2016 Update to Top 25 Law Firm Website Clichés to Avoid

As a group, lawyers are quite literal, often too literal for good marketing.

As a result, more than half of law firms simply illustrate their website home pages with the obvious icons that represent the general concept of “Law,” like columns, jury boxes, striped books, rowing, and “Smiling Lawyers.”

The four most-prevalent explanations seem to be:

(1) “Our website developer recommended this.”

(You apparently hired the wrong developer.)

(2) “We didn’t know what else to do.”

(Then find someone who does.)

(3) “Well, if everyone else is doing it this way, it must be right.”

(Does your business card say “Lawyer” or “Lemming?” Stand out! Excel!)

(4) “No one hires us because of our website. It doesn’t matter what it looks like.”

(It’s a bit circular to create bad marketing, then say, “See, marketing doesn’t work.”)

Your marketing should set you apart. 

Good marketing can help you stand above the crowd.  It can show how you are different, or add more value than your lookalike competitors. But doing exactly what all the other firms do simply buries you in the anonymous middle.  Sure it’s “safe,” but safe doesn’t create market leadership.

Here’s a random accounting firm’s website, illustrated by tax forms, a calculator, eyeglasses, a pen, and paper with columns of numbers. Do you feel assured that their CPAs will find the innovative solution to your challenging financial issues?  Are you compelled to read the “About Us” section or click to learn about their Services?

(Really, think about it — how do you feel about their skills and creativity?)

Website, Design, law firm website

That is, if your website’s home page shows a skyline or column, aren’t you telling visitors that (1) your firm is average, and (2) there’s nothing worth reading inside?  If you want to claim to be an A-tier firm, then you must look like it — and a photo of a handshake, building, or chessboard won’t cut it.

There are no exceptions — unless you’re a Wachtell or Cravath. 

With their hard-earned reputations, they have nothing to prove. Bad marketing doesn’t hurt them as much as it does most other firms.  But keep reading if your firm doesn’t yet possess a Wachtellian level of credibility.

So here they are, the 25 most typical and tedious photos law firms use — followed by what I think these icons actually convey to the average website visitor.

The Top 25 Visual Clichés:

[The Image:]  1.  Globe/Map (Always featuring North America)

Globe, World

[What it means:]  “We did a deal in Toronto once.”

2.  Firm handshake (Usually diverse in some way. Rarely two white men.)

“We’re your partner.”

3.  Building (My favorite is when it isn’t even the firm’s own building.)

“I did it, Maw! I work in a building!” 

4.  Smiling lawyers (See “The Smiling Lawyers Website Trap” blog post here)

“We must be smart, because obviously we’re not photogenic.”

(The worst are the group shots. Play the “Find the most-uncomfortable lawyer” game.)

5.  Skyline (or alternating skylines, for firms with multiple offices)

“We work in a city!” 

(Is that a dispositive hiring issue? Has any prospect ever thought, “If I could just find a law firm that worked in a city — that’s the firm I’d hire!”)

Generic, City Skyline

6.  Gavel (often resting on a striped book)

“We’re small-firm lawyers with a cheap template website.” 

7.  Columns/Courthouse

“We’re a law firm — here’s our column.”

(Yeah, we get it. <yawn>.  This category also includes empty courtrooms and jury boxes.)

Court House, Columns

8.  Light bulbs (formerly incandescent, now they’re swirly energy-efficient fluorescents)

“We have good ideas.” 

(One such “good idea” might have been hiring a better branding firm. Just sayin’.)

9.  Chess pieces (the king is often laying on its side)

“We’re strategic.”

(Why is the king sitting in the middle of the board so early in the game here?)

Chess, Board

10.  Diverse conference room (Everyone is perky and gorgeous. There’s “one of each.”)

“We know how much clients value Diversity.  So we spent $25 on a stock photo.”

(Other “Diversity” options include flags, crayons, colored pencils, and a circle of hands.)

[That’s Part 1. We’ll detail clichés #11-25 next week in Part 2.]

Content Marketing for Law Firms with John McDougall

Listen as we speak this week with John McDougall, CEO of McDougall Interactive, on content marketing for law firms.

Nicole Minnis, National Law Review, Legal PublicationNicole Minnis:  Hi. This is Nicole Minnis again, with the National Law Review. I’m here today with John McDougall, president of McDougall Interactive and author of LegalMarketingReview.com.

We spoke last time about Authority Marketing and thought leadership for law firms, so be sure to check out a link to that podcast. But today, we’re going to be talking about content marketing for law firms. Welcome back, John.

John McDougall, McDougall Interactive, Marketing, Authority MarketingJohn McDougall:  How you doing?

Nicole:  I am doing great. How are you?

John:  Excellent.

Nicole:  We had a great time last time. Tell me, why are eBooks and the top of the funnel calls to action important?

John:  A lot of people with website marketing make the mistake of expecting customers to only call them on the phone or fill out a form. When you don’t have a top of the funnel call to action, like an eBook or a case study that’s downloadable, or a whitepaper, you miss a huge portion of the Internet that is casually surfing and could become a lead, but a more casual lead.

A ToFu offer, as we call it — not to be confused with soy products [laughs] — a ToFu offer, a top of the funnel offer, is, again, like an eBook, and it’s somewhere around 85 percent of the Web is looking at the top of the funnel. When you search the web, do you buy something from Amazon or hire a lawyer every time you search the web? You don’t.

You tend to, most of the time, you’re searching and looking for things. You’re in the early stage of the buyer’s journey. Eventually, you’re making bookmarks, and later you go back and hire someone or buy a product. It’s about 85 percent there.

Maybe another 10 percent, roughly, are at the middle of the funnel. In the middle of the funnel, you’re comparing one law firm to another, you’re in that comparison stage. At the bottom of the funnel, maybe only five percent of people using that free consultation form on the attorney’s site or calling the phone number, et cetera, going to the contact page.

That’s such a small percentage of Web visitors that you’re really missing, a huge amount, potentially as much as 95 percent of visitors, if you don’t offer some way for them to casually connect with you — signing up for your email newsletter or getting your eBook.

Nicole:  Where are these ToFu calls, top of the funnel calls, most effective? Are we looking at a law firm home page or a blog page? Where will it have the most impact?

John:  You want to put them consistently throughout your site, so definitely at the home page level, because that’s usually the most visited page. Not always, but often the most visited part of your site. You should have at least one top of the funnel, if not a top of the funnel, middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel, like your phone number or consultation form, call to action, at the home page level.

Then, if you go into a practice area, like intellectual property law, you might want to have a little sidebar there with a call to action for an eBook or a whitepaper or something around that topic. Then, you go to the blog, and you’re reading the blog, either in the right sidebar you can put an irresistible offer to download maybe a collection of the blog posts into one PDF for printing.

Or, at the bottom of a blog post, that’s a very effective way, after someone reads something and they’ve been very engaged, to then put a nice little…maybe a banner or a nice graphic that sells them on the idea of filling out the form to get your eBook.

Nicole:  Would you include these top of the funnel calls to action on a law firm publications page? To follow up, you wouldn’t limit it to just having a special page for all of their thought leadership?

John:  Yeah. I think it’s good to have a resources section, definitely. After Google Hummingbird that looks even more deeply at Q&A content and natural language search for mobile — Google eats up that kind of content where you’re answering customers’ questions.

It’s great to have that on a blog. That’s one of the most typical places to put it. But sometimes you can have the resources, Q&A library also, and then you have the collection of eBook and podcasts and videos and links to lots of blog posts, and break up your thought leadership in an area like that.

I would say all of the above. There are different types of people that…some are going to like the blogs, some will like the resources area, some will like video, some will like podcasts, some will like the text posts. Break it up and put it throughout your content, and ideally make content top of the funnel calls to action to match the page they’re on.

If at some point you can get around to having 30 eBooks or an eBook for every practice area — it’s a pretty tall order, but, again, made easier through podcasting. One hour of podcasting can be turned into an eBook, and that’s pretty easy to do. You can get a nice cover design and go to each practice area and then have a top of the funnel call to action for each area. That’s the ideal.

Nicole:  That way, you can cover all your bases, so to speak, in terms of who’s looking at your website and what they’re looking for.

John:  Absolutely.

Nicole:  Tell me, how can attorneys use content for their business development?

John:  I’m not a business development expert for law firms, per se. But this has been a very hot topic recently, because we’re doing so much blogging for law firms and content marketing for law firms. I’ve been interviewing people for one of my sites, both Legal Marketing Review and AuthorityMarketing.com, and talking about these issues.

I interviewed a couple of different people specifically on business development, and time and time again they’re saying that they do like to have their attorneys make use of their own posts, if possible. It’s great if the attorneys have their own content to share when they’re pitching people and following up with potential customers.

But even if there’s a blog on the law firm’s site, and then an individual attorney, even if they didn’t write the post, they can share that content. You can share your newsletters and alerts and all different things.

But the more thought leadership content you have, the better off you are at reaching out to, say, a general council, and not annoying them with, “Hey, can we get together? I’d really like to work for you guys.” [laughs] Because that’s really salesy. That’s more old school marketing.

New school, inbound marketing is more, “Hey, Mr. or Mrs. General Council, I thought you’d really appreciate this blog post that we wrote, because I know you’re going through this particular issue with your company. I saw something on the news, and we have a post that really addresses just that issue. Just thought you might like to see this and that you might find it helpful.”

I’ve heard that a lot at the LMA conferences. I spoke recently at the LMA New England conference, and I’ve heard a lot of people talking about that in both my interviews and at conferences — that it’s a healthy way to extend that strategy we’re talking about, about SEO and content marketing and doing it for Google reasons. But there’s this great, of course, offline reason that lets you extend the value of that further.

Nicole:  This content marketing that’s being produced by attorneys, is it trackable in terms of improving these sales? I was going to say they’re selling themselves, but I don’t mean to make it sound so silly. But attorneys are marketing their services, so is the content marketing trackable?

John:  Absolutely not. No, I’m just kidding.


John:  Here’s when it’s not trackable — when you don’t track it. It sounds really simplistic, but you would be amazed, actually shocked, if I told you how many people come to us and they have no tracking mechanism to see if it’s working. First, some people don’t even have something like Google Analytics installed on their site, if you can believe it in this day and age.

Is it trackable? It’s trackable if, number one, you take the 10 minutes to take the snippet of code from Google Analytics and put it onto every page of your site and embed the code. That’s really easy to do, but it is still amazing to us that we see people not doing it.

Number two, and this is a really big point I’d like to make, is that, with the goal tracking on your website, for example, if someone fills out the form for a free consultation, it should be set up so that they hit the submit button and they go to a “Thank You” page.

Some programmers like to make it tricky so that it doesn’t even need to produce a “Thank You” page, and there are ways to track that. But we prefer to have a traditional “Thank You” page, so yourlawfirm.com/thankyou.html kind of thing.

Then, you need to set that up in Google Analytics to register as what is called a “goal conversion”. You can do that also with phone tracking, with the free consultation forms, you can do it with your eBook signups, you can do it with the email newsletter signups.

You can do it even if you want to set up a goal conversion to track in Google Analytics if someone just views your “about us” page or an attorney’s bio page. There are all different things you can set up. But, again, it really only works if you take the time to set those up.

It’s so beautiful, and it sounds so geeky of me, but it’s so beautiful to go into Google Analytics and see basically the numbers. You can actually see, OK, last year in November, say, we got 18 leads, but this year in November we got 37 leads or 87 leads, and they came from these channels, from SEO, from social media, from Google paid ads, from email marketing.

You can track all the different channels they came from, and then you can see which lead forms or eBooks were downloaded. You can get a really good picture of the amount of leads coming in. Then, it goes a step further if you start to do lead scoring and lead nurturing.

Very briefly, lead scoring is when you’ll let your agency know, now that you’re tracking these leads in great detail, you let your agency know that, “These leads are good and these leads are bad”, or even feed back into Google Analytics the data on what the value of those leads were.

You can plug in, “This lead generated a million dollars in a mesothelioma case for the firm, and a $400,000 profit”, or whatever it might be. You can even go that far, if you want, to tell the agency that, “These are good leads. These are bad leads. They’re worth this much.” You could feed that back into the system.

Then, you can make better determinations on what keywords and what channels are driving the best quality leads, not just the most leads. Then, lead nurturing, or marketing automation is when you’re getting so many leads that you can’t even follow up manually with everyone.

Say you’re getting a thousand eBook downloads a month, or even 300. You would want to have a trigger mechanism to automatically say, “Hey, thanks for downloading the eBooks.” Send another email a few days later, “Hey, you might like this case study.” Another few days later, you might say, “Would you like a free consultation?”

You can set up a work flow in something like HubSpot or Eloqua, Pardot, to use marketing automation to send these automated emails so that people feel like, “Wow, I downloaded this eBook, next thing you know they’re giving me other ideas.”

But the salespeople don’t have to, every single eBook that gets downloaded, manually do it. That’s where you can take the tracking and Google Analytics, and then extend it with nurturing those people that are coming to your site.

Nicole:  If we’re talking about a law firm or an attorney who’s starting from scratch, how much of this data do you think needs to be collected before they can really start to implement changes for their marketing strategy, or implement their marketing strategy at all?

John:  I think it’s almost immediate. Once you start to get a few days or a few weeks of data, you can start to make assessments. But it does get a lot better when you have year-over-year data. If you’re looking at, again, November of 2014 versus November of 2013, or all of 2013 versus 2014, in terms of what channels drove traffic, the amount of leads per channel — it really gives you data to show where you’re headed and how things are improving or not.

We do something called conversion rate optimization, where we look at the data in Analytics, and we say, “You know what? Barely anybody is going to our about us page,” or, conversely, “Everybody goes to the about us page.” Usually, they’re the second most visited page on a website.

If there are pages that are hit very consistently, you want to go and fix up those pages and make them even better. Conversely, if there’s a page on your site that nobody ever goes to, but you think it’s really valuable, you can then go make more links to that page or make calls to action that highlight that content. You can definitely, very quickly get data from Google Analytics to go and make very practical changes to your site.

Nicole:  These are all great ideas and strategies for attorneys and marketing professionals at law firms. Thank you so much, John, for sharing your thoughts on this topic today.

John:  Absolutely. I appreciate you having me.

Nicole:  No problem. We hope to have you back another time. Thanks so much for listening.

How to Build a Lead Generation Machine Online with Content Marketing (Part 2 of 2)

If you struggle with creating quality content for your website or blog, I’ve pulled together 8 best practices for content marketing to guide you.  If you missed the first four in the series of eight, see yesterday’s blog post here.

These are the second 4 of 8 best practices in content marketing:

Best Practice 5: Use video to give visitors a sense of who you are. Video is one of the best ways to improve your website conversion rates. I highly recommend you record several videos for your website: an overview of each major practice area your firm offers, a few case studies of typical clients you want to attract, a video introduction for each attorney, and reasons why people should hire you versus a competitor. You can also add videos from seminars or presentations you make to add more content to your site.

Best Practice 6: Take a position on a topic and frequently update your blog. When you begin a blog, you need to make sure that it is a topic you feel passionate about. Make sure that you will still be energized to write about the topic in six months or a year. You also need to make sure that there is an audience for your blog.

In order to keep your website and blog at the forefront of Google’s mind, you will need to post regularly. The most successful lead generation blogs post every day. If you aren’t willing to post new content at least a few times per week then you should seriously consider hiring someone to do the writing for you. In a survey of over 7,000 small businesses, Hubspot.com found companies that blog 15 or more times per month generate five times as much traffic as companies that don’t blog!

Best Practice 7: Add social media to your website to make it easier for people to share your content online. Most major websites people visit have fully integrated social media-whether its Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter you want to make it easy for people to share your content with their friends and colleagues.

Best Practice 8: Keep your content consistent with your brand. If you’re an estate planning attorney, write about estate planning and rarely about anything else. Professional blogs need to remain professional. The tone, content and focus should demonstrate the type of attorney you are. If your office is more relaxed and friendly, then try to convey that in the tone of your blogs. If your firm is more traditional, that too should be apparent in the tone of your piece.

Your content also needs to stay relevant. If there is a major change in what area of law you practice in, then you should be discussing it right away on your blog. If there is a big ruling in your practice area that is causing a lot of questions or anxiety for clients and prospects and you are the last person to mention in on their website or blog, then chances are the readers will have moved on to someone who is more on top of things.

Conclusion. Content marketing is one of the best ways to build targeted traffic to your website and become recognized as a thought leader. However, it is a long-term strategy so set your expectations appropriately. Depending on the level of competition in your practice area, how well-established your website/blog is, which key terms you are targeting, and how frequently you update your blog it may take several months to start seeing some significant results.

Content Marketing

Stephen Fairley


How to Build a Lead Generation Machine Online with Content Marketing (Part 1 of 2)

The Rainmaker Institute

If you are looking to drive more high quality traffic to your law firm’s website, one of the best ways to do so is via unique, high quality content on your blog.

lead generationIt is estimated that 95% of law firms already have a website, but too few attorneys are consistently generating quality leads from their online presence because they lack great content.

Google has made it increasingly difficult to rank high without putting a lot of quality content on your website.  If you want to continue ranking well on Google, which drives more qualified traffic to your website so you can generate more online leads, you must put more and more content on your website.

Here are the first 4 of 8 best practices in content marketing:

Best Practice 1: Create content prospects will connect with and will want to read. If your website is the first to pop up in a Google search, but a potential client reads your home page and finds it littered with meaningless legal jargon, then chances are they are going to move on to website number two. People hire attorneys they feel a connection with. If the viewer doesn’t connect with your website, then chances are they aren’t going to call you.

By creating content that viewers find informative and relevant, easy to digest and in multiple formats (like audio or video as well as written) you are encouraging them to spend more time on your site. By filling each page with informative and easy-to-understand language, an attorney is boosting their visibility on the web and converting browsers into believers.

Best Practice 2: Know the critical keywords prospects use to search. While Google is making sure the context fits the keywords, websites still need to focus on certain keywords. Start by making a list of at least 20-30 terms you believe an interested prospect might use to search for your kind of services. Then do your research.

I recommend two sites: Google Keyword Tool and WordTracker.com. You can find the first one simply by searching on Google for it. The terms definitely emphasize Google’s pay-per-click model, which is why I strongly recommend double checking your findings against the results from WordTracker.com. Use only one or two key terms per blog post and do not post duplicate content.

Best Practice 3: Make sure your blog is on the same domain/subdomain. I used to recommend having two different sites: your primary website and a separate blog site. Due to the recent changes in Google I now recommend keeping your blog on your website (use ABClaw.com/blog instead of blog.ABClaw.com). If you already have two separate sites don’t combine them unless they are less than six months old.

By integrating your blog and your website in one place, you can increase your rankings by adding more content via your blog. Topics for your blog can include recent cases you have handled, commenting on current events or stories in the media, answering frequently asked questions, and discuss aspects of the law.

Best Practice 4: Create geo-targeted pages. You need to write several pages for each city you want to target. For example, if you are a business litigation attorney in the East Valley of Phoenix, you want to have several pages of content focusing on each of the following cities: Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler, Scottsdale, Mesa, Gilbert, etc.

Do not make the mistake of only targeting Phoenix because every single other attorney is doing that. Put as many pages of content up there for the secondary cities. Even though you will not receive nearly as many hits for those cities the competition to rank on the first page of Google will be significantly less.

Come back here tomorrow where I will share the last 4 of 8 best practices for content marketing.



The One SEO Rule You Need to Know About Alt Tags for Images

Correct Consults Logo

Wikipedia says alt attributes (alt tags) are used in HTML documents/Web pages “to specify alternative text (alt text) that is to be rendered when the element to which it is applied cannot be rendered.”

Alt Tags Images

To optimize your website’s content for search, remember one simple rule for image alt tags: An image’s alt attributes should describe the visual. Including keywords in alt tags is a good practice as long as it’s not spammy. Alt attributes used to have a larger SEO impact in Google searches before the company changed its Google Image search design. Traffic has decreased considerably from image search since then.




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