away from your site to another website. Why work hard to get visitors only to send them somewhere else? However, all links on your site do need to be tested periodically, including your internal navigation, to ensure they are not broken.