12 Effective Ways To Promote Your Law Firm’s Website Online
The greatest website in the world does you no good if no one visits it. Many law firms focus so much on designing their websites and getting them out on the Internet that they neglect to pay attention to driving traffic to the website.
It’s what you do after you put the site on the Internet that will determine the ultimate success of your website.
You cannot simply launch your site, sit back, and expect your site to be a success. Based on my own experience with my own websites, I have come to the conclusion that you must have a strategic plan for your promotional efforts.
You should put in at least as much effort into promoting and marketing your website as you put into its design and choice of graphics and content. The following twelve steps will help you create a strategic plan for promoting your law firm’s website.
1. Determine Your Purpose.
Your plan to promote your website begins with this basic question: why do you have this site?
Your answer will help you define your target audience and give you a sense of the level of promotional efforts you want to make. Here are six questions to ask when attempting to get your website out to more people.
- Are you simply providing information?
- Are you supplementing other existing marketing efforts?
- Do you want to generate new clients directly from the website?
- Do you want to sell new services or even products to existing clients?
- Do you want to develop a brand name for your law firm, move into new practice areas or establish a national reputation for expertise in a specific area?
- Most importantly, who is your target audience?
2. Set Some Goals.
Your goals should be specific, well-defined and attainable. A goal may be as simple as generating enough savings or revenues to pay the costs for the site.
If you want to have a million visitors a day, different efforts will be required than if you are simply providing client newsletters or supplemental information to existing clients.
While websites can also be used to market services or products directly, other valuable uses include streamlining client intake and support, providing technical legal information and reducing costs of printing and postage for brochures and other marketing information.
Goals can change over the course of time, but your goals will help you create a framework for your promotional efforts. Goal number one will be finding the best ways to reach your target audience.
3. Put The Plan In Writing.
Promoting and marketing your website is a continuing process that will evolve after a number of false starts. You will need to develop some checklists and logs of what you have done and plan to do to promote the site.
Take notes on how well each of the strategies has worked. Keeping a written record of this information will help you avoid duplicate your efforts and give you a road map for promoting new sites you may develop.
4. Choose Your Domain Name Wisely.
Online users will typically try the most obvious domain name, e.g., www.yourlawfirm.com, to find your site before they will resort to search engines or other finding techniques.
If you have not chosen a domain name well, you will make it unnecessarily difficult for people to find your site online.
You will want to avoid using initials used only by insiders in your firm or other non-intuitive choices. For a law firm website, get a first level domain name (such as www.yourlawfirm.com) and avoid long, unwieldy web addresses with second or third level domain names (such as www.isp.com/~yourfirm/index.html). In the legal profession, you need either a .com or .org domain name.
The common law firm conventions today are to use the common name of the firm or the common name with “law” added. In the case of an old firm, the standard choices would be either stolar.com or stolarlaw.com (the one chosen).
Before switching to stolarlaw.com, the domain name was tspstl.com, which was commonly misspelled and told people nothing about the law firm. There is also a bit of a trend toward firms using more creative domain names such as www.visalaw.com for an immigration law firm.
5. List Your Website Effectively On Search Engines.
To me, search engines are a necessary evil. The highest quality of traffic may or may not come from search engines, but being findable on a search engine is nonetheless important.
Many visitors will find your website by using a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, Bing or even Infoseek, but sometimes for different reasons than you expect.
Here is a very important point:
Your website will not magically appear in a search engine.
- As a general rule, you must affirmatively add your site to a search engine’s index.
- You can usually do this by simply clicking on an “Add URL” button at the bottom of most search engine home sites and submitting the requested information.
- I do not recommend that you use one of the many search engine submission services because you will get better results if you customize your information for each search engine.
Simply getting your site listed on a search engine is not enough.
You need to design your site and promote it in such a way that when someone does a keyword search on a topic, he or she will find your site.
You need to keep your target audience in mind.
If, for example, you are targeting people are looking for a law firm in your city, you will want your site to appear high on the list of responses of someone who does a keyword search on “your city law firm.”
If, on the other hand, your target audience is anyone who is interested in securities law, your strategy will focus on a different set of keywords that relate to your field rather than a simple geographic strategy.
Increase your law firm website’s online visibility
There are a number of ways to enhance your findability on search engines, and I sincerely recommend that you:
- Visit sites like SearchEngineJournal.com for an eye-opening lesson on how search engines operate.
- You can use programming techniques such as meta tags, which are hidden codes which help you specify the keywords which a search engine will index your site.
- You might also buy banner advertising that will appear when anyone searches for certain keywords using a search engine, but beware of advertising scams such as click fraud.
- You can also strategically use word placement on your site to help your site receive a higher priority in response to keyword searches.
All of these techniques require you to develop a good understanding of how search engines work.
An important recent trend is that some search engines allow you to pay for a high ranking in response to certain keyword searches using (PPC) or pay-per-click advertising.
I’ll leave for another day the numerous questions this practice raises, but it is something you will want to know about if you really want to be the first site returned by a search on certain keywords or phrases.
6. List Your Site On Directories And Finding Lists.
Good promotion involves moving your focus from search engines to other better ways to reach your target audience.
In most cases, search engines simply are not the most effective means to promote your site. Directories, such as Big Law, Best Lawyers ® or Best Attorney Rankings, or legal-specific tools or “subject matter” lists can allow your site to be included on a specialized list of sites relating to a given legal topic or practice area.
This technique narrows the scope of your promotion and helps you direct web users more interested in your topic to your site.
As a general rule, someone who finds your site through the use of a directory or finding list is someone more interested in your site than someone who found your site through a search engine.
7. Consider Reciprocal Links And Targeted Web Advertising.
If you do your homework before you publish your site, you will find a number of excellent websites and lists of resources on which you would like to have your site listed.
The real utility (and beauty) of the World Wide Web comes from these lists of hyperlinked sites. The easiest way to get your site listed on a site you like is simply to request that the webmaster of that site add a link to your site on his or her site. In exchange, he or she will generally ask you to add a link to his or her site on your site.
This exchange results in what is commonly known as reciprocal links or two way linking. Since nearly every webmaster is interested in getting more publicity for his or her site, this method works nicely.
Since every webmaster would also like to earn some money from his or her site, offering to place banner ads linked to your website can also be a very effective means of generating traffic from desirable locations.
Three things to consider when exchanging reciprocal links.
- Make sure the websites you obtain links from are relevant.
- Try to only accept links from websites with authority.
- Avoid scams, and if offered, do not pay to get a link from any website.
Major search engines like Google are constantly cracking down on link-schemes and advise website owners to only obtain links through natural methods. Following those three things will ensure your website doesn’t face any penalties by Google’s search engines.
8. Make Use of Announcements, Advertising And Other Non-Internet Techniques.
Excellent, focused promotion of your site can come from both digital and non-digital efforts. Letting your existing clients know about your website is an important first step that is too often overlooked, especially by firms concentrating only on getting listed on search engines.
Here are five creative ways to generate promotional interest in your law firm’s website:
- Put the address of your website on your business card, stationery, and yellow page listing.
- Announcing the debut of your site in brochures, by a special mailing or even by e-mail will be beneficial. Even on the Internet, nothing works better than word of mouth.
- Tell your clients, employees, colleagues, and friends about your site.
- Press releases and biographies in articles and seminar materials can also be great ways to get the word out about your site.
- As you have undoubtedly noticed, many television and radio commercials and other advertisements routinely include a mention of a firm’s website address. You’ve already paid for the time or space, so why not include a mention of your website?
Be creative in finding ways to publicize your site with non-Internet techniques.
9. Obtain Favorable Mentions From Others.
People are eight times more likely to believe a recommendation from an independent source than they are to believe an advertisement.
An excellent way to promote your website is trying to secure favorable mentions of your site from independent sources. This method, of course, requires that you have good content, good design or something else that will cause independent sources to give your site favorable reviews.
You can enhance your prospects of getting favorable publicity by sending an email to a columnist or other journalists who write on Internet topics or offering to write an article yourself.
The bottom line in web promotion is that it never hurts to ask.
10. Continue To Pay Attention To Your Promotion Efforts.
Many times, law firms put a lot of effort in promoting the rollout of their website and then neglect to follow up with other promotional efforts.
One key aspect of website promotion is achieving and sustaining good momentum. Monitor what’s happening. You might get a great placement on a search engine and then find a few months later that your website has fallen down in priority or even fallen off a search engine.
If you are adding content on a regular basis and updating the graphic design of your site, it makes good sense to focus on promotional efforts at the same time.
Attention to promotional efforts is as important as attention to updating content.
11. Evaluate Your Results On A Regular Basis.
You must have a method to evaluate the success of your promotional efforts.
Many sites have a simple counter that counts the number of visitors to a site. These counters provide useful information, but for the most part, they are inadequate to help you with promotional efforts, and they indicate a certain lack of web sophistication to many Internet users.
From free tools like Google Analytics, to more sophisticated web monitoring software is available that can give you all sorts of traffic reports and can generally be supplied as a part of your website hosting arrangement.
You can learn all sorts of fascinating things about the flow of traffic into and through your site by using these programs and see how successful different promotion techniques have been.
Counting the numbers of subscriptions to email newsletters available on your website is another excellent way to assess the number of quality visits. This information should be analyzed and used to help you reinforce existing sources of traffic and to help you find new locations to seek reciprocal links or place advertising.
12. Finished? Go Back To Item One And Start Again.
Do you still have the same reason for having your site? Do you still have the same goals? Do you now have a better understanding of your target audience and how to reach it? You will certainly have a better sense of what works and what doesn’t work.
Like content and design, your promotional efforts will evolve as you learn and as new techniques become available.
A written plan will help you focus your marketing efforts and to improve these efforts on an ongoing basis. Checklists can be especially helpful.
Conclusion: Maintaining A Great Law Firm Website Is A Commitment
One key part of that commitment is to develop new ideas and new ways to publicize your law firm website. Websites can be extremely beneficial to you and your law firm, but you cannot expect simply to create a website and to see results without making any other efforts.
Having a promotional plan will put you well ahead of many other law firms with websites, give you an important competitive advantage and help you connect with the audience you want to find.