In one of his most recent posts, Lexblog’s Kevin O’Keefe made a brave prediction on the “death of law firm homepages”. Citing the recently reported traffic declines to the NYTimes homepage, Kevin posits, “The death of homepages on law firm websites is likely to be much the same.”
The idea that social media might be directly impacting the traffic numbers to law firm homepages sounded intriguing to me. So I set out to do some comparable sleuthing.
I decided to sample four different law firm websites; reviewing Q1 traffic from 2012 to Q1 traffic in 2014. Specifically, I measured homepage ‘views’ as a percentage of each site’s total page views. Each of the four firms varied in their geographic location (2 in Canada, 2 in the USA; different sides of both countries.) They also differed in their services: two were community-based firms with multiple practice areas, one was a corporate boutique, and another was a solo litigation attorney.
Here’s what I found:
Firm 1: 12.9% (2012), 13.3% (2014)
Firm 2: 15.8% (2012), 18.67% (2014)
Firm 3: 25% (2012), 26.12% (2014)
Firm 4: 11.52% (2012), 9.68% (2014)
Now, this isn’t scientific by any means. But what it does show is that the traffic to firm homepages, as a percentage of total website traffic, has been relatively stable over the past two years.
So the question becomes… What’s fundamentally different about law firm websites compared to the NYTimes or The Atlantic in the above links? For me, it’s simple: these are business-based firm websites, not newspapers or magazines. Now, I would strongly suspect that law blogs and publishing initiatives are being impacted by social media sharing. Unless your firm’s blog has a massive brand, how your content resonates with its readers is what drives exposure. But law firm homepages? The numbers don’t support it.
In recent years, many firms have been moving content off of their firm’s website. Lawyer commentary gets routed out to firm owned blogs, industry publications, social media, and so forth. What’s left on the firm website, now, is a cleaner focus on the firm’s service offerings, lawyers, and expertise. Those pieces represent a very different marketing focus than what we need to accomplish through firm publishing.
It’s worth noting that each of the firm websites mentioned above have substantially more traffic today than they did two years ago. Hence why I used page view percentage as the comparable measure. They also have more traffic to their firm blogs and publishing. That’s important too, because each of those elements needs to work with the other in order to foster an image of professional credibility online.
The advent of social media has been an incredibly important step in how the web has evolved. But at least so far, ‘having a business online’ means ‘having a website’. Ignore explaining what you do, and what your business does, at your own peril.