The seven deadly sins of legal website copywriting
Hello again. Sorry about the long gap between posts. I have committed the classic sin of not updating my blog for a couple of months. My excuse is, you guessed it … I have been too busy. But the truth is I really have. Been too busy that is. It seems that many firms want to clean up their website content at the moment, so I have been toiling away rewriting web pages for various clients over the past few months.
After seeing the difference it makes for them, I have been inspired to spend an hour or so a day on my own website and give a well-deserved face lift to some of the pages that have not been reviewed since I first wrote them over a year ago.
So, now that summer is well and truly over for another year it is time to ask yourself, “is your website ready for the winter”? This is traditionally the time of year when everyone is back at work and opportunities to attract new clients abound. Is your website interesting, engaging and welcoming to new and returning visitors? Or does it contain one or more of these seven deadly sins that could be costing you in both customer conversions and search engine rankings?
Below are the seven deadly sins I see committed the most on legal websites. With a few quick tweaks you can revive your content and start encouraging new clients to pick up the phone and call your office for an appointment.
1. Key word stuffing
Yuck! No one, I repeat no one wants to read a web page which is written for robots instead of humans. It is well-known that Google now penalises websites that have key words inserted in every sentence. This is the number one deadly sin of copywriting. Just do not do it. When you write a web page, ensure that key words are included and strategically placed (for example, I am a legal copywriter so I try and include the words legal or law firm in my blog and webpage headings) but the content of the page should flow naturally. The biggest giveaway that someone has deliberately stuffed keywords into their content is when those words are repeated two to three times in the same paragraph. For example ‘The primary remedy for a breach of covenant is a permanent injunction, however, the Courts have the power to also grant damages for a breach of covenant. When awarding damages for breach of covenant the Court assess the damages in three ways. No prizes for guessing the key words in this paragraph (which I made up by the way).
The golden rule is ‘write for you reader’. If your content is accurate and well-researched, keywords will naturally fall into place. Do your keyword research but use them sensibly and spontaneously throughout your website pages.
2. Hard selling
A professional legal website should not be written in the same tone as that of a used car dealer’s site. Phrases such as ’24/7 hotline’ and ‘offer ends soon’ will not inspire confidence in someone needing sound legal advice pertaining to their joint venture company. This does not mean your cannot inject humour and use an approachable tone in your copy, just stay away from naff sales speak.
3. Forgetting to proofread
4. Being too technical
I freely admit to being guilty of this sin on occasion. When you are legally trained and work with the law all day, every day, it can become almost second nature to write phrases such as ‘subject to’ and ‘being convicted thereof shall be liable’ etc etc. However, while legal professionals may understand legalese, the general layperson does not. Remember, at university, law students were seen as geeks who never left the library for a reason (well they were at my University).
5. Being too brief
Study after study shows that long copy sells. In order to convince your prospective clients that your firm can assist them with their legal matter, you need to prove, via the content on your website, that you know what you are talking about. I try and ensure any legal service pages I write are around 500 to 800 words. Sometimes this is not possible due to the subject nature of the page but it is a reliable, general rule of thumb to go by.
6. Not breaking up the text
Writing for the web means writing in chunks. Personally, I do not like this philosophy being applied to sentences and paragraphs when it comes to legal copywriting, in order to be technically correct often sentences are required to be long. However, it is important to break up text with sub-headings and bullet points. It makes it easier for the reader’s eye to skim through the page and focus on the content that is of interest to them.
7. Not injecting personality into your website’s copy
There is a classic saying in sales, ‘people buy from people they like’. In order for a prospective client to like you, they have to get to know you first. Let’s say I need to find a solicitor in London to help me set up a family trust. Google returns me over 76 million results (try it for yourself). Assuming your firm has made it to the first result’s page (most people never go past page one), I will click on a couple of firms and start reading about them. I will read the homepage first, then, either go to the page specifically discussing the firm’s trust service, or the ‘our people” page. If your legal website cannot connect with me on a personal level within around 30 seconds I will move down to the next search result.
Make your homepage stand out. Tell the visitor why they should invest their time moving deeper into your website. Include photos, videos, talk to the visitor and make them feel at home and comfortable. Remember, you have around 30 seconds at the most to hook your visitors, and they have hundreds more options to choose from if they cannot find an immediate, personal connection with your firm. Don’t lose them by being cold and bland.
There you have it. My seven deadly sins for legal websites. How many does your website commit? If you want to find out more about re-vitalising your law firm’s website content call us on 01767 600 544 or visit the The Legal Copywriting Company networkpartner page.