For the past ten years we've worked with law firms across the country to help them develop their web presence and ensure they attract and convert those in need of legal assistance.
As a result, we've seen more than our fair share of law firm websites - probably more than most. And that means we are able to quickly identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats upon even the swiftest scan of a website.
There's a huge amount to consider when improving the performance of a website, but in this post I'm going to focus solely on content and copywriting - one of the most important aspects of a site for both visitors and search engines - and offer tips to those of you who work for a law firm and are looking for ways to take your website to the next level.
So, lets take a look at the four most common content mistakes I see on legal websites..
1. Not Considering User Intent
Not all website visitors are created equal.
Let me explain: when someone lands on, say, your personal injury service page, would you think that they all have exactly the same level of understanding of:
- Their legal rights?
- Whether they are actually eligible to make a claim for their injury in their specific circumstances?
- How much compensation they could be entitled to?
- How to start a claim?
- How long the claims process might take?
- How solicitors decide whether or not to take on a case in the first place?
- How much it might cost?
- Mhat information they'd need to supply along the way?
- What they need to do if they're claiming on behalf of a loved one?
The list goes on.
The point is that there are many different stages of a client journey - from idly looking for more information about how to make a claim, to specifically looking for a law firm to take on a case.
As a result, the questions one person needs answered at their stage of the journey are very different to someone elses.
Therefore, your web pages need to try as best as possible to answer all of them.
However, many of the websites we see are solely focused on providing the information they believe is most important to those who are at the final stage of their journey: those who know they want to claim and are simply trying to choose the best solicitor to work with. In other words, a tiny fraction of their potential audience.
And even then they don't always do a good job (as I'll discuss below).
When you're writing content for a service page, segment your potential audience based on the different stages of the client journey and think of all of the information those people might need to move them further along that journey and closer to enquiring.
2) Writing for Peers Rather than Prospects
If you were at your most desperate, looking for a service that is perceived to be ultra-complex, could define your quality of life for years or even decades to come, and that might cost you more than any service you've ever invested in, would you choose to work with someone who struggled to speak your language?
Not many people would take that risk.
However, we see countless websites that appear to be more focused on flexing their legal muscle and impressing peers with the use of impenetrable legal jargon than making sure they are easily understood by the average joe - the people who should actually be using the website.
If visitors can't understand the words on your page, why would they choose to work with you?
This is particularly dangerous for solicitors, whose public perception isn't always positive. The stigma that surrounds legal professionals often centres upon them being aloof, arrogant and old fashioned. Do we really want to reinforce that notion?
That aside, it's web writing best practice to write your content so that the least educated of your possible audience can understand everything on the page.
Make sure you choose your words carefully - avoid flowery language, ambiguity and jargon at all costs and focus on ensuring everyone can understand every word on the page.
3) Removing the ‘U' from USPs
The legal sector is one of the most competitive markets in the UK economy.
I just searched for ‘clinical negligence solicitors Manchester' in Google and the front page contained seven paid ads, three maps listings and a total of 352,000 results.
With so much choice available to those in need of clinical negligence services, it's important for solicitors to stand out from the crowd by communicating their unique selling propositions (USPs).
However, very few law firms appear to have unique selling points (USPs). Instead, they just have SPs.
Being friendly is not unique if every other law firm is friendly too. Being approachable is not unique if every other law firm says they are approachable too. Being knowledgeable is not unique… and so on.
In any case, these are qualities that clients would expect their solicitors to have, not luxurious extras.
What actually makes you different from the rest?
Here are a few things to consider when coming up with your company USPs:
- What awards have you won?
- What accreditations do you have?
- What do legal directories say about your specific firm or solicitors?
- What landmark cases have you won and how did you do it?
- What do clients say are the best things about working with you?
- What do the solicitors enjoy about working at the company?
- What is the culture of the company?
- What qualities do you look for when recruiting employees?
- What is your CSR policy and why?
To find true USPs you need to dig a little deeper into the inner fabric of your company and avoid lazy, me-too selling points that take up valuable space on your page but do little to persuade visitors to work with you.
4) A Lack of Transparency
As mentioned above, those looking for legal services will want to know as much as possible, as early as possible, what to expect from the minute that they contact you all the way through to the resolution of their issue.
Not knowing this will make them considerably less likely to take that initial risk and get in touch - especially as they might not even know whether they'll be charged for an initial consultation.
Each case is different and you cant set unrealistic expectations for potential clients, but law firms can certainly go further to explain, broadly speaking, what awaits them.
In addition, in December 2018, new SRA price transparency regulations came into effect, stating that prices and service information must be clearly displayed on your website if you work in any of the following areas:
- Conveyancing (residential)
- Probate (uncontested)
- Motoring offences (summary offences)
- Immigration (excluding asylum)
- Employment tribunals (unfair/wrongful dismissal)
- Debt recovery (up to £100,000)
- Licensing applications (business premises)
That means it's now more important than ever to ensure you are as transparent as possible about your services from now on.
We've previously written about how to navigate the SRA guidelines to best display pricing on your website - read our guide here.
These are just some of the most pressing issues I notice on a regular basis when working with law firms, but the good news is they are easy to solve.
By changing your mindset and keeping these four points in mind when developing your website, you will soon see improvements in how visitors engage with your site, ultimately leading to more clients - and more qualified ones at that.
To find out more about our work with law firms, visit our legal marketing section.