Part I in a continuing series on improving your firm’s website
Part I: 7 Tips to Improve Your Bio Page
Part II: 5 Best Practices for your Practice Areas
Part III: Video is a Game Changer
Part IV: 4 Reasons You Should Blog
Part V: 3 Videos You Need to Have
Part VI: 4 Reasons to Ignore SEO
Part VII: 4 Steps to Know (and Track) Your Audience
A law firm’s website is only as good as its content. So, in my quest to help you improve your firm’s website, content is where I’ll begin. That covers a lot of ground though, so let’s think of this from an advertising agency’s point of view. The ad agency’s goal is to put the most important items where the readers eyes fall first or most. That way, the most important information is right where the potential customer is most likely to look.
For most law firms, the attorney bio pages are, by far, the most viewed part of the site (according to one study, the bio pages may account for as much as 56% of law firm website traffic). It’s the place where most of your potential customers are going to be won or lost, so the renovation of your firm’s website begins there!
Here are 7 Tips to improve your bio pages:
1) Make sure your site is written for your potential customers, not for you!
Too many people want their website to serve as a glorification of themselves; a shrine to legal and educational accomplishments over a lawyer’s lifetime. However, your website is advertising, not Narcissism 101. An easy way to improve your bio is to tell prospective clients what you can do for them in the future, rather than what you did for yourself in the past. Your first real step is to find out what your prospective clients want to learn from a trip to your site.
There are several steps to find out what your prospective clients really want. First, determine your target audience. Once you’ve identified your target audience, ASK THEM what they hope to find on your site. You may think you know what they want, but they’re the true authority on that subject. Install comment systems on your website, request feedback from your clients, or even ask representatives of various trade groups. Any information is better than no information.
2) Focusing on quality content is considerably more important than quality design.
Always remember that CONTENT IS KING. A shiny veneer might help you get people to look at your website, but once there, unless your only goal is to get them to vote for your website in a beauty contest, you’re going to want to give them valuable information. NEVER sacrifice the ability to provide adequate content to your visitors for the benefit of a fancy page layout or widgets and tools that limit your ability to provide your visitors with important information.
On the flip side, make sure that your content is robust and informative. Minimalism is interesting, but make sure that your potential clients are able to learn everything they need to know, and maybe a few things they just want to know, regardless of how the information is conveyed. Your website’s content must be informative enough and sufficiently engaging, because that’s what will turn prospective clients into clients..
3) Information that is important to the prospective client should be listed FIRST.
Utilize the 3 Rules of Real Estate: Location, Location, Location. It may seem obvious, but there are a lot of strange things on law firm websites these days. In reviewing your site, you’ve looked at your page. Your photo and content are front and center. It’s not too cluttered. Now, read only the information you can see without scrolling down the page, and ask yourself: “Would this information inform a prospective client about what I can do for them?”
Do you list your legal licenses and education in a prominent spot? Sure, it’s cool for you to look at how many courts you can practice in and where you went to school. But potential clients visiting your page already know that you’re a lawyer! Put the information that is most valuable to the intended viewer in that prime real estate! Always remember that you’re SELLING something! (For an excellent example of quality use of the page, check out this bio)
4) Keep the content brief and on point!
Your content should be robust and complete, giving a well-rounded picture of the attorney, including skills and experience. But it must also be brief!
What?!? If this were easy, you wouldn’t need to read this article!
Looking back on the real estate issue, take a look at your bio and find out what simply doesn’t need to be there. Clearly you need to make sure that your clients know what your practice area is and how the skills you’ve developed will help them. Your other biographical information, while interesting, is not as important if your goal is a website that brings you clients.
Now, just because it’s not AS important doesn’t mean that it isn’t important at all. So get creative! Think of different ways to display things such as where you’re licensed and your contact information. Keep it accessible, but also make sure it’s not taking up the prime real estate on the page.
If someone is learning about you on your website, you can bet their attention span is not the same as most other situations, so keep your bio on point! Multiple edits, just like you would do to a brief to a federal court, will help greatly.
Here’s an interesting goal: develop an effective bio, that has all the necessary information, on a page that you do not have to scroll to see completely.
5) Don’t list your legal skills, list what your legal skills allow you to do.
An interesting article on website bios discussed application of SPIN questions, which breaks down questions regarding the sale of complex professional services, to attorney websites. There are four key types of questions : 1) Situational (background facts), 2) Problem (questions to understand the needs of buyer and developing a common interest), 3) Implication (discussing consequences of the problem and the proposed solution, including those not initially seen by the client), and 4) Need-Payoff (the value of the solution to the client).
Your bio should seek to answer these questions for your clients, while keeping in mind the pitfalls of each particular category:
- Situational – necessary, but boring. Make your essential bio information available, but avoid making your potential clients feel like you’re just answering 20 questions.
- Problem – they’re prospective clients for a reason, address what types of problems you solve, not what types of law you practice.
- Implication – let your prospective clients know that you are familiar with BOTH the client’s problem, and the typical consequences of the problem. Give prospective clients additional faith in your experience by discussing how you have dealt with the consequences of the client’s problem in the past.
- Need-Payoff – let clients know that you have been successful, phrased in how your client succeeded, not you. Sure, you won the trial, but your client is more interested in how you successfully defended the client’s patent.
So “Experienced in patent law” becomes “Experience defending clients from claims of patent infringement.”
6) Use a good picture (… of YOU!)
It might seem like vanity, but using a quality headshot is important. Aside from assisting your firm’s marketing by putting the best possible face (no pun intended, but I really didn’t do anything to avoid it either) on your bio page, a better picture can actually increase visits to your site! (Particularly if you have Google Authorship enabled, which will display your picture on Google search results).
How do I get the best possible photo? First, professional attire. Like a lot of other recommendations in this article, that may actually vary considerably depending on your practice area (although I think one friend’s suggestion that IP litigators should be allowed to wear shorts and flip flops, as it is their regular attire, is a bit of a reach). Second, use a background/backdrop that focuses the viewer’s eye on you (nothing distracting, probably nothing from Facebook).
While professional photography has its advantages, it’s not required. Simple manipulation of color toning and backgrounds in Adobe Photoshop or iPhoto can dramatically improve the quality of your photo. If you’re still concerned, take the advice of one blogger who suggested uploading a bunch to MyBestFace and letting the masses decide! (Yes, it’s a dating site, but as the author says, it’s free.)
Oh, and for the love of everything holy, GET THOSE STOCK IMAGES OFF YOUR SITE! Everyone knows they’re fake. At this point, they’re like the really bad hair piece of the website world. Yes, we can tell.
7) Don’t be afraid to try new things!
While you need to reserve the best real estate for the information most important to your clients, don’t miss an opportunity to let them know who you are! Try custom pages for personal information, like this attorney. Another idea might be to introduce different tools that allows you to minimize less important details, but still keep them accessible to viewers who want more information, like was done on this page.
Try making your bio out of important philosophies or quotes, instead of one headshot, use a plugin that allows a full gallery. Try writing an entire bio of yourself in the first person, giving the reader a feeling that they’re learning about you, from you. The internet is a hive of creative thought and ideas, so look around and see what’s out there. To quote the immortal Ferris Bueller: “If you don’t stop and take a look around every once in a while, you might miss it.”