A good law firm website doesn’t just happen. Even if you hire a great developer and your site looks good, you may still not get the traffic and clients you expected. This can be for a number of reasons including design aesthetics, content, and layout.
We’re going to address different elements of your firm’s website that might prevent you from getting more clients via the web. A few of these warning signs can be hard to spot and self-diagnose. So, I’ll be as thorough as possible when identifying these problems.
These tips are generally applicable to solos and small to medium-sized law firms looking to improve their websites, but any law firm website can benefit from the information here.
1. No Mobile Website
Anywhere from 30% to 60% of all web traffic now is coming from mobile devices, and that percentage is growing. Ensuring that your website is easily viewable on a mobile device is critically important. Especially if you are considering revamping your current site or creating a new site, it must be mobile-responsive. If your site isn’t currently mobile-responsive, you’re behind, technology-wise.
One important drawback of a non-mobile site is that Google penalizes non-mobile sites in search. If your firm’s website is not mobile-responsive, it is less likely to get high search visibility in Google results. Google favors mobile-ready sites, and what Google says goes. If Google one day says your website won’t appear in search unless your homepage font is purple, then your options are to either comply or risk losing your visibility.
One reason mobile sites are a necessity is because if visitors can’t read your content or navigate to different pages on your site, they won’t stay. They will leave your site and potentially search for another law firm in your practice area. People are often not using a desktop computer when they need a lawyer, so your website must be easily readable on a smartphone or tablet.
What is a mobile-responsive site? A mobile-responsive website is a website where your site content adjusts to fit within the dimensions of your web browser window, no matter which device it is being viewed on. For example, if you are on a desktop computer and you resize your browser window to make it much narrower, if your site is mobile-responsive, your text should be easily readable and you shouldn’t have the option to scroll left or right on your screen to view content. If you can scroll left or right on the page because your content doesn’t fit within the browser window width, this is a giveaway that your site is not mobile-responsive.
On mobile devices, mobile-responsive sites usually feature drop-down navigation menus. The text is easily readable and you shouldn’t have to zoom in on any text or parts of your page to be able to read it. You can see an example of a mobile-responsive site at jurispage.com. If you adjust the width of the page, it all fits neatly in your browser window. You may have to scroll down to read all the content, but you shouldn’t have any difficulty clicking on any navigation links or have to zoom in on any content. If you look at the site on a mobile device, the navigation menu is a drop-down menu, easy to use on a smartphone.
If you have a website, check it out on a mobile device. Is your navigation menu a drop-down menu or are the links small, requiring you to zoom in to read and click them? Does all your text fit within the width of the page or do you have to zoom in and/or scroll left and right to read everything? Some web developers create separate mobile sites for their clients. This is not recommended. The technology is outdated. It is being phased out completely in favor of responsive design. A second site may be a victim to duplicate content penalties Google places on sites that have the same content on multiple websites, lowering their Google visibility in the process. And, it’s often more cumbersome and labor-intensive to create and maintain a separate mobile site.
Remedy: Get a mobile-responsive website design
Hire a law firm website designer or agency that does mobile-responsive websites. I’d recommend that they develop the site in WordPress. WordPress is a very customizable website content management system (CMS) and does mobile-responsive sites well. At Jurispage, all of our client sites are mobile-responsive WordPress sites, as is our own website.
You may be wondering, “Isn’t WordPress a blogging platform?” While WordPress’s roots are in blogging, WordPress currently powers 20% of all websites on the Internet. That includes websites for The New Yorker, Google Ventures, Fortune, Time and Beyoncé. The reason 20% of the Internet likes WordPress is because it’s very customizable and has great SEO features for better search engine visibility, including mobile-responsive themes.
2. Bad Contact Forms
The way your contact forms are set up can affect whether people fill them out and submit information to you. If you currently have traffic on your website and think you should be getting more contact form submissions, the problem may be that your current contact forms are unappealing.
- Are your contact forms basically new client intake questionnaires?
- Do you have a painful CAPTCHA that requires the visitor prove they’re not a computer robot by having to decipher illegible text that is likely only readable by a computer robot?
- Does your Submit button text say “Submit”?
If so, your contact form is bad, and you should feel bad. Studies show that the the more fields your contact form has, the less likely it is to get filled out. Your contact form isn’t the place for you to do a complete client intake. It’s the place for you to get a prospective client’s phone number so you can call them and set up a real intake. If the prospective client has to go through a lengthy questionnaire before they even get to speak to a lawyer, they will be less likely to contact you. Remember, at this stage, the prospective client still isn’t sure she wants to hire you. The harder you make her work to get in touch with you, the less likely it is she’ll even try. Also, websites get fewer form submissions when the Submit button text reads “Submit” compared to other stronger messages.
Remedy: Simplify your contact form
Your contact form should be 3-4 fields total:
- Message (optional)
Any additional information you need, you can get over the phone when the prospective client calls you. To prevent spam, certain contact form plugins for your website can use anti-spam techniques that don’t rely on CAPTCHA. At Jurispage we like Gravity Forms which uses the honeypot anti-spam technique. Other popular form plugins are Wufoo and Contact Form 7.
Last point—the Submit button text shouldn’t say “Submit.” Submit isn’t a “Call to Action”. No one feels good about themselves filling out a form with their information and then hitting “Submit”.
If you can, change the text of the Submit button so instead of Submit it says “Speak with An Attorney” or something similar. The text should give a clear idea of what’s going to happen when the visitor clicks that button.
3. No calls to action
You may be looking at your Google Analytics data, seeing that you do have traffic, but for some reason aren’t getting the calls and form submissions that you’d expecting. One possible reason for your lack of contact form submissions and calls is because you don’t encourage people to fill out contact forms or call your firm.
Let’s test this out.
First, go to your homepage. Does your firm’s phone number appear at the top-right or top-left corner of the screen? Is there a contact form in the side or bottom of each webpage on your firm’s site? If the answer to either of these is “No”, then you’re not doing everything you can to get form submissions and calls from your visitors.
These elements—the contact form and the well-placed phone number—are called Calls to Action. Calls to Action, or, CTAs, are what compel your prospective clients to contact you. Without CTAs, there’s nothing to get a visitor to reach out to your firm. Some websites have a single Contact page that includes a phone number and contact form, but that’s generally not good enough on its own. People, especially people searching online for lawyers, have a very short attention span.
On average, you have less than ten seconds to keep a visitor on your website before they decide whether to leave your website or continue reading. If someone has to navigate to a Contact page to find your phone number or contact form to reach out to you, there’s likely going to be some drop off.
Remedy: Use CTAs
The most effective website layouts that bring in the most client calls and form submissions are the ones that use CTAs well.
Generally, every page on your website should have a contact form, whether it’s at the bottom of the page in the footer area or on the side of the page in the sidebar area. And, your firm’s phone number should appear at the top of your page. Visitors to your site shouldn’t have to hunt for your phone number, or they might lose interest and leave your site.
There are some exceptions to this rule, where more contact forms don’t help you get more form submissions, but more often than not, they are beneficial.
Some lawyers don’t like including contact forms or a phone number on every page because to them it doesn’t look as aesthetically pleasing. One way to remedy this is to have your contact form pop up in a modal window (a fancy popup window) when someone clicks a contact button. But, one way or another, there should be a way to contact you on each page.
Also, your phone number should appear as text, not an image. Often, web designers will create fanciful graphics of the firm’s phone number to make them look more visually appealing. But, these phone numbers are not text, they’re images. By “text” I mean content that you can highlight with your mouse, copy, paste, and that search engines can read (search engines can’t “read” images). Text is not only better for search engines, but better for getting people to contact you. If your phone number appears on your website as text, mobile visitors may be able to click on the phone number to immediately call you.
To further help, ensure you have Google Analytics set up so you can see your actual traffic data. Set up goals in Google Analytics so that you can log every time you get a form submission. With this data, you can test out different form styles to see if they generate more leads and clients.
Another recommendation—set up call tracking. There are a few third-party applications out there that allow you to track the amount of calls you get from your website. This software is great because it lets you see how people found your firm (e.g. Google search, PPC ads, Bing search, AOL, etc.). No more guessing or having to ask clients “How’d you find our firm?” Clients often misremember, especially if they’ve been looking at multiple firms. Also, clients often give responses like, “I found you on the Internet,” which doesn’t really do you any good because there’s a big difference between finding a firm via organic search and paid search.
4. Thin content
Are your practice area pages merely bulleted lists of what types of cases you handle? Do you have just one practice area page that talks about multiple different practice areas? If the answer to either of these questions is “Yes” then your content is too thin.
If people come to your website because they are looking for a lawyer to help them with their specific matter and they do not have previous experience dealing with a lawyer, they need to know that you can help them. If they click on your practice area page they shouldn’t find a bulleted list that reads something like this:
Our firm handles trusts and estates matters for our clients, including:
- Estate planning
- Will contests
Writing bullet points in a list requires little effort and demonstrates to your visitor that you didn’t put much effort into your practice area page. Worse, it doesn’t give the prospective client any valuable information with which they can evaluate your firm. The prospective client visiting your website may have questions but may not be ready to call you yet.
No two cases are exactly the same. Your visitor may be unsure if your firm can handle their matter because of a nuance in their case. The last thing you want is for the client to assume you can’t handle the case and not call you.
It also might be possible that the prospective client may not know whether your legalese terminology covers their type of case. Many people don’t use jargon like “probate” or “premises liability.” Don’t assume that your prospective clients know from your list of practice areas alone that you can serve their needs.
If you only have one practice area page, right off the bat this is hurting your website, both in terms of visitor engagement and search engine visibility. No firm gets to be the top result in Google search results for the term “probate lawyer” when the firm has one practice area page called “Practice Areas” that includes a single paragraph or list item for “probate” along with other paragraphs for trusts, wills, etc.
Remedy: Very specific, in-depth practice area pages
To increase visitor engagement, get better search visibility, and get more calls, spell out what your firm does and the types of cases you handle.
If you do personal injury, have separate pages for specific matters like auto accidents, medical malpractice, slip-and-fall, motorcycle accidents, trucking accidents, and premises liability. Break these down as much as you can, because the more targeted you can be, the better your search visibility can be for your pages and the better you can engage your visitors.
In addition, try to include testimonials on your practice area pages showing how you’ve already helped other clients. If you don’t have testimonials (and can’t get them), offer summaries of particular cases where you’ve helped past clients, of course being careful to comply with your state’s ethics rules.
Remember, your ultimate goal is to get people to call you. While you may think that less content may encourage people to just call your firm and speak with a lawyer, the visitor will not necessarily make that call if they don’t trust your firm first. Make them trust you by demonstrating that you can serve their needs.
5. No traffic or search engine visibility
Your website may look great. You may have hired a great designer, but this is probably the most obvious warning sign your website is underperforming—you aren’t getting any traffic. And by that I mean traffic of less than 100 unique visitors per month.
Many solos and small firms can expect traffic around 100 visitors or less per month just from referral traffic, friends, and colleagues alone. If you’re not getting traffic, it’s also likely that your firm isn’t appearing prominently in search engine results. Sure, your firm may show up when someone searches specifically for your firm, but you’re probably not showing up when someone searches in Google or Bing for “[your practice area] + [your location]”.
Remedy: On-site SEO, original content, and PPC ads
Traffic is the toughest issue to address because getting more traffic isn’t easy. Often it can be time-consuming and expensive. I’ve written books on search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC) alone, but I’ll do my best to provide some action points.
On-site SEO The first step to getting better search engine visibility and more traffic is your on-site SEO. On-site SEO is your website’s SEO architecture. It’s how Google, Bing, and Yahoo read your website content. On-site SEO is one factor of search engine visibility, but it’s the place you need to start. First, install an SEO plugin. Popular ones include Yoast and All-In-One SEO Pack. These plugins enable you to set how your pages will appear in search results, including the title and description. You may want to also install an XML Sitemap plugin to submit your site to Google and other search engines, making it easier for the search engines to find your content. Write original content The best way to get better “organic” search engine visibility with sustained traffic that won’t drop overnight is by writing blog posts for your website. If you want to start ranking in Google as, for example, a San Francisco divorce lawyer, you need to show Google that you know about divorce issues in San Francisco, demonstrating that your website is relevant. What should you write about? The easiest way to generate content ideas is to think of your prospective clients’ questions during a consultation. They are probably not the only ones with these questions. Write blog posts that address these, preferably in the form of an answer to the question. Why in question form? People are increasingly searching in Google in the form of questions. Some examples:
- What is a holographic will in California?
- How long do I have to file an injury lawsuit in San Francsico?
- Can I sue my company if I was hurt at work?
Use this as a starting point to come up with content. Think, “What do my prospective clients want to know?” Use this as your mantra, and you should start seeing your visibility pick up in Google over time.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads Paid ads, whether through Google Adwords, Facebook, or Bing, instantly bring you website traffic. With SEO and organic Google search traffic, it can take months before your firm starts seeing an improvement in its search visibility. Paid ads get you exposure immediately. With PPC, you pay search engines like Google for specific keywords and phrases. Every time someone clicks on your ad to get to your site, you pay Google.
If you’re a San Francisco divorce lawyer, you may want to choose the keyword, “San Francisco divorce lawyer.” Each keyword has a different cost associated with it. Appearing as the top result in search ads is more expensive, because the top ad gets more traffic than lower-ranked ads. Some keywords are also more competitive than others and therefore cost more.
For example, if you want to be the top ad for “New York Personal Injury Attorney” you will likely need to spend a LOT of money every time someone clicks on your ad, especially compared to keywords like “Fresno Election Lawyer.”
One thing I like about Google Adwords in particular is that your ROI is very measurable. With online PPC, you can know that if you spent $1,000 on ads and received 10 calls, each lead cost your firm $100. If that $1,000 ad spend resulted in one new client that brought in $10,000 to your firm, you can fairly easily calculate your return on investment.
One last traffic tip: Get your website and firm found in local area web searches by submitting your firm’s website and address to local directory listings via Moz Local (a free tool). Find more local SEO tips in Clio’s quick guide to law firm SEO.
Bonus: Your contact forms don’t connect to your Clio Account (shameless plug alert)
Are you wishing you could be spending your #Clioday with your family, but instead have to manually copy and paste your website contact form submissions into your Clio contacts?
Remedy: A high-performing Jurispage-powered website
JurisPage now offers attorney websites that integrate with your Clio account, automatically creating new contacts in your Clio account from your website form submissions. That means you’ll never have to manually copy and paste client contact information again!
If your firm’s website isn’t getting either the traffic or the clients you want it to be getting, addressing the points above can help. If you have the traffic but not the clients, working on your site calls to action and enabling backend integration with your practice management software can have a significant impact. If you don’t have the traffic, SEO and PPC can bring you the traffic.
Still looking for more tips on how to create a great law firm website? Check out the law firm website checklist.
About Andrew Cabasso
Andrew is a practicing attorney and co-founder of JurisPage, a law practice Internet Marketing firm. Jurispage also integrates with Clio, enabling Clio users to automatically have their website contact form submissions create Clio contacts. Andrew has given many lectures and CLEs on website design and Internet marketing to legal professionals.