There are numerous ways to go about marketing, but, in our experience, the first thing that should be considered is your business’ website. An effective law firm website can be your most valuable asset, building your brand, informing potential customers, and most importantly, generating leads.
Your law firm is growing, you’ve hired new attorneys, some support staff, and are excited about the future. In order to make sure your new staff has a consistent stream of work, you are likely reviewing your marketing efforts, or considering beginning a marketing campaign.
While you may know all of these things already and understand the importance of having a great website, how much you should invest in your website is likely not as clear. In this article, we will discuss the options for company websites and the components that should be included.
Don’t underestimate the power of a great digital platform for your business, getting a website is a long-term investment in the strength of your law firm. Let's take a closer look at the factors affecting law firm website cost.
Types of Websites
From an outside perspective, you may believe that all websites are essentially the same. The reality is that could not be further from the truth. A website is as unique and customizable as you want it to be.
In a basic sense, there are 3 types of websites, sites built with a page builder, sites that are custom coded, and sites that are built through WordPress, which can utilize both page builders and custom coding. Let’s delve into the pros and cons of each.
Sites built through a page builder are generally viewed as cookie-cutter, drag and drop type websites. Platforms like Wixx and SquareSpace are what you should be thinking about here. While these sites can be built by most people with a basic understanding of technology, they offer the lowest level of customization and are widely viewed to be substandard when compared to the two other types of sites.
They have been proven to perform poorly when you look at mobile usability and rankings and are the most budget option available. While some firms may want to start with a Wixx or SquareSpace website to establish an online presence, they often quickly outgrow them or find that they simply can’t do everything the firm wants their website to do.
Additionally, the SEO for these sites is normally poor, even if the person building the site understands SEO and what needs to be done, the site will often underperform due to the lower level of customization that is available.
Page builder sites can often be built fairly quickly, and as mentioned, they are the most budget option. No reputable digital marketing company should be working with this type of website and it should be viewed as a DIY option.
With that said, if you have the money to invest in your firm, this should be considered your last option (realistically, not an option at all).
In order to have a website built from scratch, you will need the help of a qualified web developer. As the name indicates, this type of website is fully customizable and can be and look like anything you want.
If you have begun working with a developer on a site of this nature, and they tell you something that you have seen somewhere else can’t be done, you likely need to begin looking for a new developer.
Custom coded sites, if built correctly, are the fastest websites as they do not include any superfluous code and can be optimized for speed down to each letter of each line of code.
While all of these things sound great, there are drawbacks to having a site that is hard-coded. First, they are the most expensive type of website as you are going to be paying a developer to devote all of their time to building every single component of the site from scratch.
As such, they are also the most time-intensive type of site, often taking months to be built under normal circumstances. Additionally, most dedicated web developers are not experts at SEO, so you will likely need to hire a firm to manage your website moving forward to optimize for search and ensure that all of your investment does not go to waste.
Large, custom-coded websites can cost $100K and take 3-6 months to reach launch. As you can see, there are some positives and negatives to having a custom-coded website, but for most firms, this type of website is simply not necessary.
Over ⅓ of all websites are built using WordPress and for good reason. WordPress has established itself as the premier platform for SMB to build beautiful, high-quality websites.
They are as customizable as you want them to be, as there are thousands of themes that are available that provide templates, or you can use a 3rd party plugin or page builder to create your own unique page templates.
They are easy to maintain and upgrade and allow for seamless SEO optimization. Due to their extreme level of customization, both the lead-time and cost of building a new WordPress website can vary widely, ranging from a couple of weeks and $3,000-$5,000 dollars for a small site up to several months and $30,000-$50,000 for the biggest of law firm sites.
For 99% of law firms, a website built on WordPress is the correct choice. Even if you decide to not have a long-term agreement with whoever built your site, WordPress sites can be moved around as necessary without issue and should be viewed as a long-term marketing investment.
The 4th Type
There is also a 4th type of website that we want to mention but would never advise any firm to pursue. This is a website built using proprietary software or CRM through a company like Scorpion or FindLaw.
These large companies have developed their own CRM’s, allowing them to scale massively and offer their services at very low prices. You are likely reading this saying great, where do I sign up for that? Our answer is, you don’t!
What most firms overlook or fail to understand when they enter an agreement with one of these companies (and these are not the only 2 companies using this business model) is that if your law firm is ever unhappy with the marketing services provided and desires to leave, your entire website will need to be rebuilt from the ground up as the current platform the site is built upon is proprietary specifically to that company and cannot be ported to a new service provider like a WordPress or custom coded website could be.
To be frank, we view this business structure as a trap, designed to lock customers in by making the hurdles to leave both time-consuming and expensive. Do not fall into this trap!
As noted above, your website should be viewed as a long-term marketing investment, and for that to be true you must be able to make changes to improve its performance as you see fit. While rebuilding your website may be something you WANT to do when you leave a marketing firm, it should not be something you MUST do.
Should I Hire a Web Design Company?
As an attorney, you understand the importance of specialization. While all attorneys have passed the bar and are knowledgeable of the laws and how to practice law, no lawyer will just take any case that comes to them, regardless of the area of practice.
To truly be a great lawyer, you need to pick an area of practice, be it personal injury, criminal defense, family law, civil rights, etc., and hone your skills and knowledge on a daily basis.
The same is true for marketing. While many digital marketing firms CAN build a functional website, only the firms that focus on it will create stunning websites that grow their clients’ businesses.
We make this analogy to show why YES, you should always hire a web design company if you want to get the best results from your investment.
At GoEngine, we build exceptional websites that convert potential customers into paying clients. Our years of experience have taught us what it takes to get results through website design, and we are eager to put that knowledge to use for the benefit of partners.
What Should I Expect from My Web Design Company?
Sticking to the analogy above, let’s discuss what you should expect from the agency you chose to hire. First, we believe that honesty and transparency should be at the heart of any business relationship and we guarantee that to all of our clients. We view you as our partner, not just a paycheck, and we know that as you grow, so do we.
In the same way, a skilled attorney will guide their client through their entire case, with every decision based on what serves the client best, you should expect the same thing from your web design company.
Additionally, you should expect monthly reporting, regular updates, and a dedicated account manager for easy, open communication. Finally, you should expect results, after all, that is why you hired a marketing firm, right?
What Does My Website Need?
When you begin the process of getting a website up and running, or updating an existing website, one of the first questions asked to us is “what does my website need?”. Some of the components of a successful website are pretty straightforward, things like a well-designed home page, a contact page, some information about the law firm and the lawyers, and some ways for potential clients to contact you.
All of these things should be included on every website, but there are many other items that should also be included for every law firm.
High-Quality User Experience
Your website is the digital representation of your firm, so you want it to appropriately represent who you are and what you stand for. To do so, you need to have a striking homepage with high-quality images that grabs users' attention and keeps them on the site.
As mentioned above, you need to provide information about the law firm, but this is more than just a couple of paragraphs about the firm. Items like past results, reviews, and listings of community involvement are highly recommended, as they not only give you credibility to someone who has never heard of you, they also humanize you by showing how you are involved in the community.
And, while having a contact page is a must, you should never expect a random customer to seek it out and find a way to contact you, so you need "Call to Action" buttons strewn across your site, making it easy for people to get in touch.
Conversion tools like a sticky header, click-to-call buttons, and web forms are a great way to make sure no potential customer struggles to figure out how they can reach you.
We also HIGHLY recommend having a live chat option, because, put simply, if you don’t, customers who want to contact you in this way will just find a website that has it.
Your website should also have a logical and cohesive structure. Not only is this what Google likes to see, but it is great for the user experience and helps keep customers on your website for longer periods of time.
As of July 1, 2019, all new websites have been switched to mobile-first indexing, with mobile indexing being applied to all existing sites in September of 2021. So what does that mean for you? In short, it means that regardless of whether you are building a new website or have had your website for a while if the site is not mobile-friendly, you will struggle to rank no matter how good your content is.
We have all been on our phones, browsing the web, and run across a website that just looks like a jumbled up mess. Pictures are wider than the screen, the navigation menu does not work, and a litany of other problems can come about by not having a mobile-optimized website.
Also, when you are creating content, you should always have the mobile user in mind first. While your content may look fine on a desktop or laptop, if you have long sentences and paragraphs with nothing to break them up, when your page is viewed on a mobile device, the user will see a giant wall of text, reducing the likelihood of them staying on your page and reading what you have to say.
This creates a terrible user experience, causing visitors to your website to leave quickly, which increases your bounce rate and decreases your conversion rate. Not only is this bad for your business as you do not convert visitors into clients, it is terrible for your rankings as Google can see how people interact with your site, and if these issues persist, you are likely to fall down the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) until these issues are resolved. If your site was built before July of 2019, you need to take the time before September of 2021 to make sure that when the entire web goes to mobile-first indexing your business’ digital platform does not fall off of the map.
Location Specific Practice Area Content
Last, but most importantly, your website needs to have excellent, unique content. Break your content down into two groups, one being long-form location specific practice area pages and the second being shorter supplemental pieces, like blogs and FAQ.
Your long-form content should be a deep dive into the specific practice areas you want to target, with content that is geared towards the physical location you want to serve. If your firm handles a type of case, you should have a practice area page for it.
This content should be informative, well-written, and unique as this is the page the majority of potential customers will land on when they begin searching for a lawyer.
You need to be able to answer their questions and explain why your law firm is the right choice for them to hire. This page is essentially a sales brochure and your content should reflect that.
Your blog/FAQ content will be shorter and should focus on specific topics, many of which are likely covered in your practice area page. This is your opportunity to give an in-depth answer and create supporting content for your highest priority pages, the practice area page.
You want to release this content on a regular basis, so set a schedule and stick to it. If you have the option of churning out a lot of mediocre content or a small amount of high-quality content, always go with high-quality content.
No one cares that you have 500 blogs on your website if none of them are useful, but users will greatly appreciate 50 pieces of highly informative content. Always remember, CONTENT IS KING!
The Importance of an SEO Friendly Website
Let’s say that your firm has gone out and found the greatest web design team in the world and invested $50,000 in building a brand new website. It looks great, has a great user experience, and loads of high-quality content. You launch the site and are excited to see the cases start flowing in.
One month turns to three months, then a year, and you have seen basically no results. Why? If your website was not built SEO-friendly, it is doomed to fail. Many law firms fall prey to this issue by hiring developers that only understand the “building the website” side of the equation, with no consideration for the “making it rank” factor.
The reality of digital marketing is that websites simply do not rank themselves, it takes time, hard work, and a clearly defined plan from day 1.
By hiring an agency, like GoEngine, that understands not only how to create a beautiful website, but also how to get that website to rank, you put your money to good use and get the results you are looking for.
When considering a web design firm to work with, one of the first things you should do is try to find websites they have built that rank highly. If they can’t get their existing clients' websites to rank, and in turn bring in business, how are they going to help you? It is simply not enough to have a great looking site, you need to have an SEO-friendly website to see results.
Choose The Right Partner
The question of how much should a law firm website cost is far from a cut and dry answer. There are hundreds of variables that must all be considered when deciding what is a fair price for a site.
We hope that this article has provided you with some of the information you need to better understand what to expect as you shop around for a provider to assist you and your firm with your digital marketing needs.
You should always remember that, as in life, you get what you pay for with websites, so if it sounds like the deal is too good to be true, it very likely is. Websites are a long-term investment in the future of your law firm and deserve to be treated and funded as such.
If your law firm is considering building a new site or upgrading an existing one, the team at GoEngine is here for you! to build the digital platform you deserve.
We have years of experience working with lawyers and know what it takes to get leads for our clients. We treat every client as our business partner, working hand in hand to get you and your law firm where you want to go, and we have the results to prove it.
Read more about our results-driven practices and custom strategies in our '2022 Guide to Law Firm Marketing".
Contact us today to speak with one of our skilled team members and get your free website evaluation and risk-free quote. We look forward to working with you to create the digital platform of your dreams!