Faulkner's Practical Web Strategies for Attorneys: Is Your Web Site Successful? Tips and Techniques to Get More Out Of Your WebBy Frederick L. Faulkner IV, Published on April 15, 2006
I am often asked, "Is 200,000 hits a month good for a Web site?" when talking with lawyers at meetings and other events. Of course the number changes every time, but the general inquiry is the same: how does someone determine if their Web site is successful or not? For some it is all about the numbers. The bigger the numbers, the more successful it is. To others, they want to track a specific ROI to their Web site, which could be I receive x amount of clients for every y amount of phone calls via my Web site.
My typical response to these types of questions is that the success of a Web site is determined by a variety of factors that are weighted differently by each individual asking the question. In reality, the success of a Web site is in the eye of the beholder, and it is the management of the expectations put on a Web site that determine if it is successful or not. While that may sound like a cop out for an answer to some, it is very true. For a large firm, a Web site may be largely a marketing tool for exposure, but their focus to gain more clients is through their partners and rainmakers. For a solo or small firm in a suburb of a metropolitan area, a Web site may be a great way to bring in clients and distinguish them from the lawyer down the street.
Reasons Why People Visit Your Web Site
Before you can make some adjustments to your Web site, it is best to understand some basic behaviors of the types of visitors that come to your Web site. Visitors to your Web site are most likely doing one or more of the following:
- Shopping around for legal services
- Looking for someone they can trust
- Looking for someone who has expertise and success with the problem they have
Like many services, visitors to law firm Web sites are shopping around for legal services. Many have a problem that they cannot solve on their own. They want someone who can help them solve their problem, whom they can trust, and who will accomplish the assignment without breaking their bank account. Your Web site is one of the first exposures a potential client has to you and your firm. Building initial trust via your Web site is crucial to get that visitor to even consider filling out a client-intake form or making that initial phone call.
Tips for Improving Your Web Site for Success
Assuming that your Web site, at the bare minimum, gives your firm exposure to someone seeking a lawyer who is on the Internet, the following tips will help you identify ways you can improve your Web site to meet your expectations.
Look at Your Web Site Statistics
Every Web site host should provide you with some statistics about your Web site. It is best to look at these statistics before you make any other adjustments to get a baseline of what is really happening on your site. Looking at these statistics can help you identify problem spots as well as traffic trends. Some key statistics to look at are:
- Entry Pages
- Most Visited Pages
- Search Terms
- Bounce Rate
Entry Pages. This is the first page a visitor comes to when they are on your Web site. This is a key report to know if your visitors are entering on your homepage first, or going to a specific content page. If visitors are entering your Web site on your homepage, you will want to take a look at your Exit Page report next. More on that when we get to bounce rates. If visitors are first entering your Web site on a deeper content page, such as a practice area, you will want to see if that matches with the types of clients you may be gaining from your Web site.
Most Visited Pages. Consider these pages as your most popular pages. Most visited pages, or most page views generally are ones that visitors look at the most. This report consolidates all the pages, by ranking, into one nice listing of what visitors are looking at. You may be able to identify a page that has important information regarding one of your services is not being looked at a lot you may need to investigate why. Is it your navigation? Is it how the teaser on your homepage is phrased? This report helps identify those types of instances.
Search Terms. Search terms are another key indicator as to what visitors are using to find your firm's Web site. If you have tailored your Web site correctly with terms that describe what type of services your firm provides, you should see the same terms in this report. If you do not see them, you may need to adjust the copy on your Web site so that it is more in line with what visitors are searching on. It is not uncommon for a law firm Web site to use terms that do not match those for which a visitor is searching. Remember, more often than not a potential client will not be searching on the technical or legal term for a type of case, but rather the type of problem they have.
Bounce Rate. The bounce rate can be determined by dividing your exit page by the entry page that matches it. For instance, if your top exit page is your homepage with 100 exists, and your homepage is on your entry page report with 200 visits, then your bounce rate is 50%. This means that 100 visitors entered your Web site at your homepage and then immediately left without going to any other pages. Some analytics programs, like Google Analytics, provide a report that shows the bounce rates for your Web site. Others will require you to do some comparison to determine your bounce rate for certain pages.
Referrers. Knowing how your visitors found you is also important. A referrer report will tell you the site a visitor was on just before coming to yours. Often the first couple of referrers will be search engines. Other times you will see directories that list your Web site. If you register your Web site with a directory listing, or pay for search result listings, you will want to make sure those Web sites are in your referrer report.
Building Trust with Proper Design
Did you know that you have less than 30 seconds to make a positive impression or grab a visitor's attention to continue reading your Web site? If you have a home-grown Web site that was built in Microsoft's Front Page or Publisher, or by your nephew, it is time to trade up.
Professionalism is what immediately starts to build a potential client's trust in you and your firm, not the standard clip-art of the scales of justice that is on that template you used. There are many firms that can provide you with a professional looking Web site for minimal costs. Some will even help write the copy that goes on the site and make sure it is search engine optimized.
Having a cleanly designed Web site is a start to building trust. Use colors that are inviting, not dark or heavy. It is best to put a dark font color on a light background, not the reverse. Make sure your Web site will print out easily without cutting off text on the right side of the page margin. If you want to see some of the best designed and formatted Web sites, take a look at Internet Marketing Attorney's Nifty Fifty. These independently evaluated Web sites cover areas such as design, content, usability, interactivity and more. You can get some good ideas from these Web sites concerning features to include when developing your Web site.
Design goes beyond pretty pictures and clean lines though, to how your navigation is written. The how your page "scans" is also important. That is a key thing to remember; Web users scan Web sites, not read them. It is only when they see something that catches their eye will they read more about that topic. So if your Web site is very text heavy, you will want to break up those paragraphs into readable, scannable chunks of content. This is where the words used in the headlines are always key. It is also important not to bury content that is important so your visitor can contact you. Make sure you phone number, or client intake form is readily accessible from anywhere on your Web site. Once that visitor decides they want to call you, don't make them search too hard for how to do it. Having your contact information in your footer is always best.
It's About Them, Not You - Evaluating Your Copy
The problem with many legal Web sites is the copy in them. More often than not, the Web site content will focus on what the firm has to offer; what the firm can do; what areas of law in which their lawyers are experts.. What the content should address is how your firm can help a visitor solve their problem. An easy way to see if you have self-centered copy on your Web site is to count up how many times you have "we" in your copy vs. "you." You will want phrases like "Thomas Jones, LLC can help assist you in a child custody hearing," or "The Bill Smith law firm are experts in the new bankruptcy laws to help you get back on financial track." The focus is on them, not you; it is important for a potential client to see that you care about their needs. Just this slight change of text and content orientation will help bring clients to your firm versus them moving on to the next one.
Web site success is based mostly on the owner's expectation. If they have a certain expectation that their Web site should bring in 10% of their firm's clients, then their Web site needs to be geared to bring in clients. By analyzing your current Web site statistics and visitor behaviors you can determine where you can make improvements. Cleaning up the copy on your Web site to make it client focused and adding phrases that target their needs will help you build trust. Having a professional design will also build trust. It is through that initial trust where a prospect will have the desire to call your firm, or fill out a client intake form to contact you.