Five Steps to Developing an Effective Law Practice Website

effective law firm website

There’s no denying it, having a web presence in 2016 is essential, just as it has been for the past fifteen years. The biggest difference between 2001 and 2016, however, is that creating a website for your law practice is cheap and easy.

Why? Increased technology led to faster internet connections, and in turn, cheaper hosting. Improved processing power and technology led to the rise of Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, making it easier to create a website without the extensive front and back-end knowledge needed in the late-90s and early-2000s.

In its most basic form, developing a website is as easy as choosing and registering a domain name, obtaining a website host provider, and developing your website. We’ve identified five steps to developing an effective law practice website, as set out below.

Of course there is much more to getting your law firm’s website up, running, found (in search results), and converting leads to clients, but below is a basic guide to getting started.

Step 1: Choose a Domain Name and Host

With nearly a billion existing websites, selecting an available domain name that serves you well can be a time-consuming task. SEO tool Moz provides 11 best practices for selecting a domain name:

1. Brainstorm your five top keywords
2. Select a unique domain name
3. .com domain names are best, but new top-level domains are becoming viable options
4. Make it easy to type
5. Make it easy to remember
6. Keep the name as short as possible
7. Avoid copyright infringement
8. Set your website domain apart with branding
9. Avoid hyphens and numbers
10. Avoid trends (odd misspellings, adjectives like “top,” “best,” etc.)
11. Get recommendations from a site like

Once you’ve selected an available domain name, register it. Many host providers offer domain name registration as part of their services, but watch out for ‘transfer-out’ and other hidden fees that come in the fine print of the deal. When you’re looking for a host, keep the following in mind:

Choose based on your content management system: WordPress is the most widely accepted and easiest-to-use CMS, but if you choose an alternate CMS like Drupal or Joomla, make sure that your hosting service is compatible;

Know that nearly every recommendation is biased: most sites dedicated to helping you build a website are affiliated with a specific host;

Look for Uptime and Customer Service: a website is only making you money if the site is up and running, so look for high levels of uptime, and 24/7 Customer Service if and when the site goes down;

Look for Ample Headroom: unlimited file space and/or bandwidth is common, but make sure it’s offered;

Never Use a Free Option: lack of support, forced advertising on your site, etc. are not good;

FTP Access: you’ll need it to make major edits to your site, make sure your host provider offers it;

Again, choose based on your CMS, and if that CMS is WordPress, consider GoDaddy or BlueHost, but for more options, PC Magazine offers a host provider comparison table.

You’ve registered your domain, selected a hosting provider, now it’s time to start building your website.

Step 2: Building a Website

We’ve mentioned WordPress as your best option for a content management system, and here’s where it pays off. As the most widely used CMS, you have more themes and plugins available to you than any other platform. Whether that’s a free or paid theme, you have a wide variety of options that can meet your expectations for site design.

Elegant Themes offers the pros and cons of using a free WordPress theme, and you can browse WordPress-recommended themes here. Choose a mobile-friendly theme since Google gives higher search authority to mobile websites (see “Mobilegeddon” for more information).

Step 3: Build Your Pages

Now that you have your site up and running, it’s time to build out your pages. Although you can add more, the following are the most necessary for your website:

Home Page: the first thing people see when they go to your website; include information about your law practice, contact information, and social media icons that hyperlink (but open in a new browser window)

About Us: share a bit about your background and history; if you’re a solo firm, share high-profile cases and information about you as a person

Practice Areas: much like a products/services page on other websites, share your practice areas with overview text and links to related resources

Blog Page: write short articles about specific topics to demonstrate expertise, build website pages, and drive website traffic

Contact Page: set up a contact form so interested potential clients can get in contact with you online; include a telephone number and Google Maps

Site Map: typically an index of all the pages in the website, with a navigation link in the footer; XML sitemaps are developed for search engines

As you develop your site, consider adding testimonials, news pages, email newsletter registration, and more.

Step 4: Search Optimize Pages

No one likes to be on the second page of a Google search result since the majority of clicks and traffic come from the top 1-3 positions on a search engine results page (SERP). We can’t guarantee that you will make it to the top, but give yourself an advantage by optimizing the your website pages for search. A plugin like Yoast SEO for WordPress can help you to easily add search-friendly titles and Meta descriptions, providing you recommendations on how to improve your page in relation to desired keywords.

For a brief overview on what Google is looking for, see Moz’s Search Engine Ranking Factors study, but for a basic overview, here are a few important things you can do for your young website:

Page Titles: keyword-based titles help establish page theme and direction for your keywords.

Meta Descriptions: Meta description tags can influence click through rates, but aren't directly used for rankings

Generate and Submit Sitemaps to Google/Bing: Make it easier for search engines to index your website; create both XML and HTML sitemap versions; XML sitemaps can easily be submitted via Google and Bing webmaster tools

301 Redirect: make sure that your domain with www.[yourwebsite].com and without www. [yourwebsite].com are redirecting to just one version; your host provider can assist with this

URL Structure: fitting Keywords into your URL (example: .com/practice-areas/copyright-law/) will help to improve both user experience and search authority

Image Names and Alt Tags: ALT tags are the invisible descriptions of an image on your website; like other Meta code, ALT tags should contain relevant keywords to help search engines index or “spider” your website since the engines automatically turn off images and read only text (including file names)

For additional ways to get found, learn about Local search in Local Search for Small Law Firms: 25+ Places to Get Your Firm Listed.

Step Five: Website Content and Distribution

Generating new, pertinent content and distributing it via new landing pages, blogging and social media sharing, allows you to increase the size of your website and increase your traffic. Your blog can include many things:

Opinions on court decisions
How-to blogs posts for potential clients
Common questions or frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Updating followers on changes to the law
Sharing newsworthy updates from your firm
Videos including client testimonials, or specific legal topics
A Guide to Understanding a Legal Practice Area, with a registration form

For even more ideas, see the following resources:

From here, learn more about social media integration and distribution in our recent blog, Guide to Social Media Optimization for Law Practices.

Let the Leads Come to You

Having a website is essential in today’s world, but it’s just one way to help generate new clients. Legal Services Link is another important piece of a establishing an effective online presence. Your Legal Services Link profile can link to your website, delivering search authority and referral traffic. You can also post an article to your Legal Services Link profile to demonstrate your expertise.

Not a Legal Service Link member? Simply sign up for free at and let clients come to you!

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Posted - 01/29/2016