A Better Firm Website: Keep Your Website Content Up-To-Date

website contentOn the day your website was created, it was beautiful to you. After spending a few thousand bucks, your firm officially had a real estate on the internet. Your attorney bio pages were filled with all of the self-promotional puffery your attorneys could think of – class ranks, Martindale rankings, awards from local bar associations.

It was beautiful. To you.

But it never really drove business to your law firm. You didn’t understand why, but it never really troubled you either. You could find your law firm website on Google whenever you typed in the full name, and that’s all you needed.

That was seven years ago. This is what your law firm website looks like to people today:

website content

Why it’s important to have updated website content

1) To ensure you have the correct information

What good is spending any time or effort on a website, which is your primary real estate on the internet, if the information isn’t accurate? An out-of-date website is likely to cause those who visit considerable confusion if the information isn’t correct. I recall having difficulty convincing a client that I worked at my firm because the website hadn’t yet been updated to list me as an attorney.

Worse, if your website fails to list – or lists inaccurately – your law firm’s practice areas, you could lose out on the business of people who intend to hire you, but don’t see their particular type of problem listed on your website.

2) To avoid ethical pitfalls

Attorney advertising can be a little like walking through a minefield, but with shifting conditions. Walking a specific path may be ethical at one point in time, only to become more hazardous based on subsequent decisions. A key example would be a law firm website with a blog. If you haven’t updated your website content in a significant period of time, you may have failed to account for recent ethical decisions describing your blog as advertising. Failing to include the proper disclaimer could result in trouble.

Also, in the event your website lists prior cases, what about information that doesn’t reflect reversals on appeal or changes in the law. A history of prior case results can quickly become inaccurate in such a case. Describing your prior results incorrectly is likely to be viewed as misleading.

3) To ensure people can find you

Yes, you can always get your law firm website to appear on Google when you search. But what about those who don’t remember your law firm’s five-person name in the right order? An out-of-date website can make you more difficult to find because it doesn’t factor for changes in Google’s search algorithm. It will also probably fail to take advantage of more recent trends that help make you more searchable, like Google places.

Your website is the digital version of hanging out your shingle. Failing to update your website content is like hanging out your shingle, but failing to tell anyone where to find it. Only those walking by (i.e. those who search for your with your full law firm name) will be able to find you.

4) To demonstrate that you’re open for business and care about looking professional

Probably the biggest reason to update your website content is to avoid having a website that looks like the digital version of a ghost town. You’ve seen the pages – old websites set up by companies like Lexis Nexis, with strange formatting that is so out of date your current web browser doesn’t even render them correctly. I know of one (from a law firm that will remain nameless) that didn’t even share the same domain as the law firm’s email system. Nobody knows how many emails failed to reach the law firm as a result.

Websites like this are bad for one of two reasons. On one hand, they have the potential to make it look like you don’t care. Too many people use the internet to find a law firm these days for you to ignore how your website looks. Would you ever allow the client intake section of your office to look like decaying infrastructure? Then why would you do it to your website content?

Worse, it can look like your law firm is no longer in business. If you went to a website that looked like it was made during the peak of AOL’s popularity and all of your emails to the listed address bounced back as “undeliverable,” what would you think?

12 Signs of Out-Of-Date Website Content

1) You have “dated” content, and it’s old

There are plenty of things that you can put on your website that are a lot more authentic if they contain a date: important news updates, recent cases, blog posts. However, if the last piece of “Important News” happened in 2010, your last important case was in 2008, and your most recent blog post is 20 months old, your website will look neglected.

2) Your list of attorneys is inaccurate

Attorneys who have left the firm are still listed, but new attorneys haven’t been added – not something that works well for your law firm’s credibility. Given the mobility of attorneys, it may not take much time for your list of attorneys to become outdated.

3) Your website contains lawyer-centric bios and practice areas

If your website contains information that makes your attorneys feel good, it’s probably going to (at best) only impress other attorneys. An attorney bio that reads like a Martindale resume, but fails to address how you can help potential clients right up front, is outdated.

Same goes for your practice areas – failing to begin by how your law firm helps your clients is a sign of a poorly thought out website. If your website content isn’t directed at your potential clients, it’s an out-of-date waste.

4) Old photos

If the photos on your website are more than a haircut’s difference between how you look since they’ve been taken, they’re out of date. Why would you use pictures that no longer look like you? Whether you’ve gained or lost weight, or gone a little more gray/bald, your photos need to be you.

Also, make sure that your photos don’t contain styles that just look horribly dated. While it might seem petty, attorneys wearing wide ties that were popular in the late 90s will look out of touch.

5) Your website doesn’t contain video

No, this one isn’t universal yet, but it should be. The power of video content on a website is immense. Websites that refuse to harness the power of video are quickly looking old and outdated.

6) Your website is home page-centric

In the early days of the internet, people went to a website’s home page, and from there went to the related pages, like attorney bios and practice areas. Not anymore. People can get to most of the individual pages they’re looking for without ever going to your home page. Moreover, more people are following links to individual important pages, rather than the link to your home page.

Websites that put all of their effort into a home page, only to have sparse, unhelpful attorney bio or representative cases information, are not designed for this modern reality.

7) Poor/outdated design

There are those websites like the one I discussed above where the formatting of the page was so old that it just didn’t render right on your browser. That’s probably extreme, but there are other design elements that become outdated too. Does your website rely on Adobe Flash? It’s not going to work well on a mobile device then! How about menu bars that aren’t easy to read or access? That’s going to frustrate your visitors.

Another key issue is branding. Do you use consistent branding across all of your marketing? A few years back, this wasn’t a major concern for most law firms, but it has risen in prominence. If your website’s branding isn’t consistent with your letterhead, that’s a major problem!

8) The website isn’t mobile friendly

I’ve spoken about this recently, but this issue is important beyond just Google’s algorithm. More and more people are searching for attorneys on the internet. Yet even well-established law firms have websites that, when you load them on your smartphone, require a lot of pinch-to-view actions to navigate. A website that isn’t mobile friendly is out of date.

9) Website SEO is non-existent or fails to use current best practices

Regardless whether the company who built your website “optimized” it for SEO when it was published, those standards are frequently changing. What worked yesterday to boost your search engine ranking might not work tomorrow. Worse, it might be that what worked yesterday has been flagged by Google as being improper, resulting in your website being penalized. Updating your website content includes addressing SEO.

10) The website contains no/outdated social media

If your law firm isn’t yet active on social media, then your website isn’t the only thing that needs an update. Failing to include ways to find/follow your law firm on social media, while once viewed as gimmicky, is a huge mistake. For one, your social presence is now a significant factor in Google’s search algorithm. For another, it means your law firm has decided not to participate in the conversation.

11) No intake forms/contact info on your pages

Every page of your website needs to (prominently) feature at least two different ways to contact your law firm. The two most popular are a phone number and an email address. It can also include things like an intake or contact form or your law firm’s mailing address. Like I discussed above, people aren’t visiting your home page anymore, so every page they might visit needs to educate them on how you can be reached.

12) Broken links

Most law firm websites include some version of representative clients, important cases, and a list of organizations that are significant to the law firm or the practice areas. However, linking to these groups can be tough sometimes, because companies change names (and domains) all the time. Linking to a representative client that is no longer in business or has merged with another company can result in embarrassment if a potential client is directed to a “page not found” when they click on it.

In the end…

Your website is important. Your website content is what the digital world has access to when they need to learn about your law firm. With so many people now turning to the internet to find an attorney, it is absolutely critical that you keep your website content up-to-date.