Some of the self-proclaimed “best law firm marketing companies” build websites that attorneys don’t own or control. In this article, you’ll learn why it’s imperative you have full access to and control over your law firm’s website.
Any legal marketing thought leader will tell you it’s critical to own your law firm’s websites. We wholeheartedly agree—if you don’t own your website, you have only limited control over your future marketing decisions, putting your firm’s growth at risk.
Companies like FindLaw (lawyermarketing.com) and LawLytics have been criticized online for handcuffing customers to proprietary platforms. Their customers may own website content, but that doesn’t help much if they can’t control how it’s built, displayed and performing. Several attorneys discuss FindLaw website & marketing services on this Law Firm Subreddit thread—it’s not pretty.
We recommend buying a website on an open-source platform that you own immediately, without any extended contracts. With full administrative privileges to your website, you can add/edit your content, make new pages and posts, make design decisions to help with conversion, build inbound marketing campaigns, and—best of all—fire and hire web designers and developers at will. The most popular open-source website Content Management System (CMS) in the world is WordPress.
WordPress is a user-friendly, great for SEO, flexible, provides ownership of source code and so much more—here’s Why Your Law Firm Needs a WordPress Website. The American Bar Association’s Law Technology Today division and Google agree WordPress is a great platform for business websites—and so does 37% of the internet.
Here are some of the main reasons why you need full ownership of a law firm website on an open-source platform such as WordPress:
#1 — Website Hosting Freedom and Access
The importance of fast & reliable hosting is often overlooked when choosing a law firm website provider. Good hosting services promote fast page loading, which has shown to positively impact bounce rate, page views and even conversions.
Purchasing a website on a proprietary CMS limits hosting options. In fact, companies that build websites on a proprietary platform typically offer no other option for hosting that on their own platform, so you’ll be out of luck if you want to move away from them. If this is the case, you could encounter pricing surges when your traffic increases and if your page-load speed is slow, you might have nowhere else to turn.
Websites built on an open-source CMS such as WordPress provide the freedom to choose from many different hosting companies. Hosts should be chosen based on traffic volume, geographic location and business type. For law firms located in the US—with one or several locations—WPEngine is a great option. This is the dedicated hosting provider used by Command Legal.
#2 — Major SEO Advantages
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a popular service for law firm marketing; it helps you rank higher in local and organic search on search engines such as Google and Bing.
The legal marketing company, Scorpion, emailed one of our new prospects telling him, “Our campaigns in the Chicago market start around $15k a month and can go up from there.” If you plan to invest thousands per month in optimization, you better make sure that SEO belongs to you—forever. The only way to be sure of this is to outright own your website spruce code and domain.
One thing that often goes undetected by attorneys when pursuing a website and SEO is, all of the webpages under your domain name contribute to your overall Domain Authority (DA). For this reason, it’s absolutely pivotal that you are the one to purchase your domain name, as opposed to having your web developer to it for you. If you don’t own and have access to your domain—and are forced to get a new one—your SEO will be gone.
WordPress is a fantastic platform for SEO and, so long as you own your domain, you keep your SEO progress regardless of who you choose as your webmaster. Matt Cutts, the former head of web spam at Google, has publicly endorsed WordPress for its superior SEO nature, saying, “WordPress takes care of 80-90% fo search engine optimization.” In this sense, he’s simply talking about the technical, on-site side of SEO (and there are many optimization practices beyond the technical matters).
When discussing SEO, it’s important to consider the volatility brought by search engine algorithm updates and the seemingly infinite growth in competition. The massive, dedicated WordPress community is very quick to diagnose ranking algorithm updates, allowing them to come up with an SEO solution.
Proprietary platforms, on the other hand, rely on just a few in-house developers to figure out how to make their entire platform optimize better as ranking updates surface. Plus, there’s no way to determine just how SEO-friendly a proprietary platform is “out-of-the-box.”
#3 — Content Publishing Control
Depending on your contract, firing your law firm marketing company could result in a loss of the published blogs that are already on your website, if you purchased legal content as a service. If you’re switching CMS platforms altogether, there may not be a seamless, lossless process to migrate all content to the new CMS.
The popularity of proprietary “DIY Website Builders” such as Squarespace has risen in the small-firm community, given that it’s cheap. If you are currently on Squarespace and wish to migrate to WordPress, most of your content will be exported just fine save for a few elements such as folders and index pages, any blog pages beyond the primary blog, media blocks and a few other loose ends.
WordPress offers an easy-to-use blogging interface that gives you full control over content formatting, optimization and publishing schedules. Learn how to publish your first WordPress blog post in 6 easy steps.
Command Legal offers a discount for any lawyer or law firms who wishes to migrate a Squarespace website to WordPress. Just contact us for details!
#4 — Hire & Fire Web Developers At Will
With a finite number of developers working on any in-house, proprietary platform, you are limited in flexibility: design structure, style, User Experience (UX). Their teams essentially build templates that work with their platforms and do not venture too far from the basics. If you decide you don’t like the look of your site or encounter problems with designers, developers or company as a whole, firing them is often a process—and you might have to start all over.
WordPress websites give you the benefit of infinite customizations, with thousands of available themes and plug-ins that can change or add to your site’s presentation. If you outgrow your current site, you can simply install a new theme and style it to your liking—or, more appropriately, hire a developer do it for you. And if you don’t get along with your WordPress designers/developers, you can easily get rid of them and hire new ones—no strings attached.
Because the WordPress community is so large, it’s relatively simple to find talented, professional developers who can make changes for cheap. Just be careful in your vetting process, as you want to be sure they anyone who gets “under the hood” is qualified.
#5 — New Technology & Integrations
Technology evolves quickly. WordPress and other open-source platforms allow people to design functionality, to keep pace with the changes in the digital world. Softwares come and go and it’s important to use platform that can easily adapt to integrate with new tech and faze out obsolete tech. Sadly, the legal industry seems to stagnate with the internet marketing trends.
But luckily, that creates an advantage for those who choose to capitalize in the digital landscape. Only 35% of law firms have been updated in the past year, so if you’re one dedicated to improving the effectiveness of your presence, there’s much to be gained.
WordPress’ open-source nature allows developers to build plug-ins that integrate directly into the software and even allow direct manipulation of the source code. Infinite changes and developments can be made. Proprietary platforms do not let outside developers work with source code directly, so developing new functionality is often not an option.
When it comes to website ownership, going with an open-source CMS is the only route to maintain freedom and flexibility. Our favorite CMS is WordPress and legal industry thought leaders such as the knowledgeable people at Lawyerist and MyShingle agree.
Even law firm website development companies who develop on WordPress sometimes implement extended contracts before ownership. PaperStreet, for instance, requires you work with them for 2+ years before you own your site—not recommended. FindLaw (lawyermarketing.com) just recently began developing WordPress websites—the quote we received from them offered a free website, but $850 monthly cost… Not a great deal either.
Some of our competitors that offer immediate website ownership are Zola Creative and Juris Digital. Feel free to check them out if you’re in the market for a marketing boost! And of course, check out Command Legal WordPress websites as well!