The platform you choose to build your law firm website can play a major role in your online success. Our recommendation is WordPress, the most popular website platform in the world—by far.
WordPress Key Takeaways
- Open-source and allows you to download, edit and redistribute source files
- Great for SEO and features very simple optimization tools and functions
- Easy for non-developers to add and edit website content
- No restrictions on website design
- Cost-effective for small businesses
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a website Content Management System (CMS) that powers over 34% of websites on the internet. Since its 2003 introduction, it has made a massive impact on the evolution of website development for all types of businesses. One of my favorite WordPress descriptions comes from Builtwith:
“WordPress is a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability.”Builtwith, WordPress
WordPress was originally built as a blogging tool, but has evolved into a highly functional and flexible platform for publishing beautiful, custom websites. Prestigious organizations such as The New Yorker, Sony Music, The Walt Disney Company and many more have benefited from the unparalleled advantages of WordPress. Here are just some of the those benefits:
WordPress is Open-Source (That Equals Ownership)
Thanks to the open-source nature of WordPress, you can download, alter and redistribute WordPress core source files. Because of this, WordPress has built a worldwide community of contributors who continually improves the platform, for our benefit—completely free of charge. Most functionality you can ever think to put on your website already exists through themes & plug-ins.
With a proprietary (or “closed-source”) CMS, such as Squarespace or Wix, enhancements are up to a relatively small group of-house developers and you do not have permissions to download or alter core source files. This puts a restriction on your online presence and poses website ownership issues.
A few popular legal website design companies have trapped their clients on propriety platforms, making it very difficult to, well, escape. There are major disadvantages to choosing a proprietary website platform:
- Minimal design and development control
- No access to source code means no real ownership
- Your website is essentially “stuck” on a proprietary platform
- You may not own your website content (read the fine print!)
- You could lose SEO if you switch platforms
Sadly, many proprietary website platforms built their business models around making it very difficult for you to switch to another platform. Clients often stick around only because the fear of starting over—so they overpay for underwhelming results and a lack of control.
If there’s one thing to look out for when choosing a website platform, it’s making sure it is an open-source platform. Popular, open-source website platforms ranked by market share in the CMS space include:
- WordPress (59.7%)
- Joomla (6.7%)
- Drupal (4.7%)
WordPress is Great for SEO
Google has publicly endorsed WordPress for being great for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It automatically takes care of 80-90% of SEO and allows for the installation of powerful, easy-to-use optimization plugins, such as the Yoast SEO Plug-in.
Some out-of-the-box WordPress SEO advantages include:
- Proper HTML markup — Although WordPress is written mostly in PHP, it renders HTML pages in the browser that are easily crawled & indexed by search engines, such as Google and Bing.
- Page titles & headings — WordPress properly uses heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) and makes it very easy for the user to add them to a page. Search engines analyze the title and header tags on a page in order to understand the context of the content, which is then used in determining how well you rank for a given search query.
- Publish content easily — Content is one of the most important ranking factors for Google. WordPress streamlines and simplifies the process of creating content in the admin area. It’s about as easy as using Microsoft Word or Page on Mac.
- SEO-friendly permalinks — WordPress provides simple configuration options to automatically build page & post URLs that contain focus keywords.
- Image Optimization —WordPress provides built-in functions and fields to easily optimize media. There are fields for URL, Title and Alt Tag that all contribute to optimization.
To publish a new blog article in WordPress simple:
- Login to your WordPress admin area (add “/wp-admin” after your domain name to reach the admin area login screen).
- Click Posts > Add New
- Type out your post, adding headers and media appropriately
- In the right sidebar, upload an image in the Featured Image section
- Click ‘Publish’
We highly recommend writing quality content that will provide value to your target audience. Publishing weekly or bi-weekly blog articles goes a long way for your SEO—because Google loves content. In fact, content is one of the top two factors in the Google ranking algorithm.
WordPress is Easy for Non-Developers
I’ve spoken with several attorneys who learned enough WordPress to create fully functional websites in just a week or two. You do not need to be a developer to make a WordPress website, although we highly recommend you hire one if you want a modern, optimized and professional business website. The design of your website plays a major role in building trust and generating leads.
We offer professional WordPress websites custom-tailored to your firm and branding. Our sites are elegant and effective. If you have less time than patience—or just prefer an expert website—pick from our collection of modern websites and we’ll get your site up in just 3 days after receiving your content. We manage all of your content for you, so you’ll never even have to login to your WordPress admin area or mess with code. Visit our Website Product Info to learn more and view pricing options.
WordPress Puts No Restrictions on Design
WordPress has the flexibility to accommodate any viable website design. If it can be built in pure HTML/CSS/JS, it can be built in WordPress. The unparalleled flexibility of CMS has given rise to highly functional additions to the platform, such as capabilities for eCommerce, social networking, document download portals and much more.
WordPress beats any “DIY Website Builder” when it comes to design options. Most of the DIY builders come with some pre-built template that vaguely suits a business, blogger or photographer—you won’t find anything that is already dialed-in to specifically accommodate solos and small firms.
WordPress is Cost-Effective
WordPress is technically free; you can download all of the source files here. To get your website live on the web though, there will be costs:
- Domain Name — About $15 per year
- Domain Privacy Protection — About $9.99 per year
- Web Hosting — Between $5.95-$45 per month depending on hosting quality
- SSL Certificate — Often free with hosting, otherwise up to $69.99 per year
- Premium Theme — Up to $100+ one-time fee, can find decent free themes
- Premium Plug-ins — Depends on the plug-in
If you feel comfortable setting up, building and maintaining your WordPress website on your own, you can get away with paying less than $100 for setup and about $50 per month all else considered.
Admittedly, most websites built by non-designer/developers are a confusing mess of disjointed graphics and copy, and are almost never mobile-friendly. They’re simply ineffective. This is typically true regardless of the chosen website platform. If you’re not familiar with the web design trends, optimization strategies, conversion optimization, digital marketing, mobile-device compatibility, cross-browser-support, etc. then I recommend hiring a developer to build your website the right way—so it is effective.
Let’s say you give it a go to save a few bucks. You spend a couple weeks figuring out how to put all of the pieces together and, while you eventually get there, your website fails to generate leads. During the time you spent building your website, you clocked 30 hours as a web developer. Now, if your billable rate as an attorney is $300 per hour, you just spent $9,000 on your website (plus hard costs). Now, add in all of the ongoing time you will spend maintaining your website: backups, updates, maintenance, content management, etc. Then, consider all of the lost revenue from the lack of conversions.
My point is, in the grand scheme of your business, it costs more to build your website on your own. Your business is law; don’t distract yourself with the work of others.
To learn more about why you should hire a web designer-developer, check out Invest In Your Legal Brand Early.
WordPress, BuiltWith, 2019
Gyi Tsakalakis, FindLaw Website, SEO, & Internet Marketing Review, gyitsakalakis.com, December 8, 2011
Open-source CMS Market Share, Opensource CMS, 2014
emagine, Why Google Loves WordPress Websites, emagine, January 4, 2019
Matt Cutts, Matt Cutts endorses WordPress!, YouTube, Feb 2, 2013
SEO PowerSuite, 8 major Google ranking signals in 2017, Search Engine Land, July 11, 2017
Aurora Harley, Trustworthiness in Web Design: 4 Credibility Factors, Nielsen Norman Group, May 8, 2016