recently i went out to consult with a small, well established firm in dupage county about their web presence, blogs, etc. my client considered themselves to be “web savvy” (a slight miscalculation on their part). here is part of what we discussed [names removed to protect the innocent — mmh]:
me: when was the last time you really evaluated your site?
client: never. should i evaluate my website’s performance? [after a pause] how would i evaluate that anyway?
me: examine traffic reports. look, you contacted an internet service provider (ISP) a few years ago when everyone else did, and got a website. it’s basically the same lame filler that hasn’t been updated since 2000 when it was already 10 years old. indications are that your site is being ignored at the same rate as the glossy brochures from which it was constructed, except that now you are paying up to $1,000 a month for “hosting.” what gives?
client: but my provider says it’s all i need. and i pay extra to be in a high-traffic part of the web.
me: is that a Findlaw or Lawyers.com site, again? i forgot.
client: i have one of each.
me: how is the traffic?
client: i don’t really know.
me: oh that’s right. you don’t know how to check that.
for 90% of lawyers in dupage county this discussion is typical. basically we fall into one of 3 categories when it comes to websites (assuming we have one at all):
- we signed up with providers that did all the work so we paid a high “retail” price (FindLaw and Lexis are good examples)
- we could afford to pay a moderate amount but couldn’t afford (or didn’t want) the bells and whistles (Justia is a good example)
- we took what we could find for free (early FindLaw sites were free, as are sites on Google and certain others)
whatever your choice, the question is no longer just what you put into your site, but what you get out of it; and you don’t know that answer until you’ve examined a traffic report. every isp provides one, although some are better than others; all of them offer a snapshot of activity on your site including the most active referring sources and sites. that segment of the analysis in particular is broken down into
- top referrors
- top keywords
- referral tree
- search engine referrals
- errors and dead links
depending on the report, you should be able to find out exactly what someone was looking for when they found you: polish lawyer, personal injury attorney, tax jock, etc. whatever they were looking for, that is where you want to be. now that competition is a click away, the easiser you are to find the better. to go one better, be there before clients realize they need you by optimizing your findability (is that even a word?).
just so you know, i am no different. i once maintained both FindLaw (West) and Lawyers.com (Lexis) sites at the same time! the monthly charges were more than the interest on the national debt. as for results; forget about it. worse yet, i assigned the job of updating our site to a loyal employee — only to have the project ignored for over a year before i found out. that’s when i vowed “never again” and began doing work like this for myself and others.
so here’s the deal: 2006 is coming to an end and there is no shortage of holiday gatherings at which to network. but believe it or not, face-to-face contact is not enough anymore. this holiday season we all have to begin taking the Internet a lot more seriously. the good news is that i can’t keep my opinions to myself in this area and have yet to charge for an opion (not a great skill set for a lawyer). so take every opportunity to get your questions answered, your problems solved, and to seek opinions, tips, and troubleshooting for free. heck, all my relatives do.
helping attorneys succeed, what a concept….