Betty Crocker for Law Firm Websites: The Secret Recipe to Better Website Copy

This article was originally written by Sylene Cortez for our client exclusive Spotlight Quarterly publication in the April 2018 Edition. Sylene is the Content Editor for Spotlight Branding.

10 measly SECONDS. That’s all you have to work with to convince your audience that you can provide them with some value—that they have come to the end of their search on the internet.

So how do you catch, maintain, and keep their interest?

The answer: Persuasive, organized website copy

Website copy, or “web copy,” is all of the written text that goes on your website—from your homepage to the headers, from your practice area pages to the blogs. It’s persuasive, it’s concise, it informs your audience, and most importantly, it speaks to your audience. Knowing this, every single sentence in your website copy should count.

In my first year as Editor at Spotlight Branding, I’ve written and edited dozens of clients’ website copies. If a new client has an existing website before coming to us, I take some time to look closely at what their old web copy read like. I’ve noticed the same pattern over and over again in those old web copies, and I’d like to share now our secret ingredients to quality web copy (and the mistakes to avoid):

  • Use Bullet Points Throughout Your Website
    • … because they work.
    • I put this one first to make a point. Perhaps when you opened to this page, in a split second—without even really thinking about it—your eyes flew up and around the page, assessed the structure, length, and potential value of the content, and then skimmed the bullet points in bold.
    • This is where the 10-second rule really comes in a clutch. A visitor to your website is far more likely to skim than read the content in-depth. Bullet points are your best friend.
    • A website visitor reads differently than how people read in print. Website visitors don’t want to read deeply into a website’s content as they would print content, they just want to know the highlights of what you have to offer and move on to the next thing.
    • I’ve seen this strategy be most effective when highlighting what legal services a lawyer provides. For example, if you’re in family law, you may want to put in bullet points items like, “contested divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, child support, etc.”
  • Headers Make or Break the Visitor’s Attention
    • Headers should be short and catchy and should summarize content. Note that this doesn’t have to be catchy all of the time, it just has to convey exactly what the visitor will find in that section.
    • Avoid SEO phrases as much as possible where it doesn’t belong. Fresh headers keep the visitor’s interest flowing down the page. I say “fresh” because SEO-oriented marketing companies say to repeat such phrases as “Texas personal injury attorney” or “Maryland DUI lawyer” several times in your headers. Please don’t. This makes your web copy clunky and hard to read. It interrupts the flow of your visitors’ attention, which is counterproductive to the concept of website copy.
    • To reiterate, fresh, catchy headers are one of the most important ingredients in this web copy recipe.
  • Your Web Copy Should NOT Be About You
    • The most effective web copies, in my opinion, are the ones that immediately, upon first glance, tell the audience exactly how you can help them with a problem.
    • If someone is looking for a lawyer for a pressing legal problem that’s weighing heavily on them, your web copy should absolutely greet them with HOW exactly you can help and what services you can provide. They’re quickly glancing at your homepage, and if you are what’s front and center and not making it obvious to them how you can help, they won’t give your website the time of day.
    • If nothing else, you can use experience icons. Experience icons are the badges that go on your website for any accolades you may have received. Some examples include a “SuperLawyer” designation or an Avvo rating.
    • A winning recipe is having experience icons paired with simple, easy-to-understand web copy on the home page. It is these two things that immediately grab visitors’ attention.
  • Tone Down the Legal Jargon/Write From Their Perspective
    • It’s crucial that you are able to speak to an audience that doesn’t understand legalese. As much time as you spent in law school learning legalese, your website is not the place for it.
    • Unless your audience involves attracting business from referral sources from fellow lawyers or professionals, the goal is to always keep the language accessible to all.
    • The most persuasive and effective web copies I’ve come across are the ones that have simplified language as if the writer had taken legal textbooks and sifted it through a funnel to make it accessible to the average joe.
  • Simplicity is the Goal
    • As Albert Einstein purportedly once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it well enough yourself.” The same concept applies to your website copy.
    • Web copy that’s short, concise, and punchy is what speaks to the audience most.
    • Marc Cerniglia, one of Spotlight Branding’s founding partners, likes to speak about web copy practice area pages like a restaurant menu. You don’t want to overwhelm the audience with content and length. Nobody is taking the time to read every single part of your website. They just click on, notice, and focus on the things that are relevant to them.
    • You need to present your audience with their options all laid out with a brief description of each service—just enough so that they pick up the phone to call you for help. We do this by writing a punchy one or two-paragraph description of the services your firm offers, knowing that the average visitor only looks at what is relevant to them.  
  • Tone is Everything!
    • We recently had a client that came through my desk whose old web copy made an impact on me. Why? Because her tone was so friendly and so conversational, it felt like she was there holding my hand throughout her web copy while maintaining professionalism.
    • In other words, her website’s warm and welcoming tone worked.
    • Your tone, whether it’s the aggressive trial bulldog, or the gentle mediator/litigator, must be an underlying tone throughout your web copy. Consistency is key!
    • When your personality and effectiveness as a lawyer are obvious throughout how you word your web copy, you establish credibility.

Now put all of these ingredients in a website, pop it in the oven at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, and you have yourself an appealing website that visitors will gladly consume!

If you or someone at your firm is interested in hearing more about Spotlight Branding, book a call with us at this link.

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