Choose one that:
- Is easy to use
- Uses key phrases in URLs
- Is open source
A content management system (CMS) is simply a program that runs on your web hosting account to manage your web pages and blog. Your designer will program your website’s design into the CMS. After that, every page you add to your website will display that theme, thus making it easy for you to add, remove, and edit content using an easy, online-accessible editor.
There was a time when content management systems were the search engine optimization equivalent kiss of death for lawyers who wanted an easy-to-manage site with high search engine placement. The complicated modules and unnecessarily long URL structures of CMSs (we will explain in a minute) worked against the law firm’s ranking.
Not all content management systems are created equal. In fact, the two that I will recommend have built-in, search engine friendly URLs and other tools needed to market your website successfully.
The two most important elements of an SEO friendly content management system are the ability to add custom page titles on every page (as opposed to having one universal page title) and search engine friendly URLs.
An example of a non-search-engine-friendly URL is this: example.com/index.asp?=2029_id_29,0,20,13
All of those commas and characters at the end make it difficult for Google’s search engine bot to crawl through your website.
A search engine friendly URL for a page on your website pertaining to personal injury (for example) would be this: example.com/practice-areas/personal-injury/.
Notice how that URL structure is descriptive of the content within that page and uses the key phrases? That is what Google wants to see.
Also, you should never pay for a content management system. If your content management system has a licensing fee, then most of the updates, plugins, and addons are also going to come with a price. An open source solution, in contrast, is going to have a community of programmers contributing to the evolution of the application. This makes it easy to expand without additional charges.
The bottom line is to avoid using “proprietary” content management systems. Several law firm marketing companies have content management systems that are exclusive to their service. If things do not work out between your firm and the company, you will have to start all over because they are not giving you their management system to take to a new hosting provider.
So now that we have those warnings out of the way, here are my two recommendations.
WordPress started as a simple blogging script and has turned into the most popular open source (and free) content management system. WordPress also boasts more than 16,000 freely available plugins, which makes it the most expandable content management system available. Here are the pros:
- More than 16,000 plugins and addons freely available
- With it being the most popular content management system, there is a lot of freely available support on the web.
- It has a volunteer-powered community of developers to keep the platform evolving at a fast pace.
- Updates come out monthly (generally more frequently than that), which means it is secure and any security problems will probably be found by the programming community and fixed before they ever affect your website.
- It is easy for your designer/programmer to implement a custom design.
- It offers several search engine optimization plugins that make it the most search engine friendly content management system available.
- It is trusted by MTV, People Magazine, more than 30 universities, CNN, AMD, Sony PlayStation, Martha Stewart Living, the Wall Street Journal, and a sea of other websites that rely on it because it is stable, easy to use, and it works.
- The user platform (what you will be using) is also very simple. If you can edit a Microsoft Word file, you can manage your website with WordPress.
Drupal is another highly expandable, search engine friendly content management system. How stable and secure is Drupal? Enough to power Whitehouse.gov and a handful of other government and corporate websites.
I favor WordPress over Drupal because of the ease of use for the end user (you and your staff) and the number of available plugins. Drupal has almost 9,000 plugins (called modules), whereas WordPress has 16,000. Drupal is stable and widely supported, but some beginners have trouble finding their way around.
An easy-to-use content management system can literally change the way your law firm does business. From quickly posting new events, engaging potential clients, accepting payments on your site, or starting a podcast, a solid content management system can become your law firm’s most powerful tool.