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
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…