Law Firm Sites Move to Mobile
If your law firm does not provide a proper online experience on a smartphone — be it Android or iPhone platform — then you are likely losing business right now. It does not take an Internet rocket scientist to deduce that the fastest growing segment of online use is in the palm of your hand. If you are not delivering a proper mobile experience, then you are losing prospective and current clients, recruits, and lateral hires to that inefficiency.
Now, if you happen to be one of the few people on Earth that does not surf the Internet on a smartphone, stop reading. But don’t take my word for it. A simple visit to your website’s traffic reports will quickly show you just how high a percentage of visitors are coming to you via a mobile device. For many firms, that identifier is staggering. When making the case at any professional services firm or small business for investment in mobile marketing, you typically don’t need to go any further than today’s mobile traffic to your domain name.
A mobile site does not need to provide the same level of detail and amount of content as your standard site. Opinions vary on the depth of detail on a mobile law firm site. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the beholder does not want or need to see any real graphic design. Include, perhaps, a logo, a photo, and corresponding branding in color and style. But what makes it “pretty” is ease to find, read and navigate.
“I’ve seen law firms significantly expand the pages and sections made available on today’s mobile sites versus earlier versions,” said Greg Fredette, managing partner at Saturno, one of the largest providers of website and software development to large U.S. law firms. “Initially, you had information about the firm, the practice areas and the attorneys. Now you are more likely to incorporate many other sections, including legal updates and publications.”
Among good examples of large law firm mobile sites are those developed for Faegre Baker Daniels , Fisher & Phillips, and Caplin & Drysdale. They all recognize the mobile connection and have sites built specifically for the phone, with the data providing the level of depth that a full website would provide, with strong search, minimal graphic design and easy to read font size.
Edgar Snyder & Associates, a Pittsburgh, PA based personal injury law firm, has always been on the cutting edge of Internet use for marketing purposes. Unlike a mobile site for a large corporate law firm, this site requires components for a completely different consumer-driven audience. The first thing that strikes you is the red “call now” button. Three major block-sized buttons ask key questions — do I have a case? Do I need a lawyer? What will it cost?
The site is built for “call to action” and ties into the firm’s overall advertising campaign. The site effectively uses mobile real estate, showing the firm brand — almost like a billboard the visitor will recognize, the “call now,” and the core elements that its prospective client base will be seeking. It provides a significant competitive advantage over a plaintiffs’ firm that has not invested in a proper mobile experience — and many still have not. I looked at the sites for a number of similarly situated law firms, and found either no phone compatibility or a less engaging presence. Lead generation from a billboard or bus ad now takes place on-site, as opposed to follow up later via phone or computer. The call to action is immediate. And iPhones are possessed by people of all age, income, education, and occupation. A plaintiffs’ firm with a multi-million dollar marketing budget is simply out of touch if the mobile experience is not addressed.
Price should not be a deterrent for converting your current site to mobile. For my client base, it has only been about a year or two that I’ve incorporated the mobile component of a website project into a request for proposal. Unfortunately, there are still some web development shops that have either not mastered the mobile world or simply don’t feel like it. But building a new site without mobile consideration today borders on Internet malpractice. In most cases, you are looking at a “surcharge” of a few thousand dollars. However, you should assume that the regular website builder and mobile website builder need to be one and the same. The reality for development of these sites is that the nature of smartphone access means they are going to be cookie cutter. You are more likely to hinge a differentiating factor on ease of use over design and messaging.
SEO for On-The-Go
Another, and often separate consideration, is the impact on search engine optimization and online advertising efforts. For example, a Google AdWords account requires separate buys for search and keyword on a mobile device versus a desktop. Facebook is still struggling with advertising that only appears on a desktop, while the bulk of users are on a smartphone. While the large law firm market, geared toward corporate clients, focus on having a mobile presence that works, the smaller law firm market often will target an individual or small business — SEO targeted end users. It is important in developing any SEO or online advertising campaign that mobile be addressed as its own entity and audience.
Responsive vs. Mobile
To go a step further, many firms now are opting for a responsive site versus a separate mobile one. Laurence Banville, an attorney and partner in AG Conexus, a digital optimization company that works with a number of law firms, stresses that “responsive” better covers the web landscape. “A mobile site recognizes the browser and provides the mobile version. However, a responsive design recognizes the size of the window trying to access it and renders your site optimal for that space, whether it is a smartphone, tablet or the regular site.” Banville notes that more importantly for his clientele is that Google and Bing recognize a responsive site as a positive ranking factor in their search algorithms.
The Future of Mobile
For many law firms, the move to greater mobile visibility goes beyond conversion or development of a mobile site. The tablet world is yet another audience that fits in a gray area between smartphone and desktop — small enough to use on a bus, but big enough to supplant a laptop on the road. It is a segment that requires attention, and another audience that requires monitoring.
Many law firms have been developing apps, with mixed results. Early versions of law firm apps started with a Blackberry platform, and now are built for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. In many cases, there is still an argument as to whether a client will really download an app from a law firm . However, that is a Web Marketing Today column for another month.
Also playing a huge role in the law firm’s online marketing plan is mobile integration of email, events and invites, incorporation of QR codes and client access to cases and billing information via extranets. The bottom line for your law practice is that if you don’t have some semblance of a mobile presence, you’ll likely find yourself further behind the curve — quickly.