This article originally appeared in the August 2023 issue of Of Counsel: The Legal Practice and Management Report. Read Part One here.
4. Everything you write should be client focused. This feels like such an elementary piece of advice, but it is so often ignored. Whether you are writing a speech, creating an e-alert, updating your practice or industry website page or your bio, ensure that they all emphasize your deep comprehension of your clients’ specific needs, challenges and goals. Showcase how your law firm can address these concerns and provide highly tailored solutions.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of information hierarchy in getting your messages across. What is the most important thing on any of your website pages? What is the second-most important thing? How about the third? And fourth? This is called “information hierarchy.” It is aided by great design and website technology that enable designers to guide visitors’ eyes along the correct journey.
But first, you must know the answers to those questions and let your marketing team/ website designer know. It’s not their job to guess your practice or firm priorities. You’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t bury the lead.” It’s true—don’t bury it. Make sure your top strength or message is at the very top.
6. One SEO best practice goes hand-in-hand with hierarchy. Most lawyers we know want to be organically found in Google and other search engines and they assume it’s some magical, algorithmic, elusive “thing” that happens. In sum, that’s partly true. You can do several things to improve your organic rankings over time; there are terrific websites that focus entirely on the art and science of SEO. Beware of SEO charlatans who could call you, however; many of them overcharge and make promises they could never keep.
To kill at least one of the important SEO birds, you can use the information hierarchy stone—they are called “H-tags.” Every page of website content you write must use H-tags, or “header tags.” Think of it this way: Your page title is H1. It is the most important thing on the page. Your paragraph headers are H2—all of them should look the same in font, color, and style. These H2 headers should be descriptive of the content that is in that paragraph. These headers work hard in getting your story and messages across to human and bot visitors.
If a paragraph needs sub-heads, then those are H3s. They, too, will have their own size, font and style. H-tags go in this order—H1, H2, H3, and, if you need headers for a longer piece of content, such as a White Paper, you can add H4s under an H3 header. The most important keywords in your area of expertise should appear in these H-tag titles/headers and throughout your narrative.
Make It Mobile-Friendly, Videos Enhance Brands
7. Ensure your website is optimized for mobile. According to Statista, in 2022, more than half of website traffic worldwide was generated on mobile devices. In 2022 in the U.S., the average was above fifty percent, although Q1 2023 saw a dip to 45.5%. Your job is to be an advocate for the efficacy of your website, regardless of the device it’s on— large-screen monitor, laptop, tablet or phone.
8. Invest in video content—leverage its power to engage clients and convey complex legal concepts in a more accessible and compelling manner. Show, don’t tell, your story.
Create short, energetic videos, such as quick tutorials and updates. Client testimonials add the incomparable power of the client’s voice to your expertise and relationship skills. And a concise interview with you helps to demonstrate your capabilities, show your personality, and build both reputation and trust.
Client testimonials, whether video or short case-study-styled content, are social proof that prospects need when choosing the one firm or lawyer to hire. Testimonials shouldn’t discuss results because of bar association rules, but they can highlight positive experiences and feedback about what it’s like to work with the firm. They can significantly influence your target decision-makers and further instill confidence in your firm’s strengths.
Caution: Bad video is far worse than no video. Work with your marketing team and/ or hire professionals who understand storytelling. They will coach you so you can feel comfortable, natural and confident.
9. Care about accessibility compliance. It’s critical that your website adheres to accessibility guidelines, so it is inclusive and usable for individuals with disabilities. Implement features such as alt text for images, keyboard navigation support, consistent color contrast for links and readable fonts to enhance accessibility. A bonus for accessibility compliance is that it also boosts your SEO “juice.” And the information hierarchy H-tags discussed in #6 above are also critical for website accessibility. The screen readers used by visually impaired visitors rely on them.
Consult the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) for a primer on what you must do to comply. Plaintiff lawyers have targeted law firms and corporations of all sizes for noncompliance. In 2022 alone, 2,387 website accessibility lawsuits were filed, which was a 1.5% increase over 2021. Note that the same ADA lawsuit can be filed multiple times—in any state where a company or firm does business, which can be perilous for multi-office, multi-state firms. Today, a best practice is for your website to comply with everything outlined here: WCAG 2.2 Level A and Level AA. https://www.w3.org/TR/ WCAG22/.
10. Optimize your site for calls to action, or “CTAs.” What specific actions do you want to encourage clients to take? Write your headers and other content in a way that spurs action. Try these: request a consultation, contact you for more info, subscribe to your e-alerts, download a White Paper, follow you on social media, attend your seminar or webinar and invite a friend, and refer you to a colleague. Make it clear what you want them to do. Remember, website visitors are scanners, not readers—don’t hesitate to be obvious.
The beauty of a new state-of-the-art website is that it has the flexibility to evolve as your clients’ needs and their industries change. Website best practices and trends also progress over time, so it’s crucial to also stay up to date with these. Continuously adapt your website content strategy to meet the changing needs and expectations of everyone who relies on you – clients, your law firm employees, and your communities.