Is Your Website Backfiring?

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All too often lawyers demonstrate boundless enthusiasm for creating a new website (or updating an existing one), but then insist on elements and changes that ultimately caused it to backfire. According to the inbound marketing service Hubspot, 72% of websites receive a failing grade of 59 or lower.

The primary reason for this failure is that visitors can't find themselves in your website or even see themselves there. Sure, it's important that the site to be visually appealing, to be optimized for mobile devices and to offer clear calls to action. But none of that matters if visitors don't connect with your key messages and your content overall.

Start by organizing the content in ways that make sense to your ideal client. Create a homepage that enables them to quickly and easily find themselves in your sitemap and overall navigation. That means the first section in your online navigation should not be entitled "About Us." Instead, start with a section that discusses features and benefits of your services.

Overall, your navigation scheme should be simple and not complex. Give visitors fewer, more relevant options to choose from online, and let them drill down on subsequent pages by offering content that's meaningful for them.

A visitor’s primary reason for visiting your site is not to read about all the great awards you've received, or the vision of your founders or how brilliant your attorneys are. They want to know what you can do for them, how you can make them more successful, how you can help them grow and achieve their business goals (not your own), and how you can make their jobs easier. (That's not to say that congratulating yourself for a well-deserved accolade by a prestigious third party isn't important. But prominently listing every award you've ever received will drive your visitors away.)

Words and phrases that resonate

Next, write each section as if you were the client. Use words and phrases that will resonate with them, rather than your boss or your boss's boss. Your content should be like a mirror where visitors can see themselves in each page they read, over and over again.

Unlike everyone else who says "avoid jargon," I'm going to disagree and say it's okay to use jargon -- but only in those instances where it makes sense to your target audience and has meaning and relevance for them. Throwing around words and acronyms that make you sound like a know-it-all will only annoy and alienate your visitors.

Also, consider creating a pop-up box that reflects your firm's key messages, but that emphasizes 5-10 well-written benefit statements. You need to spell out the benefits your clients will enjoy if they hire you. Then create a separate button that generates the pop-up and invites them to learn what those benefits are. Doing so will ultimately keep your pages cleaner and the site's navigation simpler.

Finally, make sure the writing is crisp, fresh and relevant. Time and again, I've witnessed web pages that got passed around for review and editing by entirely too many people. It is easy to spot a page that was written by a committee.

If you want to gain the credibility, engagement and loyalty of your website's primary visitors, stop staring into your own mirror and start staring into theirs.

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