5 Steps To Escaping The Big-Box Law Firm Website Company

evil lawyer web designYou’ve got to be smart when looking to leave that big-box company handling your law firm’s website.

Remember when that slick salesperson came into your office to sell you a website?  It felt a little like you were being sold volcano insurance, but the promises were hard to ignore.

First page on the search engines.  Endless rivers of new, highly-qualified clients.

The company would even give you a bunch of content – or optimize what you sent them.

A 2-year contract, a hefty monthly fee, and you were off to the races.

Just one new case per month pays for it, the salesperson cooed in your ear.

Then you began to realize the truth behind the lies.

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You launch your site and start writing checks, happy that it’s starting to move up the search engine results page.

But when the clients don’t show up, you can’t figure it out.  So you look at your website and realize that it’s unreadable.  Oh well, you think, it’s great for my search engine placement.

It doesn’t bother you until you notice the same salesperson coming out of your competitor’s office with a signed contract in hand.

And you keep writing checks in spite of the fact that the phone’s not ringing as much as promised.

And that “nationwide ad campaign” the salesperson promised to back up the web company’s brand and drive traffic to their online directory fails to materialize.

How You Got Pwned

Admit it – you got pwned.  Taken for a huge chunk of change, left with a bucket of promises unfulfilled.

If people think your content sucks then they aren’t likely to hire you.  The whole point of online content is to educate prospective clients, show your value and authority, and make them want to work with you.

A company that promises you top ranking while offering the same to your competition is likely lying to someone – and it’s probably both of you.

Beyond that, there’s a good chance this website company has taken some sort of control over your domain name.  You can find out if they “own” the domain by going to whois.godaddy.com.

How To Get Your Site Back Into Your Hands

In order for you to get out from under the iron fist and save a bunch of money, you’ve got to wait until your contract expires – or see if there’s a way to get out of it.  When you come within 2-3 months of that end date, do the following:

  1. Get a host for your new site (I like Hostgator – under $100 for a full year, and they’ve got awesome service);
  2. Hire a web developer to design a new website for you (if money’s really a hurdle, consider installing WordPress and buying one of the kick-ass premade themes from StudioPress);
  3. Go to your website and copy all of the content;
  4. Rewrite all of the content from the ground up, just in case the big-box web company owns the rights to your existing content (they often do, especially if they wrote or edited it for you); and
  5. Provide the content to your new web developer (or, if you’re doing it yourself with WordPress, upload the content on your own).

Once your big-box contract is up, flip the switch with your domain registrar and point the URL to your new hosting package.

Save Money, Stay In Control

Saving money is a critical piece of the puzzle in deciding whether the big-box website company is right for you, but it’s not the only consideration.  There are a few good web development companies out there, and some of them are definitely not inexpensive.

The most important part of the stay-or-go equation is the control you maintain over your online world.  Who owns your content, design, and domain name?  If it’s not you, then you need to flee.

Image credit:   garethjmsaunders

Comments

  1. says

    Jay – nice use of the word “pwned”. Not often used in the legal field, but fitting there.

    You are right on that lawyers are easy marks for people selling marketing services. For the most part, we are too busy and not interested in learning much about effective marketing so we think that we can simply order something off the shelf and it will cause out phone to ring and that’s all we want. Easy pickings for salesmen.

    I think the key points in making choices about web sites are 1) you need to own your domain name – it is your identity on the web, and as the site ages, that helps with search engine results. If someone else owns your domain and can lease it to the lawyer down the street after your contract is up, you end up paying to build a lot of equity in a property you don’t own and 2) you need to be able change content without having your developer do it for you.

    • Jay Fleischman says

      Thanks Barry; I agree 100% with your points. And I’ve always liked the word “pwned.”

  2. says

    Great writeup, and this tracks right along with all the sad stories I’ve heard from our lawyer clients. One thing I would add is that you REALLY want to start the process sooner than 2 months from your contract end date to avoid stress and pressure, and to give another designer time to really take care of you and make a seamless transition. I’d recommend the process of finding a designer 4 months out if that’s the route you’re going, especially if you need to deal with content issues, domain name disentanglement or replacement, etc. Remember – the best indie web studios usually aren’t sitting around twiddling their thumbs – they have a backlog of clients, so you want to allow for that.