By Dion Algeri and Robert Algeri
During times of crisis, the world changes rapidly. Your website needs to adapt to the new reality.
The past year has certainly been one for the history books. In the U.S. specifically, we witnessed two impeachments, an insurrection, months of protests over racial injustice — and, of course, a deadly pandemic that has kept everybody painfully isolated.
Fortunately, there are signs of improvement, and history tells us that after periods of chaos, societies emerge transformed. What does this mean for legal marketers? It’s too early to say for sure, but there is one obvious trend: More of our time will be spent online.
The pandemic has fostered a work-from-anywhere culture that will clearly outlast COVID-19. It is likely that plenty of business development will continue to happen over Zoom and less of it will happen at in-person events.
It also means that investing in a law firm’s website will be more important than ever.
So, what should a law firm’s post-pandemic website focus on? Here are a few ideas.
1. Messaging: Now is the time to rethink the firm’s message.
During times of crisis, the pace of change accelerates. Business and cultural landscapes noticeably shift, and businesses of all types need to respond to stay competitive.
As we are approaching the tail end of a crisis, now is the perfect time for firms to reconsider their brand message and how to communicate it on their website. As firms move through the process, here are some ideas and questions to keep in mind:
- Has demand shifted? Does the firm need to appeal to new markets?
- Are the demographics of buyers evolving? Industry trends show that buyers of legal services are becoming more culturally diverse — and less male — than ever before.
- Does the firm’s message need to be adapted to today’s cultural environment? Disruptive events like the Black Lives Matter protests and the pandemic can change clients' perceptions.
- Is the firm’s current message too generic to connect with anyone?
2. Diversity: It’s now a business development issue.
Last year’s massive protests over racial injustice put a spotlight on issues of workplace diversity. Since then, diversity has become an existential issue for law firms, as large buyers of legal services have made it a requirement of their vendors (as seen in Coca-Cola’s new missive).
So, how does a firm best communicate its dedication to diversity? An examination of the diversity content on more than 100 large law firm websites for a series of recent blog posts revealed some ideas, including:
- Think beyond the “diversity section” of the website. Although a lush Diversity & Inclusion section is a plus, firms also need to consider the rest of the website. There’s value to be gained by looking for places on the website to raise the profile and amplify the voices of the firm’s diverse team.
- Sincerity is key. A firm’s diversity content can fall flat if it doesn’t appear to have the sincere support of firm leadership. One way to combat this impression is to capture the managing partner, or other top brass, on video making a personal statement about their dedication to diversity. People will take notice — inside and outside your organization.
3. ADA Compliance: Enforcement lawsuits are becoming common.
For years, website compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was an afterthought. This has changed as the number of ADA enforcement lawsuits has sharply increased.
Lawsuits are the primary enforcement mechanism for ADA compliance. If consumers see a non-compliant business, they can sue that business to enforce compliance and win a monetary award.
In 2016, just 262 businesses were sued for non-compliance with ADA rules for website accessibility. By 2019, that number had jumped to 2,235 cases. One can only imagine that the number of ADA lawsuits will continue to grow exponentially, and that ADA compliance will soon become a must-have for law firm websites.
4. Speed & SEO: Google now insists that your site be fast.
Nobody likes a slow site. In fact, one recent study of 100,000 user sessions found that there was a direct relationship between website page load speed and stickiness. Visitors stuck around and viewed twice as many pages on speedy websites.
But there’s another reason to care about page load speed: Google rankings.
Recently, Google elevated the importance of speed in determining page rank. They measure speed using a tool called Google Page Speed Insights, which scores websites from 1 to 100. As the graphic below shows, most law firm websites do not perform well.
Research by Great Jakes indicates that the only way to achieve top page speed scores is to build the firm’s website using the newest front-end technologies, like React. React, which was originally developed by Facebook, enables lightning-fast page load, among many other benefits, and has been widely adopted by thousands of leading companies like Uber, Netflix, AirBNB and Amazon.
5. Visitor Journey: What is your firm’s “beyond-the-homepage” strategy?
Typically, less than 40% of the traffic to a law firm website enters through the homepage. For large law firms, this number is closer to just 20%. Visitors are now bypassing the homepage by clicking links found in Google, emails and social media that send them directly to content deep within the site.
When planning a new website, a firm should consider the user-experience of a visitor who lands on an article or alert in the middle of the site. Some questions to consider:
- Are the articles and blog posts dead ends, or do they tease related content?
- Are the pages deep within the website well-branded? How do they look?
- If the firm has a big announcement, will people see it if they bypass the homepage?
- If the user’s journey ends without having visited the homepage, what kind of impression has the firm left?
6. Engagement: Is the website too passive?
It is no longer sufficient for a law firm website to be a static repository of content, like a library. That’s too passive. In a world shaped by Instagram and TikTok, people expect to be engaged.
How can legal marketers respond to these shifting expectations? The answer is content teasing.
Algorithm-driven content-teasing tools can automatically tease new and relevant content to visitors. So, if a visitor is reading an article on Securities Law, they will see teasers for recent blog posts, case studies and upcoming events relevant to that subject.
Advanced content-teasing tools provide benefits that will please website visitors and the marketing team alike. Here are just a few of those benefits:
- A Fresher Site: Content-teasing tools automatically promote the site’s newest content. This keeps the website feeling fresh and relevant.
- Cross-selling: The website can cross-promote content from related services such as real estate, land use and environmental law. This can enable cross-selling by letting people know about the firm’s broad expertise.
- More Page Views: Visitors are prompted to read more of the most recent content. This means that they will spend more time learning how the firm can help them achieve their goals.
When times are good, it can be painfully difficult to effect change. However, in times of crisis, even the curmudgeons are suddenly open to considering all sorts of changes.
Thanks to a difficult year, the window of opportunity is now open. Does your firm want to reconsider its positioning or tagline? Or reexamine the goals of the firm’s website? Or rethink how the firm substantiates its claims of expertise? There has never been a better time than right now.
Dion Algeri is a co-founder of Great Jakes, where he occupies two roles: lead strategist and creative director. Algeri is responsible for the big think behind client projects. Algeri frequently speaks and writes on the subject of legal marketing. As editor of all of Great Jakes's thought leadership, his fingerprints are on everything that the agency writes.
Robert Algeri is a co-founder of Great Jakes, a brand-design and web-design agency that works exclusively with large, forward-thinking law firms to differentiate themselves from look-alike competitors. In addition to his work responsibilities, Algeri is active in the legal marketing community, having held numerous board and committee positions in the Legal Marketing Association (LMA). Algeri is also a frequent writer and speaker on issues relating to legal marketing. His work has appeared in a variety of industry publications, including the LMA's Strategies magazine, and he has been a featured speaker at numerous national and regional legal marketing events.