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Written by Mark Parent
on April 12, 2016
Peter Boyd on designing a better website

Peter Boyd is the founder of PaperStreet Web Design, which helps law firms improve their reputation one website at a time.

He recently offered his expert insight on special considerations those in the legal profession should make when designing their websites. Here's what he had to say:

How did you go from being a lawyer to the owner of a web design company?

In the late 1990s I was a self-taught computer geek and aspiring lawyer. I noticed that many law firms had, to put it mildly, crap websites (and some still do). I started helping law firms one website at a time. I eventually grew the business from just myself and a dog, to over 25 employees.

What about law firm websites made you realize their was a niche for your business?

Lawyers are typically a bit behind on marketing trends. This is due to regulation on their methods and modes of advertising. However, with the advent of the internet, firm brochure websites began appearing a lot. Firms simply needed help to improve their reputation online and put forth their best image possible. Moreover, lawyers actually advertise a lot. There are no national brands, like in other industries. However, the competition for clients is very strong in all cities. Thus, the need for good internet marketing tactics has evolved for both PPC and SEO.

What are some online practices you see law firms relying on that are outdated and ineffective?

I see several bad trends:

1. For design: Poor artwork and lack of message on the home page (and subpages). Firms still go with cheesy three word tagline, that really do not offer a key benefit of their firm or value proposition.

2. For SEO: Firms still rely only on links to try to rank high and this won't work. You need to produce the best resource in your particular practice area.

3. For content: Firms still write about me, me and me. They need to produce content that helps their clients. If they give away educational materials, then they can set themselves apart as an expert.

What are some of the unique needs for law firms when it comes to establishing a web presence?

When working with law firms you need to understand if there are any regulations on their advertising, as some states require submission of their website for review (or ads) and cannot use certain language in the copy like, the word "specialists," for instance. Moreover, you need to understand the law, which is why it works out nicely that I am an attorney who practiced, along with our entire writing team and content director.

What advice do you find yourself repeating to clients again and again?

We have been helping clients create a valuable resource section on their websites for nearly 15 years. The firms that do typically rank higher, get more clients and set themselves out as an expert. We call this idea a Law Hub of information.

How should law firms approach creating a strategy for building their online presence?

1. Figure out your target audience.

2. Set a goal for your website or internet marketing campaign.

3. Organize your existing content and figure out what you need to write next.

4. Create a value proposition based on what you offer the best and how you can differentiate from your competition.

5. Write. This is the hard part.

6. Create an overall brand that includes your website, social, SEO, pay-per-click and even offline means of marketing.

7. Finally, analyze your efforts and see what you want to concentrate or revise next.

How often should firms reevaluate and revamp their online strategies?

We meet with some clients on a monthly basis, but for most it is a quarterly or six-month basis.

What are some of your favorite brand-building tools for law firms?

Aside from our own team and their ideas, we use the following tools:

  1. www.invisionapp.com (for design layouts)
  2. www.gathercontent.com (for organizing websites)
  3. www.bugherd.com (for Q/A)
  4. www.istock.com (although we love custom photography)
  5. www.ahrefs.com and www.moz.com (for SEO)

What firms do you think have done an especially noteworthy job of building a strong online presence? What can we learn from them?

  • www.ylaw.ca - an awesome branded website for a Canadian family law firm.
  • www.wachp.com - a great brand for mid-size law firm
  • www.lipcon.com - they get over 200 leads a month in a very competitive niche of maritime law.
  • www.searcylaw.com - they are a top personal injury firm that brings in a lot of website visitors with their website properties.
  • www.florida-probate-lawyer.com - this firm is dominating the search results in probate law in Florida with their targeted content.

Connect with PaperStreet on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+.

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