Law Practice Today | November 2013 | The Internet Marketing Issue
November 2013 | The Internet Marketing Issue
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Amicus Attorney


Top Five Ways to Annoy Your Website Visitor (and Lose a Prospective Client)

By Fred Cohen

Over the past decade, there have been thousands of articles written on the integral components of an effective attorney website. Heck, I’ve written quite a few of them myself. These articles often preach the same words of wisdom: you need a professional design, good content, a strong call to action, sophisticated SEO strategies and an intuitive navigation structure. And while all of these components are necessary, they may not be enough if your firm is committing one of the ultimate faux pas that can drive a prospective client away in a matter of seconds. So today we won’t be looking at the things you should be doing; instead we’ll be focusing on the top five ways you’re driving visitors off of your website and into the offices of your competitors.
1. Your content was written for Google
As your firm’s webmaster, you’ve sat through SEO webinars and have scoured the web for tips on how to get your site to rank better in the search engine results pages. All sources tell you that you have to include your geographic locations and practice area keywords throughout your site, so you’ve done just that. The end result is a website where every blog post has a title that begins with “Miami Divorce Lawyer” and site pages with so many repetitions of keywords like “divorce, child custody and alimony” that it’s hard to read a page without cringing. If you don’t like your content, neither will your website visitor. Luckily, the search engines have come a long way, and high-quality, relevant content (you know, the kind your prospective client is actually looking for) is now far more important than pages with a high density of keywords or 50 mentions of surrounding cities or towns.

2. It takes too long to figure out how to contact you
Just last week, a client asked me to contact one of his colleagues concerning some marketing questions. I did a web search for his name and was promptly taken to the gentleman’s website. I immediately started to look for a phone number. There wasn’t one in the header or the footer, and there was no “Contact Us” page. After about three minutes, I finally found the information on a page labeled “Maps and Directions” under a “Resources” heading. Sure, it was on the website, but if I was a prospective client would I really take a few minutes to try to find this information? Probably not.  Don’t make it difficult to find your contact information or your visitor is likely to jump to the next site on the search result page. Might having your phone number prominently listed attract a tire-kicker or two? Perhaps, but the risk in not having it prominently featured is just too great when it means losing impatient prospective clients.

3. You’re too self-absorbed
Your website is supposed to showcase your firm. It’s important, however, to remember that it’s supposed to not only highlight your experience and skills, but how your expertise can benefit your clients. All of your copy from the home page content to the attorney profiles should be framed in terms of how you address client concerns and solve their problems.

I commonly see profiles which narrowly focus on experience but fail to address how this experience can benefit a site visitor. For example, “Attorney Smith serves on the Board of Directors for the Partnership for Alzheimer’s Awareness and has won countless awards for his excellent work in the legal industry.” This undoubtedly is an important credential but it’s missing something. The following example is more effective in describing how this experience can offer tangible value to a prospective client:

“Outside of the office Attorney Smith serves on the Board of Directors for the Partnership for Alzheimer’s Awareness, giving him unique insight into the struggles that individuals with this debilitating disease and their loved ones face. In this role, Attorney Smith has been an advocate for policy changes which address these concerns and he has worked with experts across the country to develop resources for those affected in his own community. This unique experience transverses many elder law matters, and enables him to not only prepare the legal documents which are required for advance planning but also to provide invaluable insight into deciding on the right treatment options, selecting the best care providers and making sure that loved ones retain dignity and quality of life.”

4. Your site is not optimized for mobile viewing
Statistics released this past May revealed that 63 percent of adult cell phone owners use their phones to go online. Even more surprising is that the study found that 34 percent of cell internet users go online mostly using their phones, rather than using more traditional devices like a laptop or desktop. With these kinds of figures you can probably guess what I’m going to say next. A large number of your visitors are viewing your site on a mobile device. You need to have a site that is compatible with the smaller screens and slower loading times of a smartphone or tablet. If not, you’re going to annoy your visitor and probably miss out on a lead. Steer clear of Flash animation and whenever possible, create a mobile site for your practice or deploy a responsive design.

5. The ad-ons are intrusive
How many times have you arrived on a site and within seconds music started blaring through your computer’s speakers? If you’re like most, you quickly turn down the volume or exit the site to avoid the unwelcome melody.While I don’t need to tell most attorneys to keep the music off of their professional websites, many firms have integrated videos or chat features which make noise or produce intrusive pop-ups. As a general rule of thumb, remember that visitors may want to visit your site discreetly from the office or even their own homes. A video blaring about your services will likely result in a hasty exit. Now that’s not to say that a professional video showcasing your firm’s strengths and personality isn’t an effective marketing tool but it should never start abruptly on its own.

If you do decide to include a chat element which features a pop-up window to ask the visitor if he or she requires assistance, make sure it’s very easy for the visitor to decline the offer and have the pop-up window disappear.  And once they do close the window, make sure it doesn’t appear a second time or it may become more of a nuisance than a resource.  Other ad-ons such as Twitter feeds, excessive animation and scrolling marquees provide very little value to the visitor and can be perceived as busy or just plain annoying.

Your site can have good copy and attractive graphics but that won’t be enough if some functionality is quick to annoy visitors. Spend some time over the next few days visiting each page on your website from different devices; ask some friends to do the same. If you find anythingto be cumbersome or just plain frustrating, make sure it’s corrected immediately so you don’t turn off visitors and lose business.  

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About the Author

Fred Cohen is CEO of Amicus Creative Media, a website development and online marketing group for attorneys.

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