How to Generate Clients from Your Web Site

A white, rounded square logo with an abstract S-shaped design on a gradient blue and purple background.

MARBURYMADISON.COM:
HOW TO GENERATE CLIENTS FROM YOUR WEB SITE

By: Peter Boyd, Esq. – PaperStreet Web Design
www.paperstreet.com

I. INTRODUCTION

Congrats! You have a site, but why is your competitor getting all the online inquiries? Simple, their site looks better and is ranked in the top search results. However, do not fret, your site can soon generate at least one new client per month if you just throw away the notion that your web site is an advertising expense and you stop trying to design the darn thing yourself. You already bill 2,000 hours a year, why would you want to spend another 100 hours writing computer code? Besides, you went to law school to avoid math.

In a few short minutes, I will tell you why you need to get rid of all animated American flags and spinning gavels in order to keep your clients interested in betting on your site. We will also tell you the basics on how to get your web site ranked in the top results of Google / AOL / Yahoo!, and how to attract more clients and stop letting your competitor capture the online market. Finally, we will detail a few other Internet marketing strategies that work in driving qualified leads to your web site.

II. SITE DESIGN: YOUR SITE IS THE UGLY DUCKLING

Your web site must be professional. Every day we hear bad lawyer jokes and witness cheesy lawyer commercials on television. Yet, your web site is not limited to a “lawyer in front of a stack of books” talking about Social Security claims. Your law firm’s web site can be and should be dynamic.

It should not be something that you or your law clerk attempt to do on a Saturday morning. Yet, many firms and solo practitioners attempts to design web sites in a few hours with Microsoft Word or FrontPage. While some of these web sites are designed well, often the web sites appear cheap and project an unprofessional image. As always, the best way to learn is through witnessing mistakes. Listed below are some worst and most common ones.

Bad Flash: Don’t you just love long Flash introductions that have swooshing text, such as “law firm,” “employment law,” “atlanta” and “new york”? Web research shows that 98 percent of Internet users click on the “Skip Introduction” button before the Flash presentation is through. Great, you now spent $2000 and nobody saw your cool introduction.

Letting your Nephew Design the Web Site: Everyone has a computer-whiz nephew. Of course, this is normally the same kid that wears baggy pants, underwear showing, hat on sideways, and a wrinkled T-shirt of some corporate trademark parody. Would you let this same nephew meet clients? No, of course not. Instead, because he took a few courses in C++ or Java, you let him design your firm’s web site. Solid move.

Text as Graphics: Sure, you can have your graphic designer create a beautiful graphic to put on the web page or to be your whole web page. However, graphics take a long time to load and graphics cannot be indexed by search engines. Thus, your web site will not be seen by any search engines and visitors will think your web site is slow, as is your firm.

Spelling errorz [sic]: This is rookie-league stuff. Every web design program has a feature that checks for spelling errors. Use it often.

Old Templates: Microsoft Front Page comes with free templates to use on your web site. Of course, you get what you pay for. What you get is a circa 1995 design. Since you drive a Lexus or BMW to impress, why would you let your firm be represented by a 1989 Honda Accord?

Clueless Navigation: Ever been to a site with a bunch of pictures and no navigation text? Wait! Suddenly you scroll over the picture of a gavel and – poof! – “ABOUT US” suddenly appears. This is clueless navigation. By the time you scroll over all the pictures to see what they say, you’ve forgotten the title of the very first picture.

Bad Java: No, we’re not talking about McDonald’s coffee. Rather, we’re talking about the use of other nifty technology (i.e. Java) to create totally useless images.

Caveats: This site can only be viewed in IE 6.0, Flash 5.0+, 3.0 Pentium 4 processor, 512mb RAM, and 50GB hard drive, etc. etc. The last time we checked, a web site was NOT a piece of software you buy at Circuit City. All web sites should be cross-platform/browser compliant.

Broken Links: Every web design program has a feature that checks for broken links. Use it.

Coming Soon: The problem with the coming soon page is that client’s hope to find the answer on the next page, only to have them dashed with the fatal words “Coming Soon.”

P o o r l y F o r m a tt e d T e x t
Would you put a 48pt title block on a pleading? No. Then why would you use fonts that are insanely large or uneven on your firm’s web page? Are you trying to sell tickets to a local rock concert? SUNDAY. . . SUNDAY. . . SUNDAY. . . live at Joe’s Law Firm it’s the monster truck rally featuring DOKKEN!!!!!!!!!!!

Colors: Rainbow colors are not meant for the web. Black backgrounds are meant for computer geeks’ web pages. Flashing colored text is meant for used car sites. Please, before we go blind, use colors that are professional.

Bad Graphics: Stop with the overuse of legal metaphors, such as a picture of a gavel or a picture of the stairs of the courthouse.

Pop Up or Pop Under Windows: These are the most annoying factor of any web site. Not only do you have to close the window on a bad design, but you have to deal with its ugly children.

No Contact Information: It’s already hard enough to get a potential client to your web site, don’t make it any harder for them to find your law firm. Put your phone numbers, address, and other contact information on every page.

Cheesy Music: If potential clients wanted to hear Jimmy Buffett, they’d drive to Key West and listen to him play. Why do web sites love to play cheesy music to entertain us while we learn about the intricacies of a homestead exemption?

Now that we know what the deadly sins are, let’s try to be a good online Samaritan. One of the first steps in creating your web site is deciding on what you want to say and want you want to accomplish. Is your goal to have the best toxic waste law portal? Is your goal to promote your web site in Atlanta, Georgia? Most first generation web sites will start with the basics, providing information about the firm, its practice areas, its attorneys, and throwing in a few articles. More advanced web sites dedicate a major portion of their web site to being THE portal of information on a specific legal topic. Typically information on these portal sites includes articles, newsletters, bulletin alerts, links, statistics, and other information that educates a potential client. A portal site is typically more effective because it offers authoritative information; this leads to more traffic and more client inquiries. In order for your site to become authoritative, some of the areas that you should include are:

Home Page

Firm Overview Attorney Profile

Client List

Attorneys’ Fees

Case Studies

Testimonials

Affiliates

Locations

Courts Covered

Practice Areas List Each on a Separate Page

Employment Staff

Attorney

Why work Here

News & Events

News

Events

Seminars

Newsletter

Resources Links

Statutes

Guidelines

Forms

Articles

Downloads

Books for Sale

Questions & Answers (FAQ)

Legal / Privacy Policy

Sitemap / Search

Contact & Contact Confirmation Page

Each page should have contact info.

A solid example of a SILO layout can be found in this SEO agency site.

However, note that typical lawyer brochures and writing styles do not translate well online. Web content should always be more to the point than your beautiful client inquiry letter. People that come to your web site want information quickly and without the legal “wherewithal” and “heretofore.” Put answers in lay terms. Better yet, answer their questions in a way that they still need your advice (i.e. give them some advice and urge them to contact you for a full disclosure).

Finally, let’s talk about how a client is going to contact your firm. The easier it is for visitors to contact your firm, the more likely you will receive a response. Most web sites simply list a phone number and email link on a “contact” page. This is simply not sufficient. Put your contact information on every page. Better yet, put a contact form on every page. Contact forms allow visitors to send your business more information with less effort.

III. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
What is all this nonsense about search engine optimization? Optimization is a relatively new field of expertise. Basically, optimization specialists edit your web sites code, modify your existing text, and create new content to make sure your web site is listed when someone types in a search query. Does this work? Yes. A properly optimized site will see an increase of web site traffic, a boost in inquiries, and of course more client contact.

While optimization is not the holy grail of web design, it does make perfect sense. Studies have proven that web users do not look past three pages of results when trying to find a relevant site and most do not look past the first page. So if you are not ranked on the first page of results, your web site will not be found, even if you have spent $10,000 or $100,000 on a new web site.

Optimizing your web site to gain a top-ten placement in the free search engine results produces amazing client traffic. A well-targeted targeted optimization campaign for a search term such as “florida trademark lawyer” can produce at least one new client inquiry per week. An optimization campaign for a search term such as “trademark lawyer” can produce one per day.

Note that optimizing does not mean that you simply submit your web site to Google or “1000+ other search engines,” as those SPAM emails suggest. Instead, you need to correctly code your web site. This includes rewriting your copy text, editing your Meta tags, creating reciprocal links, and then registering your web site with various directories and search engines. Listed below are some facts and myths of optimization:

FACT: Reciprocal Links
As stated by Google, which provides over 80% of search results, the best way to ensure a top listing is for your web site to be linked to a lot of other web sites. This is known as link popularity. Google’s automated search robots jump from page to page on the Internet via hyperlinks. The more sites that link to your firm, the more likely it is that Google will list the firm’s web site. Creating reciprocal links with affiliates, clients, partners, and any other web site is a great idea. We are not talking about setting up your own Casino affiliate link whereby you plaster “GoldenPalace.com” on your web site to earn a 10 percent commission. Instead, your firm should create an affiliate directory section of your web site and request links from clients, partners, affiliates, directories, and other web sites that are related. With each new relevant link, your web site increases its rank. This will of course, help drive targeted traffic to your web site.

FACT: Relevant Content
Most potential clients will not search for your firm by name. Rather, potential clients will search for a law firm by typing in “attorney florida workers’ compensation” or “how do I implement a labor law plan?” Search engines rank web sites higher if they offer relevant content that contains such words or subjects. For your law firm to be found, your site needs to offer authoritative information on your practice areas through articles, newsletters, bulletin alerts, links, statistics, and more. By offering this information, the search engines will associate your web site with key words that will allow potential clients to find your site.

FACT: Edit your Meta Tags
Meta tags are HTML-coded information that search engines look at when crawling on your web site for information. In the simplest form, meta tags consist of a title, a description, and relevant key words. To optimize the web site, your firm should decide on the most important words to place in title, keyword, and description meta tags. In addition, your firm should create different meta tags for each page of the web site. This will allow each page to be indexed differently by the search engine, thus creating several mini-web sites.

FACT: Register your Web Site
To capitalize on your firm’s link popularity, meta tags, and content, your web site needs be registered with the top search engines and as many other web sites as possible. Your firm’s web site registration process should include:

Submission to free search engines, including Google, Open Directory Project, other major search engines/portals, and other community and local search engines;

Submission to paid search engine, including Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, Inktomi, FAST, Overture, Looksmart, Google AdWords;

Registration at Findlaw.com, Law.com, Martindale.com, and other legal sites;

Exchanging reciprocal links with professional organizations, clients, trade groups, consultants, publishers, educational institutions, and other relevant organizations.

MYTH: I should submit my site to 1000+ Search Engines.
We’re sure you’ve received an email claiming to submit your web site to all search engines. However, can you even name 500 web sites off the top of your head, let alone 1,000 search engines? These companies simply register your web site using an automated computer program. This does not achieve desired results and can actually hurt your web site’s ranking as the search engine may reject your listing as spam. Further, there’s no need to submit your web site to 1,000 plus search engines as almost all web traffic comes from a handful of search engines (80% from google.com).

MYTH: Submitting my site to search engines is enough.
No it isn’t. Sure, your web designer probably submitted your site to Google, Yahoo!, or MSN … but where is it ranked? Are you in the critical top ten results or are you number 134 for “florida lawyer”? In fact, if your web site has been on the Internet for more than two or three years, most search engines have already included your web site in their directory.

MYTH: All search engines are equal.
The top three search engines are Google, Google, and Google. Either through their web site or affiliated web sites (Yahoo! and AOL), Google serves over 60-80% of ALL search engine results.. Some of the popular portals and directories include MSN, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo!, AOL, Netscape, Hotbot, Lycos, Excite. But note that many of these web sites receive their data from third party sources, such as Google, Open Directory, Inktomi, Overture, FAST, and Teoma.

MYTH: You can optimize for all search engines.
There is no holy grail. However, there is Google. Since Google serves nearly all of the search engine results, if you optimize for Google you essentially optimize for nearly all of the results.

MYTH: I don’t need a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialist.
I can grill a mean sirloin, but nothing beats the fresh taste of a 12-ounce Outback Special with a Bloomin’ Onion. On your own you can probably achieve decent search engine results for a few keyword phrases. But remember: your competitors are trying to do the same thing, with many of the same words. A SEO specialist knows the little quirks and tricks that can make a big difference and give you the edge.

MYTH: Quick fixes like jump pages, cloaking or hiding content will increase my rankings.
While unethical tactics do not hurt anyone like a weapon of mass destruction (WMD), search engines view these techniques just the same. Each search engine has its own code that permits them to ban web sites that use these spam techniques. Use these techniques at your own peril.

MYTH: Software can automatically optimize my web site.
Can your cruise control on your Honda Accord drive you to Atlanta? You will need to hand code each page of your web site to achieve optimal results. You will need to edit the meta title tag, description tag, keyword tag, and include those same keywords in the body text of that web page.

MYTH: Link popularity is key – at all costs.
We encourage clients to create reciprocal links with related companies; we do not recommend creating spam links to artificially boost your web sites rating. Further, you should never link your site to spam sites, or sites that contain thousands of web sites in a database.

MYTH: A good optimization specialist will guarantee top results.
No firm can do this – if they’re honest. Search engines rankings change on a monthly, weekly and daily basis – so no guarantee can be set in stone.

IV. OTHER INTERNET MARKETING STRATEGIES

In addition to optimizing your web site to ensure a top-ten result in the search engines, your firm may also want to use these internet marketing techniques.

Pay-per-Click Advertising Campaigns
If you do not have the time or cannot produce results from search engine optimization, then you can always “buy your way to the top.” A pay per click ad campaign enables you to list your site at the top of the search engine results (or on the side in some search engines, such as Google).

As the name indicates, you are only charged a fee when someone clicks on your ad. These fees can range from a nickel per click to over a dollar per click. Despite the fact that each click will cost your firm money, not even “Bob” in accounting can gripe about the fact that it cost ten cents to find a new client. The three main providers of pay per click programs are Google AdWords and Overture. The account setup process is relatively quick and easy for each: you select your keyword phrases, create your ad/listing, and set your budget.

It should be noted that Google AdWords and Overture provide ads to different web directories and search engines. Thus, you may want to consider advertising on each. Each provider also has a slightly different pricing structure, content requirement, ranking algorithm, and listing/ad setup.

Banner Advertisements
While the Google Adwords and Overture text ads are slowly taking over (due to low cost, ease of maintenance, and great results), banner advertisements are still quite useful. In fact, with the invention Action Scripting and Flash, banner advertisements can be a powerful form of interactive advertising. The key to creating powerful banner advertisements is prompting, formatting, targeting, and interacting.

Your ad must prompt the user for action, such as “Click here” or “Visit our Site” or any other keyword that will draw the user’s attention.

Also, to draw the user’s attention, your banner ad needs to stand out from the other clutter on the web site. Bright colors and contrasting colors are great, as long as they stay professional and do no detract from your firm’s image.

Further, targeting your audience is an important aspect of banner creation. Do not try to create an advertisement that focuses on the whole nation and all practice areas. Focus on your geographic market or specific practice area.

Finally, interactive banners have higher click rates. Animating your banner advertisement can be done through the use of animated graphics, scripting, adding forms, buttons and Flash. Of course, much of this is dependent upon the web site where your banner ad is displayed.

Newsletters
Your law firm should publish a quarterly newsletter. Even better, publish a monthly newsletter and you will see instant results. This form of advertising . . . err. . . providing information is great for generating repeat traffic to your web site and introducing new clients to your firm. Newsletters also boost your image with other attorneys because they can establish your firm as a go-to place for up-to-date information.

Newsletters work because they remind your existing clients about your firm, which can lead them to send new projects your way, and they also provide relevant information to potential clients. The more they know the better decisions they can make … which of course would lead them to select your firm for the job. Every time you send your email newsletter you will probably have a 2-5% response rate. Nothing beats receiving inquiries simply from providing potential clients about breaking news, notable victories, or upcoming events.

Blogs & Web Logs
A blog is a web page made up of usually short, frequently updated posts that are arranged chronologically, like a journal. The content and purposes of blogs varies greatly from links and commentary about other web sites, to news about a company/person/idea, to diaries, photos, poetry, mini-essays, project updates, even fiction. In the legal field, you could promote your firm’s services, cases, clients, and other notable news in the blog.

Blogs are great because of their ease of use, low cost, audience reach, and high search engine visibility. For $15 a year your firm can have their own blog related to its practice area. While I would not recommend sharing client details, I would recommend posting relevant information about your specific practices and ongoing events. If your blog is informational, you will quickly see that the blog will raise your overall presence on the Internet and your search engine rankings will increase. Again, this will lead to more traffic and more clients.

Directories
In addition to search engines, people use the legal directories and online phone book directories to find lawyers. Directories provide a quick and easy way for clients to find lawyers across the nation.

Your web site should be submitted to all phone book directories, including: AnyWho (AT&T), SBN, Yahoo Yellow Pages, AOL Yellow Pages, MSN Yellowpages, Info USA, Lycos Yellowpages, QuestDex, Switchboard, US Yellow, SuperPages (Verizon) and InfoSpace. You can submit your site to all of those directories for free through each providers web site.

Also list your web site in a variety of online legal directories, such as WestLaw’s FindLaw.com, TechlawOnline.com, Martindale-Hubbell’s Lawyers.com directory, or a variety of other legal directories. Of course, each of those latter options will charge you a directory fee per year. However, if you just sign a few clients per year from each directory, they generally pay for themselves.

V. HOW WE CAN HELP

PaperStreet Web Design has extensive experience developing, redesigning, optimizing, and writing content for web sites for the legal profession. Our expertise can save you time and money while increasing your firm’s client base. Contact us for a free initial consultation: Peter T. Boyd, Esq. at PaperStreet Web Design, http://www.paperstreet.com, or 954.523.2181.

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