The following are website-specific questions that were answered during a recent Q and A session and transcribed for our readers. Please excuse any discrepancies in the transcription.
“My website design has to be better than my competitions.”
When it comes to web design, the average consumer is not looking for anything really over the top, and this has been verified by numerous surveys that we have done for consumer preference when searching for legal services. It can vary from practice area to practice area. It might use terms like flashy or having the ‘bells and whistles’ or being ‘best in class.’ And you will see, typically, the flashiest website being personal injury websites. The average consumer going there, seeking compensation for their damages, associating a nice website with the ability to have a higher recovery. There can be that perception of value with that kind of web design. But you will also notice that some of the largest law firms that handle PI cases in the country don’t even have the flashiest websites sometimes. Most SEOs and marketers in the legal space would rather take ease of use accessibility and usability over going over the top with aesthetics and design.
And that can be this said for some practice areas where people, just like they associated value or potentially cost with a high degree of web design, might associate some practice areas like estate planning or family or criminal defense with being expensive if the web design is that involved from a design standpoint. I would not recommend having a website that looks like it was built over a decade ago, but I also think that the website should look good, clean, but provide information that is easy to find. And al especially now, that people are using mobile devices more than desktop, with some people having 60, 70, or as high as 80% of the traffic coming from mobile, there is not that significant of a difference between having a website that looks great on desktop that looks just the same as many other websites on mobile. The mobile-first web design approach has really leveled the playing ground for how many bells and whistles you can frankly even have on a website since on mobile there is only so much that you are working with and that is where the emphasis should be anyway.
“What are the forms of contact that I have to have on my website?”
Many forms of contact are still as standard as they have always been. Click-to-call, easily accessible on both mobile and desktop are aspects that are paramount. Having a form is still important for people that want to fill out their information. I would recommend adding at least a couple of steps afterward, so people know that the information provided on a contact form is not going to a black hole. For example, saying, “Fill out the contact form. After you fill out the contact form, a representative from the team or lawyer, or legal assistant from the team will review the details of your inquiry, and then follow up within 24 hours.” People have been shying away more and more from using contact forms because they just don’t know what’s going to happen next. It is important that you set the expectations at the very least alongside that form. Chat has become popular over the past several years. It is great on desktop. On mobile, it is a little cumbersome.
Most chat companies do not do the best job making the experience or the layout easy to use. So sometimes, people have it on desktop and then avoid using it on mobile. And one up and coming option for the contact form actually is giving people the opportunity where if they don’t want to type it out, especially if they’re busy or they’re trying to be prompt with the information they’re providing, or they have a lot to discuss in the message portion or the case inquiry portion of the form, you can add a voice option where someone can actually dictate those sections or those fields on a contact form and then easily transmit the details of their case.
“I have a great memorable number on my website. I do not want to switch out to use a tracking number.”
This is something that comes up often where someone has a great repeater number or a vanity number. And the marketing company, just like ours, wants to be able to track our efforts, and by doing you would use what is called dynamic number insertion on the website.
It will automatically swap out the number depending on where your potential client has come from. If someone gets to the website via Google ads or from your local service ads or Maps or Organic, vendors such as CallRail will automatically switch out the number on your website. So, when they call, you can give the attribution for your marketing purposes. I can understand why people would be hesitant to swap out a number such as, for example, 1-800- 800-8000 or 1-800-222-2323. Those are amazing for braining purposes, and you would not necessarily want someone to go on your website, and instead of seeing that wonderful number, they see a very random number that is used for tracking purposes such as 1-800-272-1837. If you have a great number, as much as a marketer and SEO would love to be able to track everything, in some instances, I think it’s absolutely fine to leave the number. Sure, you may not be able to track everything that goes on the website, but there are still other opportunities to swap at numbers and do tracking. You can still do with forms. You can still do chat.
And if your team is obsessive about tracking, of course, you can use a tracking number and then use that vanity number for everything else whether it be traditional marketing or your other means. But just know that while that number is great, and our team would encourage you to retain it, you will lose a degree of your tracking by not switching it out.
“Do I need to rebuild my website on WordPress?”
This one depends. If you are coming from a company that has a proprietary backend or CMS (content management system), the short answer is more than likely. Sometimes other vendors will build a website on their proprietary CMS, partially that it is their platform that they believe is the most conducive to marketing and ease of updating and adding additional content. Other SEOs, such as I, are more skeptical. It is mostly used as a way of handcuffing people to longer contracts and as a deterrent from them leaving because of the complexity, potentially, of migrating to another vendor. It turns out it is not particularly difficult to rebuild the website once you can see aesthetically what the website looks like.
It is not very difficult for a talented graphic designer to essentially replicate the website from the front end, and then simply rebuild it. This should never really be a reason for anyone to feel like the idea of switching marketing companies due to the website being too daunting or overwhelming. Now, WordPress is ubiquitous at this point, as far as the platform for websites. There are billions of websites on WordPress. And oftentimes, if you look at any of the websites that are ranking on Google for the most prominent, competitive keywords in existence in the legal field, the vast majority will be on WordPress. And this is because WordPress has the number one platform for websites, and the world has come a very, very long way as far as being fast enough and having the proper functionality to allow SEOs to do what they need to do in addition to everyone else on the marketing team. If you are currently with a vendor that does not allow for easy migration with the current platform, you are on, you would want to build a WordPress.
If you are on another builder, such as a Squarespace or Wix, or something of that nature, even LawLytics is popular for law firms. We typically go as far as we can go with that builder but just always know that builders, such as those that I mentioned, are always going to have limitations. And if it is not limitations because of SEO reasons, there are always going to be limitations from a design standpoint.
“Can I keep the same host I’ve had for years?”
That depends on your host. There are more options than ever for reliable, safe and secure, and cost-efficient hosting arrangements that aren’t the economic choices that we’re used to. No offense to GoDaddy, Bluehost, A Small Orange, or HostGator. Many of which I still use to purchase actual domain names. There is just a new bar set for hosting your website efficiently and securely. And especially, with site speed being such a priority for websites these days, most businesses can afford to have a slow host and cannot afford to have a premium hosting solution.
These older hosts that we are used to having put the website on a shared server with hundreds, if not thousands, of other websites. And if one of those other websites that you are not aware of is compromised, it can compromise your website. hosting a solution that we have encouraged our clients to move on to is WP Engine. WP stands for WordPress. And this is a company, US-based, out of Austin, Texas that specializes in hosting WordPress websites, and ensures that they are secure and run quickly. And this not only has the benefit of being great for the user experience, but many of the SEO components of proper hosting are met by premium hosting solutions such as this.
“How much does a website rebuild affect all of my rankings?”
This is somewhat of a loaded question because it all depends on how your website is rebuilt. There are rebuilds that can have a negligible impact on your website, and there are rebuilds that executed without SEO in mind, can have a severe impact on your rankings.
It is important for any web design company to completely consider your SEO status and rankings, and where you currently are positioned when rebuilding what you can consider as SEO components to the website. While the aesthetic or the front end is going to change quite a bit during a website rebuild, what contributes to your SEO does not have to shift as significantly. For example, if all the content is retained, and internal links and external links, and H tags, and things of this nature, which would be one step in retaining everything that you work towards, SEO-wise. What is even more important are URL structures and the overall site architecture of your website. If you start renaming all your URLs to other things without doing a proper redirect, you can guarantee that Google’s going to have no idea where all your previous pages were indexed and then crawl the website all over again, and that is a surefire away for your rankings to plummet.
When it comes to rebuilding, all it takes is a straightforward checklist of what components of the website, SEO-wise, to retain. And that would include how you can navigate your URL structure, keeping the bulk of your content, meta information, and these types of SEO aspects. If you had a URL structure before that you did not like or was not ideal, you could use this opportunity to reformat or restructure parts of your website. But just keep in mind that you are going to have to do 301 redirects, properly throughout your website to ensure that when Google reindexes your website again, at least it gets redirected to the new page, and all the value and authority from the existing pages passes along properly to the new pages.
“Should we be focusing more on the mobile experience instead of the desktop? Do people even use tablets anymore?”
Yes. Mobile-first is the way to go for user experience nowadays because most of the traffic for the average legal website has surpassed desktop easily over five years ago.
I have not personally seen anyone use an iPad or a tablet in a business setting, or an airplane, or frankly, anywhere for quite some time. And that has been justified and made clear by analytics, showing that tablet use—while at its peak was about 10% of the traffic—has dwindled down easily to less than 5%. The trend for mobile, while it is plateaued on average from what I’ve seen about the 70% mark, doesn’t mean that incrementally it’s going to not increase over time. The mobile experience is paramount and most important, especially for legal because of the number of people that are using their mobile devices to find a lawyer. And without a doubt, that should be the focus, especially with the redesign, especially when engaging in Conversion Rate Optimization projects. And especially, figuring out the user experience and the ideal journey that your ideal client is going to take when they visit your website.
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