FindLaw announced the start of the 2006 FindLaw Web Site Awards last month. So what makes up an award winning legal web site? I thought it an opportune time to go over the scoring criteria of the awards and look at how your site can work within this criteria, to come out on top.
Content, Design & Marketing
The FindLaw Web Site Awards web site provides the following overview of the criteria used to judge the awards:
20 Points = Content
20 Points = Site Design & structure
10 Points = Search engines & online marketing
The three areas listed above are important for any legal web site. If your site is going to be an effective marketing tool for your firm, you should analysis it against the above criteria, who knows, maybe you will even win an award?
This is the reason people visit legal web sites. We know that people search the net looking for information on legal services and answers to their legal problems.
On your legal web site you need to not only display information about your firm, but also be able to answer questions relating to issues that people face. You have to convince them why using a lawyer is going to help them solve that problem (with value for money compared to a costly outcome with none or wrong advice).
So as a basic rule your content should include:
- A profile of your law firm including some information about the firm’s history.
- A list of the areas of law your firm’s provides service within and a descriptive marketing message about what those services entail and the firm’s expertise.
- A list of the practicing staff within the firm, a profile for each staff member that includes a photo.
- Where your firm is located and how to make contact.
Don’t forget to include a call to action on as many web pages as is relevant, urge the reader to contact you for more information or expert legal advice.
You should then provide information that goes another step further and answers questions and proves the value of expert legal advice. Consider:
- Articles, Faqs, Case Studies & Testimonials
Preferably, make this information easily accessible by linking it from relevant practice area pages or in an easy to find index. If you have a regular newsletter, can they subscribe in some way to receive it or notification that it is available to read?
Another piece of advice, make sure this information is up to date. Clearly marking documents with publish dates is a good idea and regularly adding new content makes this look even better.
Of course some firms are going even further with content, providing secure members areas that include access to client information or forms. The 2003 winner of the large law firm category even had a Rugby World Cup Flash game visitors could play. How can you make your web site innovative?
Some of the best looking web sites in the 2005 FindLaw Web Site Awards scored low because they did not spend time on content. Looking good is not everything; remember you should also have something to say.
Site Design & structure
This comes down too; how good does your web site look and how easy is it to use to find information?
When considering how good a site looks, their will always be differences of opinion, but at least try and follow these rules:
- Use your firm’s logo and corporate colours; this should be consistent with any other marketing material you use.
- Use professional looking photography of your staff and office.
- Choose navigation that looks good but is also able to be used. Frustration with fancy navigation can cause an overall dislike of a design.
With design, consider the speed of your web site. How fast are pages to load? You obviously want the site to look good and by including moving pictures and other objects that catch the eye of your audience, it helps to ensure this. But make sure your designer has also taken into account what impact this is having on the speed of your web site. Your audience will have a mix of dial up and high-speed Internet access.
Several of the lowest scoring sites in the 2005 FindLaw Web Site Awards were not so much bad looking designs, as they were frustratingly slow because of design issues.
Search engines & online marketing
This section of the scoring criteria is probably the hardest to tie down and the most likely to incorporate a few changes over what was used in the 2005 FindLaw Web Site Awards.
With that said, the basic things you should be doing are:
Last Years Winner
- Ensure your web site has been indexed in the three major Australian search engines, Google, Yahoo & MSN.
- Work on making sure all the pages of your web site have been indexed, not just a few of your pages, the more content you have in the search engines, the more exposure you get.
- Get maximum value from available industry relevant directories and online publications such as your Law Society and FindLaw.
- If appropriate, use advanced marketing solutions such as Google Adwords to have your web site found for relevant searches.
The winner of the Best Australian Law Firm Web Site in 2005 was Biggs & Biggs Lawyers of Brisbane.
Biggs & Biggs is a medium size firm with a web site, which according to Google in July 2006 has 112 pages. The design is not overly complicated, but it does reflect the firm’s corporate colours, the size of the firm and is very easy to navigate.
Biggs & Biggs provide good descriptions of the services they provide and their position within the market place, they also link between different content on the site, and for anybody looking for more information about their legal problem, you will find nicely categorised articles & newsletters and even an option to subscribe to receive updates.
So it seems you don’t have to be the biggest to be the best, you just need to do what you do, well!