UPDATE: In a more recent post, we dive into the best practices of ensuring the content on your website is still giving you SEO juice. Click the link and read: Content Marketing For Law Firms: Why Dated Content Will Kill Your Website.
It’s hard to keep up with all the changes in legal marketing and management, especially when it comes to online marketing. That’s one of the reasons we created PILMMA’s Internet Domination Bootcamp, coming up March 1-2, 2018, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Whether you’re an internet novice or a little more experienced, it’s bound to have something to help you tackle the online marketing beast. If you want to check it out, click here.
Now, read on for a few essential online assets your firm needs to put in place NOW if you expect to remain a player in your market.
1. Excellent User Experience
The biggest change in online marketing the past few years has been the users. That’s right: The biggest change for online searches has been the searchers themselves. They are much savvier at zeroing in on exactly what they want to find … and they expect to find it fast. The instant gratification many have come accustomed to by doing basically everything online has led to higher expectations as to what searchers want to accomplish. For example, they expect to be able to bank online, set up medical appointments, pay their bills and even check their children’s grades – why should they not be able to hire a lawyer and/or get legal advice?
Websites that don’t provide this immediate gratification are quickly abandoned, while those that do earn repeat visits, longer and more detailed browsing, increased lead capture and higher conversions.
A recent global study by IBM tells us that $83 million a year is lost on the Internet because of poor user experience. How much has your firm lost because of your website?
Let’s face it: we are too emotionally involved and too familiar with our own websites to judge their usability objectively. And to be honest, I don’t particularly think that you should rely on most web designers to judge usability either unless that is something they specialize in. The best way to judge whether or not your site is user-friendly and providing an excellent user experience is to actually see how real people interact with your site.
2. Mobile-Friendly Website
There’s no denying there’s always an increase in smartphone and tablet usage following the holidays. During the past two months, how many visitors to your site accessed it from a mobile device? What kind of experience do you think they had? Have you tried to access your site on your smartphone or tablet? The mobile version of your website must be fast, functional and responsive to whichever device it is being viewed on. Whether you believe it or not, there’s a big difference between having a mobile compatible site and a site that is well-optimized for mobile use.
Your site looks fine on your phone or tablet so it must be good to go, right? Wrong. Just because your site doesn’t look broken on a mobile device, doesn’t mean it’s appealing or functional. If a visitor has to scroll around too much to find what they’re looking for or has to zoom way in to be able to click on the link they want, they’ll probably abandon your site as fast as possible and go on to the next one.
Your mobile site needs to provide users with what they want in a manner in which they can access it while on the move. This means having click-to-call phone numbers, maps, driving directions, hours, etc. Anything a visitor would expect to do online using a computer, you better make darn sure they can do it using their mobile device.
Do you know how most visitors to your site access it? Use a good analytics program to learn. Once you know how most people are accessing your site, you’ll know which devices to test your site on and can optimize it accordingly.
One thing I can’t emphasize enough is that your site must be fast. If you expect to rank well on Google’s mobile results, your site better load at lightning speed. Page speed is an undeniable piece of Google’s mobile algorithm. Check out your site’s speed here.
3. Conversion Tracking
The whole point of your website is to convert visitors into clients, but tracking conversions is tough for most firms since the majority of conversions happen over the phone or offline rather than online.
We’re used to seeing forms on websites, “Sign up for my free report!” or “Request your copy of my free book here!”, but what you really want to do in addition to capturing information (emails, mailing addresses, etc.) is make your phone ring or get them to come to your office. When you offer your free consultations, how often do you find out how they heard about you? Your answer should be “all the time.” This is the easiest way to track conversions and you may be surprised just how many originated from your website. You can also invest in call tracking, which I would say is a no-brainer but the good, old-fashioned method of simply asking is easy and free to implement.
Try this: Implement a printable coupon or code for free consultations online. This is a great way to measure online conversions. But, don’t forget to check out analytics and compare them to other numbers as well. There may be correlations considered mini-conversions resulting from a click-to-call number, a click to find driving directions or a view of a map.
4. A Good Review System
With Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and the rest of the web at their fingertips, clients hold your reputation in the palms of their hands. A happy client will tell a few people about you, but an unhappy client will make sure that everyone knows about you. Ignoring reviews is not an option. Ironically, having no reviews is almost as bad as having mostly bad reviews. With almost 70 percent of the U.S. adult population using smartphones, you can guarantee that they check reviews regularly: restaurants, retailers, theaters, movies … why not doctors, dentists and lawyers?
Lucky for us, there are inexpensive automated systems to help firms and other businesses learn what their clientele think about them. But, the easiest way to see what your clients and ex-clients are saying about you is by doing a search for yourself and your firm. You MUST do this on a regular basis and address anything that needs to be handled. Your online reputation is vital to your firm and your success as an attorney.
Testimonials are great, but reviews are better. People see testimonials and they take them into consideration, but they know that you wouldn’t post something negative on your own site. Why not ask the people who give you testimonials to also log on and write a review? Reviews are assumed to be unsolicited and posted by the clients themselves, whereas testimonials are requested and posted by the firm. Testimonials are powerful, but reviews are the true heavyweights since they are included in today’s search algorithms and carry more weight subconsciously with viewers.
5. Strong Barnacles
In Local Search, Barnacle SEO refers to getting listed on other websites that already rank for terms you want to rank for … personal injury attorney, auto accident lawyer, etc. It’s obvious that people use sites like Lawyers.com and Avvo to look for lawyers. Having an accurate and complete presence on them is a must these days.
Barnacle listings also provide you with citations that help to improve your rankings in Google Maps, as long as they are consistent with what you put on your website. Again, I can’t emphasize this enough: Correct and consistent information online is a necessity.
These sites also provide your customers solid places where they can leave reviews and ratings about your firm – you need this. If you still don’t think you need reviews and ratings, do a search for an attorney in your area, I’m pretty sure you’ll change your mind.
If you haven’t set up any barnacle listings, this doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You may already have some. If so, take control of them by claiming and updating them, there’s no telling what might show up on this page or what it might say about your firm. You need to check this out ASAP.
Which one is the best one to start with? Surprisingly, a solid Yelp listing isn’t only for restaurants! This could be your first step to strengthening your barnacles. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that most of what Siri, Apple’s personal assistant, knows about local businesses comes directly from Yelp. Since Apple Maps is rapidly growing in usage, thanks to the abundance of iPhones and iPads, an accurate and complete listing on Yelp would be most helpful. Be sure to encourage reviews from happy clients there as well.
6. Search Insurance with a Local Advertising Campaign
How can you ensure that your firm is performing as well as it should in the rankings? Establish search insurance by setting up a geo-targeted ad campaign, even if you don’t think you need it or don’t have the budget to run them currently. That way, when the local results on Google start going crazy, which happens more often than not, you can simply flip the switch and immediately regain exposure to your target market in the search results. Google’s AdWords Express can be set up quickly and easily as long as your firm is already in good shape. And, of course, there’s always pay-per-click.
Take inventory of your online assets and see where you stand. If you don’t currently have these in place, there’s no better time to start implementing them than now.