Too much content that is written for online consumption has no real meaning. Previous iterations of Google’s algorithm rewarded voluminous content stuffed with keywords rather than information, and law firm marketing companies stepped up to the challenge, producing long pages of mostly repetitive, generic copy. Some websites still have pre-Penguin hangovers; writing for search engines has left a legacy of boring content and overused phrases.
Visitors are unlikely to remember messaging that is similar to that of the last five sites they browsed. An attorney website must cover many of the same topics as other attorneys’ sites, making it easy to fall into a monotonous content trap. Sometimes, however, words and phrases are used so frequently that they no longer provide any real meaning or value. They tell clients nothing about your firm or why they should hire you.
Some words and phrases most commonly overused in attorney marketing include:
1. Complex process
2. Have you been… (Injured? Arrested?)
3. We understand
4. Know your rights
5. Committed to winning (Should you be committed to anything else?)
6. Exclusive use of third person (Always referring to yourself in third person can sound stilted.)
7. Expertise (Using this may be an infraction of some state bar rules.)
8. Difficult challenge
It is easy to default to the same set of words in your writing, particularly if you are on deadline or otherwise preoccupied. But when your word processing software starts completing all of your sentences, you may need to diversify. To avoid unnecessary repetition, consider these three tips:
Make a list of your top ten most overused words and post it near your work area. Do not forget to update the list when necessary. You will find it easier to catch yourself using your personal buzzwords if they are staring at you all day. Have a thesaurus handy when writing (or open an online version). You will find it becomes second nature to look up a new word when you need to illustrate a familiar concept.
Put yourself in your prospective clients’ shoes. These phrases are overused in part because they have an air of truth. Many cases are complex. Some clients do face very difficult challenges. Saying so is easy and obvious. Your website visitors are looking for information – and reasons to contact your firm. Show that you respect their time by digging a little deeper and answering their questions. Ask yourself what you would be looking for if you needed an attorney. What concerns would you want addressed? What would you want to know about your (potential) attorney? Ask current clients what was most valuable to them during their search for an attorney. If you can address these concerns for your website visitors, they will be more likely to remember and trust you.
Read other attorney’s websites. Do a simple search for a local attorney and click through the listings. Read the first couple of paragraphs on the home page or practice area pages of each site. Are there any words or phrases that stand out? Are there any sites that are memorable, or do they all flow together into a singular stream of overused marketing jargon? If you find that you are succumbing to the same writing temptations as your peers, your website visitors will notice the same thing. Or worse, they will not notice you at all.
There is no absolute prohibition against using any of these phrases. At times, they may be appropriate. But use them thoughtfully. You will be better served by content that truly represents your firm’s personality and addresses the concerns of your visitors.