Canceling your FindLaw subscription and moving your law firm website might seem daunting. Admittedly, there are a lot of steps involved, but by moving your site to a hosting service and managing it using WordPress you can save thousands of dollars per year, have more control over your site and, if you do it right, get better results from your online marketing efforts.
We’re going to take you through the process of moving your law firm website from FindLaw step by step. Keep in mind that this process will take 4-6 weeks at a minimum, so be sure to plan ahead so your business isn’t without a website for a month or more. Or you can contact a reputable law firm web design and marketing team, like the team at Sting Marketing, who can make sure the transition is without any noticeable downtime.
First things first, you are going to need to round up some help. You’ll need people who know what they are doing to take over where FindLaw left off.
- An IT person. You need someone who knows computers, specifically WordPress, HTML and CSS (the language of building websites). If you don’t have an IT person in your office, hire one, unless you have a lot of time on your hands to teach yourself web development. But really, it’s totally worth it to hire someone, You will save yourself a lot of hair-pulling-out.
- A graphic designer. This person will be able to redesign your site to look similar to (or maybe even better than) your old one. FindLaw won’t give you your design files from your website because they consider it their property. You can get a copy of the HTML code from your website, but it would be just as easy for a designer to redesign your theme than to rebuild it out of the old HTML.
- A Search Engine Optimization specialist. Also known as an SEO expert, will help you make certain nothing is lost in the move that may decrease your current listings in the search engines. More importantly they can help guide the designer to restructure the site so that it focuses on your practice area(s) as well as geographical areas so that your new site is better architected. Also, they will need to push on your IT person, to get the site loading fast and help map all of the old or nonexistent links out there that Google thinks are yours, pointed to the right place on your new site.
- A Project Manager. Someone who can make all of these people talk nice with each other and make sure there is synergistic final product released that is done on-time and with your clear expectations of how the site should look and function. Also someone who can explain, why certain things are design or features are added based on the feedback of the rest of the team of experts.
Now That Your Legal Website Dream Team is Assembled…
You need to find out who controls your domain name, the www.yourwebsite.com. If you didn’t buy your domain name, then it is owned by FindLaw. You will need to put in a request to your FindLaw rep for them to change the Registrant Contact, Administrative Contact and Technical Contact to the name of your IT person. If you don’t have an in-house IT person, put the law firm’s name in as the Registrant and Administrative Contact and the IT person you hired as the Technical Contact.
[blockquote ]TIP: pay a bit extra and make your name and registrant data private. This will help weed out those pesky telemarketers who will start calling you saying congrats on your new business and want to design you an amazing attorney website for $100.[/blockquote]
Take Inventory of Everything Your Law Firm’s Website Does
Since FindLaw isn’t going to give you the design files for your law firm website or a list of everything your site does, you are going to need to make detailed notes about the features and functions of your current website yourself.
If you have video on your site then you will need to get the video files in .mp4 format so you can put them on Youtube, which, unlike Brightcove (the service that FindLaw uses), is free and makes it really easy to embed videos onto your new site. Plus, YouTube is more SEO friendly.
Look into the following services to replace other options you may have had on your FindLaw site:
- Live Chat Service: try Olark or SnapEngage
- Contact Forms: can be moved to WordPress using a plugin called Gravity Forms or Contact Form 7.
- Trackable Phone Numbers: check out our call tracking app at Sting Marketing.
But what about my mobile site?
Having a site that people can access from their phones or tablets is becoming increasingly important. Would it surprise you that almost half or more of your visitors are finding you on a mobile device? FindLaw may have been charging you for a mobile site, but your web developer can build a mobile-friendly theme so your law firm website will look and work how it is supposed to on any mobile device. It typically takes a responsive theme and then some tweaks in CSS in order to make it display properly in all browsers and devices.
Put Your Web Designer to Work Building Your Site
You will need the web designer to create a home page, a bio page, a page where you can list the areas of practice your law firm specializes in, a blog or news page, a contact page, and any other pages you want. Ensure that the site is architected correctly, meaning your content is in a structure that is logical and therefore friendly to the search engines.
Give the designer a vector file of your logo (it will end with .ai or.eps). A vector file is what will allow the designer to resize the logo without it becoming pixelated. You can fairly easily turn your logo into a vector file, but if you don’t have access to the software needed, you should be fine just giving the designer a high-resolution .jpeg or .png of your logo. Also send the designer any photos or other images you have that you would like to be on the website.
[blockquote ]TIP: The business is about you and the attorneys in your firm creating that personal touch. Use professional images of you, your team and staff at work. NO stock images![/blockquote]
Once the designer is done rebuilding everything, ensure the web site is backed up and you have access to the backup files, whether you remain with that web designer or website hosting company.
Hosting Your New Site
While the designer is working on recreating your site, have the person you hired to put your site online get to work on setting up a host environment. There are a ton out there to choose from. We happen to use (and love) Rackspace. They host all of our sites on the cloud, their support is second-to-none and the sites experience very little downtime. The interface may not be as friendly as some of the others, however you will most likely never have to go in there to do anything.
Once the hosting service has you set up, you should copy the HTML or from your current site and set it up on this server. That way, if your contract with FindLaw ends, all hope will not be lost. From there, your designer can start anew and work on creating you your new site.
If you want to transfer the registrar…
Your website’s registrar is the company that manages your domain name for you, like GoDaddy or Network Solutions. FindLaw sets up all their domains at DomainPeople.com, but if you have other domains and you want them to all be managed in one place, you can have them changed over to your own outsourced IT company.
This step isn’t necessary. You can still use DomainPeople to host your DNS records (the files that allow people to access your site) while your hosting provider hosts your law firm website itself.
However, if you do want to transfer it to a new place, it’s a three step process:
- Log into DomainPeople.com (your current registrar) and unlock the domain, which will allow you to move it.
- There should be an authorization code that appears. Copy it and send it to your new registrar.
- The new registrar will initiate a Domain Transfer Request and the person who is listed as your technical contact on your new site (the IT person, web designer, whoever you hired) will get an email with a Transaction ID and Security Code. This information needs to be sent to the new registrar.
- Once the new registrar completes the process, the domain will be under their full control—it usually takes about 7 business days.
We’re getting there now!
Now your IT person can start setting up the new environment for your website on the server, database, and firewall which will await the files from your designer. Once the files are loaded and there is a working WordPress theme in place, you or your team can customize the CMS (WordPress is a CMS) so you will be able to update the website on your own, without having to be a computer wizard. Many businesses do this for example, to add blog articles to a site. This process could take a while but once it’s done you will be able to start adding all the content back onto your site. Which leads us to…
Adding all the content back onto your site
There isn’t a way to magically move all of your content from your FindLaw site to WordPress. You have to do it manually, but thankfully copy and paste will make your job pretty easy. While you are working on your content you should also make sure it is optimized correctly so search engines can pick it up. Thats a complicated topic and too long for this post, however as a very high-level guideline, there are simple plugins for WordPress that provide useful SEO feedback on your pages and posts. One of the most popular for SEO is called Yoast.
You will also need to redirect all of the pages from your old website to your new one. If you don’t, people will get error messages when searching for your site. You can find all of these pages by going to Google and typing “site:www.yourwebsite.com” into the search bar. Yourwebsite being the name of your website. This will give you a list of all the pages for your old site. Now you will need to use the Redirection plugin in WordPress to redirect to your new pages or your IT person can reroute these directly in the server .htaccess file. Make sure it is a 301 redirect, which means to Google that the page has been permanently moved.
The final step: changing the DNS
Once you have entered all your content and you’ve thoroughly tested your website, you can switch your DNS (domain name server) to the new host following the directions they have provided to you (or your IT person). Now your new law firm website is ready to go!
[blockquote ]TIP: Make sure you protect this valuable asset by having regular backups run, and security installed to protect pesky hackers.[/blockquote]
If you decide that this is too much to take on by yourself, you can always look into hiring a company to move your website from FindLaw for you. At Sting Marketing we specialize in building and re-building websites while using SEO, social media marketing and blog development to bring more people to your site and your business.
Give us a call today or book a free strategy session so we can help you get started.