Case Study: How We Improved Three Law Firms’ Rankings, Usability, and Lead Generation Efforts
Taking over a law firm website which was previously with a competing provider such as Findlaw, LexisNexis, etc. can be an opportunity for a smaller web marketing firm such as ourselves to prove that we can offer the type of service, and obtain the type of results, that larger providers fail to deliver because they are too busy working on too many projects.
I’ve been in this industry for long enough to hear all of the horror stories of broken promises, lack of results, negligence, and more that law firms complain about after they spend a year or two with a larger web marketing provider which promised them (and 5 other law firms in their area who they are also working with) that they’ll improve their lead generation, branding, and inbound marketing efforts in exchange for a hefty monthly retainer.
Earlier this year, we redesigned and launched three websites for law firms who were with nationally-recognized legal web marketing providers, and after only a few months, the results that we’ve obtained (and feedback from the clients regarding the quality of leads that are being generated) have been nothing but positive.
One of these firms was referred to us, and a quote directly from an e-mail that the managing partner of the firm sent the person who referred them to us a month and a half after the new website was launched:
Our new website is up, and it is proving to be quite successful very quickly. The quality of contacts we are getting from the site is markedly better, with most actually inquiring about areas of law we practice in. It is certainly a very positive turn of events in regard to the quality of contacts, so thanks again for the referral!
Since launching all three websites, we’ve noticed improvements in:
- Search engine rankings
- Number of organic search engine visits
- Quality of search engine visits
- Pages per visit and average visit duration for all types of traffic
- Number of leads being generated
- Quality of leads being generated
and more when compared to the data a year previous, when the client was with their past provider.
You Say That You’ve Made a Difference, But Can You Prove It?
Don’t take my word for it, here are a few Google Analytics screenshots for one of these clients (with actual traffic numbers deleted for client privacy issues). All of the data below is for the date ranges of September 1,2013-November 14,2013 compared to the same date range a year ago (when both clients were with their past providers):
A Personal Injury Law Firm Client- Improvements in Quality and Quantity of Web Visits
For this particular client, overall visits improved by 158%, new visits improved, bounce rate dropped by 7%, pages per visit went up 11%, and average visit duration improved by 82%.
The new visits metric isn’t one that we can necessarily take credit for since this user has started running social media ads and increased their PPC budget, but we’re very happy with the improvements in conversion metrics such as bounce rate, pages/visit, and average visit duration, especially with such a significant increase in new visits and the limited targeting options that go along with social media advertising.
However, when we look specifically at organic search traffic:
There is an increase in organic search visits (not an extremely significant one, but one that we’re satisfied with seeing as this is right around when we launched their redesigned website which can sometimes result in a downtime while search engines re-adjust and re-crawl), and a slight drop-off in new visits (once again, nothing abnormal for a newly redesigned website). But when we see that the bounce rate has dropped by 26.68% (they’re just barely over a 60% bounce rate with the new website, and were over 80% before), a 56% increase in pages per visit, and a 256% INCREASE in average visit duration, which is an increase of more than 2 minutes that the average user spends on their website site, this makes us feel pretty confident that:
- This particular law firm’s website is starting to be found for more quality search terms
- They are ranking higher for relevant search terms (which we can confirm when looking at keyword ranking reports and Google Webmaster Data)
- Users are more engaged on the new website
It should be noted as well that this particular client specified that no cases were generated in an entire year when they were with their past provider, and that lead generation efforts were minimum at best. Since choosing us as their web marketing provider, we have obtained page 1 rankings on Google, Bing, and Yahoo! for the name of a doctor that was recently suspended for misconduct (which they asked us to focus on, and which has generated numerous leads from former patients of the suspended doctor), improved their search engine rankings for a number of keywords that we’re targeting, focused on improving user experience, and more. How did we do all of this?
Ok Enough, Already! What Did You Do to Make Such an Immediate Impact?
Believe it or not, the purpose of this post wasn’t for us to “toot our own horn”. It was more intended to provide some background and actual data that methods that we use, recommend, and talk about on this blog and some others that we’ve contributed to in the past, actually make a difference. Some of these include:
1. Improving User Experience
Presenting Relevant Content
While developing these three websites, we spent a lot of time focusing on developing legal websites that present relevant information based on which page the user is on, while making sure we structure and categorize everything accordingly from a development standpoint.
What does this mean?
Well, I don’t think that it’s too much to ask for when I say to the client “I think that, if a user is on your auto accidents page, that only blog posts, case results, and free reports that are tied to that particular practice area should be displayed”. We did so accordingly, in some cases for a website that had over 3,000 pages indexed. This helps to improve user experience as well as search engine optimization from an internal linking standpoint.
Don’t Throw Everything At Them at Once
It’s not uncommon for a law firm website to list 50 practice areas on every website page’s sidebar, main navigation menu, and footer menu. This makes your firm look like one that will take any case that they can get their hands on. Also, by linking to so many pages on your home and internal pages, you’re diluting the amount of authority that those pages are getting from an SEO standpoint.
So instead of linking to every individual practice area page in the menu (which can also be a lot to manage as you continue to add more practice areas), we categorized each practice area into a smaller group of 5-7 parent categories, and channeled the visitors accordingly.
When a new practice area is added by the client in our content management system (CMS) of choice, WordPress, as long as they select the proper parent category of that practice area, it will automatically be added to the appropriate parent pages, versus waiting for their web design company to make changes to a hard-coded navigation bar. In addition, when they write a new blog post and select the new practice area as the category of that post, that post which show up in the sidebar of every page tied to that practice area automatically (like we discussed previously).
This improves SEO, user experience, and scalability, and the client is satisfied that they can add a new practice area page and other internal pages quickly and in-house.
Improving the time that it takes for a law firm website to load will improve the impression that your users have of your website. Nobody likes to wait for a website to load, and a major ranking factor from an SEO standpoint is the amount of time that a website takes to load.
To improve each of our clients’ website load times, we focus on:
- Implementing a content delivery network to improve load times and time-to-first-byte
- Implementing caching plugins
- Optimizing images and implementing CSS image sprites
- and more…
How your law firm’s website loads on mobile devices, tablets, and different types of macs or PC’s is a huge ranking factor right now from an SEO perspective, and can make the difference between you getting a lead and losing out on a client. Your responsive website should have a “click to call” button so that the user can easily contact your firm, and you should know how your site looks on multiple platforms. Use a tool such as Screenfly to see how your website launches on different platforms and resolutions, and also be sure to check out Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool.
2. SEO Improvements
For each client website that we develop, we also manage their SEO efforts and search engine rankings on a monthly basis. To improve organic search engine rankings, a few things that we focus on include (but are not limited to):
- Implementing schema.org markup
- Optimizing page titles, meta descriptions, content, and other basic SEO101 factors
- Claiming and optimizing Google+ Profiles and citation sources, and other important Local SEO tactics
- Link profile review and cleanup through disavowing and requests for removal
- Monitoring Webmaster Tools and cleaning up crawl errors, not found errors, and more by implementing 301 redirects and de-indexing pages if necessary
- Identifying pages which include lower-quality content and making necessary adjustments to become Panda-Compliant
- Write natural, relevant content, including FAQ-based content after Google Hummingbird was launched
3. Conversion Improvements
We also implemented some advanced design improvements to each client’s website, such as:
- Live chat (still extremely effective)
- Custom attorney list pages and individual attorney pages (FACT: people want to know more about your firm’s attorneys, so make sure these pages load properly, rank well, and of course, look professional)
- Call-to-action Always Visible- for almost all of our clients, the user has a “contact us” and/or “live chat” button on their screen at all times (similar to the yellow bar at the top of your screen right now)
- Sharing/Liking/Tweeting Options- Your visitors should be able to easily share, tweet, or like your content at all times.
- and more…
Of course there is more. I could add to this list and make it 50 pages long, but these are the more modern methods and implementations that we use to make sure our clients’ websites can be found for search terms that are relevant to their practice area(s), improve user experience, and make sure their websites are lead generating machines.