16 things you need to know for a winning legal website

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In a highly competitive world, law firms are under more pressure than ever to stand out from the crowd. Your website is the first place that prospective customers will go — so getting your web copy right is crucial if you want to persuade them to pick up the phone and take the next step.

Above all, what you say on your website — and how you say it — requires a real understanding of your customers’ needs.

1. Potential clients want to know they are in the right place

Right now a potential customer is searching for a law firm and they are trawling the web to draw up a shortlist. They may spend just a few moments on each site — so your homepage has to demonstrate that your firm can help, explaining what you do and who you work for — without jargon or obscure headings.

2. They want you to engage with them

Talk directly to your prospective customers by using “you” and “your” in your website copy more than “we” and “us”. Prompt clients to get in touch by featuring calls to action across your site. Make it easy for them to seize the moment.

3. They want to find key facts — fast

The services you offer, your location and contact details — all these must be easy to find on your website. As well as a company contact page, provide details for all your lawyers on their profile pages — such as email, a direct line number and a LinkedIn contact.

4. They need reassurance

There are lots of ways to reassure new clients using your website copy. In particular, testimonials can show that other customers appreciate what you do and the way that you do it. Your legal expertise may be taken as a given — so make sure your testimonials show that you offer a hassle-free service and that you keep your clients informed every step of the way.

5. They want you to speak their language

Professional services websites can be full of complex terms and convoluted sentences. But the best web copy is simple and written in the same style that you would use in conversation. Test your copy by reading it aloud — would you speak like this normally? Make your copy easy to read by using plain English, avoiding jargon and explaining legal terms.

6. They don’t read online, they scan

No-one reads every word of a website — they scan each page for clues to help them make up their minds. That means you need compelling headings, strong images and clear wording — including menus, links, bullet points and calls to action.

7. They want in-depth information

Whether they are in the process of buying a property or getting a divorce, your potential clients are looking for valuable information that will guide them. It can seem counter-intuitive to publish legal insights online — after all that’s what clients are paying you for — but by sharing your expertise, you’ll show that you know what you are talking about and prove just how helpful you are, outflanking your competitors.

8. They want a friendly service

Research shows that lawyers are often seen as aloof and intimidating. So people will scan your profile pages in the hopes of finding someone they feel comfortable doing business with. Make that process easy by including photos and writing a profile that conveys just how supportive and approachable they are. Don’t just write factual profiles, facts tend to be boring.

9. They want to see some personality

Like personal profiles, well-written blogs can also reveal the personality of your firm. A good blog is like a conversation — it demonstrates that your people want to engage with the outside world and it shows that you are switched on and up-to-date. What’s more, many law firms don’t bother with a blog, so it can be an excellent differentiator.

10. They want a 21st century law firm

Many firms are understandably proud of their long history. Alas your legal heritage doesn’t have much sway with your target audience today. So ditch the history lesson and focus on what you do now. In addition, prove that you are up-to-date with legal developments on your blog, in white papers and articles and on social media sites. But stick to plain English.

11. They want answers

Instead of thinking about what you want to say on your website, talk to your clients and find out what they want to read about. Make a note of common client concerns and questions — and answer them clearly.

12. They don’t want to be sold to

When you set out your stall online, it can be tempting to simply list your achievements and credentials. But today’s professional marketing is not about boastful sales pitches. That approach is all about you — and not about your clients. Instead, talk about how you can help. Show that you are the best with your website content — don’t say it.

13. They want a trusted partner that knows their stuff

There are many ways to demonstrate that you are a leading authority in your field. Publish white papers that add value; create useful guides to each aspect of the law that you specialise in; and send a regular email newsletter with updates and legal news.

14. They want to see signs of life on your website

Many professional firms tend to see their websites as no more than an online brochure — something that is done and dusted. Show that you are a dynamic and responsive firm by updating your site regularly. Post news stories and blogs on legal issues, introduce new members of the team and contribute regularly on social media sites.

15. They want to find you

Make it easy for potential clients to find you by including keywords and phrases in your website copy that will lead them to specific landing pages on your website when they search online. Focus your search engine optimisation on local search terms, such as ‘divorce financial advice Oxford’. Also, make sure your company and lawyers are active and engaged on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

16. They want a professional service

Make sure the high level of professional service that you offer is reflected in all of your online content — check all spellings and grammar, keep your design consistent, use high-quality images and make sure sloppy copy doesn’t detract from your professional identity.