November 2012 | Prepare Your 2013 Business Development Goals Now
Making Web Analytics Part of Business Development Planning
Fall is now fully upon us, which means two things – it is football season and it is time for law firms to prepare their budgets for 2013. A big part of the budget discussions will focus on offline and online business development (BD) initiatives for the coming year. It is never easy determining where these resources should go, but by understanding what was effective in the previous year, firms at least have a fighting chance to make good decisions going forward.
Measuring offline BD efforts tends to be pretty straigh
orward. If a firm sponsors an event, it is fairly easy to calculate the amount of attorney time involved and compare that to the amount of business generated, which gives you a preliminary return on investment for that event. Online success can be a bit more difficult to calculate, but it is not impossible. By using web analytics effectively, law firms can better understand what is working and what is failing, ultimately allowing them to make better decisions about where online BD resources (time and money) should go.
Let’s start with a definition for web analytics. According to the Digital Analytics Association (DAA) web analytics is "the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage." Most people hear web analytics and only think about the collection and reporting aspects, but the measurement and analysis tasks are equally important. If the data collected and reported is not used to solve a business problem, then it is worthless. With that in mind, we need to answer this question before any real analysis can be done: What is an optimal law firm website?
An optimal law firm website has the following qualities:
By understanding the ultimate goal for the firm’s website, legal marketers can ask better questions when reviewing the success or failure of online BD efforts. By combining better questions with web analytics data and a little context, legal marketers will ultimately be able to better understand where resources need to go to improve their online BD efforts. This solves a business problem.
Here are some great questions legal marketers should ask about their online presence, and how they can be answered through web analytics. Since this article is focusing on planning for the 2013 budget, it is a good idea to look at the data from all of 2012 up to this point.
In the past year, how much traffic did the firm’s website receive and how are people finding the firm online?
Any good web analytics tool will be able to provide a breakdown of where traffic is coming from. Legal Marketers can look at the past year’s traffic statistics and other initiatives and determine what to build on, what needs to be added and what to drop.
Bonus tip – Looking at the entire year is useful. Take the next step by looking at different time periods, for example quarters, to understand if the firm is getting more traffic from certain initiatives throughout the year.
Having data to answer these questions is a great start to figuring out what is working and what is not, but it is only a start. In most cases, the answers to the above questions will only be a piece of the puzzle.
What do people do on the firm’s website?
If the bios are receiving the majority of the traffic, then more specific questions can be asked leading to more value:
These questions all focus on the website as a BD tool. Separate questions must be answered when reviewing the website as a recruiting tool, a branding tool, or for any other purpose.
Bonus tip – Try segmenting your data for better insights. For example, if you can answer the above questions but focus only on visitors who come to the website from LinkedIn, then you can provide those people with more targeted and engaging content in the future because you understand what they want
Again, the majority of web analytics tools should be able to provide you with information that can help answer these questions. By understanding how people got to the website and what they are doing once on the site, a firm can better make decisions about where to focus next year’s online BD efforts, but the puzzle is not complete without the final question.
Are website visitors converting?
It would be great if it were as simple as ‘prospective client comes to firm’s website, fills out contact form, and becomes client’ but that is not the real world. It is more likely that the prospect meets an attorney at an event, researches the firm online, asks their friends and colleagues what they think of the attorney/firm they are researching, and then makes a decision to call the firm.
So when tracking this type of conversion, be sure to cover all bases to get an accurate understanding of the website’s performance.
Unfortunately, most visitors reviewing a law firm website are not ready to choose that firm right then and there. With that in mind, it is critical to track micro-conversions as well. These are targeted actions that either shows that a website visitor is interested in the firm, or help move the sales cycle along. Common micro-conversions on a law firm website include:
It is critical to track and analyze these actions to understand what is working and what can be improved.
Bonus tip – Most web analytics tools allow you to exclude traffic originating from firm employees. By doing so, legal marketers can better understand the actions of prospective clients.
Trying to determine what resources to allocate to a firm’s online business development efforts is not an easy task. By first understanding what makes a law firm website successful and asking the right questions, legal marketers can use web analytics as part of the overall toolset to make more informed decisions when planning for 2013 and beyond.
Steve Hennigs is a senior account executive at Siteimprove, a company providing software that assists with the maintenance, measurement and governance of large websites. He can be reached at (612)-545-5662 x805.
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