Listen Up Lawyers — Websites Are So Yesterday!
Back in the old days (a mere 10 years ago), Web 1.0 was a vehicle for broadcasting one-way messages. Get it? One-way, 1.0? Kind of like a static version of TV or radio news. Website owners paid thousands of dollars to put up little more than a simple brochure about their business, and they were the early adopters on the forefront of this web thing.
First, it was one page “brochure” sites focused primarily on providing contact information. And no, there was definitely no Google Maps supporting these sites. Then came the concept of “pages” and richer content was offered, albeit still static and one-way.
We ate it up! I remember the first time I hit the net in 1995. I logged in at 1 pm and surfed right through until 9 pm. I don’t think I even stopped for the bathroom. I certainly don’t remember eating.
I was mesmerized! I still remember my wonder and awe at being able to “shop” at my favorite gourmet market in Seattle, while I was sitting in Newport Beach. We didn’t even have pretty pictures yet in 1995. Alas, this shiny new thing called the web apparently wasn’t the end all and be all for my beloved Larry’s Market. But then being an early adopter out on the bleeding edge can be very painful. Just ask me about my IDXdirect days sometime.
Time passed and we grew bored with outdated, one-way communications. It was frustrating and against human nature to sit at a computer, see lots of interesting information and not be able to “talk” to anybody about it. Sending an email and hoping for a response at some point in time was often an exercise in futility.
Flash forward to about 2006 when things started getting a little more interactive on the web. Blogs exploded. Suddenly anybody could be a publisher and a journalist, and put out their own message — cheap and easy. And readers could comment on that message. Instant messaging was the rage and newly minted bloggers could add it to their sites with tools like Meebo. Wikis turned up.
The web became a lot more interactive (as in “two-way”) and Web 2.0 was born. Search engines started “juicing” blogs as more “relevant” with their consistently updated content and authoritative links to sources for that content, and floating them to the top of search results.
“Flash” forward again to today. Search engines — specifically Google — are the first place people turn to find information. Facebook and other new media giants hope to change this, but for today, search engines are king for getting your business found by prospective clients, referrals and the media.
Google (and probably the other engines, but I don’t personally pay attention to them) loves blogs when those blogs are churning out a constant source of new content. Why? Because Google (as in the search engine) is in the business of selling ads and that business model only works if Google has an audience to see the ads. And Google only has an audience if its users have a satisfactory experience when using Google’s search engine — as in they got what they came for (relevant responses to their search requests).
Whew! How is that for a one page explanation of Google’s revenue model for search?
My point is that Google (and probably the other engines) is constantly spidering the web looking for fresh content and ranking it for likely relevance to its users. Experts, as in “relevant” content providers, are (or should be) constantly updating their content because they’ve got their finger on the pulse of what is going on.
Back to my point — blogging platforms not only make it extremely easy to update content, they are set up in a way that encourages constant updating. External support tools like Press This have popped up to support the process of updating content quickly and painlessly.
Are you catching my drift here? Websites are out. Blogging platforms are in. At least if you want the search engines to give you some love. Without search engines giving you love, your potential clients, prospective referrers and the media don’t find you.
Do you still think that you need the “look” of a website because your image requires it? You might start by considering whether it’s your image that needs the update. There is much to be said for an image as a news breaker or news creator.
If you’re still convinced that you need the “look” of a conventional website, I’m happy to report that you can have the best of both worlds. Starting with the addition of “pages” to blogs, blogs have evolved to full on “content management systems” or “CMS’s.” On a search engine-friendly blog platform you can have a fully featured website. Here’s an example of one I put up for my daughter’s school. Brian Gartner’s StudioPress website is an example of a commercial business on a blogging platform.
Have I convinced you? Static Web 1.0 sites are dead. Please somebody tell the legal industry. I spend all day everyday cruising law firm websites in my legal recruiting practice and I’m here to tell you, our industry is woefully still stuck in the Web 1.0 era. Web 2.0 CMS’s are the industry standard, guys. And newsflash — they don’t cost a lot.
And one more thing while I’m on my CMS soapbox. Those flashy pictures you have on your current website are hurting your search engine standings and definitely branding you as a web dinosaur to visitors who understand web functionality. If web-savvy visitors are part of your target client demographic, you should consider dumping the “flashy” aspects of your site to avoid alienating the webbies who visit.
And while I can’t speak for your non-savvy visitors (having not been one for several years), I have to think that even they are getting tired of waiting for the flash to load before they can get on with the funtional reason that brought them to your site in the first place.
And that, my friends, is the Plugged In Lawyer’s take on industry standard websites. What you see here on PluggedInLawyer.com is a very classic blog design. I have plenty of content here and could easily have launched a more traditional looking website. In fact, that was my original intention, and I may still migrate back to that strategy one day, but I woke up one morning early in this project and decided that this project should launch the same way that I’m advocating that lawyers new to social media should launch their own similar strategies — fast and cheap.
I’ll save the fancier CMS for another day, and highly recommend that you do the same. I can guarantee you from similar projects that I’ve worked on (and there have been several), your needs and tastes will evolve over time as you dig in and discover the possibilites. Just get started and skip the bigger ticket CMS until you have a little experience under your belt and understand which tools you really need to support your basecamp.