No legal practice can market itself effectively nowadays without a website. But how do you get your legal website to do the business?

In the first of this series tackling the issues of marketing for lawyers, Mike O’Donnell looks at the importance of the website homepage.

The basics.

We really do live in the age of the magpie mentality. Internet searching for legal services is the norm and, no matter how near the top of the search engine rankings your practice is, the back button is only one click away.

If your homepage doesn’t engage viewers instantly or is difficult to understand, they’re gone.

The basics are these:

Tell them they are in the right place.

The first question that goes through the minds of visitors is “Have I clicked the right link?” You should put them at ease by prominently answering that question. Tell them what you do and where you do it and keep it short. It sounds obvious but it is surprising how many legal websites lack this information on the homepage.

Display your contact details.

Place your telephone number and email address prominently. This is usually at the head of the page but should be visible when the page is first opened.

Imagery.

Any imagery used on your homepage should be:

  • eye-catching but not to the detriment of the key message
  • relevant
  • memorable.

Photos of a group of solicitors in suits may not be the most appropriate thing!

The CTA.

The call to action is a button or link that allows the prospect to contact you. Your contact page should be clean, simple and short. Remember: the back button is one click away.

Emphasize your CTA button:

  • Make it ‘feel’ clickable, either via 3D design or a simple download arrow when people hover over it.
  • Make the button text bold relative to anything else on the page, so it captures more eyeballs.
  • Avoid requesting too much information: the less information you require, the more likely you are to be contacted.

Responsiveness.

What exactly does this mean? In simple terms, the website must work equally well on pc, laptop, tablet and mobile phones. Mobile devices are key, as we have just passed the point where 50% of all searches are carried out on them.

Be smart.

To assist in all of these basics, you can use a device called a sticky header. This is a simple part of the homepage design that means the top menu structure including the CTA is always visible. Try scrolling down this web page and you will notice that the upper section is constantly visible.

Use well thought out content.

  • Make your message stand out. There should be no real difference between your homepage information and the information that shows up in your search engine listing. Try to keep the messages consistent.
  • Use your brand. Make your practice logo prominent but not dominant. Not all prospects will contact you on the first visit, so make sure your brand lingers in their mind.
  • Break up the text. Use bullet points to describe the features and benefits of your services. This breaks up the text, makes it more accessible and visually appealing as website visitors are notorious for having short attention spans.
  • Keep it short. The days of long pages of text and headlines are long gone. Keep your messages succinct and stick to no more than four or five key benefits of your services. There is plenty of room to expand upon these in the internal pages of your site.

Show you can be trusted.

  • Provide testimonials. These are the most powerful demonstrations of the value and credibility of your services. Ask clients if they are willing to provide testimonials as a matter of course.
  • Think about making an offer. I’m not suggesting that you should indulge in buy one get one free promotions! However, you could assure your potential clients that an initial, informal chat to assess their needs comes as a free part of the service.
  • Show off your accreditations. Items such as professional body memberships, Investors in People, ISO and recommendations from the legal press and directories will go a long way to convince prospects that your practice is well-established and reliable.

All these basic components should be standard issue from your web designers but it’s surprising how often they are not present on legal sites. To get the most out of your site, shop around for a good web design agency – preferably one which can offer search engine optimisation as well as design. I shall look at SEO in more detail in the next article in this series.