For law firms, quality online content is about more than just SEO. Your firm’s website needs to instill comfort and confidence, and it needs to convince prospective clients to pick up the phone.
If you have a law firm, you almost certainly have a website. But, do you know why? While many managing partners and firm administrators prioritize maintaining a good-looking website, they don’t always know what they are trying to achieve in doing so.
Yes, the short answer is marketing. But there is also so much more to the story. This is why quality content is so important, and why all law firms need to emphasize the quality of their website’s content equally—if not over—the quality of their website’s design.
Law Firm Website Content: It’s About Speaking to Your Potential Clientele
So, you understand that your firm’s website is a marketing tool. But, what exactly does that mean? What kind of content not only (a) draws potential clients to your website, but also (b) keeps them there and leads them to contact you for help?
Telling Potential Clients What they Want to Hear
The answer to a certain extent, you’ll appreciate, is “it depends.” More on that below. But, the general rule is that your website should focus less on your firm and more on its website visitors.
Traditionally, lawyers have focused on two main things when crafting content for their websites:
- Explaining what they do; and,
- Touting their attorneys’ credentials.
The problem is that most potential clients don’t care enough about these to read about them in detail on the Internet. When prospects are searching the web, they are looking for answers. The resume is secondary to the ability to understand, appreciate, and address the prospect’s needs.
For example, if you are a personal injury lawyer, your typical client won’t care whether you were a journal editor during law school or if you are a board member for a local charity. Your potential clients aren’t going to choose the lawyer with the most well-rounded background. They are going to choose the lawyer who can answer their questions because they’ve been there before. They are going to choose the lawyer who they think can make the process as easy as possible while also achieving the best possible outcome. As a result, this is the message your firm needs to convey through its website content and blog posts.
On the other hand, if your practice focuses on representing other attorneys in malpractice suits and disciplinary proceedings, then it may be appropriate for your content to sway toward building a resume and profile that will impress other lawyers. That certainly makes sense, and we’ve written web pages specifically with this focus in mind.
In short, writing effective website content requires an in-depth understanding of, and consistent focus on, your potential clients’ points of view. With these concerns at the forefront, you can develop a website that draws higher numbers of prospects, keeps them on your site for longer periods of time, and ultimately leads to increased conversions.
Turning Searchers Into Clients
When it comes to content marketing, many law firms (and law firm marketing agencies) have a tendency to favor quantity over quality. This is typically due to one or more of a variety of different factors, such as:
- Limited time to devote to in-depth writing;
- Fear of giving away too much information to competitors or would-be clients that become do-it-yourselfers
- A desire to lure potential clients into making contact in order to get the information they’re really looking for, and/or
- Buying into the perception that more is always better when it comes to building a presence online.
However, in today’s world, these considerations are becoming less and less relevant, and they tend to lead to marketing efforts that yield limited results. When potential clients start searching online, what are they looking for? Most often, they are looking for answers. They aren’t looking to be teased into calling for help, or to be overwhelmed with legal updates. They aren’t wondering where you went to school or where you’re admitted to practice (though these are important for building credibility later in the process). When a prospect who is going to contact you through your website is searching for help online, frequently that prospect is looking for immediate answers to the questions that are relevant to them.
Accordingly, for these types of prospects, your law firm’s content marketing strategy should be tailored not toward demonstrating that you can meet their needs, but toward actually addressing their immediate concerns.
Speaking to Your Prospective Clients
The goal, then, is not to bombard the Internet with keyword-heavy, substance-light content (though keyword placement and management are certainly important parts of an effective content marketing strategy). Rather, the goal is to provide relevant, useful information that helps prospects begin to reach a level of comfort both with their situation and with you as a potential advisor, advocate or representative. Remember, you don’t want everyone who has a question to call you. The people who can find all of their answers online are not your ideal clients. Your conversions are going to come from the prospects who truly need legal representation.
How to Reach Your Ideal Clientele
The question for the law firm then becomes, how do you get your answers in front of potential clients? There are multiple options, and a comprehensive content marketing strategy will employ them all:
- Search Engine Optimization with Geo-Targeted Keywords – Effective use of relevant keywords in both articles and static website content is an important tool for building a law firm’s online presence. When used appropriately, keywords will blend seamlessly into your firm’s online content and enhance search engine visibility without detracting from the substance and readability of your firm’s website and blog.
- Search Engine Optimization with Longtail Keywords – Of course, not all prospects are going to search for your chosen keywords. In fact, as discussed above, it is likely that the majority of the clients who find you online will do so by looking for answers to the questions that concern them. How much time am I facing for a second DUI charge in California? What if my mother didn’t leave a will? What are my rights if my employer fires me for whistle-blowing? How long do I have in New York to sue for breach of contract? Answering people’s questions tends to help earn their trust.
- Guest Articles and Other Online Publications – In addition to answering questions on your own website, it is a good idea to answer people’s questions other places as well. Getting an article published in a popular online magazine or newspaper will increase your exposure, enhance your credibility, and provide more opportunities to make connections and expand the boundaries of your online presence. Also, consider writing a guest post for a local attorney with a complimentary practice.
- Newsletters and Email Marketing – Of course, prospects aren’t the only people who need answers. Your current and former clients likely need answers as well. Active email marketing can lead to repeat and expanded engagements, and can help build your reputation and keep you front-of-mind with your contacts.
- Social Media – While it is generally accepted that simply broadcasting self-promotional content on social media is not an effective practice, remember that this isn’t what you’re doing when you are offering answers to other people’s questions. Sure, you still don’t want to only post your own articles, but if you’re writing content that other people want to read, you are contributing knowledge and expertise, and this will help you get noticed by both potential clients and referral sources.
The Common Factor: Quality, Relevant, and Timely Content
The common factor in all of these delivery methods is that your firm must be delivering engaging content that is relevant to its intended audience. You can write page after page of important information, but if you don’t write it in a way that is both (i) attuned to the reader’s interests, and (ii) easy to read, your efforts are probably going to be wasted.
Four Best Practices for Writing Law Firm Website and Blog Content
One: Use Clear, Concise Titles that Tell Readers (and Search Engines) What They’re Going to Read
Too often I see articles written by attorneys that employ tongue-in-cheek titles that might make them look clever, but don’t actually convey the subject matter of the article. While this may be a fun diversion from the strictures of legal writing, it isn’t the best practice when you’re trying to get people to actually read what you’ve written.
There are three primary reasons why descriptive titles are best for law firm web pages and blog articles:
- They draw the interest of people who are looking for the information you’re sharing (not just the interest of people who appreciate a clever title).
- They draw the interest of search engines, which rely heavily on title keywords in determining placement in search results.
- You can use the meta description (or first couple of sentences of your article) to show some personality—while again reinforcing your article keywords.
Remember, no one will (you included) will get the benefit of your content if your intended audience doesn’t know it exists. Getting readers to click the link to your firm’s website or blog is step one.
Two: Use Keywords to Boost Search Engine Presence without Compromising Your Content
Of course, title and meta description keywords are just small pieces of the puzzle for effective search engine optimization (SEO). The meat of your web pages and blog articles also needs to add your website’s “visibility” to the major search engines.
However, simply dumping keywords into your content isn’t the answer. This is both:
- Widely acknowledged not to be an effective SEO strategy, and
- Highly likely to turn off your human readers and lead them from your website back to their search results.
Instead, use natural language that organically incorporates your keywords. Google itself recommends this approach by counseling web writers to, “create content primarily for your users, not search engines.”
Three: Make Your Web Page or Blog Article Easy to Read
Beyond producing solid content and avoiding the trap of putting too much emphasis on keywords, don’t forget another fairly web-specific rule of thumb: Make your law firm website and blog content easy to digest. Your content should be purpose-built to convey a limited-but-valuable amount of information to people who are either: (i) looking for an answer to a very specific question, or (ii) looking for a lawyer who can adequately meet their needs. In general, this means that the pages on your website and your blog articles should:
- Include clear, concise titles and paragraph headings.
- Stay on-point for the specific subject matter around which the page or article is built.
- Make effective use of bullet points and lists.
- Use simple sentence structures and short paragraphs.
- Fall somewhere in or near the range of 400 to 600 words.
Four: Don’t Leave Readers Hanging
Finally, don’t leave readers hanging. In other words, don’t be afraid to tell readers what they want to hear. Subject to staying within the bounds of professional responsibility, go ahead and actually answer the questions you think your prospects are asking. You are a lawyer; they (probably) are not. They will still need your help, and they will feel a stronger connection if you provide them with valuable information instead of leaving them searching for an answer.
What Pages Should I Have on My Law Firm’s Website?
A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Structuring a Law Firm Website
A lot goes into developing the content for a law firm website. Besides the information gathering, research, and writing, there is an entire preliminary process of deciding what you are going to be gathering information, researching, and writing about. Here, we take a look at the primary types of web pages that make up a typical law firm website.
Four Topic Areas for Pages on Law Firm Websites
1. Pages that Tell Prospects What You Do
These are primarily your practice area pages. There are a couple key points here to keep in mind. First, planning is important. If you don’t know how many pages you’re going to have and what each one of them is going to be about, you really can’t get started. You’ll end up with a mess of disorganized, duplicative content that doesn’t capture your prospects’ attention or that of the search engines.
Second, your practice area pages need to be written for your intended audience. That’s why companies like ours exist. We know how to write legal content that is accurate, concise, and focuses on the goal of turning readers into clients.
2. Pages that Demonstrate Your Expertise
Along with practice area pages, your law firm’s website should content that demonstrates your attorneys’ expertise. These may include:
- Attorney profile pages
- Substantive pages on topics relating to your firm’s areas of practice (e.g., “What to Expect During the Trademark Application Process”)
- Substantive pages on non-legal issues that are relevant to your practice (e.g., “Understanding Traumatic Brain Injuries”)
3. Pages that Tell Prospects What Makes You Unique
While all of the content on your firm’s website should reflect your attorneys’ style, tone, and approach to client service, you can also include pages that are specifically geared toward demonstrating the things that make your law firm unique. These could include pages covering topics such as:
- Case results or representative matters
- Firm history
- Firm philosophy
- Flat fee and alternative billing arrangements
While not all of your prospects will read these pages, those that do will do so because they are specifically interested in what you have to offer. If these pages aren’t there, they won’t find what they’re looking for.
4. Pages that Make it Easy for Prospects to Get in Touch
Ok, so this is technically only one page, but it is an important one. There are a few reasons why your law firm’s website should have a contact page:
- So that prospects can contact you. Sounds obvious, but it’s key. For this purpose, you want your contact page to be clean and simple: a simple contact form, your phone number, your address, and a Google map (for SEO). This is a contact page, not an intake form, so you don’t need to ask for a lot of information. The goal is simply to get your prospects to get in touch.
- The afore-mentioned SEO. Google favors businesses that have physical addresses published and linked on their websites. It also looks for specific phone number formats: (202) 810-5251and 202-810-5251.
- For calls to action on your web pages and blog articles. Any self-respecting web page or blog article will end with a call to action (e.g., “To inquire about our services, please contact us today.”). The key to this is having a link that makes it easy for prospects to contact you. With limited exceptions, each one of our calls to action contains a link to the firm’s contact page.
So, How Many Pages Should I have on My Law Firm’s Website?
Depending on your firm’s practice areas, the size of your website can vary tremendously. For a small firm with one or two primary practice areas, a solid base website can be anywhere from 9 to 15 pages. For firms that really get into detail about specific sub-areas and subject matter expertise, this can easily get closer to 50 pages. For mid-size and large firms seeking to establish a comprehensive online presence, it is not unusual for page counts to climb into the three figures. This does not include blog articles.
What Should I Write About in My Law Firm Blog Articles?
If no one is reading your blog, it has no value to your law firm. So, how do you get people to read your law firm blog articles?
First, you need people to know it exists. This, of course, means getting social online, and also using targeted search engine optimization (SEO) to try to appear in organic search results. But, even with these strategies deployed, you’re still not going to develop a readership unless you are consistently developing quality content.
Develop a Regular Publication Schedule for Your Law Firm Blog
As a result, publishing content on a regular schedule is key. To start developing repeat visitors (which will ultimately become your clients and referral sources), you need to give people a reason to keep coming back. That reason is new content. For law firms that rely on online marketing to drive business, we recommend at least a weekly publication schedule.
Reliable Topic Areas for Law Firm Blog Articles
However, content for content’s sake will not get the job done. Sure, a catchy headline might get someone to click on a link in your Twitter feed, but if they get to your website and are disappointed by the substance of your blog, they aren’t going to stick around. Not only that, but they might actually feel misled, leading them not to trust (and not to click on) your headlines and links in the future.
We have found that the following topic areas provide consistent inspiration for quality law firm blog articles:
- Explanations of legal concepts relevant to your potential clients (e.g., “Eligibility Requirements to Obtain Social Security Disability Benefits”).
- Real-world examples that speak to your prospects’ needs (e.g., “What are my Options if a Competitor is Using a Confusingly-Similar Trademark?”).
- Information on what to expect during the process of representation, litigation, etc. (e.g., “If I Win at Trial, how do I Collect my Judgment?”).
- Legal news (e.g., “Industry Lobbyists Succeed in Having Restrictive Statute Taken Off of the Books (and What it Means for Your Business)”).
- News about your law firm (e.g., “Atticus Finch Named to List of Maycomb’s Legal Elite”).
- Recent decisions and legislative developments relevant to your firm’s areas of practice;
- Detail-level explanations of legal issues within your attorneys’ practice areas (e.g., “Can I Recover Lost Wages if I was Injured in an Auto Accident?”)
- Practical applications of legal principals (e.g., “Why it is Important to Include Non-Solicitation Provisions in Vendor Contracts”);
- Procedural aspects of legal representation (e.g., “What to Expect If You’ve Been Arrested for DUI”);
- Current events within your firm (publications, speaking engagements, recent successes, expansions).
Aside from news about your law firm—which really should be limited to P.R. materials and your firm’s own web properties—these are also great topics for articles for third-party publications. Remember, one of the best ways to drive traffic to your firm’s website (and improve its SEO) is through links from relevant third-party websites. Well-written, informative and practical content with a link back to your website is an invaluable tool for both expanding your audience and driving quality leads to submit your contact form or pick up the phone.
What Not to Write About on Your Law Firm Blog
Every week, we spend hours researching and drafting blog articles for law firms across a wide range of areas of practice. Occasionally, we come across information that inspires a post for our own Legal Writing and Law Firm Marketing Blog. This is one of those posts.
At their core, law firm blog articles need two things to provide value to the firm: (i) an interesting title; and, (ii) relevant, quality content. The title brings prospects to the firm’s website. The content keeps them there and leaves a lasting impression. Without one or the other, the article loses a tremendous amount of value. Without both, it is borderline worthless.
Examples of What Not to Do
These have been altered to protect the identity of their original authors, but the following are based on the titles of two blog articles that recently caught my eye on A Fortiori’s Twitter feed:
- What are Some Tips for Filing a Successful Medical Malpractice Claim in Kentucky?
- What is the Difference between Compensatory and Punitive Damages?
So, what’s wrong?
Example No. 1
Let’s take the first example. And, to be fair, we’ll start with what’s not wrong. Calling out the practice area and jurisdiction in the article title are both good ideas, as they allow actual prospects to take notice of what you’ve got on offer. This title would be much worse if it were simply, “What are Some Tips for Filing a Successful Lawsuit?” No one would know where the firm was located or who its attorneys’ served. For a consumer-based practice, focusing on “Tips” is also generally a good way to generate some interest.
But, look at the meat of the title: “Filing a Successful Medical Malpractice Claim”. Who is the intended audience? Prospective clients don’t care about how a claim gets filed. All they care about is (i) whether you can file it, and (ii) if you can, what can they hope for in a successful outcome. Even if I were looking for a malpractice lawyer in Kentucky, this article wouldn’t interest me.
Example No. 2
The second example suffers the two fatal flaws that I mentioned were the redeeming virtues in the first example. Where does the lawyer practice? What are his or her practice areas? I’m not saying that these two pieces of information always need to be conveyed in an article title, but if the goal of your blog is to drive prospects to your firm’s website, who exactly would you be expecting to attract? With this example it isn’t clear, and readers will pick up on that. Unless your name or firm affiliation alone will be the draw, this article isn’t going to provide much of a content marketing benefit.
Also consider the subject matter: Are your prospects going to care about this issue? Are they even going to know to ask the question?
How We Would Re-Write These Blog Articles
With these considerations in mind, here is how we would re-write these article titles (with attendant alterations to the article subject matter):
- What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Kentucky
- Available Damages in Federal Copyright Infringement Litigation
Each of these titles is reasonably interesting, contains searchable keywords, and gives would-be readers a general idea of the firm’s scope of practice. These are all key to getting the clicks that will bring actual prospects to your firm’s website where they can contact you—and this is the goal of content marketing.
How Thinking Outside the Box Can Drive Prospects to Your Firm’s Website
Let’s face it: Most lawyers’ blogs are pretty stale. Maybe not to you or me, but to your prospects? How about an article with a title article along the lines of, “Ninth Circuit Issues Landmark Ruling in Eminent Domain Litigation.” Sounds enthralling. Right? Right? Bueller?
The reality is that the stuff that matters to lawyers just doesn’t matter to the vast majority of their clients and prospects. Yes, landmark decisions are critically important, and yes, they affect your clients’ cases. But, do your prospects really care about the appellate history or the court’s reasoning? No, they don’t. All they care about is that you can help them get what they want as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
Using Legal Developments to Get Your Potential Clients’ Attention
With this in mind, what kind of content should law firms publish on their blogs? You want to be timely – which suggests writing about new developments – but you don’t want to write something that only other lawyers (at best) are going to want to read. At A Fortiori, we use these developments, but write about them in ways that make them relevant to firms’ potential clients.
A (Relatively) Recent Example: Obergefell v. Hodges
For an example, consider Obergefell v. Hodges. This was the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in June 2015 declaring the legality of same-sex marriage nationwide. While the case’s history is fascinating and the Justices’ opinions leave no shortage of fodder for scholarly discussion, these aren’t great subject matter for a blog targeting potential clients. You can – and should – write about the case, but to get through to your intended audience, you need to consider what makes the decision interesting from their point of view.
What if I’m Not a Divorce Lawyer?
The majority of law firm blog articles that we wrote regarding Obergefell v. Hodges were written for firms practicing in family law. On one level, this makes sense. It was a case about marriage, after all, which falls squarely in the family law arena. However, when matters make national headlines, it can be beneficial for law firms with tangentially-related practice areas to make use of them as well. For example:
- A personal injury law firm could have published blog articles about how Obergefell affects same-sex partners’ rights in wrongful death actions, or how marriage affects tax implications for successful same-sex personal injury claimants.
- A firm representing small businesses could have written about how the Court’s decision opens up new options for same-sex couples running family-owned businesses.
- Real estate law firms could have written about Obergefell’s implications for same-sex couples considering purchasing or disposing of real property.
These are just a few examples. With some creative thinking, it would be very easy for a law firm practicing in almost any area of law to link a case like Obergefell to their day-to-day client representation. With carefully-chosen keywords, law firms in a broad range of practice areas can often ride the coattails of national news to attract new potential clients to their blogs.
The Two Keys to Impactful Law Firm Web Content: Empathy and Ability
Getting Clients is About Giving Them what They Want
For law firms that are relatively new to using - and I mean really using - the Internet to grow their client base, knowing how to develop quality website and blog content can be a challenge. Even getting to this point begs the question: What does 'quality' really mean when it comes to online content?
To a certain extent, the answer depends on what you want to get out of your law firm's online presence. For the sake if this article, we'll assume that your firm is like most others, and is seeking to harness the power of the Internet to grow its book of business.
With this backdrop, we can focus on 'quality' in the context of your content fulfilling its intended purpose: driving prospects to your firm's website, and then convincing them to pick up the phone or submit your contact form. Of course, this all needs to be done without any human interaction and before your prospect starts wondering too hard if there might be a better firm out there. Remember, your competition is just a few clicks away.
Empathy and Ability: The Keys to Client Conversion
Your website needs to be your sales pitch, but it also needs to be your personal connection. Go over the top with buzz words, superlatives, and hard-sell tactics, and you're going to send potential clients running. But, at the same time, if you don't sell yourself and develop a sense of connection, prospects are going to go somewhere else to look for a better fit.
Selling your firm - really selling it so that prospects actually want to contact you to learn more about what you have to offer - requires proof of two things: empathy and ability.
Empathy Applies to All Types of Clients
Empathy doesn't mean sympathy. We all know that, so let's just say it and get it out of the way. Empathy means connecting with your clients because you care about what they are going through. Whether it's a personal injury claim, a First Amendment violation, or a complex business dispute, your website needs to show that you care enough to do your best to help your clients.
If prospects see that you care; if they see passion and a practice built on relevant expertise, they are going to feel the connection that is necessary to begin an engagement.
Demonstrating Ability: Show, Don't Tell
Of course, you can have all the passion in the world and still not be any good. We would venture to say that this is a rare circumstance within the legal profession; but, when it comes to online marketing, having ability doesn't get you anywhere if your prospects don't know about it. Most prospects will impute a certain amount of competence due to the simple fact that you are a lawyer, but this only puts you on a level playing field. To tip the balance in your favor, you need to efficiently convince your prospects that you have more to offer.
As a result, when we talk about demonstrating ability, we put the emphasis on demonstration. This is the old 'show, don't tell,' chestnut, and it still rings true today. You can say you're an experienced attorney over and over again, but if there is no substance behind your assertion, it is going to ring hollow.
Demonstrating ability on law firm websites and blogs is all about producing substantive content. Your content should have sufficient substance to impress your prospects without giving them an inferiority complex. You want to appear competent, not pompous - knowledgeable, but relatable. Never worry about giving too much away; if someone thinks they can get all of the information they need off of the Internet, they were never going to hire you in the first place.
If you follow this model, you should end up with a very high-quality online presence. And that's the whole point, right?
An Aside: Updating Your Firm’s Website Content
Finally, it’s also worth noting that law firms should be attuned to the effects that major developments can have on the relevance of their existing website content. For example, with Obergefell v. Hodges, pages discussing how state laws outlawed same-sex marriage suddenly became blatantly outdated. When the law changes, failing to update your website can cause it to have the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of feeling trust and confidence, prospects will likely choose to look elsewhere for a law firm that is up to date on the law.
Contact Me About Writing for Your Law Firm
If you are interested in hiring a professional content writer for your law firm, I encourage you to get in touch. I am a former lawyer who has been writing professionally full-time since 2015. Send me a message to let me know how I can help today.