All posts by Bryan Mixon

Cheap web design on the side of the road is NOT the way to go.

How Much Should A Law Firm Website Cost?

It can be pretty daunting trying to figure out how much to spend on a law firm website these days.  There are companies charging tens of thousands of dollars and promising the moon, and there’s always your cousin’s friend from college who would do it for a case of beer and a bucket of chicken.

Sometimes it helps to just set some expectations.  Your mileage may vary according to your goals, your geographic region etc, but here are some ballpark figures that will give you a good sense for what you should get for your dollar, and help you figure out just how much you can afford to spend.

So let’s kick this off at the bottom.

Less than $500

The old adage goes, you get what you pay for.  This bucket usually contains either family friend discounts, students doing the work, or your run of the mill website builder like GoDaddy or Wix.

If your goal is just to have a site that you can point people to, and don’t intend to do online marketing, blogging, lead collection etc, this might be the way to go.  Be careful here though.  A lot of times the website builders are loss-leaders for the business.  For example, GoDaddy makes the website builder cheap to get you to do your web, email and domain hosting with them, which often ends up being a more expensive and lower quality offering than going out and getting decent options separately.

For example, I use DNSimple for domain and DNS hosting. I can’t recommend them enough. And for email hosting, $50/year for Google Apps is an absolute steal.

$500 – $1500

This is a tough range.  It’s tough because it’s likely that you could find someone to do the work for the price, but it’s going to be very difficult to judge the quality beforehand.  A developer that’s worth their salt will be able to charge A LOT more than this, so here, you’re typically dealing with local developers that might not be around very long. You want someone that will be around 2 or 3 years from now and who can answer an email at the drop of a hat if there’s a problem.  Now, if you’re willing to take a bit of the management tasks on, you could probably find a very talented international developer on oDesk that could do a great job for this price.

$1500 – $5000

This is what I would consider the sweet spot for most solos.  In this range you can get a good developer to do a basic site that’ll cover the bases for most of you.

When I say “cover the bases” I mean:

  • Uses a nice responsive theme (looks great on mobile devices)
  • Uses a Content Management System like WordPress or Drupal. Avoid hard-coded sites as you’ll need to contact your developer any time you need a change.
  • Has a BUILT-IN blog (I saw a recent post that suggested attorneys should have a separately branded blog. That is such terrible advice that I would consider it dangerous.)
  • Uses best-practices like semantic markup to make your site more easily parseable by search engines.
  • Basic setup with Google (Google Analytics, Google Authorship)
  • Can offer limited tech support for the foreseeable future.
  • A classic looking, basic typographic logo if you don’t have one yet.
  • Redirects from your existing site if you have one. Basically, make sure that anyone linking to your existing site ends up on a relevant page on your new site.  Without this, any SEO clout you’ve built up will disappear.
  • And the ability to walk you through how to do basic edits (like writing blog posts) yourself.

What you likely won’t get at this price point:

  • Custom photography
  • Custom graphic design (the theme you use will be the “web designer”)
  • Custom copy
  • Comprehensive branding

$5000+

Once you go over $5k, the sky really is the limit.  You could get a custom graphic designer to do a completely custom design just for you.  You could get a marketing consultant to do your bidding.  Really, at this price range, it’ll be really confusing because it’ll likely be a much larger to-do.  There might be an law firm SEO consultant or an AdWords consultant.  All of these things can be positives, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed and there’s a lot of sharks at that price point that’ll promise you the world and never deliver.  If you’re spending that kind of money, make sure you get references and demand quantifiable proof that the investment was worth it.  If they’re good, it’ll be more than evident.

Whatever you decide make sure the following:

Make sure that your domain name is registered under an account you can access yourself and that it’s registered TO YOU.  As I mentioned, I really like DNSimple for this.  They’re great people and they make managing domains really simple without some of the spammier upsell practices of companies like GoDaddy.  Also, don’t let your developer own this account.  If he’s out of business in 2 years, you’ll have a really hard time getting control of your domain (if you can at all).

Be wary of SEO sharks that mention link-building or keyword density when pitching SEO services.  SEO is almost entirely based on writing good content that answers questions that people want answered.  There is very little left that can “game” the system.  Anyone that tells you they can get to the first page of Google for something like “DUI attorney Nashville, TN” and doesn’t immediately follow it up with a year-long content strategy is selling you a bag of goods.

Make sure you understand the ins and outs of your Content Management System before you sign off on the project.  If you’re not completely comfortable with the process of updating your practice area pages or writing a blog post, you never will, and that’s the quickest way to make your investment depreciate like an abandoned house.

When in doubt, feel free to ask for help. I see all of the shady stuff targeting my wife’s practice and I want to scream, so I’m happy to share unbiased advice.

I hope that clears up some of the confusion in the space.  If you have any questions, feel free to let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them…

 

Photo Credit: Mario Carvajal used under CC
Google Setup Guide

The Ultimate Small Firm Google Setup Guide

Everyone knows Google is the ruler of the roost when it comes to search. In this guide, we’ll take you through the steps to make sure your firm’s Google setup is a firm foundation for the rest of your marketing efforts.

What a lot of small law firms miss out on is the fact that Google provides a number of free tools to help site owners (that’s you) adhere to best practices that can help Google better understand what your content is about. And when you make Google’s job easier, it can only help your prospects of ranking for important search keywords.

We’re going to walk through the setup of each of these tools to make sure you’re taking advantage of all the free stuff.

Your Google Account

First thing’s first. You need to have a Google account. If you use gmail, you’re probably familiar with all of this, but I would highly recommend setting up a separate Google account specifically for your firm. It’ll make things much easier down the road.

If you use Google Apps for your firm’s email, awesome, you already have a Google account, and you can use that email and password to sign in.

If you don’t use Google Apps, you can still create a Google account using your business email address, just use this form.

Google Analytics

Google analytics is a tool that keeps track of who’s visiting your site and when. It’s a very powerful tool that we’ll get into in more detail at a later time, but for now, let’s just get your site set up and verified.

First, log into google analytics by going to http://www.google.com/analytics. Once there, you’re going to create an account by clicking on the “create an account” link in the top right corner.

Google analytics is structured by accounts and then by property. Accounts act as a grouping of websites (properties). For most firms, you’ll only have one property, but if you have a law blog on a separate domain, like blog.myfirm.com, or myfirmblog.blogger.com, you may want to manage multiple sites.

Let’s start by following Google’s instructions for setting up your firm’s account.

Click on the ‘Admin’ link at the top of the page. From here you should be able to create a new account. Fill it out as follows (let’s assume your firm is called AmazeLaw Firm and your website is amazelawfirm.com):

Account Name: AmazeLaw Firm
Website Name: Main Website
Website URL: http://amazelawfirm.com
Industry Category: “Law and Government”
Reporting Timezone: Select your timezone
Data Sharing Settings: It’s ok to leave the defaults here, but for the paranoid, you can uncheck “Anonymously with Google and others” and “Account specialists”.

When you’re ready, click ‘Get Tracking ID’ and accept Google’s Terms & Conditions.

Congratulations, you’re now staring at a rather techy looking page that contains the code you need to add to your website in order to get tracking up and running.

If you use a content management system like WordPress, Drupal, or AmazeLaw, all you need to do is authenticate with Google Analytics and it will suck the code in for you. For example, on WordPress, if you go to Plugins > Add New and search for “Yoast Google Analytics” you can install a plugin that will allow you do suck in your code. There’s even a nifty video over here that will show you exactly how to set it up.

If you use AmazeLaw, just log in and go to your dashboard, there should be a giant button asking you to authenticate. Clicking that will automatically suck in your tracking code.

Now if you don’t use WordPress or AmazeLaw or if you need a developer to add the code for you, here’s a sample email you can send your developer that will instruct them on how to add it to your site. By the way, this should be an amazingly simple task for any competent developer so don’t let them charge you for more than an hour’s time to do it (it’ll likely take less than 10 minutes depending on how they’ve set up your site.)

Hi <Developer’s Name>,
I would like to add google analytics to my site. The following code needs to be added to the <head> tag on every page on my site.
<Copy and Paste the tracking code here>
Thanks!
<Your Name>

That’s it! You can verify whether the tracking is installed by going to Admin > Choosing your account and property, and then .js Tracking Info > Tracking Code. Next to your Tracking ID, you should see “Waiting for Data” or “Tracking Installed”.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google doesn’t provide much direct control when it comes to how your site appears in search, but what little control it does give you is controlled from webmaster tools.

In order to log in to Webmaster Tools, just visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home. From there, you’ll be able to add your site and verify ownership.

When you log in, if you don’t have any sites set up, you’ll see a welcome video and a simple text field where you can put your domain to add your site. Simply enter your domain, and click ‘Add Site’.

If you followed the steps in the Google Analytics section above your site should already be verified. If not, follow one of the procedures Google outlines in order to verify your ownership of the site. Unfortunately, it may require help from your developer.

Google+ Authorship

Google+ may not be poised to take over Facebook any time soon, but it’s generally accepted that having a Google+ profile set up (if not actively updated) is a best practice for SEO. Google has indicated that going through the process of verifying the authors of content on your site will act as a quality signal in search algorithms. In other words, set up a Google+ account for yourself, and link it to your website.

If your email uses the same domain as your website (it does right!?) then the process is simple. Just log into Google+ using your firm email address and then go to this link and submit your website.

If you don’t have an email address for your domain, something like myfirm@gmail.com or awesomelegalsolutions@hotmail.com, then it requires a bit of effort to get authorship set up, and honestly, your time would be better spent signing up for Google Apps for business and moving your email over there. After all, bill@awesomelegalsolutions.com is a lot more professional than awesomelegalsolutions@hotmail.com.

Google Places

And finally, it’s time to get you on the map. This is absolutely key to making sure your firm is available for Google to list at the top of localized searches. You know, the ones that show a map and a list of 5-10 businesses.

Signing up for Google Places is quick and easy as well. Go to the Google Places signup page and click “Get on Google”.

In the map that appears, search for your business, either using the name or your office address if you have one. If it appears in the search box, click on the business to claim it. If not, just select the “None of these match. Add your business” link at the bottom of the search results to create yours in the system. Now, if you don’t have a Google+ page for your firm, this will go ahead and create the page for you as well.

There are a few fields worth noting when you get to the point that you need to enter your address information. The first is, well, the actual address. Many solo’s don’t actually have a physical office, and even if you do, it’s likely that you want to serve an area larger than the city in which you live. If you don’t have an actual office, enter your home address (you’ll be able to hide the address later). But whether you have an office or not, make sure you check the box that says “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location.”

And finally for the “Category” field, you could put the general “Legal Services” or if you have a specialty try that. Search along the lines of “Family Law Attorney” or “Employment Attorney” to select your specialty.

Once you have filled out that information, it’s time to let Google know where you operate. If you checked the box above, you’ll be given the option to list out cities, or choose a radius around your office. I would suggest a radius, but that’s entirely up to you. If you want your office to also appear on the map, just check the box “I also serve customers at my business address”.

When that’s done, you’ll be prompted to create a Google+ page for the business and sign Google Terms of Service.

You’ll be asked to verify your business by mail, and you can then go ahead and edit your Google+ business page.

Whew!

That’s it! Take a break. Now you can edit your site knowing that you’re all set with Google.

Was that too much? Want help?

This stuff can get super hard to keep track of. That’s one thing we pride ourselves on here, is our ability to stay on top of best practices on the web, and then building it into our system so that you don’t have to worry about it.

If you want to spend more time being a lawyer, and less time tinkering in HTML…

Sign up for a free trial at amazelaw.wpengine.com

 

Photo Credit: Carlos Luna used under CC
crumpled up law blog

Solo Lawyers Can’t Afford To Be Law Bloggers

You are not a law blogger. Go ahead, say it out loud if you’re not at a coffee shop where people would look at you weird. It’s that important.

So much of the advice bandied about on the internet regarding how attorneys should blog, is for lack of a more-perfect term, crap. It simply doesn’t apply to you as a solo or small-firm attorney. Here’s why.

Law Bloggers use their blog to increase their status and credibility among other lawyers.

When you’re just starting out, this seems like the easy, logical place to start.

After all, you know the law, you can provide deep commentary on the law that other lawyers would appreciate, and that Small Firm Inferiority Complex is a powerful beast that is always thinking of ways to justify to your big-firm brethren that just because you’re small, it doesn’t mean you’re not an expert.

Here’s the thing though. Your clients don’t care. If they were interested in learning the nuances of law, and could understand that deep analysis, they wouldn’t need your help.

They want to know how the nuances of law affect their daily life. How do they solve that one nagging problem that they’ve ended up at your site trying to solve? And can you explain that problem, that pain, to them better than they could explain that pain to themselves. That’s how you win a client’s trust. Not, by being the most vocal fish in a small pond of blogging lawyers, but by doing the legwork to convey true understanding of your clients’ day-to-day problems.

Now, I won’t deny that there’s certainly value in convincing other lawyers that you’re worth a referral, and sometimes it’s valuable to provide a unique insight and circulate it among your peers. But make no mistake about it, writing for lawyers should be considered a rare guilty pleasure, not the focus of your firm’s marketing plan.

Law Bloggers consider their blog to be a separate entity from their firm.

Law bloggers often see their blog as an extension of their personal brand; a sort of hedge against becoming too synonymous with their parent firm lest they decide one day that they want to move on. That’s a great strategy, and I’d recommend that strategy to any associate (or partner) at a big firm.

But you’ve already taken that leap. There’s nothing left to hedge against. Your blog is the marketing arm of your firm, and they should be so intertwined as to be indistinguishable to any potential clients (and Google). Worrying about driving visitors from your blog to your firm website is a fool’s errand. Your blog is your firm website.

What’s more, if you were to separate your firm website from your blog, you’re effectively making sure that none of the SEO value generated by all of that effort is transferred to your firm. Having them both under the same domain is critical to ensuring that your firm and its blog rank well in Google.

Blog posts don’t pay the bills, clients do.

Your blog isn’t about you. It’s about your clients. Everything you do needs to be geared toward their needs, their desires, their pains. Every marketing activity you spend time on need to be focused on one of two things. One, getting more prospective clients to your site. And two, convincing them that you’re so deeply in tune with their problems that they absolutely can’t afford to not contact you for your expertise.

In short, you need to focus on blogging to get business, not being in the business of blogging.

To that end I would strongly recommend looking outside the law industry and into small business marketing for your marketing advice, as your small-firm’s marketing is much more closely related to that of a pool salesman* than a law blogger.

* Marcus comes off a little “marketing-guru” at the beginning, but trust me, you’ll love him by the end. One of the more genuine applications of business blogging I’ve ever seen and a simple framework you can always fall back on when you’re searching for what to write about, or even why you’re bothering at all.

 

Photo Credit: HPUPhotogStudent used under CC
Fresh coffee in hand, ready to start marketing your firm.

Real Digital Marketing Tactics For Solo Attorneys

Starting your own firm is hard work. You don’t have the same resources that big firms have to market yourself. But luckily, what you lack in budget you gain in scrappiness. You can move quicker and with less oversight. You can ditch the BigLaw stuffiness and appeal directly to the clients you want to help.

Here’s our promise. We will deliver an actionable plan every week that can be implemented in less than 30 minutes a day, that, applied consistently, will provide you with an audience of prospective clients that lets you focus on the law instead of glad-handing at every networking event that rolls through town.

Remember, consistency is key if you want to build up that consistent stream of clients. Consider us your coach. We’ll give you a plan, every week.

Want to get early access to these tactics? Sign up for the email list and we’ll deliver them right to your inbox, every Monday morning. If not, check back on Fridays for that week’s plan.

Photo Credit: 55Laney69 used under CC