What should $600 a month get you? How much should your website cost?

I see so many template websites from FindLaw and I always wonder how law firms justify paying so much for them.  Last week I was on the phone with a lawyer here in the Twin Cities yesterday and mentioned “how expensive they were”.  Her response was,

“Well, they actually are pretty well inline.  You’re going to build me a website for a couple thousand dollars, and then charge me for SEO a couple hundred a month, so is it that bad to just pay $600 a month, know I’ll get a decent product and will never have to deal with that big amount up front”

(or something to that effect).  Now she was making a pretty good point (and to be crystal clear, I do offer websites with zero on-going fees).  The problem is, while it does solve her most immediate problem (I need to get a website up and running with as little of my time, money and effort involved as reasonably possible) it creates a much, much bigger problem down the road.

For the moment, let’s focus on what’s potentially positive about buying an on-going package from a company like FindLaw.  If she selects a template, makes all of her project manager’s scheduled calls, has zero feedback on the content drafts, no mistakes or hold ups are involved, she could possibly have her website up within about 30 days of signing the contract.  She gets her first bill for $600 and has a nice website to show for it….Awesome!  By the way, in my experience, this NEVER happened.  The first bill always showed up before the initial call, and it started the downward spiral of horrible client experience….But let’s just say that DOES happen, the whole process goes ideally beyond what you could imagine.  Now next month you get another bill for $600, so on and so on.

The math is easy, but the decision is difficult, and oddly familiar.  Assuming you don’t fall into the trap of having your FindLaw rep call on you and upgrade, after 24 $600 payments on a two year contract you’ve invested just under $15,000 into a template website that you do not own.  And here you are back at square one, trying to determine if it’s worth the effort to take over ownership of the website now or just pay the $600 and get back to the pile of work on your desk.

But what if it’s “Worth it”?  How much should my website cost?

So this is really the tricky part.  At $600 a month, even one or two good cases every few months can feel like a pretty good return.  However, business that you “get from the website” is not necessarily business that you should attribute to FindLaw’s SEO or traffic from a directory.  Meaning, the business that you get through your FindLaw website may very well be business you would be getting through ANY website.

Today I was talking to an injury lawyer in Orlando and he told me he was getting “a few cases a year” from his FindLaw website.  Now obviously, because he’s doing injury work, ANY case that comes in could range from a tiny little couple thousand dollar soft tissue case all the way up to some major spine injury causing limited future employment and requiring on-going care multi-million dollar settlement.  So, a lot of injury lawyers tend to “keep the faith” with their marketing if they’re seeing any return at all.  But here’s the thing; his map listing shows up for “injury lawyer” because he’s got a really nice Google+ page with seventeen 5 star reviews…. I about dropped the phone.  Now understand, most of the people I talk to with FindLaw websites are just being under-serviced.  They have a mediocre design, content that’s just blah and inconsistent Google results.  In addition to all of that, this guy had a really ugly site.  Like the first draft “maybe he’ll approve it” design that some project manager had the gall to throw at him.

So there’s a good chance that his website is actually just a liability; something that in spite of it looking terrible people hire him either because they don’t see it, or they trust the Google reviews more than the lackluster design.  Either way, FindLaw isn’t earning the money they’re charging him.

If it’s with FindLaw, there’s a good chance it’s not worth it.

Look, I’m not saying they’re bad people, I’m just saying that you’re very likely paying too much.  Let’s be honest, if you didn’t already know that, you wouldn’t have done the Google search that lead you here.  But if you need me to confirm your suspicions, I’m happy to do it.  Call me at 651.271.8845 or send me an email and we can build a plan.