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Website Winners and Losers in a Global Pandemic

Writing this during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, remarkably we are seeing short-term (and potentially long-term) winners emerge inside various industry ecosystems. (1) Certain industries are facing existential challenges; (2) some will accelerate with surprising results and (3) others will see devastating short-term losses, but will see a bright long term because business models and buying behaviors will fundamentally and permanently shift.

An example in the third category is one of the sectors in FinTech – payment systems. According to CBInsights, “payment companies in hard-hit verticals” (e.g., retail, restaurants, in-person entertainment) are facing life-threatening blows, but long term, “e-commerce payments are expected to boom to top of accelerated secular shifts.”

Law Firm Winners and Losers

Similarly, and as reported in virtually every legal industry blog post and article, law firms are seeing short-term winners and losers in their workload. During this global health crisis, visitor traffic to law firm websites is, in a small way, indicative of what future buyers of legal services want and need from their law firms in the short term – and as a result of this, perhaps we’ll see secular growth in the long term.

We analyzed Google Analytics to unearth visitor trends in ten of our clients’ websites (nine were law firms and one was a major regional accounting firm headquartered in California) during two six-week periods: pre-COVID in the U.S. (January 5 – February 15, 2020) and during COVID (March 15 – April 25, 2020). Here is a snapshot of the results:

Analytics Studied% Change During COVID over Pre-COVIDWorst Website PerformerBest Website Performer
Total Visitors+90%-20%+474%
Total Sessions (Visits)+94%-27%+448%
Session Duration0%-37%+28%
People Page Views-3%-75%+151%
Practice/Industry Page Views+20%-41%+94%
COVID Content Viewed/top 50 PagesN/A-.14%+69.6%
LinkedIn Referrals+187%-62%+750%
Facebook Referrals+287%-85%+1,450%
Twitter Referrals+379%-70%+2,019%

Practice and Insights Pages - The Biggest Winners So Far

In “How Do You Measure Up? Part 1,” an article Deborah McMurray wrote that was published in the June 2020 issue of Of Counsel magazine, she mentions that analytics show that practice and industry pages of law firm websites earn a “paltry two to six percent of total website visitors.” This compares to bios, which receive 45 – 75% of all visits. But, in our analysis of our ten client firms, during-COVID practice/industry page views were up an average of 20% over the pre-COVID period. And one firm’s views sky-rocketed by 94%.

You can also see that total visitors and sessions increased by almost 100%, but session duration didn’t increase or decrease during COVID compared to the pre-COVID time period. And views of People pages declined by three percent with the pages viewed per session declining by 19%.

Practice/industry pages are a short-term winner during our pandemic because visitors are hungry for content from trusted advisors who can help them navigate this very personal crisis. These aren’t the COVID-specific pages, either – we analyzed those separately as you can see in the table. Buyers of legal services working from home without the long commute and without the usual distractions (albeit there were different ones) had more time to specifically find and read content about the services you actually provide.

One More Stunning Discovery

Some lawyers might argue that social media is always a loser. But in a pandemic whose effects unify our global citizenry, it has come out as a big winner. And the analytics prove that for professional services firms that carefully crafted, curated and posted up-to-the-minute relevant content on their social media platforms, it brilliantly worked in driving qualified traffic to the firms’ websites.

Law firm social media content during COVID that was self-promoting in any way was swiftly judged as tone-deaf and inappropriate. That included posts about any type of awards won and even the rank-and-file industry and practice updates. Success during this difficult time has required compassion and empathy for employees, clients, referral sources and all others first, then it has taken authenticity and insight into what your audiences really want and need to know so they can survive and hopefully thrive.

The "3Rs"

We are still in the middle of this crisis, so there is opportunity here for you to quickly shift what you are doing to ensure that your firm won’t be a short- or long-term loser – at least as it relates to your website and social media presence. We speak and write a lot about today’s “3Rs,” which are reputation, relationships and revenue. Everything your firm does should drive all three.

Many law firms have seen their 2020 budgets fly out the window, so “revenue” will take a back seat to “reputation” and “relationships” this year - but we know you are planning for 2021. Seize the chance to elevate your reputation as the “most insightful guide” for prospects and clients during this challenging time. Open your heart and invest meaningful time in your business relationships, caring about their concerns in the most authentic way. You may not get paid for that investment today, but the longer-term reward of loyalty and a meaningful shared experience will be golden.

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Your firm website is the most visible and accessible picture of your law firm and how you do business. Since 2005, we have been passionate about helping firm leaders elevate their reputations and relationships by ensuring they are telling the right story and truly connecting with the people who matter most: clients, colleagues, referral sources, future employees. Let us help you tell your story.

Deborah McMurray

Deborah McMurray

CEO + Strategy Architect