SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE:
- Get more Collaborative cases from your professional referral sources
- Increase referrals from past clients
- Establish yourself as a “thought leader” for Collaborative Divorce
- Get attention and coverage from the media
- Make your website work harder and bring in Collaborative clients
- Use social media to grow your Collaborative practice
Welcome to our Marketing Teleseminar if this is the first time you’ve attended one of our teleseminars thank you for coming, if you’ve attended our teleseminars in the past thank you for coming back.
My name is Dan Couvrette I’m the CEO and owner of Divorce Marketing Group. We’ve worked with divorce professionals for the past fourteen years. Some of you may know Divorce Magazine we produce six regional editions in CA, TX, FL, IL, NY. NJ and Toronto (where the company is located) or you’re one of the 1.4 million people who’ve visited DivorceMagazine.com in the past year or you’ve seen one of our e-newsletters, Divorce Guides, Collaborative Divorce Guides, or a video of one of our clients, or have seen websites that we’ve built or optimized for search engines for our clients. All of this to say that we’ve been in the business of marketing divorce professionals for fourteen years in many different ways so we have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work.
Visit DMG for more info and to learn about our company because I’ll only be mention in one of our products, the Collaborative Divorce Guide in this presentation – so if you feel that you need help implementing a marketing strategy check us out and contact me if you wish.
So lets get going:
Before we start looking at how you can promote and build your Collaborative practice there’s something that we need to acknowledge and what that is is that most people in your life, your personal contacts, past clients and your professional contacts know you in a particular way as either a divorce lawyer a financial professional (not specifically a financial professional who deals with divorcing people) or a therapist and probably not as a Collaborative Practitioner.
So, the people who are most likely to refer business to you don’t know you as a Collaborative professional and don’t likely know what Collaborative divorce is all about. So I’m going to focus quite a bit of this seminar on how to inform, educate, and persuade those people to refer Collaborative cases to you.
Also, I want to mention that I’ve prepared about 1 hour of material for a 30 minute teleseminar so if you send me an email I’ll send you the whole one hours worth but we’ll only have time to cover 30 minutes worth.
What this means is that your personal contacts, past clients, and professional referral sources know you in one particular way so it will take some work on your part to reintroduce your practice to them. Keep in mind you’re not dealing with a blank sheet here – they already know who you are and what you do so re-educating them will take time and effort on your behalf – but it is worth the time and effort.
So where do we start?
We start with creating your Marketing Vision
A marketing vision is an essential first step towards benefiting from all that marketing has to offer. It’s an overall approach that includes and/or considers multiple media, and ways to market and promote your practice in a focused and strategic manner.
From now on I’m going to speak about your practice and not your collaborative practice because if you’re like most of our clients who are involved with Collaborative divorce you’re planning to offer this as an option along with mediation (if you do mediate) and litigation.
If you plan to only offer the Collaborative option you will have a clearer message (that’s the good news) and you will need to be patient and much more energetic, resourceful and will to invest your time and money than if you plan to add this as an option.
Having a solid marketing vision is essential to your overall marketing success, in the same way that having an architect or designer envision a house prior to construction is critical to the end result. However, it’s been our experience that few family lawyers or other divorce professionals ever develop a marketing vision in the first place!
To create your unique marketing vision, start by asking and answering a series of questions. Your answers don’t need to be long, but they should be thorough.
- My questions will be in the singular but if you have other members in the firm you will need to take them into account as you answer these questions.
- Do I want to promote myself as a Collaborative professional or is the Collaborative approach an option that I offer?
- Am I building a practice or a business? The distinction being am I trying to just keep myself busy with work or do I want to keep others busy and possibly expand the firm.
- What distinguishes my practice from others?
- What do clients say about me?
- What do I want clients to say about me?
- What do my referral sources say about me?
- What do I want my referral sources to say about me?
- What do my colleagues say about me?
- What do I want my colleagues to say about me?
After you’ve captured your answers on paper, review them and start to see it not as a series of separate questions and answers, but as a unified vision of your practice. The following is an example of a family law practice’s marketing vision:
Important note: after you develop your marketing vision, it should be used as a practical and functional tool in your practice’s marketing. That is, it must not just be an attractive statement that has no actual impact on what you do and how you do it. Rather, your marketing vision should be at the foundation of all of your marketing efforts, and to evaluate, assess and critique whether what you’re doing with your marketing is what you should be doing based on your vision.
I can’t overstate how important taking this step is to the overall success of your marketing.
When we take on a client this is the first thing we do for them, we ask them questions like this and more and we create a Profile for the firm that clearly says; what they do, why they do it and what their clients can count on them for and that message is carried out through all of their marketing.
As I stated earlier most family lawyers and other divorce professionals don’t take the time to clarify their mission, priorities or goals. For us this is a critical piece of work that must be done otherwise you’re spinning your Marketing Wheels and wasting time and money.
Our job, and the job of anybody you work with on the marketing of your firm must first be to clarify and crystallize your message, making you look the BEST you can possibly look before you decide to:
- Build or redevelop your website
- Market yourself on the Internet
- Reach out to your referral sources
For instance why would you reach out to your referral sources and tell them you’re available to do collaborative cases when you have no information or resources on your website about Collaborative divorce – the fact is that 70-75% of every potential client who will consider using your services will visit your website and if you don’t have a clear message about who you are and what you do and information to back that up – they’ll go else where until the find a professional who does or they might still consider you’ll likely be considered along with other professionals in your field.
So after you’ve clarified your Marketing Mission you need to take stock of how you’re currently presenting yourself to the world and determine if it’s in line with how you want to present yourself to the world, if it’s not hire people who know the divorce market, and know marketing to help you do so (just in case you missed that – there was a plug for DMG there) but the fact is you really need professional help – don’t have your unemployed cousin build or redesign your website for you – this is your business – it’s worth the investment to hire the pros in the same way it’s worth the investment to hire the pros when you’re going through a divorce.
So once you’re clear about what you want to say about your practice I recommend that everywhere and anywhere that people can find information about you (your website, websites you might be listed on, your business card, the sign at your office, your telephone listing, the signature on your emails, and ANY other promotion that you are doing – there must be a consistent message. That means that no matter where somebody goes looking the message is going to be the same about who you are, and what you do.
Typically, your clients consult many informal and formal sources before choosing a family lawyer or other divorce professional. These sources include: family, friends, peers, Internet searches and books. They also look to an array trusted contacts that are valued as wise, trusted sources of information, which can include: therapists, family counsellors, clergy, spiritual counsellors, financial advisors, real estate agents, family doctors, mentors, trusted colleagues, lawyers (who don’t practice family law), and so on.
Each of these sources represents potential touch points for you. They represent quality opportunities for your brand to be introduced to a potential client, and for you to be referred. Developing a referral network is the most cost-effective way to attract new clients, and clients who come from referrals are more likely to retain your services because the referral is based on trust. Frankly, they also tend to be more cooperative, more loyal, and more likely to pay your bill.
“Most lawyers assume that if a satisfied client or a good friend hears of someone who might need their services, the client or friend will mention them. This happens less often than you would like. After all, most people are so busy thinking about their own careers they have little time to think about yours.” – Sarah Holtz, author of “Bringing in the Rain – A Woman Lawyers Guide to Business Development”
Now, you may believe that because you have a nice legacy of satisfied clients under your belt, that these people are, in fact, out there referring you to their friends, colleagues, neighbours, and so on. This assumption is incorrect. Simply because you have satisfied a client in the past is by no means an assurance that the same client will become an active referral source for you. Truly, it’s nothing personal; it’s not like these people are out there saying negative things about you. Chances are, they aren’t saying anything at all! They’re busy, focused elsewhere, and getting on with their lives.
As such, the onus is on you to reach out into the community and get on as many radar screens as possible — and you do this through your marketing.
Generating Referrals through Marketing
1. Pay attention to process and not just outcome.
As you know, few family law cases are easy, and clients are rarely 100% satisfied with the overall experience simply because the nature of their family law matter is not personally pleasant. So while you focus on results, ensure that you pay attention to process, too. Let your clients know how you do business is as important as what you do. This can make a lasting impact, because it’s been well documented (and oft-quoted!) that people may forget what you did for them, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Without question given that you’re involved in collaborative practice you’re VERY aware of the process and are involved because you see it benefits divorcing people.
It’s important for you to be able to articulate why you believe the collaborative way is the better way because you will need to convince people through your marketing and in your personal interactions with people including potential clients, colleagues and your referral sources as to why the collaborative way is the better way.
2. Give your clients something extra by going “beyond the call of duty.”
From a marketing point of view, going “beyond the call of duty” means providing clients with exceptional service and information and resources they probably wouldn’t expect. Clients are going to expect legal or financial information and advice, but if you can pro-actively provide them with information and resources about the divorce process, dealing with stress, how to co-parent, how to cope with their ex, divorce related financial matters, helping their children, and other key issues, they will typically greatly appreciate your efforts and intent, and reward you with referrals.
When you provide them with this information make certain you always provide them with additional information about :
- How the Collaborative process works
- What the benefits of the Collaborative model are
- Details/FAQs-Answers about the process.
Divorce Marketing Group produces something you might want to check out it’s called the Collaborative Divorce Guide – if you go on DMG.com you can download a 26 page PDF version of the Collaborative Divorce Guide.(it includes articles by Stu Webb and Ron Ousky and Pauline Tesler + more) By the way, we also print customized versions featuring our clients on the front cover with their contact info and on the back cover with their Profile on the Collaborative Divorce Guide.
So you may want to consider creating a product like this on your own or contacting me about getting our Collaborative Divorce Guide.
Also just in case you didn’t join this call at the beginning I offered to send a transcript of this entire presentation plus another 30 minutes of marketing suggestions I’m not going to be able to get to day if you send me an email. My email address is DanC@divorcemag.com.
3. So here’s strategy number 3: Send information to professional and personal contacts.
Create a list of professionals that you know – this can include other collaborative colleagues because they may be your best source of business. Send your collaborative colleagues anything you can find that will help them build their collaborative practice and invite them to do the same for you (for example – get a transcription of this teleseminar and send it to every collaborative practitioner you know) because the more successful they are in their collaborative practice the more successful you’ll be in yours.
Also make list of other professional and person contacts and list common interests that you may share. Then be on the lookout for any news stories or new information on the subject that may be of interest to them, and forward it through e-mail or regular mail. When you do this you can also include a “Practice Update” and make them aware that you’re offering (or changing completely over to) the Collaborative process.
Subscribing to an automatic news update source like “Google Alerts” for subjects of common interested can be helpful. Go to Google.com and check it out.
You may even consider organizing an event around interests of your referral sources, such as a golf game, an evening at a jazz club, a wine tasting event, a bird watching outing, and so on.
If you have time to actually talk to people about what you’re up to (without cornering them and boring them to tears) you will impact the chances of them referring you the type of cases you seek.
4. Create a Client Information Package.
Your Client Information Package should include information and resources that can help your clients understand issues in a clear, practical manner.
Your package should not simply be forms to fill out or something that seems technical or clinical. This is an opportunity for you to share information and resources that will really help a client, and at the same time differentiate you from other family lawyers. It would be wise to invest in high quality production as well, so that your Client Information Package remains with a satisfied client in their files or on their bookshelf – and not in the trash or a shredder if it’s perceived as “cheap.” Obviously your package should include information about Collaborative divorce – again I refer to our Collaborative Divorce Guide.
5. Create and send out a free newsletter.
Few tools will keep you at the top of a prospective client’s (or professional’s) mind than a regular electronic and/or print newsletter, provided that the information is perceived to be of value to the recipient.
While hard copy/print newsletters are still commonly used, electronic newsletter distributed through email and featured on websites are increasingly popular due to their cost effectiveness, distribution ease, and the ability for readers to instantly forward it to others. As an added bonus, you can feature the newsletter on your website and offer visitors the opportunity to subscribe in a matter of seconds simply by providing you with their name and email address.
Also keep in mind that you can have more than one newsletter. For example, you may have one for your professional contacts, where you provide information and insights on collaborative matters, changes to the law, precedent setting cases, changes within the legal system, and so on to promote yourself as a “thought leader.” And you may have another newsletter for current and former clients, which features articles about collaborative FAQs/Answers, legal issues, children’s issues, co-parenting issues, health/stress issues, divorce-related financial matter, relationship issues, and so on.
You can check out our monthly e-newsletter and Collaborative e-newsletter on DivorceMarketingGroup.com to give you ideas of what you might write about or you can contact me for details about our newsletter.
6. Write articles to establish yourself as an expert or “thought leader” in your field.
Writing articles can help establish you as expert in your field (or remind clients that you are an expert). Keep in mind that, in addition to writing the articles, you must be prepared to invest quality time in getting the articles in front of potential clients and referral sources. Methods of achieving this include:
=> send it to legal publications
=> offer it to divorce-related websites
=>send to referral sources who might be interested
=> feature it on your website
=> offer it to other collaborative professioanls who don’t compete with you
=> send it to local publications
=> offer it to your referral sources for their websites
You can also contact magazines/publications directly and offer to write articles for them. Remember: don’t just focus on magazines that have a legal or divorce-based mandate. Expand your possible contacts by looking into anything that is lifestyle related, health, wellness, financial, family, and so on.
7. Bar and other Associations
Many family lawyers spend all of their Bar Association time at family law CLE events and networking with other family lawyers. This is a mistake. While you always want to maintain an excellent relationship with your fellow family lawyers, and your Collaborative colleagues, keep in mind that members of the family law section are for the most part your competitors.
8. Find (or create) speaking engagement opportunities.
Offer yourself as a speaker to professional groups, support groups, community groups, spiritual groups, and so on. You can enhance your chances of getting speaking engagements if you write articles and send them to professionals of influence (Bar association leaders for example) and follow up to offer your services as a speaker.
Remember to follow up on speeches you give by:
=> sending attendees a copy of your speech via email, or postal mail
=> adding the speech to your website
=> offering your speech to other professionals for their websites
=> Submitting your speech to article sites on the Internet
9. Send thank you notes and gifts (if appropriate).
When appropriate, always send a thank you note to professionals who refer potential clients to you. Do this regardless of whether the prospective client chooses to retain your services or not.
You can also use this as an opportunity to include something that will help educate them of the services you offer – of course include Collaborative information.
Also, when a client retains you, it’s a nice gesture to send them a thank you card that includes helpful information and resources, such as a list of contact names and phone numbers of professionals they may need, suggested websites that could be of value, and so on. It‘s also a good idea to send a card to your clients when their divorce is finalized, and they’re moving into the next phase of their life.
10. Host a networking event.
Put together a session for you and other professionals serving the divorce market, such as therapists, accountants, financial planners, real estate agents, insurance agents, and so on. Use this opportunity to meet, mingle and exchange information. This session can be a daytime coffee, lunch, or an after-work get-together.
11. Feature professional contacts on your website.
Have a section that links to other professionals you know and recommend. If you help your colleagues get exposure, they’ll be more likely to want to refer clients to you. Invite your colleagues to provide you with articles and information you can feature on your website (ask them for something very short to start with so you can determine if they have an ability to write).
12. Attend functions for other professionals.
Family lawyers are often welcome at the functions and seminars of other non-legal professionals, who in turn could become valuable referral sources. You may not start out by being a speaker at these events, but the more you become known and the better you understand their interests, the more of an expert you’ll become at giving talks or writing articles that will be valued by the group.
13. Start a divorce workshop.
Join with other professionals, such as mental health professionals, financial planners, mediators, and so on, and hold workshops for divorcing people. You could promote the workshop through the contacts of all professionals involved as well as community newspapers, community websites, places of worship, and so on.
14. Use technology to stay connected with your referral sources.
Sales professionals utilize various technological tools to establish and track contact with their potential customers; and you can certainly borrow a page from their world to benefit yours. Different software exists, ranging from the basic to the sophisticated. Some software (Microsoft Outlook for instance) will send you little reminder notes to get in touch with a contact after a period of time, or at certain occasions (e.g. a wedding anniversary, birthday, holiday) that would give you an opportunity to connect with them.
Yesterday we gave a teleseminar on Social Marketing and included in that seminar was a discussion about LinkedIn.com, FaceBook.com, and Twitter.com – all of these websites provide you with opportunities to market your practice.
By the way if you want a transcription of that teleseminar send me an email and indicate that you want both today’s teleseminar and the one on Social Marketing – my email address is DanC@divorcemag.com.
Number 15. Ask for referrals.
It sounds far too simple, but it’s true: many professioanls simply don’t ask for referrals! They either assume that a referral will be given, or they just overlook the opportunity. Don’t make either of these errors. Politely and professionally ask for a referral, and of course, offer yourself as a referral as well (it’s a two-way street). Remember: people like referring other people. You will also be doing your referring party a favour by simply being someone in their network that they can guide people towards. It increases their influence and strengthens their relationships, which is good for them – and consequently, good for you!
And before we move on, a final note about networking – specifically for those who don’t (yet) like networking! If you have a bias against developing your referral network, then start changing this mindset right now! You are a problem solver who helps good people through what is the likely the greatest challenge they’ll ever face. As you take on this new mindset you will likely become more comfortable letting people know what you do, keeping them up to date on your practice, and providing them with information and resources that can truly benefit them.
As I’ve mentioned I’ll gladly email you a copy of the full transcription of today’s teleseminar if you send me an email to Danc@divorcemag.com.
The additional information will include the following:
1. Creating the plan
2. See your website through your clients eyes
3. How to make certain the copy on your website is visitor friendly
4. How to make certain your website looks professional and has an adequate amount of content.
5. And information about search engine optimization – the basics about how to be found by search engines like Google and Yahoo.
6. I’ll also discuss the subject of how much you’re paying for your website – for instance if you have a Findlaw or Lexis Nexus website you’re probably paying more than you need to for what you’re getting.
Please contact me if you want learn more about how you can save money on your website.
Lastly, if you are interested in learning more about the marketing services we offer that include promoting our clients through:
Our Customized Divorce Guide and Customized Collaborative Divorce Guide
Our monthly electronic newsletters
Our video marketing program
Our press release program, etc.
Please contact me at 888 217-9538 (24) or visit DivorceMarketingGroup.com
Bonus Marketing Information
Developing, Producing and Positioning Your Website
Thanks to improving technologies and increasing comfort among users, the Internet is rapidly emerging for your prospective clients as not merely the most convenient source of information for finding a family lawyer, but often the most preferred and trusted source, too.
Your family law practice’s website must therefore be strategically built, designed and positioned on the web. Merely “having” a website — that is, having a URL that people can go to and learn a bit about your practice and find your phone number — is not strategic. Just as the web has evolved profoundly over the past decade, so have websites.
Your family law practice’s website must therefore be strategically built, designed and positioned on the web. Merely “having” a website — that is, having a URL that people can go to and learn a bit about your practice and find your phone number — is notstrategic. Just as the web has evolved profoundly over the past decade, so have websites.
In our experience, far too often –
TIP: You are paying too much (or have paid too much) for your website it…
- you paid thousands of dollars to have a simple website built using a template
- you pay hundreds or thousands of dollars every month just to have your site hosted
- your site has no original content
- your site is poorly organized, poorly designed, poorly written, and not search-engine-friendly
we might even say this is the rule and not the exception — a Webmaster designs a family lawyer’s website without clearly understanding the intention and purpose of the website. And as you can guess, family lawyers themselves are unwitting accomplices in this error, simply because they don’t know questions to ask the design team, what elements and features to expect, and so on. The end result is often a website that is flatly insufficient for the online marketing needs of a family lawyer.
Generally, there are eight steps to designing a powerful, effective and smart family lawyer website:
Step One: Developing the plan.
Before diving into details such as what colors to use or which graphics may look great on your website, take a big step back and ensure that your Webmaster understands your practice’s business and, consequently, collaborates with you to develop the objectives, features, goals and overall scope of your website. For example, is the main purpose of your website going to be one that generates leads from the general public, or will it be designed to close the deal for referred or “insider” leads? What is the main branding message you want to convey that will distinguish you from other family lawyers – and where will you put that message? Should your site be a resource to generate repeat traffic? If yes, how will you accomplish that?
As you can see, these questions are not about the aesthetics of your site (the colors, the look, the feel). All of these elements are important and you’ll get to them in due time. First, however, you want to start with the basic structure. You want to understand what your website needs to do. And if your Webmaster doesn’t supply you with this expertise…find another one!
Step Two: See your website through your client’s eyes.
Many family lawyer websites assume that prospective clients “out there” in cyberspace are only interested in reading a practice’s overview, biographies of the practice’s principle or associates, and various other self-promotional elements that speak about how great the practice is, and so on. Well guess what? This isn’t what prospective clients want to read!
Rather, your clients want to know whether your practice will be able to meet their full needs, which covers both their objective needs (family law and divorce issues) and their emotional ones (trust, loyalty, reliability). They want to understand how your expertise, your philosophy, your credentials, and your processes are relevant to them. In short: they have needs, and it’s up to your website to identify and meet those needs.
Also keep in mind that meeting these needs goes “beyond words.” That is, the graphics and pictures you choose for your website should be chosen in mind of client needs and not on what you think is impressive, such as a boardroom, a gavel, a tall building or something that really won’t resonate with a divorcing person’s concerns. Think of your clients and see the website through their eyes. What will resonate with them? What will create a connection and establish the foundation of a relationship?
Step Three: Get your OWN website address.
Some family lawyer websites have addresses like this: “www.lawyers.com/ABClawfirm” or “www.martindale.com/ABClawfirm.” This is disastrous strategic planning, for the simple reason that it means these family lawyers don’t own their website address!
True, they may own the content (or then again, they may not), but what happens if the company who owns the address decides to change it? Or what if they sell that part of their business to someone else? Or what if 100 other things threaten the integrity of that address? Your website domain name or URL is as important as your practice name, so make sure you have one to call your own, so you can take it with you if you decide to move the hosting of your site to another company.
Step Four: Make sure you have design control – or be aware if you don’t.
We’ve had family lawyer clients who wanted to move their websites, but were told they couldn’t do it because they didn’t own the site design – it was built using a template. Now, let’s say this right away: there is nothing wrong with having a website built using a template. However, if you choose this route to build your website, be aware from the start that you cannot take your website with you if you choose to change your website host or even your website address. If your website has been built with proprietary software, it likely can’t be moved should you wish to do so.
Step Five: Make your design and copy “visitor friendly.”
Your site design is visitor friendly when visitors can immediately see where they should go to get what they want. It’s also visitor friendly when pictures load quickly and don’t take up a disproportionate amount of the screen. Remember: website surfers are generally an impatient bunch. Forcing them to wait even a handful of seconds to reveal a picture that probably has no real impact on their experience (i.e. it doesn’t meet one of their needs) is an error you don’t want to make.
And speaking of impatient web surfers: have you seen a site with a flash introduction that you couldn’t wait to skip? Or a site with pictures and letters that wouldn’t stop moving or takes “forever” to load? Or a site where certain parts didn’t display because of the firewall or browser security settings? If you can keep your site simple, you don’t have to worry about these issues.
Also, keep in mind that your prospective clients are not family lawyers, so keep your website jargon free. Whenever you have to use jargon, take the extra step of explaining it in clear, simple terms. You can always dive deeper into the jargon when these people become your clients and you have more of their time and attention.
The copy on your web pages should be direct and optimized for keywords (we will discuss this in a moment). It should also speak to readers in the first person, using pronouns like “we” or “you” or “you and your spouse.” Never make the error of referring to your prospective clients as “cases” or “files” (how would you feel to be referred to that way?).
In terms of what to write, you may be familiar with the saying “content is king.” This is partly true. The more accurate rendition would be: “relevant and interesting content is king.” In this light, the content on your website must be interesting, informative, easy-to-read and suited for your clients; not for you or other highly-trained legal professionals — unless you also plan to feature information and resources geared to other divorce professionals. Remember: visitors will glance at a page and decide in two seconds or less to read more, or to leave. So give them what they want!
Step Six: Make sure your website has enough quality content.
Fresh off the heels of warning you against intimidating or boring your visitors with too much content, we also need to remind you to make sure you have enough content. Indeed, some family lawyer websites are overflowing with pictures and big, bold titles, but there is no actual content; it’s just, really, a brochure or even a flyer that has “gone online.”
While you don’t necessarily need to provide your clients with a library of reading material about yourself and your practice, you should provide them with enough content so that they can learn about you, how you’ll help them, and what your practice stands for. You should also add other useful information and resources to your site on a regular basis, as this will bring in more traffic, and help establish your practice as a thought-leader in your field. A newsletter is ideal for this purpose. Additionally, useful information on your website will increase the chances of people forwarding your site to other surfers, and the chances of getting referrals.
Step Seven: Make sure your website looks professional and current.
It’s critical that you have a great website, in order to have a constant flow of high-quality clients. Your website speaks for you when you are not there to speak for yourself; and so it must be professional and current. In other words: it must be credible.
If you have a website and it was built years ago, then congratulations — you were probably ahead of the curve! But that was then; what about now? Take a hard, objective look at your website and honestly see if it looks dated now. Technology and website-building software has improved massively over the years, as have website design styles (think of a shopping mall built 20 years ago vs. one built this year; they are both functional and contain stores and so on, but the design is different because styles and preferences have changed in 20 years).
And speaking of styles and designs: the person(s) who creates your website should do it for a living; that is, she or he should be an expert. While it might make financial sense to have friends or family members “build a website,” we caution against this. Your practice is not a side-project; it is your livelihood.
Furthermore, your competitors (at least some of them, if not most) are having professional websites built – and prospective customers can and do “judge a book by its cover.” Do you really want to leave this to chance by having a well-meaning amateur build your website? No, we didn’t think so!
Step Eight: Make sure your website is Search Engine Optimized
Unlike the other steps we’ve looked at, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is in itself such a big and new topic, that we think it’s important to provide a quick and easy primer on the subject.
Let’s start with the SE part of SEO. The SE stands for search engine. A search engine is simply a portal that people use to find websites and other material (images, videos, etc.) through the web. Currently, Google is the most popular search engine, followed by Yahoo!, MSN, and many others. Surfers type in a word or phrase in a search engine box – such as “San Diego family lawyer” – click submit, and within seconds are presented with websites.
Now, this process begs the question: how do these search engines (such as Google) decide what websites to present to surfers? Answering this is where the O (optimization) part of SEO comes in. Search engines uses keywords (among other variables) to determine whether a website is relevant to a particular search term. So in our example here, after submitting the search term “San Diego family lawyer,” the search engine rapidly scans its massive – and we mean massive – index of websites to decide which ones are most relevant to that term. It then presents those websites to the surfer.
We mentioned “keywords” up there – what are these? Simply, they are words that appear throughout your website copy in titles, in the text itself, and even in the website address. The frequency (a.k.a. density) of the keyword and its placement throughout the website is “scored” by the search engine. Websites that receive a higher score are ranked above those that receive a lower score, and are presented to surfers first.
So what keywords should you choose and how often should you “inject” them into your website (the copy, the titles, the HTML code itself, and other places)? These are both critical questions, and they are exactly what your Webmaster will need to answer for you. There are many tools – some more reliable and credible than others – to choose keywords, and there are different strategies for “competing” with other websites who are also using the same keywords. Again, your Webmaster will help you pick the best ones for the smartest strategic reasons. And if your Webmaster doesn’t lead this process for you and guide you through it easily…get another Webmaster!
Before closing up, we just want to offer a word of warning. Some websites, upon choosing a keyword, try to jam that keyword into their copy as much as possible, because they assume that more is better. For example, if the keyword phrase to optimize for is “San Diego Family Lawyer,” a website may try and have this phrase written into the copy dozens of times. This is a massive strategic error that you must not make!
Search engines are not in the business of helping promote your website. They are in the business of relevance. They exist to serve web surfers and match them up with websites that they want to visit (based on what they’ve typed into a search engine box). If you overload your website with keywords, your website will not be rewarded by search engine scores. In fact, it will be penalized – because the search engines will determine — quite correctly — that your website isn’t visitor friendly (seeing a phrase 50 times on a website is not an enjoyable reading experience). Generally speaking, search engines reward a keyword “density” (how often your keyword appears relative to the total amount of content) of anywhere from 1-3%, depending on size and other facts. So if you have a 400 word page devoted to your philosophy of serving clients, your keyword phrase should appear 4-12 times; not 30-50 times!
As you can see, SEO is a complex topic and it’s beyond the scope of this guide to dive further into it. However, we did want to devote precious space to it in here, because SEO is something you need to be aware of and ensure is part of your website strategy. Again, as we’ve said before and will say again: your Webmaster should be able to lead you through this process and help you understand it. If they can’t or don’t…get another one! We suggest you go to www.DivorceMarketingGroup.com to read more about SEO if the subject is of interest to you.