Everyone can write, right? And you know all about the law because you work at a law firm. So, it should be pretty straightforward to sit down and write some content for your firm’s website, shouldn’t it?
You might think so, but bitter experience has taught us that most legal professionals have very little idea how to write website content that will appeal to potential clients. Of course, this is great news for us, because it means we can charge people to get us to do it better.
But how do you know if your current content is any good? There are all sorts of things you need to think about, but when it comes to service pages, the following are the five most common mistakes we see and our tips on what you should be doing instead.
- Failing to tell your clients want they need to know
The most basic thing that your content needs to do is to give clients the information they need to decide you are the law firm for them.
Unfortunately, many firms get this completely wrong. They go into excessive detail about legal technicalities and processes rather than thinking about what a client actually needs to know.
While it can be useful to explain how you would deal with a client’s legal issues and define key technical terms, this should never be the main focus of a service page. You have to keep in mind what level of detail the average person actually requires at this stage.
Start by thinking about what key problems clients are likely to be facing if they are looking for help with the area of law you are writing about. Clearly state what those issues are so anyone who lands on your service page will instantly know they’re in the right place.
Next, explain how you will help them deal with those problems and why they can rely on you to do so. This will give people a solid reason to get in touch with you, rather than heading back to Google and clicking on the next law firm in the search results.
When it comes to how you convince people you are the law firm for them, there are two main areas to focus on – your tangible selling points and your intangible selling points.
A tangible selling point is something like:
- ‘We offer a free initial consultation’ or
- ‘We are accredited by the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme’
These are concrete benefits you can provide to clients that other firms may not offer.
An intangible selling point might be along the lines of:
- ‘We provide a high level of personal support’ or
- ‘Our team has extensive experience dealing with all types of commercial property’
While these are likely true (or should be if you’re saying them on your website!) they are more nebulous – what qualifies as a ‘high level’ of service? How much experience can be considered ‘extensive’?
Both types of information can be persuasive, but it’s usually a good idea to make sure your tangible selling points are very clearly highlighted. That’s because these are the ones that are most likely to differentiate you from your competitors (after all, pretty much everyone claims they offer a high level of service!).
They are also likely to seem more substantial e.g. having accreditations from the Law Society suggests the quality of your service has been independently verified, whereas ‘we have loads of experience’ is something you are asserting yourself without proof.
- Making it all about you
It’s your website and you’re selling your services, so it’s only natural to make your content all about you and how great you are. However, clients are much more likely to respond to content that is focused on them and their needs as this shows that you understand who they are and what they want.
Again, start by focusing on the key problems clients are likely to be facing and how you can help them. This will help you keep the focus on the client and increase the chances of them deciding you are the firm for them.
So, instead of starting a page with:
“We are the best divorce lawyers in South London, with many years of experience helping clients to get divorced, achieve financial settlements and make arrangements for children.”
You might say something like:
“Going through a divorce can be tough, with a lot of important practical issues to sort out at what can be a very stressful and emotionally challenging time. Our highly experienced divorce lawyers in South London can make the divorce process much easier, helping you to make a clean break while ensuring your needs and those of your loved ones are taken care of.”
This is likely to be much more engaging as it shows potential clients that you understand what they are likely to be worried about and what they are looking to achieve. It also shows them that your focus is exactly where it should be – on them!
- Making it hard to read
If you want to win potential clients over, you don’t want to make them work too hard. Your content should be easy to read and it should be easy for clients to find the information that’s relevant to them.
There are two main things you need to think about here:
- The type of language you use
- How you structure your content
These can make a huge difference to how readable and engaging your content is.
For example, this is the sort of thing we see all too often on client’s website:
“When divorcing, one should consider the implications for one’s future financial security, including (but not limited to) such matters as the cost of housing, children’s upkeep, spousal maintenance and pension entitlements, with the exact requirements for the financial settlement one should seek being reflective of one’s personal circumstances, the need to support any dependants, such as children, and the relative financial positions of the parties to the divorce.”
Did you read that all the way to the end? I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. The sentence is very long, as well as using old-fashioned language, convoluted sentence structure and terms clients may be unfamiliar with (e.g. spousal maintenance). All this means people are more likely to lose the thread of what they are reading and/or miss the key information.
Another way of writing this might be:
“When making a divorce settlement, you need to consider issues including:
- Housing costs
- Child maintenance
- Your own living costs (spousal maintenance)
- Whether you/your ex-spouse are entitled to a share of each other’s pensions
The exact terms of your settlement will depend on your needs and those of any children you have, as well as the difference in income and assets between your former spouse and yourself.”
This second version contains exactly the same information, but by using simpler language and a bullet point list for the key information, it is much easier to read and for people to pull out the important points.
When thinking about this, it’s important to make sure you are pitching your content at the right level for the sort of clients you want – as a reference, The Guardian has a reading age of 14 while The Sun has a reading age of 8.
If your clients are more likely to read The Guardian or The Telegraph, you can therefore probably pitch the language a little higher than if they will tend to read The Sun or The Mirror.
It’s also a good idea to break your content up with subheadings that let people jump to the information they need quickly. So, if someone wants to see your fees, have a subheading titled ‘Our fees’ with your pricing set out clearly underneath. This will increase the chances of potential clients finding that information and getting in touch.
- Not keeping it up to date
This is a really basic one, but sadly all too common – people write some content (or have it written for them) stick it up on their website, then forget about it for the next ten years.
The problem here is, what was relevant to your business and your clients years ago may no longer reflect your firm and the type of business you want now.
This might be as simple as not including references to new offices you’ve opened or accreditations you’ve secured or it could be as embarrassing as not accounting for changes in the law or making reference to services you no longer offer (you might be shocked at how often we see this last one!).
Ideally, you should have a process in place to make sure your content is reviewed regularly by people who will know whether it is still accurate e.g. a member of your family law team should be checking the family law pages. This should happen at least once a year, as well as when anything happens that might need to be accounted for e.g. a team member joining or leaving or a change in the law.
- Not telling people what to do next
Of course, the purpose of having good content on your website isn’t just to give potential clients a nice read – it’s to get them to contact you about using your services and, ultimately, to give you fee-paying work.
And if you want clients to contact you, it makes sense to clearly tell them how to do it in your content. This is what we refer to as a ‘call to action’ – i.e. the bit where you say:
‘To find out how we can help with your divorce/will/dispute over a noisy cockerel please call 01234 567890 now.’
It’s really important to give this call to action some thought as you don’t want to spend loads of time carefully crafting beautiful content only to lose people at the last moment.
- Who is best placed to deal with enquiries
- Who your ideal clients are and what methods they are likely to use
While older clients may prefer to pick up the phone, many younger clients are likely to feel more comfortable sending an email.
However, don’t make the mistake of giving people too many ways to get in touch as this can lead to ‘option paralysis’, where people can’t decide which method to use, so end up not contacting you at all.
A good rule of thumb is to give a couple of options e.g. a phone number and an email address – or you can just link straight to your contact page.
Need a helping hand with your content?
Clearly that’s quite a lot of things to think about when writing content for your website and there are all sorts of other issues you also need to consider, like tone of voice, gap analysis and search engine optimisation.
However, hopefully what we’ve given you is a way to start looking at your website’s content in a more analytical way, so you can decide whether what you’ve got is good enough or whether it’s time to think about an upgrade.
Of course, rather than spending a lot of time and effort learning how to do this yourself, it’s much faster, easier and more cost-effective to let the experts do it for you – which, as I said at the start, is good news for us as it keeps us in work!