The New York Times lost 80 million home page visitors—half the traffic to the nytimes.com page—in the last two years.
Likewise, traffic to law firm website home pages is down almost 20 percent in the last year. Only 39 percent of law firm traffic now enters through the home page per a study conducted by law firm website developers Great Jakes.
Law firms list their websites in online and offline directories. The home page URL is included on emails, business cards and social media profiles. Search engine optimization tactics are used to draw traffic to the firm’s home page. Website navigation schemas are developed to get users to browse from the home page to industries, areas of the law, about the firm, the people, office locations and articles.
The problem is that people no longer browse pages on a website by going through home pages. They’re coming from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Google+ and Google searches to visit specific content within the site….
“News used to be a destination, and you would go find it on your driveway and in your browser. Now you’re the destination, and ‘information—status updates, photos of your friends, videos of Solange, and sometimes even news articles—come at you; they find you,’” says Derek Thompson at the Atlantic.
It’s the same with law firm websites. Home pages reflect the values and messaging of a law firm. Social media reflects the interests of prospective clients and the community as a whole. This community, through citing and sharing what they like, will control how often a law firm’s website is viewed and what people view on the site.
Law firms will have an increasingly difficult time marketing their law firms through websites as designed today. Until now, people came in through the well-designed and branded foyer of a law firm. Now people are coming in through the windows, backdoors and cracks. People view what other people talk about on social media and send them to it.
Rather than a law firm’s website being the home base for business development online, lawyers and law firms are moving to active and decentralized social activity.
Lawyer bios, long one of the most trafficked areas of law firm websites, are taking a back seat to LinkedIn profiles. Content is being published on blogs outside the website and syndicated by RSS and distribution services enabling viewers to read the content elsewhere. Such content is being cited and shared by the community at a rate far in excess of any content on a law firm website.
Lawyers are networking through the Internet, not via the firm’s website as a base, but far away from the law firm website on blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
An effective social media presence, via blogging and other social networks, will be critical to law firms. One, to get people to view what you’d like them to view on your website.
Two, it gets lawyers and law firms back to the basics of business development – building relationships and a reputation. The Internet, when best used professionally, is for exactly that.
There was time only fifteen years ago when law firms didn’t have websites. Just ask the lawyers who built their firms by doing good work and networking.
What might the law firm website of the future look like?
- Curated blog posts and other insight from lawyers and other law firm professionals displayed right up front.
- Social media activity (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) of these same professionals displayed up front. The key being to enable the discovery and following of lawyers on a personal level.
- Stories about clients, prospective clients and referral sources as well as guest insight and commentary from them.
- A focus on LinkedIn as the primary profile for lawyers. The community is already there and LinkedIn provides a platform for networking. In time, LinkedIn may enable the display of limited profiles into the website.
- Websites are likely to move to a network or magazine format better enabling consumers of legal services to select a lawyer in an informed fashion. Core information will remain, but it will take a back seat.
Beyond a word-of-mouth reputation, consumers of legal services want to see the passion, experience and care of a lawyer. This comes not from the website of today, but via a lawyer’s networking through the Internet. Law firms need to enable lawyers to be discovered and followed.
Law firm websites are not dying. They are evolving. Rather than serving as the home base, websites will enable strategic networking with business associates and the discovery of lawyers to be followed and engaged elsewhere.
Kevin O’Keefe is the CEO and founder of LexBlog, which empowers lawyers to increase their visibility and accelerate business relationships online. With LexBlog’s help, legal professionals use their subject matter expertise to drive powerful business development through blogging and social media. Visit LexBlog.com.
LexBlog also hosts LXBN, the world’s largest network of professional blogs. With more than 8,000 authors, LXBN is the only media source featuring the latest lawyer-generated commentary on news and issues from around the globe. Visit lxbn.com now.