Writing for the Internet - and Connecting with Potential Clients.
How do you get potential clients to find you on the Internet? And after they find you, how do you get them to call or e-mail you? At Red Falcon Web Marketing, we have a lot of writers who have years of experience writing for the Internet and, specifically, for professional service firms. I asked one of my senior writers to share some ideas about how to write effective marketing copy.
Know who you are talking to.
That’s true of any marketing copy. Decide who you are trying to reach, picture that person and test-read every sentence with that person in mind. It is a temptation to write a website the way you are used to writing — for a judge, for another lawyer, for a law school professor. The person you are trying to reach, however, is more likely someone who has been injured in a car accident, harmed by a doctor’s mistake or arrested for DUI.
In introducing the SEC’s Plain English Handbook (http://www.sec.gov/pdf/handbook.pdf), Warren Buffet wrote: “My goal is to supply them (readers) the information I would wish them to supply me if our roles were reversed.” Think about what your reader, the person who found your website, needs to know — can you help me with my problem, where are you located, and why should you be my lawyer?
Use plain language.
Attorneys, like people in many other professions, have their own jargon. That’s fine when communicating with other lawyers, but when communicating with potential clients, you need to talk in their language. A good trial lawyer knows not to talk over the heads of jurors; you talk so that the jurors will understand what can often be extremely complex information.
On a website, when talking to potential clients, you want to make them feel at ease and give them confidence in your abilities — not confuse them with legal jargon. Plain language can help make that happen. An editor at The New York Times, Philip B. Corbett, said it well in his blog about writing:
“We’re not writing for third graders. But we are writing for harried readers who value sharp, lucid prose. The more stuffed the sentence, the harder it is to unpack the thoughts — and the greater the danger of grammatical problems, too.” (Corbett has a lot of good writing tips at http://afterdeadline.blogs.nytimes.com/.)
Plain language is what potential clients put into search engines.
Another advantage to plain language is that is the language your clients put into a search engine to find a lawyer. It is important to know what those words are and to use them throughout your website. A search engine marketing consultant is invaluable in researching the words most used in your practice area and in your geographic area.
Divide the information into easy-to-find segments.
When an Internet user cannot find information quickly, there is an easy solution — hit the back arrow and find another site. You know from your own Internet use that you have learned not to waste time on a site where you can’t find what you’re looking for. What does that mean to you and your website? Make sure you have headers, subheads, bullets, callout boxes and bold type that can assure the visitor: “Yes, you have come to the right place. We have what you are looking for.”
Structure your website with the potential client in mind. Don’t expect someone looking for a divorce lawyer to wade through a bunch of pages about drug crimes or car accidents to get to family law. Divide your site and each page into logical segments — logical to the potential client, not necessarily logical to you. Sometimes a law firm wants to arrange the site by how the firm is organized. Unless that helps the client, don’t do it.
Be aware that probably no one except you, your editor and the writer will ever read the entire site. Most people who come to your site will visit three pages at most — and we don’t know for sure which three pages. That’s why it’s important for them to know how you can help, where you are located and how to contact you on every page.
Keep your words, sentences, paragraphs and web pages short.
The easier a subject is to understand, the more likely someone is to pick up the phone or send an e-mail. Big blocks of unbroken text can be physically difficult to read on the screen and may be intimidating to potential clients — especially if those blocks are filled with words that don’t make a lot of sense to the reader.
Follow the rules of punctuation and grammar.
Mistakes are distracting. Good writing should not draw attention to itself. Errors draw attention. Unnecessarily large words, passive voice, long, drawn out sentences and even awkward (but grammatically correct) constructions draw attention. You want attention for your legal services, not for your language. We use the AP Stylebook so that we don’t have to agonize about commas and capitalizations. We would rather put our thought and effort into writing effective copy for our clients.
Writing your website: It’s what we do.
Our writers write only for professionals like you. We understand how to write content that both attracts the search engines and converts clients. Whether you use a copywriter from Red Falcon Web Marketing or anywhere else, know that the basic information for your website needs to come from you. Tell your writer what you do and how you help your clients. The writer needs to know what sets your firm apart from your competitors. Your website should introduce you to potential clients and give them the confidence to call you.