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When your firm is creating website content, you want to make sure it will be read, understood and acted upon by the right people.

Creating website copy is different from writing for print publications. There are some best practices that attorneys can use to fully engage their readers. The Nielsen Norman Group, a prominent consulting group,

states that 79 percent of people do not read content online. Rather, they scan and absorb certain words and phrases. Thus, one effective technique is to format your content to facilitate the process of scanning your website while imparting the information you think is most important.

Formatting methods to make it easier to scan
Among the methods of formatting to ensure that content can be easily scanned are:

  • Compose interesting headlines and subheadings
  • Use bullets in lists
  • Draw attention to significant words or phrases (one way to accomplish this is to apply different formatting techniques, such as bolded and various color text and hyperlinks)
  • Use brief language
  • Include graphics to separate large groups of text
  • Vary content by using images, infographics and video

The inverted pyramid
400px-Inverted_pyramid_2.svg

Research conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group also indicates that readers prefer to initially read a summary or conclusion prior to delving into the body of a web page. Refrain from drafting introductory paragraphs that contain content that is trivial or superficial. A better option is to state the most important points at the beginning, and then provide information that encourages the visitor to your website to continue reading.

Focus on your audience, not the search engines
While it is important to enhance your content for the benefit of search engines, it is more advantageous to write directly to your audience. Google has stopped rewarding the repeated use of phrases, such as “California Personal Injury Lawyer.” You will likely realize greater success by focusing more attention on your audience.

It is better to write directly to your potential clients. Draft each page around one idea or concept. If you write comprehensively about a subject, there will be a natural flow of keywords, and the content will appear when readers use search engines.

Consider your mobile audience

comScore's 2015 U.S. Mobile App Report

comScore's 2015 U.S. Mobile App Report

Mobile users currently represent 60 percent of all online traffic, according to comScore's 2014 U.S. Mobile App Report. Therefore, lawyers are advised to consider the needs of mobile users when drafting content. Bear in mind that mobile users can be impatient in that they wish to find the desired information immediately. Write attractive headlines that secure the attention of visitors to your website, followed by brief sentences and phrases. Try not to use filler content or obvious marketing phrases.

Because of the small size of mobile screens, Nielsen Norman advises writers to prioritize content to enable mobile readers to locate the information they are seeking without having to view superfluous text. Decide what your most valuable message is, and make certain that you convey that information first.

Respond to your potential clients’ questions
When composing your website copy, direct your attention to your potential clients’ concerns. If you provide an answer to their most urgent questions, your website will convince those prospects to become clients.

A call to action
All great law firm websites contain a call to action, which includes instructions for the next steps the reader should take. Do not let your readers make the decision about their next steps after they reach your website. Clearly state what you wish them to do, and facilitate the process for them.

Do not use legal jargon
Because your website is a marketing vehicle with the objective of attracting potential clients, it is more likely to be successful if you refrain from using legal jargon or obscure terminology, and instead pretend you are communicating with a friend. As a result, your content will be more conversational and engaging.

Additionally, your content’s language will remain at a more available grade level. According to Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group, 30 percent of internet users have low literacy. In summary, write in plain English. When done well, this kind of writing is precise and persuasive.

Recall your ethical obligations
As with all other aspects of your practice, it is important to be mindful of your ethical obligations. Make certain that your website complies with rules concerning ethics in advertising, and be careful not to make any promises regarding representation or the outcome of a case. Give a disclaimer to clarify that your marketing content is not an offer of legal advice. In addition, mention that any contacts made via your website do not form an attorney-client relationship.

It is also crucial to write honestly. According to one attorney, you should not post any content to your website that you would feel uncomfortable being questioned about in a deposition.

Chunks and chunking
Chunking is a concept that evolved from the field of cognitive psychology. It is a memorization technique that can be used to separate content into small units of information. Introducing content in chunks makes it easier for readers to scan, and can help them understand and recall it.

Choose your words carefully
Your choice of words can help determine whether you gain the trust of your readers. They can also impact your tone of voice and viewers’ perception of your website. In contrast, empty words can cause readers to become alienated from your site. Readers frequently prefer simple words instead of complicated ones because they are more recognizable. According to a study conducted by Daniel Oppenheimer at Princeton University, readers believe that authors who are easier to comprehend are highly intelligent and trustworthy.

Here are some of the words and phrases to avoid:

  • Utilize: It is not recommended that you use the word ‘utilize’ in writing website copy. It is better to write the word ‘use.’
  • Enables: When you state that your services allow people to do something, it sounds as though you are giving them permission to enjoy the benefits of your services. It is better to focus on how you are able to serve them, and provide tips that can help them.
  • Very: Intensifiers such as ‘very,’ ‘really,’ ‘extremely’ and ‘quite,’ seldom add value to a sentence, and simply lengthen the sentence. While such intensifiers are acceptable in daily conversations, in writing, they can weaken your credibility and fill your copy with unnecessary clutter. Instead, create a tone of confidence and shorten the sentence, thereby making it easier to scan.
  • We understand that…: Sentences that begin with such phrases often do not sound genuine. Giving an account of a story from your point of view is unpersuasive because it does not prove that you understand the client’s perspective of the case. It is more effective to address facts and examples that offer proof that you understand the client’s issues and have answers for their questions.

The value of FAQs
FAQs can add much value to your website and firm. If people have questions about your product or service, you can help many individuals simultaneously, acquire new clients and realize much financial success. By placing an FAQ link on your website in which visitors can type their questions, they will be directed to your best answer from the page of search engine results.

Use these tips to upgrade your website copy to attract the attention of readers and prompt potential clients to seek your legal services. Remember to focus on writing clearly and presenting your content in a friendly, accessible manner.

About Author

Roxanne Minott is a staff contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine and legal content writer for Custom Legal Marketing.

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