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How to stand out from other lawyers online

22 July 2015

By Chris Price

As a lawyer, you know how to create a compelling case, what to do to help your client put their best and most persuasive foot forward and what rabbits to pull out of the hat to wow your audience and win against the opposition. However, many lawyers aren't quite sure how to put these same skills to use in creating a stand-out website.

You don't let your opposition win against you in the courtroom – you surely don't want them to win against you in the fight for new clients! So what can you do to stand out from your competitors online?

To win business through your website, you need to make sure your website is geared towards those visitors arriving via Google. That is, those who plug "lawyer", "barrister", "divorce lawyer" etc into the Google search engine. (These Google visitors are quite different in their behaviour and what it is they're looking for compared with those who come to your website via a recommendation.)

There are four things you need to keep in mind in order to convert Google visitors into clients:

1. Google visitors are comparing you to others.

If you had five law firms side by side on a street, someone in need of a lawyer would nip into each of them until they found the right fit for them. This is exactly what happens when people use Google to search for a service.

Just think, how many search results do you click on when you use Google? I would hazard a guess it's more than one – at least two, possibly four or five if you are casting your net wide. You'll enter each website looking for the same things and mentally classify what you see compared to what you have seen before.

Now here's the lesson: you need to make sure your website has all the same aspects as those other three law firms from the Google search, so that your potential client can tick them off in their head.

For instance, say someone is looking for a lawyer to help manage a staff dispute situation in their business. They'd Google "employment lawyer Auckland" and click on the first four results. I say they'd expect to find professional headshots of intelligent-looking lawyers and a bio about each of them and what they specialise in, plus some thought-leadership articles that illustrate their understanding of the issues you are facing.

These are what I call "content prerequisites" – the items people expect to see on a law firm page, in the same way they expect to see images of amazing houses on an architect's page or the latest jobs and industry insights on a recruitment company page.

If there are no photos of your lawyers and very little that talks about your expertise in this specific area, your site (and firm) will most likely be culled from the list.

Google visitors are actively filtering out rather than filtering in when they search and click so make sure your site has the "content prerequisites" expected of your field of expertise.

2. They are looking for a point of difference.

Your content prerequisites make sure you're still in the running to be considered – but your site needs to go one step forward to then stand out.

Google searchers are actively looking for a point of difference in the results they see. They want to end their search – the sooner the better. They're looking for that one thing that resonates with them and makes you the strongest contender.

How do you differentiate yourself from other lawyers? The same way you endear yourself to people and strike up a friendship. You make sure you come across as friendly and helpful.

You write your copy in a tone that is professional and authoritive but also simple and easy to understand – talking down to potential clients or over their head will just intimidate and alienate. You let them know that you're passionate about the area you specialise in and that you have the expertise and knowledge to help with the issues they're experiencing.

But it doesn't need to be just you talking about how good you are – let your clients do some of the heavy lifting here! Share their testimonials or great feedback. Write up some simple case studies from successful cases. This social proof will put your potential client at ease that you know what you're doing and you're good at it.

3. The Google visitor is moving at speed.

Okay, your potential client has bounced off Google into a search result. How fast are they going as they click, scroll and click again?

From what we see in our clients' Google Analytics accounts, these visits can take between 25 seconds and five minutes, depending on the quality of the site and the product or service on offer.

I always suggest you imagine your Google visitor being on a particular mission and moving at pace – so don't get in their way! Make sure your website isn't slow-moving due to massive images and/or a hosting system that just can't keep up or you'll be thrown out of contention in the click of a mouse.

4. They're like vampires: they need to be invited in.

You've put your best foot forward, you've made it clear what you can do for them, so why aren't they ringing you to set up an appointment?

For many, ringing a lawyer is quite intimidating. Will I be charged by the second? Am I then stuck with them? I'm out of my depth here – what if they think I am dumb? How do I explain my problem? Do I even need to speak to them at this stage?

Take away all the hesitations they have by selling them the next step; invite them in. Make contacting you an easy, non-intimidating process.

Offer a low-cost or complimentary first visit. Or a free 10-minute phone call. Or turn the tables and say someone from your office will call them to learn more about their situation and how they can help – get them to answer a few questions via a survey online first.

Chris Price is the founder of Ark Advance, which specialises in helping SMEs optimise their websites to sell more services online. They offer a free monthly email newsletter focused on helping business owners grow their services online. Sign up for free at www.arkadvance.com.

This article was also published in LawTalk 863, 24 April 2015, page 34.

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Last updated on the 22nd July 2015