Part One of a Two-part Your Honor Awards Series
By Robert Algeri and Jabez LeBret
As principals at two agencies that specialize in developing websites for law firms, we are asked this question on a regular basis: “What are the law firm website trends that legal marketers need to know about?” The answer is simple: Law firm websites are shifting away from being brochures that say, “Look at me!” and instead becoming content vehicles designed to demonstrate expertise and educate visitors about complex legal matters.
Let’s take a look at various ways in which law firms will continue to craft their websites to achieve the above objectives. As this year's co-chairs of the LMA Your Honor Awards, we’re eager to see the submissions for the website categories, which hopefully will include many of these techniques!
1. Websites Looking More Like Magazines
Content is the fuel that drives everything. Worthwhile content opens doors, builds reputations, removes doubt and a host of other things that you can read about here: The content marketing boom. 8 reasons why lawyers are creating all of this stuff. Expect marketers to keep prompting their attorneys to create more of it.
Content is useful only if it’s read. We’re seeing firms begin to adopt design techniques and functionality that online publications regularly employ, such as:
- Wider Page Formats: To accomodate the advent of wider monitors, responsive design and new browsers, most of the recently launched law firm websites support resolutsions of 1920x1080. This allows for large, edge-to-edge imagery, robust sidebars and magazine-like layouts
- Rich Media Integration: The inclusion of video, podcasts, photo galleries and other rich media in a firm’s website is nothing new. What is new, however, and something that we expect to see more of going forward is the incorporation of such elements directly within an article, blog post, event, news item or even an attorney’s bio or a practice area description. Rich media leads to an increase in on-page time from viewers.
- Micro-bio-sites: These act like small websites rather than resumes. The need for attorneys to demonstrate their expertise is crucial to converting referrals into new clients. Micro-sites provide you the flexibility to add more information about each attorney at the firm.
- Responsive Mobile Functionality: Too many law firms are still failing to appreciate the necessity of having their websites display well on mobile devices. At this point, it’s mandatory that sites have proper mobile functionality.
- Better (and More) Content: The best websites in the world go beyond text content. Infographics, videos, visually enhanced articles and blog posts are some of the ways in which law firms are trying to make their content more likely to be consumed and shared.
- “Recommended Content” Teasing: Just like NYTimes.com, the next generation of law firm sites will eliminate the dead ends by offering visitors related content. The goal is to keep visitors on your website, consuming your content for as long as possible. This helps build your brand, and it improves the ability to track users.
2. Beyond the Homepage Strategy
On average, less than 40 percent of law firm website traffic comes in through the homepage. For large firms, this number is closer to just 20 percent. Website visitors are now heading directly to content deep within your site. This trend toward deep linking means that a typical user’s first impression is not the flashy, carefully crafted image you project on the homepage. Your homepage is still the single most-trafficked page on your website and deserves special attention, but you also need to focus on what users experience when they deep-link directly to a content page.
3. Lean Navigation
We’ve all seen websites with many choices in the navigation bar, along with a super-huge mega-menu that provides more choices than the chip aisle at the grocery store. Simply put, busy pages overloaded with buttons are out. Some firms are pruning to four or five navigation options. Fewer navigation options often means relegating pages like “About Us” to a secondary level of navigation. You can have drop-down menu options; the key is keeping it lean.
4. Lead Generation Can Happen
At one point or another, a senior partner has probably told you something like, “No one hires a lawyer from a website.” Despite what some say, law firms should still craft their websites to be a conduit for new business opportunities because even sophisticated buyers are going to the Internet to search for information about complex legal matters.
5. Persona Building and Custom Content
How amazing would it be to deliver the exact content that matched each user’s needs or intent? Theoretically, if you understand who visits the different portions of your site, you can have certain content appear only on the pages likely to be visited by those having high interest in that content. Expect to see the next-generation law firm website to include or integrate technology that helps display particular content to specific audiences that you previously identified.
6. Robust Site-search
Legal marketers have taken the cue from Google and found that not only can site-search be a powerful tool, but people like it — if it works! Another factor driving this trend is the fact that the size of law firm websites continues to grow, which is pushing firms to look for better ways to get visitors to the content they’re looking for as easily as possible. The best law firm site-searches include predictive search, tools to manipulate results and smart matches.
7. Integrated Blogs vs. External Blogs
Law firms are beginning to rethink the blog — or, more specifically, where the blog should be located. One opinion is that blogs that exist outside of the firm’s website compromise user experience, reduce levels of engagement and make user tracking very difficult. Another argument is that a partner’s brand is better served by having the blog separate. This is a hotly contested issue, and we encourage you to read both sides.
8. Robust Analytics
There is power in knowledge, and analytics provide your marketing department with the ability to make smart decisions. If you find that certain content pages start to get more visits and that users are clicking deep into your website, then you should consider ways to improve that content even more.
Did we miss any website trends that legal marketers should be keeping an eye on? Let us know, and add your thoughts to the comments section below.
Robert Algeri is a co-founder of Great Jakes, an award-winning marketing firm that develops “smarter websites for law firms.” In addition to his responsibilities at Great Jakes, Robert is active in the legal marketing community, having held numerous board and committee positions in LMA. Robert is also a frequent writer and speaker on issues relating to legal marketing. His work has appeared in a variety of industry publications such as LMA’s Strategies magazine, Marketing the Law Firm and the National Law Journal. He has been a featured speaker at LMA chapter events and at the LMA annual conferences.
Jabez LeBret is co-author of the best-selling legal technology book Online Law Practice Strategies. He is an international technology expert who has delivered CLE presentations across the nation. Jabez writes a regular business and technology column for Forbes and is also a contributor to the ABA Journal and NBC Chicago. He is also co-founder of the legal marketing agency GNGF, winner of the 2014 Best Places to Work by the Cincinnati Business Courier and runner-up for Business of the Year by the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. He loves coffee and is a craft beer enthusiast.
Both Jabez and Robert are the 2017 co-chairs for the Your Honor Awards. Submissions for the 2017 Your Honor Awards will start to be accepted in early October with the deadline of Thursday, November 17, 2016 at noon central to submitting an entry for consideration. Be recognized and submit today!