Internet marketing for attorneys is a well-established practice. As more of us spend more time online, using Google to find any kind of professional service has become second nature.
Which means it’s more important than ever to have a great website that’s easy to find and promotes your firm well. If you’re like most attorneys, you turned to a professional agency to create and manage your site instead of doing it yourself. Some of you choose FindLaw, one of the biggest, for its reputation and resources.
But Internet marketing is more than just a listing in an online directory and a website, and over time, many clients of big companies like FindLaw become dissatisfied, not only by the level of service but more importantly, the results they get and the premium price they pay month over month, year over year.
If you don’t have a website already, FindLaw might be a good option to help you get started. But working with FindLaw is a case of diminishing returns. While it may be worth a premium rate the first year to get a well designed website introduced to the search engines, it’s definitely not worth this much in the third year, never mind year four … or ten.
Plus, upon entering an agreement with FindLaw, most attorneys aren’t sure who owns their website, the domain, the design, and the content upon termination. They are surprised to learn, when they dig into the terms and conditions, how much leverage FindLaw maintains.
If you’re a FindLaw client, you’re probably spending more than you need to for the results you’re getting. Once you’ve come to the conclusion that your total marketing budget is probably adequate, but spending it all on FindLaw is not a long-term solution, it’s time to consider your options.
Many attorneys simply cancel their service with FindLaw at the end of their term and walk away with nothing. This is the worst thing you could do. Your goal is to keep your premium design, maintain your search engine rankings and visitor rate, and free yourself from the pain of paying FindLaw $20k plus a year.
To avoid hurting your search engine ranking or website traffic, you need to figure out the logistics of transitioning your site to an equally effective and much more affordable solution before making any change. It may not be easy, but with the right plan, you can make a FindLaw exit plan and thrive. You’ll save money, get better returns on your investment, and still have a budget to spend on other effective marketing channels and opportunities.
Here are five things to consider when making your FindLaw Exit Plan.
Keep an eye on the bottom line.
The bottom line is that FindLaw is expensive. Many FindLaw clients spend well over $2,000 per month. And if you’re not happy with your results you may have to pay even more to upgrade. This adds up. If you are a sole practitioner or small firm, $24,000 can be a healthy Internet marketing budget, but not effective if you’re spending it all on a FindLaw website and a Top Spot or two. Many attorneys find that even after spending a sizeable amount each year with FindLaw, they still don’t have the online presence they need to build their business. Reallocating your marketing budget and leveraging different online marketing opportunities will put you in more places, help you achieve better results and may even cost less.
One common mistake that attorneys make when they are trying to get away from FindLaw is to simply bail and start over with another site. But this is not a good plan and will hurt your business in the long-term. You would never walk away from a piece of real estate since it has some value. It’s the same with your website – the site itself and the visibility it has earned have value. Another Internet marketing professional may be able to take your underperforming site and make it fly! Even if getting away from FindLaw appears to be a daunting task, do not abandon your FindLaw site before you have your exit plan in place. You need to fulfill your FindLaw agreement by giving timely notice of your impending cancellation but you also need to take steps while your FindLaw site is still live.
Get The Most Out Of Your FindLaw Agreement.
Now that you’ve decided to make an exit plan, go back and review your FindLaw agreement again. You may be entitled to SEO revisions, content enhancements, and/or design upgrades. Needless to say, although you are entitled to them, you are not going to get them unless you ask. Take advantage of these opportunities before you cancel.
Manage Your Own Domain
You have an advantage if you currently manage and maintain your own domain name – that is the address of your website. If you purchased your domain name before FindLaw came on the scene, chances are you are in control of it now. If FindLaw purchased a domain on your behalf it will use it as leverage and you will need to jump through several hoops to gain control of it. You will most likely need the assistance of an expert to transfer it to a new domain hosting account.
Protect your content.
FindLaw’s terms and conditions state that it will provide a copy of your site on CD if you end your subscription. What they don’t tell you is that the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) of your site, which is its true value, is removed. You would never notice this from the appearance of the website, but search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing definitely notice. In fact, these search engines view the pages of your website as entirely different from when it was hosted with FindLaw. In this case, you have to start the slow process of optimizing each new page and regaining website rankings from scratch. In the meantime, visitors to your old site are getting 404 (page does not exist) error messages. To avoid this, get some help from an expert to figure out the logistics of transitioning your site.
Orchestrating a successful transition from FindLaw requires careful planning and help from a trusted partner. A knowledgeable Internet marketing advisor will help you save time, maintain the value of your current site, and get the best results. To find out more about making your own FindLaw exit plan contact Bardorf Legal Marketing.