Management Assistance Program
Creating Your Website
By Julie Bays, OBA Practice Management Advisor
Online marketing today is critical for law firms of all sizes. After all, few consumers even have a copy of the Yellow Pages and many small town and regional newspapers have folded or increased their ad rates significantly. So, a website is important for you to have not only so that people searched on the Internet might find you but also so that people who are referred to you can verify your firm’s address and perhaps see a picture of you before they contact your office to schedule the appointment. Today we believe that your website should be updated at least every other year to give it a new fresh appearance and look.
Let’s focus on how to set up a law firm website, which is also a good review of updating.
Building a website for your law firm can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right tools and guidance, you can create a professional and effective online presence that showcases your expertise and attracts new clients. Your website is your online introduction to potential clients. It should clearly communicate who you are, what you do, and how you can help them. And, of course, depending on your needs and budget you can either create a do-it-yourself website or engage professional assistance. To create a professional and effective website for your legal practice or law firm, you need to consider the following steps:
Define your Purpose
What are your goals and objectives for your website? What kind of clients do you want to attract and serve? Consider what kind of content you want to create and update regularly that will attract these clients. Lawyers should make sure their website is user-friendly and interactive, including, at the very least, a contact form and a blog to create content.
Lawyers tend to focus on items they consider important in designing their website such as items that might be included on their resume. Most clients, and all consumer clients, really don’t care about your law school accomplishments or class rank. They have a problem and they want to read content focused on them and their problem. One family lawyer told her story on her website of how she was unhappy with the representation of process during her divorce before she went to law school. Her content focused on how those things she didn’t like weren’t going to be happening to her clients.
Choose a Domain Name
Your domain name is your web address (like www.yoursite.com). It should be easy to pronounce, spell, and as short as possible. You can purchase a domain from domain registrars like GoDaddy, Namecheap, etc., or directly from your chosen website builder such as in many cases. We do suggest that when you are shopping for domain names and see one you like, you should purchase it immediately. If you try to come back in a few days to buy it, there’s a possibility that someone else may have purchased it and now has it listed for sale at a high price.
Select a Website Builder
Creating your own website comes with a multitude of options, though not all might be equally suited to your unique needs. Among the most commonly used website builders are Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy Website Builder, and Google Sites. Each of these platforms allows you to purchase your domain name directly through their respective websites, and each brings its own unique set of advantages and drawbacks that should be weighed before you make your decision.
Web builders like Wix, Google Sites, and GoDaddy Website Builder provide free tools for constructing your website that are relatively easy to use. If your priority is to build your website quickly, these platforms can do the job. Squarespace has a monthly fee of $12.95 but offers a comprehensive package for your website needs. This includes website creation, hosting, acquiring a custom domain name, and monitoring your site’s performance. Experts say that Squarespace excels in terms of design features, making it ideal for blogging. However, it’s worth noting that Squarespace might not be as user-friendly as Wix, GoDaddy, and Google Sites. Regardless of your choice, these web builder applications allow users to build and manage a website without coding knowledge.
Choose a Theme and Customize Your Website
Most website builders offer a variety of templates/themes that dictate how your site will look. Choose one that fits your site’s purpose and your personal aesthetic. You can browse through different categories, such as Finance & Law, to find templates that are suitable for your niche.
Add your content (text, images, videos, etc.) to your site. Customize your chosen theme to fit your needs. This may include adding, removing, or rearranging sections and changing colors or fonts. You can also add your logo, contact information, and testimonials to build trust and credibility.
Add any additional functionality you need. This could include a blog, a contact form, social media integration, etc. You can also use apps and plugins to enhance your site’s performance and features. For example, you can use an online booking system to schedule consultations, or a live chatbot to communicate with potential clients.
Optimize for SEO
SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization,” is like having a neon sign in front of your law firm that says exactly what kind of legal services you offer, but for the internet. It’s about making your law firm’s website easy to find and understand by search engines like Google, so they can then recommend your site to users who are looking for legal advice or services that you offer.
Keywords are the specific terms that potential clients type into Google when they’re searching for legal services. For instance, if you’re a family lawyer in Edmond, your keywords might be “family lawyer Edmond,” “divorce attorney Oklahoma,” or “child custody legal advice Oklahoma.” By strategically incorporating these phrases into your website’s content, you help search engines understand your services better and match your site to potential clients searching with those terms.
If your website includes images, it’s important to note that search engines can’t ‘see’ images like humans. However, they can read the image’s file name and the alt text (a text description of the image). So, if your site has an image showcasing your law firm team, instead of naming it “img001.jpg,” consider something like “family-law-team-Norman.jpg” and an alt text like “Our experienced family law team in Boston.” This allows search engines to better understand the image, potentially showing it in image searches related to family law in Norman.
Meta tags are like the summary on a legal brief, but for your website pages. They are short descriptions that aren’t seen on the webpage itself but are embedded in the page’s code. Search engines read them to understand the content of the page. Important meta tags include the title tag, which should be a concise and accurate title of your page, and the meta description, which is a brief summary of the page content. These often appear in search engine results, working like a teaser that encourages people to click on your site.
By optimizing for SEO, you’re essentially explaining your services in a way that search engines understand. Once understood, search engines will then index, or catalog, your site in their databases, making it easier to suggest your firm’s site to potential clients when they’re looking for the legal services you provide. A well-optimized site increases your visibility on the internet, attracting more potential clients.
Once you are happy with your site, publish it to the web. Promote your site through social media, email marketing and/or online advertising. At a minimum, every lawyer and employee should add the website address to their email signature block so every email provides a path to the law firm website.
These steps will help you build a website that showcases your expertise, credibility, and value to your potential clients.