Informative Websites Attract Clients for Law Firms
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Spend a few hours watching daytime television or catch the local evening news and you’re sure to see more than a few advertisements for personal injury law firms. For business law firms, however, digital platforms are the preferred method of reaching new prospects.
It’s a reflection of the broad trend in our society to research products and services online first before purchasing, says Ed Farris, president and chief financial officer of Farris Marketing in Boardman.
And while “a majority of people in this particular area of the country don’t have an attorney on retainer,” he says it’s important for a law firm to have a website that best reflects their practice and can provide immediate answers for visitors.
“Without a phone call, without meeting them, this is the face of their business essentially,” Farris says. “It’s got to look good, be easy to navigate and it’s got to perform.”
Two years ago, Farris updated the website of Roth, Blair, Roberts, Strasfeld and Lodge in Youngstown, giving it a modern design with easy navigation and biography pages for each attorney that include professional photographs.
The website, Roth-Blair.com, is mobile-friendly and features a phone number placed prominently at the top of the page, allowing visitors to call the firm with just a click.
According to Rocket Matter, a legal practice management and time and billing software company, only a third of law firm websites are optimized for mobile devices and 27% don’t have a phone number on their homepage.
These features are critical as more potential clients turn to the internet to begin their search for legal services.
In 2017, Imarc – a digital marketing agency based in Massachusetts – reported that 70% of law firms generated new cases through their website and 74% of all legal customers visit a law firm’s website to take action, such as researching topics or contacting an attorney.
Last year, Harrington Hoppe & Mitchell of Youngstown updated its website at HHMLaw.com by improving client accessibility to attorneys, such as links to bios and email addresses, as well as adding a blog and improving its search engine optimization, or SEO.
Much of Harrington Hoppe’s business comes from referrals, so the updates were more about improving client access than advertising, says attorney Denise Bayer. Still, she’s been contacted by more new clients who are not referrals and found her organically – that is, by using a search engine.
“They would ask for me specifically,” Bayer says. “So it wasn’t like a cold call that just went through the firm. They specifically wanted to speak with me because they Googled ‘business attorney’ and I came up.”
That has led Bayer to put more stock into what she writes and to update the blog as much as possible, she says.
Bayer specializes in business and nonprofit law, real estate law and copyright/trademark law, so much of her content focuses on transactional aspects of the practice, she says.
A primary goal of keeping up the website is to retain and expand the needs of current clients, and showcasing the firm’s knowledge with the blog is a good way to do that, she says.
Maintaining consistent blog updates is important for establishing the firm as an expert in its areas of practice, says Dan Pecchia, founder and president of Pecchia Communications.
Pecchia has led marketing efforts for Harrington Hoppe since the 1990s.
When the oil and gas industry started ramping up production in the Utica Shale in 2011, blog content from Alan Wenger, the firm’s expert in oil and gas law, led to new clients contacting the firm for advice, Pecchia says. Additionally, industry organizations called on Wenger to speak at events.
“There could have been other speakers who were capable as well,” Pecchia says. “But Alan [Wenger] was so visible because of what he was writing, the way he was appearing in the media, that his status was boosted by his content that was displayed on our website and social channels.”
In 2015, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform reported 20% of law firms invested in content generation over the previous two years and 60% hired an outside content generation or management service.
Pecchia works with HHM to post and manage the content. Staff keeps to a post schedule of at least one new blog post monthly, Pecchia says.
Converting the website to a WordPress platform allows posts and changes to be made on the fly by Pecchia staff or HHM attorneys without needing extensive website design knowledge, something that 10 years ago required the assistance of a programmer, he says.
“When something’s breaking and a lawyer has a point-of-view, the current structure makes it very easy for us to put that live real fast,” Pecchia says.
Content matches the firm’s expertise – business transactions, estate planning, employment law – “so we have a lot of language about those topics and we try to repeat those keywords throughout the blogs,” he says.
Repurposing content makes it easier, Bayer says.
Whether it’s an answer to a client’s question, a seminar transcription or a link to a video interview with one of the firm’s attorneys, using that content for a blog post makes it easy to stick to the schedule, she says.
“If we’re out there doing a seminar on it, then that lends itself to the spark for the attorney to draft the blog,” she says. “If there’s a change in law that’s specific to that attorney’s practice and they’re doing a lot of research on it to be prepared for questions that their clients are going to ask them, then that provides a good spark. It works best if it comes organically like that.”
Updating its blog with useful content benefits HHM even if the visitor doesn’t contact the firm as a client, Bayer notes.
Providing the content as an information source lends itself to the firm’s professional online presence, which was the driving force behind last year’s website updates, she says. It was important that HHM not use a “cookie-cutter stock attorney website” to represent itself, she says.
“We wanted something that was clean, professional looking, not too cluttered,” she says.
Solidifying HHM’s standing in the community was another focus, she adds.
The firm’s website features photos from its service area, including pictures of the cities of Youngstown and Warren and their respective courthouses. HHM’s social media takes that further by showcasing its staff’s involvement in community events, including Panerathon and Mad About the Arts.
“A lot of things that we’re involved with are very important to our clients as well in terms of community sponsorships,” Bayer says. “So that translates into better relationships and maintaining those relationships. But also with the organizations that we help, that gives us greater exposure on social media.”
Advertising through social platforms like Facebook help drive traffic back to a firm’s website too, Farris notes.
Moving forward, Farris hopes to ramp up Roth Blair’s social content and create more content, as well as videos, for the firm’s website, he says. Additional website upgrades will be made as needed, he says.
“We review each of our clients’ websites every few months, fix broken links and check the security,” Farris says. “Consistently updating the website’s software helps prevent it from being hacked.”
Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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