Are you tired of paying beaucoup bucks to have someone else create and maintain your website for you? Perhaps you have tried to design and maintain your own website, but have instead only learned to hate html, or a clunky production and maintenance program, with the fire of a thousand suns? Or, maybe you just won’t meet your kid’s allowance increase demands were he to create your website for you. If you have experienced these, or other similar frustrations, maybe it’s time for a change. Reconsider what your online presence means.

Rather than aiming for the creation, or purchase, of the top-shelf law firm website, featuring all of the information, pages and expense you can cram, try an alternative course. Instead of optimizing your website, optimize your online presence across websites. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a website, or that your website shouldn’t be nice, nor, even, am I saying that you should endeavor to design a website without having in mind the goal of producing the “best” (the strictest meaning for “optimized”) website that you can produce. Nay, I am only saying that, when creating your website, you should consider what the best website is for your firm, in the context of what you wish to achieve through your online marketing. Your website may still serve as the anchor of your online presence; however, it should not represent the entirety of your online presence. And, those who seek to optimize “the firm website” too often see the achievement of that elusive goal as the end of the line, with respect to their online marketing efforts; but, in 2009, the trick is to continually add new content, to remain relevant and to get as viral as possible, in getting your message out, in as many unique ways as you can. One of the dirty little secrets is that website editing is difficult; that’s why people get paid so much to do it. But, how easy is it to update your Facebook page, or your LinkedIn account? C’mon. Everybody does it.

Alright, though, now. I’m giving myself away, the farm. Before we get too far ahead here, before I too swiftly reveal my conclusions, and end some of the suspense, let’s reconsider what a website does for you, again, in 2009. For, to understand the utility of optimizing a web presence, rather than a website, we must understand what the purpose of a firm website is, or should be, to begin with. A website serves a two-fold purpose: to give you an online profile (some marker that you are, indeed, on the web, and so have arrived, and are reputable) and to get you noticed through the search engine (really, these days, Google, despite the encroaching, best efforts of Bing) rankings (such that your website will have been designed with higher result rankings in mind, so that people, clients or referrers, I mean, will find you). Yet, both of these objects can be achieved through the use of a well-constructed, simple placeholder (which serves to claim an important url, as well) website (that acts as your online business card) coupled with the use of social media marketing.

The social media toolbox is rather vast; and, you can certainly lose yourself in looking after the numbers and numbers of options available for the promotion of your firm and for the challenge to your time management skills. But, there are some proven winners that you may exploit, like these: Blogs and blogging; Twitter and tweeting; the use of LinkedIn and Facebook for the creation of alternate, additional firm or individual attorney pages; video posting with YouTube and claiming your profile on Avvo. You may never move beyond activity on these websites; yet, if these are the only social media websites that you come to use, you will find, if you have promoted yourself professionally and effectively, that, in time, you will have developed a rich web presence, without having had to hire anyone to create it for you, using solely your own initiative, unique, specialized legal knowledge and mix of savvy and wit.

The use of all of these available resources (and other available resources that you may choose to fit into your marketing schedule) can create for you an online presence across several platforms, increase your visibility on search services, help (you) to target your marketing, give you access to a thriving online community of attorneys flocking to these same websites and give you some incentive to update and add content consistently, to keep yourself top of mind.

Now, if this all feels overwhelmingly, and you feel, too, like you’re a DOS disciple living in a Windows world, fear not. I assure you. Scout’s Honor. These websites are easy to use, and sometimes, yes, fun, too. That’s why so many people use them. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, and close study being the prerequisite of imitation, should you have difficulty respecting the understanding of the concept of a particular site, or should you just want some ideas on how to post, and what to post, your best bet is to look after the people who do it well. To that end, some exemplars are as follows:

For a good example of a Blog (well, really, a blog/website), check Leanna Hamill’s.

I’ve included a listing of some prolific legal Twitterers in a prior post.

Check the LinkedIn Lawyer, David Barrett, for a good example of the set up of a LinkedIn profile.

For a Facebook page template, check The Lanier Law Firm’s. (Also first in the Google rankings (of firm pages) for “facebook law firms”).

And, How would you use YouTube to promote your practice? Watch Gabriel Cheong do it at his Infinity Law TV Channel.

Your complete and robust Avvo profile could one day look something like Marc Breakstone’s perfect 10.

All of this may seem like a tremendous amount of work; and, absolutely, as in any endeavor, you must work exceptionally hard to achieve exceptional results. However, accessing and assessing these sites and establishing your profiles will be easier tasks than you think. And, adding to your profiles, and growing your profiles, and therefore your reputation, over time, is merely a matter of stick-to-it-iveness, rather than the application
of any specific computer skill set (remember, these sites are easy to use). But, the first step is always: to get started.

Now, for the best part (which is why I have saved it for the end): all of these web resources that I reference above (and many others, too) are free to use. That’s right, free. And, if you’re too cheap, even, to buy a placeholding website, allow your blog to double as your internet business card, as Leanna does, by adding your contact and other important information to the static background site. And, that makes a good, final tip, to leave you with: It is a good idea, with any of these websites, to include as much relevant contact information and background information as possible (without overcrowding) on the static profile pages that many sites offer. (When I say “static profile page”, I mean that, although your tweets roll as do your Facebook wall posts, the background remains static: your personal or professional information, so arrayed.) In this way, potential clients and referrers will always have additional ways and means to contact you, no matter where they happen to find you.

Now, just make sure that you keep this all underneath your respective chapeaus: After all, you wouldn’t want your competition to find out . . .