Myths and Facts about Websites

By Mitchell Hamlett

Mitch Hamlett is an Internet marketing consultant with Findlaw, a Thomson Reuters business. For more information contact him directly at Mitchell.hamlett@thomsonreuters.com.

It’s been my experience that most law firms agree the two most daunting challenges they face are: (1) how to run a business and still practice law and (2) how do I attract new clients. Attorneys often confess they were surprised at the amount of time needed to run the day-to-day operations of a law firm and how it impacted the time allocated to practicing law. Many agree the most critical aspect of the daily operations is marketing the firm and their services. That’s accomplished by developing a Web strategy, implementing it and evolving it. Here are some common myths and facts:

MYTH: I have a website and it doesn’t generate new clients, so I don’t believe people hire attorneys based on the Internet.
FACT: Data science supports the fact that over two thirds of people seeking legal services search the Internet first. Those potential clients are seeking legal information so they can educate themselves and narrow their choices on who to contact for additional information. Also, more than 70 percent of those searches begin with a mobile device.

MYTH: I have a great website. It ranks well in searches, but it does not generate new clients. Internet marketing does not work.
FACT: Chasing rank is a mistake. There are numerous sources on the Web validating it. Too many law firms optimize their sites to rank for specific keywords and not the unique searches people use. Attorneys search differently than the majority of people. Attorneys think legalese and their searches include: personal injury lawyer, criminal defense law firm, civil litigation attorney, etc. The general public use search phrases that may include: rear ended by a guy while texting, can I keep my license if charged with DWI, can I sue my neighbor for building a fence on my property, etc. There is empirical data that supports vanity searches make up less than 3 percent of search results.

FACT: It’s all about conversion. Even if the site shows up well in all searches (vanity, branding and longtail), it means nothing if the potential clients are not contacting you. You know that if they contact you, your chances of being retained increase significantly. A key ingredient to a Web strategy is building a site so it converts. There has to be call-to-action, differentiators, a certain amount of empathy, messaging that convinces them you can help them, the right types of images, the right amount of information about your firm in the right spots, and more.

MYTH: All of my business comes from referrals and they are the best clients, anyway.
FACT: Why would you want to be dependent on others for your livelihood? In these economic times and competitive marketplace, I suspect those numbers have diminished. Many of the firms that send out referrals are not mutually exclusive like in the past. In order for referrals to keep coming in, you have to reciprocate. Data supports the fact people research before hiring referred attorneys. If a well-designed and written website does nothing but convince the referrals you are not contacting to contact you, a well done site will be justified.

MYTH: I cannot launch my Web strategy until I have more money coming into the firm.
FACT: Simply put – that’s why you need a well performing website – to bring in more money to the firm. If a website is built, designed, written and maintained correctly, it should generate a positive return on investment and not cost the firm money.

In order to be competitive and win at Internet marketing, firms need to develop a sound strategy. One that includes what role they want to play in a certain geographic area – whether it’s to dominate, compete or have a presence in it? Keep in mind, the top three factors include: what are you practicing, where are you practicing it and who are you competing against? Similar to having a diversified financial portfolio, it’s critical you have multiple Internet “doors” allowing potential clients to enter so they may retain your services. Those doors include: optimized website, optimized video, optimized mobile, articles, optimized blog, press releases and legal directories. How many do you have open?