Originally published on the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) website.
Updating your law firm’s website is always a daunting task. But like many big projects, formulating a strategy and breaking it out into distinct milestones can make it more manageable.
Over the last decade, users have become more demanding of professional service providers — and websites have had to become more sophisticated to match. As a result, you may be unsure of where to start. In this article, we provide 10 best practices to consider when building or updating a law firm website.
1. Form a committee and define your goals and objectives.
You should form a website committee and strategically select its members. Include decision-makers and key stakeholders, seasoned lawyers and newer ones, marketing professionals and your firm’s IT director.
The committee’s first task is to identify realistic project goals and objectives. Take care to ensure that they align with your firm’s overall marketing needs and capabilities.
2. Think about your target audiences and the end user.
Your target audiences include potential and existing clients, referral sources, students, potential hires and internal stakeholders, sometimes in multiple jurisdictions. Once you have determined who your website is for, think about how users will benefit from it.
This is also a great opportunity to talk to your clients and stakeholders to find out if your current website is meeting their needs and, if not, how the new website could. Ask them how they engage with your current website, what they find the most valuable and what else you can add to your new website to improve its relevance for them.
3. Review your website’s analytics data.
Your website’s analytics data can be used to determine how your current website is succeeding and where it is falling short. Start by studying traffic patterns such as the audience and behaviour metrics to identify critical indicators of poor performance like bounce rate, exit rate, lower engagement or site speed. Identify which pages visitors are viewing most often, look at how they move through the site and determine whether the data matches what your law firm and clients want.
4. Audit your competitors’ websites.
Perform in-depth reviews of your competitors’ websites. Document their site structures, areas of expertise and brand messaging. This information will help you determine if your current website is doing a good job of selling your law firm, if your service offerings are competitive and whether there are other opportunities to improve.
5. Incorporate your law firm’s brand identity.
Using your firm’s brand style guide, ensure that the website’s design includes the firm’s logo, colours, fonts and other design elements. (Don’t have a style guide? Make one!) Identify your points of differentiation and determine how they can be marketed on the website, both in the visual design and in the content, including headlines, messaging and functionality.
6. Build an intuitive website structure.
Use the goals and the insights from your competitor analysis and website analytics data to help determine a purpose-driven website architecture. Once you define the main navigation, map the layout, structure and content that should appear on each webpage. Ensure that the website is intuitive for users to navigate, and link related content on pages to help deepen their experience.
7. Choose the right CMS.
There are many content management systems (CMSs) available, so do your research and get internal IT support before selecting one. Find a platform that is easy to use, scalable to your law firm’s short- and long-term needs, secure, creates a positive user experience and is search engine optimization (SEO) friendly.
Also consider looking into personalization. This AI-driven offering lets you deliver personalized versions of your webpages and content to specific target audiences.
8. Ensure that your website is accessible.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAGs) are an international set of website accessibility standards that have been approved by the United States and Canada. You should become familiar with your jurisdiction’s accessibility regulations to ensure that your website can be fully accessed by all users — especially as there are now steep fines and potentially litigation for non-compliance.
9. Optimize your website for search.
“If you build it, they will come” worked in “Field of Dreams,” but it does not quite work that way after you launch your website. If your firm is a business-to-consumer (B2C) law firm, SEO is important because it can help your website rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). This results in more web traffic and generates more opportunities for your website to convert potential prospects into clients.
A good place to start with SEO is to determine the keywords that reflect your firm’s key practices and create dedicated webpages that use these keywords. Most websites generate a large share of their traffic from search engines, meaning every page is a potential landing page.
10. Define and track KPIs.
Revisit the goals you defined for the project and assign key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the website’s success. Free tools like Google Analytics can monitor your website’s performance, and this can be supplemented with additional tools depending on your needs.
If you have specific targets, set up conversion tracking and event tracking. You can even get meticulous with website analytics by monitoring page downloads, click-to-calls or even page scrolls.
Andrea Falcone is a senior marketing and website strategist at Cubicle Fugitive, a full-service marketing and web development agency in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Brian Glaser is the marketing communications manager at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, an international law firm.