The decision to invest in a new website is often a difficult one to make.
Today, we look at some of the most important considerations for your law firm when thinking about commissioning a new website.
Trends and technology
Perhaps your law firm have had the same site for several years and you’ve grown quite attached to it. Unfortunately, as time has gone by, you may have noticed design trends come in and out of fashion. Perhaps you are aware that advances in technology (that are now commonplace) haven’t been implemented on your firm’s website.
Changing expectations of website visitors
It is also likely that people’s expectations of what to expect when they visit your website (user experience) will have changed, since you had your website built. Ultimately, these factors (and others) have probably left you thinking that your once ‘shiny new website’ is now looking rather dated and clunky.
Your firm’s first website
Perhaps you are one of the many firms of solicitors – or other regulated law practices – listed on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website, who have no website listed. You may even use an old Yahoo or Hotmail email address for your business email. You’ve probably realised by this point that using a free email address – while convenient for you – probably doesn’t portray your law firm in the best light possible. You may also appreciate that, without a website, you are missing out on new leads and customers.
The key is realising you need to act
The great news is that you have realised you need to make a change. We understand that the vast majority of legal business owners won’t know much about web design (beyond if a site looks good) – and why should you? For most industry professionals, be you a small business owner, marketing professional, solicitor, barrister, conveyancer or will writer, you probably have your hands full in your own role!
So, what should you consider when getting a new website made for your law firm?
There are several factors to consider, many of which depend on your budget and specific needs. There are however numerous things you need to get right with a new web build.
One of the most visibly obvious considerations you’ll have when developing a new site is user experience (UX). While optimising user experience is a whole industry in its own right, there are some basics to keep in mind. Having lots of eye-catching features is great, but ensure that your site is easy to navigate. Have a solid menu and site structure that aids visitors in their quest for information.
Text content ‘above the fold’
While ‘fancy sliders’ and large header images look great, balance this with the benefits of having some visible text content on screen when your webpage first loads. Google prefers you to have some text content near the top of your pages* so keep this in mind. *Note that if you are going to be relying on traffic from search engines or direct traffic to these pages, rather than referrals or PPC this should be given more weight.
Use a mix of media types (text, images and video)
Having lots of valuable, detailed information about your services or products is great, but make sure you try to break it up with the use of images and/or video where appropriate. This helps increase the time your visitors spend on your site (and shows Google and the major search engines that your content is valuable and deserves to be read by more people).
On our Social Media service page, you’ll notice, for example that we have embedded this video.
Once you achieve rankings on the first page of Google for your key search terms, the way that people interact with your website becomes more of a factor in how Google ranks your website in their search results.
Utilising different media to increase the “stickiness” of your content is therefore important. If you aren’t using a content management system (like WordPress) that enables you to easily add new media to your content the point is even more important. You need to ensure your designer includes any media you want adding from the outset. This is to minimise (potentially) costly amends once your site is live.
Try to ensure that every page has a clear call to action
Once visitors are on your website, your aim is usually to drive them to get in touch with you and enquire about (or order) your product or service. In some instances, you may wish to get them to download some further information if they aren’t ready to get in touch or watch a video. Prominent calls to action enable you to encourage visitors to take a desired course of action, so that you can move them down your sales funnel.
Prominent contact details & contact forms
Ideally your contact details should feature prominently on all pages. Utilise well positioned contact forms to entice visitors to contact you (hint – the human eye is naturally drawn to the top right of your pages).
Separate service pages
If you’ve previously crammed all your services into one page, consider creating separate pages for each service you provide. This enables you to better optimise the individual pages for specific searches and present your service offering in a more user-friendly way.
Add a blog
If you don’t currently have a blog or news section, consider adding one and regularly posting fresh content to it. This provides a great opportunity to interlink your new content with your service pages and improve your search engine rankings over time and to rank for new search terms. It also shows visitors that you are an active, engaged business.
Consider integrating your social profiles
If you are active on social media, you may decide to incorporate a social feed into your website. Alternatively, you may wish to add social icons to your site and link out to your profiles. If you share your blog content socially and you are killing multiple birds with one stone!
If you don’t have these pages on your website, you are missing out on ‘easy wins’ when it comes to search engine optimisation. Your visitors may also question their absence and decide to look elsewhere if your site doesn’t seem trustworthy.
If you are regulated (for example by the SRA or CLC) or you belong to an industry body (such as the IPW or SWW) you should make sure you prominently utilise any badges, logos or trust symbols they allow you to use. Consider explaining your relationship with them in text format, to increase visitor trust.
More than just looks – search engine optimisation (SEO)
While a great looking user-friendly website, with prominent calls to action and contact details is important, there are ‘unseen’ considerations that are just as important. Here are just a handful of the factors you should consider as they effect how well your website will perform in search engine results.
Basic on-page and on-site search engine optimisation
If you want people to find your website, there are several fundamental ‘building blocks’ that you need to put in place to give your website a chance of performing well in search engine results.
Basic files (robots.txt and sitemap.xml)
Make sure that your site has a robots.txt file. This term may sound complicated, but your developer should understand what it is. Put simply it is a basic file that tells the search engines what they should and shouldn’t index (show in their results). Also ensure your website uses an XML sitemap. This simple file tells search engines where your content is located on the site (amongst other things).
Have I got a robots.txt file on my current site?
You can check if you currently have a robots.txt file by going to yoursitename.co.uk/robots.txt and if there is some text there, you’ve got one. Your developer should also check that the file does what you need it to do (excluding any pages you don’t want to show up in search results, or you don’t want search engines to access).
Have I got an XML sitemap on my current site?
You can often find these files either located at yoursitename.co.uk/sitemap.xml or yoursite.co.uk/sitemap_index.xml (although if it isn’t in one of these locations it may be elsewhere).
Titles, tags and descriptions
Ensure your site uses unique page titles, meta descriptions, H1 heading tags, and relevant H2 heading tags. This probably sounds like a foreign language but don’t worry – your web design company may be able to advise on best practice. If they can’t, consider using an agency that develop optimised sites for the legal profession (like us!).
Consider using a tried and tested content management system (CMS)
If you use a mainstream CMS like WordPress, it makes it much easier to add new functionality in future and for you to update content yourself (such as regular blog posts or news articles). WordPress has the advantage of having thousands of ‘plugins’ (extensions) created for it that (when added) can make things (such as on-page search engine optimisation) much easier.
Unless you specifically want us to develop your website using a different platform, we always prioritise WordPress. It is by far the most popular CMS and is used by a huge number of legal businesses. It also gives you flexibility should you wish to further develop (or update) your website in future.
Migrating an old website
If you already have an existing website which you are altering, or if you are designing a new site ‘from scratch’, the setup of your existing site needs to be considered, when making the changes.
Domain age & changing your domain name
Many firms make a new website without considering that most websites (no matter how old and dated!) will have some SEO value. If you have an established website, your site will be ‘aged’ in the eyes of Google. Traditionally Google generally trusts websites more the longer they have been established. There is some debate as to whether this is partly due to the actual age of the domain, or simply the fact that your site will have acquired new links and possibly more content over time which you’ll be getting ‘credit’ for. Either way, the older your site, the more ‘good will’ it has probably built up.
If you suddenly change the domain (e.g. yourlawfirmwebsite.co.uk to yournewlawfirmwebsite.co.uk) your site will effectively be starting from scratch, building up its reputation in the eyes of the major search engines. If you do decide to change your domain, you need to ensure that your developer implements appropriate 301 (permanent) redirects from your old domain to the new domain. To put this simply, you need to tell Google and the other main search engines that you’d like the new site to be credited with the ‘good will’ that your old site has built up.
Other situations where your need to make sure your developer implements redirects
Sometimes when a new website is created for a law firm, a decision is made to change your preferred version (for example moving your site from http://yoursite.co.uk to http://www.yoursite.co.uk. In this instance your domain name hasn’t changed, but your website location has changed.
HTTP to HTTPS
A similar situation arises if you move your site over from http to https. Sometimes these changes aren’t intentional (and are just failures to take into account the impact of the move). Whatever the reason for changing the preferred version of your website, you should always ensure that appropriate redirects are used to send visitors to your new preferred version of your website.
Changing the URL / Navigation structure of your site
Further to the above, redirects also need to be implemented if content moves on your website. Examples being: moving your ‘About’ page from yoursite.co.uk/about/ to yoursite.co.uk/about-us/ or moving your blog and its articles from yoursite.co.uk/blog/ to yoursite.co.uk/news/.
Why worry about redirects?
If you implement appropriate redirects, your site will benefit from any gains you have made previously. If people have linked to your website, most of the value from these links will pass to your new site (or new file locations). Also visitors who click the link will still be able to find what they are looking for. If your site’s content is ranking highly in Google search results, then it will be more likely to continue ranking highly if you add the relevant redirects.
This is oversimplifying the problem for the sake of clarity, but potentially if you get this wrong you could see a huge drop in natural traffic (e.g. Google search) and engaged referral traffic (from people linking to your site).
Getting a new website made can be a scary prospect. The above tips only really scratch the surface when it comes to the things you should consider when designing a new website for your law firm. That said, if you approach a reputable web design or legal marketing agency, all of these things should be second nature.
The problem you may find is that many smaller web design firms don’t really understand even basic search engine optimisation. We suggest you check the above points with a prospective design agency before making a decision that is best for your business.
Get in touch – we are legal website design experts
If you are considering a new website for your legal business find out about our bespoke website design service here. We can even provide a quick website audit if you’d like to know how well your current site is optimised. Alternatively, for smaller firms (with less complex requirements) we have simple website package options for all budgets.
We’ll be happy to have a chat and explain the different options, so get in touch now and get started!