Practice Development for Expert Witnesses
Beryl Vaughan, Consultant
Nationwide

Email go@forensicexpertpro.com or Call (415) 302-9589

Q. “Do I need a website?”
A. Yes. Here’s Why.

By Beryl Vaughan

A website is the most sophisticated business card in the world.

That’s a simplification of course. It is more like a hybrid: CV, business card, bio and even textbook, written by you.

There is no better online vehicle under your control to communicate who you are as a professional and what you have to offer as an expert witness or consultant in a legal setting.  Let’s not forget: how to reach you! What you site should communicate:

  • Your knowledge-base
  • Your credentials and experience
  • Writing that demonstrates how well you convey your findings. This is relevant to your communication style on the stand, in deposition and reports
  • Your objectivity

The real-life equivalent of a website is handing a CV to an attorney to introduce yourself,  all over the country, all day, every day.

Unlike you, your website doesn’t take a break.

The power of technology adds a dimension of value that a business card can’t.

Internet Audit; the “Site-less” and the “Sited”

The most valuable marketing strategy begins with an internet audit to know if your practice is “findable” and what attorneys are in, fact, finding. That includes an existing site or your footprint absent a website at all.

What you’ll find in this article:

Function of a website

Countering unintended consequences, like negative reviews or personal information online.

What to include on your site and why

Writing tips

How we know if the site is working. The Power of Data section below is crucial to understand this imperative question.

Marketing for the Intended Client

Marketing rests on the perspective of the person seeking you. Let’s put on lawyer shoes and take a look.

Searching for Nemo. I always first search my client or potential client by name. Why? To identify name-alikes and ways to distinguish you. For example, colleagues with similar credentials to yours. Terms relevant to your practice. Others practicing geographically near you. Photos publicly available associated with your name. If your private social media pages can be viewed by the public, and dozens of other perspectives. I delve even deeper when I find mistaken information, or results that produce a misunderstanding about you, like an inappropriate Yelp review.

The disclosed expert witness internet audit.  A decent opposing counsel will look to discredit an expert witness–that’s standard operating procedure. The internet is low hanging fruit to find “dirt” and therefore it is a natural go-to as an attorney prepares for trial. The more you know about what they will find, the better prepared you can be for challenges to your reputation and claims.

A word about reviews 

Psychiatrists and Psychologists. Psychiatrists and psychologists have unique vulnerabilities–like one star “reviews” from a patient population.  Transference has a marketing impact. Aviation and Accounting Experts don’t have these issues.

Clinical Physicians.  Reviews are usually from patients. Attorneys may be confused by your 2 star review that reflects your front office is doing a bad job talking to people on the phone. This is a problem we must address–because attorneys are drilling down the Google results page seeing those stars and making inaccurate assumptions.

Your Bio

It’s better to control your bio. For forensic/med-legal work, your bio is distinct from others. Excuses I hear include:

“I teach at a university and they have my bio on the faculty page.”

“I serve on the Board of Trustees and they have my bio on their website.”

“I am on the treater panel for a few clinics and they have a bio on their website.”

Someone else’s website is not a substitute for your own.  They have a focus and agenda. It’s unlikely to be the same as your private forensic practice.  Such listings rarely include forensic training, for example, or the focus of your expertise that is applicable to legal controversies.

On a site not your own, someone else may have written the bio, and they may have gotten it wrong, or focused on one element of your practice at the expense of another.

What does an internet audit have to do with whether or not you have a website?

A website allows you to respond to negative or mistaken information.  Roughly 80% of the time I find doctors are only represented online by hospital or clinic jobs that may very well be ancient history, frequently address/phone information is outdated, or a clinical practice is evident but not forensic expertise.  This can occur because NPI contact and/or taxonomy info is inaccurate, or a prior employer “owns” access to your information via Google MyBusiness, listings in directories like Psychology Today and other problems that can be repaired.

Attorney Feedback.  If attorneys can’t tell you if they went to the site, and data confirms your site isn’t working, then it’s time for a critique and repair of your site itself. See “The Power of Data” below.

I have reviewed hundreds of sites of your colleagues, and continue to do so daily. I find there are specific elements to successful sites vs. those that have little, or even negative, value for practice growth.

Frankly, most forensic expert witnesses–especially psychologists and psychiatrists–don’t have a website at all. Some are impossible to find online–even by name! It isn’t hard to turn this to your benefit. 

Website essentials

CV page  

  • Attorneys save time on a call just to learn if you’re legit.
  • The conversation can skip straight to the meat of the case.

Education: “Content is King”

Content is just another way of saying “information,” like an article or FAQ.  The topics should pinpoint your expertise, and interests, as they apply to law.  (The reason for “interests” is that one goal of website marketing is to branch into areas of law that expand your experience.)

For example, if you are a forensic child psychiatrist, visitors to your site should find something different than if you work in criminal psychology. If you know about both, then both should be addressed on your site.

Meaningful content is where website marketing is most effective. 

Big Time Google Rewards. Search engines like Google and Bing place informative sites  higher than sites that don’t provide something of value to the user.

Keep it Fresh. Google ignores static sites. E.g., content remains unchanged, there are no new articles, imagery or design, performed on a regular basis.  Google will assume if the site isn’t updating, you probably retired, died or are irrelevant, from their perspective.

Mobile Friendly. People, and Google, give preference to a site that can be read and navigated easily on a phone. Any website must perform on mobile. 

User Experience 101: Let’s talk about the mechanics of a website. This is called the User Experience (“UX”–in the Glossary.) A website can have an underfunctioning design or be annoying to use. It’s fixable, and deferred maintenance isn’t an option if you want an effective site.

  • Information easy to find, and easy to read. (Light grey text on a medium gray background is one of my pet peeves.)
    No broken features, like links that go to the wrong place, or nowhere at all.
  • Contact info. appears on every page. People shouldn’t have to work to find out how to call you once they’re intrigued to do so.
  • Critical feedback is the only way to know what’s working and what isn’t.  There is nothing better than a second set of eyes, because you are not the best judge of your website.

Don’t

  • Don’t have a repellant site. Imagery and text should be on point and engaging. Design of forensic content is is consistent with forensic work vs. a clinical practice which is geared and designed differently. A potential therapy client will want to know your treatment modalities. An attorney won’t.
  • Break the nomenclature of website function. We are all used to interpreting common website features: 3 horizontal lines on a phone mean it is a menu. On desktop sitesContact information is found in headers and footers, what a menu looks like and how it will lead them through the site.
  • Don’t ignore the tone of your content.  Unless you’re a natural writer, you might be surprised how often patronizing and self-congratulatory impressions sneak into the text.  I copyedit content to ensure the tone stays inviting. (I am not a ghostwriter. I feel it’s unethical inasmuch as you will have to defend what is written, not me).

Let’s dispel a few myths about websites:

Myth 1: Keep it short. 

The myth is that a site has only a few seconds to grab the attention of a visitor, and too much text turns them off.

Actually: 1100-2000 words is the most effective text length*. You’re an expert in your field as applied to law therefore your website is all about text. That doesn’t mean people face the dreaded “wall of text.” Design is the solution.

Design and paragraph headings break up the text.  To make your important content hold the reader’s attention add imagery, move topics around the page and use graphics to break up the text. (Read more about design and images.) On this page I employ color, borders, layout and graphic elements. Every time I come to this page, I change it. Let me know what you think can be better!  

Myth 2: Mobile-friendly design is more important than desktop design. Yes and no. Google’s 2020 algorithm continues a long- standing preference for mobile-friendly sites.

Actually: You know from the calls you get that many attorneys, junior associates and paralegals tasked to find someone like you, do so from a desktop computer. It is a mistake to craft a website only for mobile.

Actually: Both desktop and cell phone design have to function. This is accomplished with “responsive design,” meaning whatever your site looks like on a desktop, it is coded to rearrange itself into a smaller format for a smaller screen.

Myth 3: More traffic means more success. The amount of traffic to your website is not the measure of success.

Actually: 10 visitors is better than 2,000. In fact, a $20,000 case may come from one call. If there were 10 visitors that day and one was the case you got, then 10 visitors is just fine.  Add the word “blockchain” to your site and you’ll get lots of useless traffic.

Any website is better than no website.

Your website provides contact info. and basic information about your credentials, location and scope of experience. Amazingly, it can be almost impossible for an attorney who already knows your name to find your current phone number or email.

Transparency. I market forensic experts and finessing a website is essential if you want the attention of attorneys.  I am not a website programmer and don’t run a website farm.  Likely, you’ve been bombarded by emails from people who design sites and want to sell you one. They don’t know about your profession or client base. Most website farms are driven by a shopping cart, rather than a scholarly journal. Expert Witnesses live nearer the latter world than the former. That’s why I focus on your content, tenor and profession-relevant design. 

Who builds a site? The “backend” is the code that makes the site behave the way it does–how pages are found–the margins around text, etc. Sometimes my client has a website person to do this. I am happy to collaborate with that person. If I am also working with someone I trust, I’ll explain why and we can decide if they are right for your site.

Once built, here’s how we know if it is working.

The Power of Data

What the data can tell us about your practice, when you have a website

  • How long users stay on your site reveals if they find you / your practice to be of interest.
  • Which pages they are reading. 5 minutes means they read the information. 5 seconds means they realized they were in the wrong place and left.
  • What content is most engaging. Where do users linger, where do they flee.
  • If adaptive changes produce different results. For example, as stated elsewhere in this article, structured content (subheadings and logical flow) perform better than long chunks of unbroken text. TLTR is shorthand for “Too Long to Read” and is used in email jargon.
  • TLTR is untrue for a forensic practice. 

Data into practice. A recording of a user’s screen while visiting a site is made by CrazyEgg–another data site. Last month I watched a recording of a cursor travelling over reading this page. They paused at a typo, then sped past paragraphs with lots of text. If you saw this article last month, today it is different because I am adjusting it responsive to the data. I fixed the typo, I broke the paragraphs up into smaller chunks and added headings. My changes are responsive to the data

If data says the site isn’t performing well, we know adaptive site changes are needed.  For example, data shows time spent reading articles is short but time spent on the site is substantial. This raises an index of marketing suspicion that content is relevant–people want to be on your site–but what is written could be easier to parse.

Data I use

For my clients sites (and even my own) I rely on

Google Analytics (Free)

Web-Stat (Less than $10/month)

Mangools ($29/month on my dime)

CrazyEgg ($24/month on my dime)

I get no kickbacks. 

Why these three?

-Google Analytics is the only way to learn which keywords / aka search terms were used to find your site.

-Mangools cross-references keyword information with those other sites a user would find with the same keywords.

-CrazyEgg. They record the site showing the cursor, scrolling behavior, navigation through the site, and live time spent on each page. People data is not collected, only behavior data. 

-Web-Stat identifies users on a given day, their geographic location, the pages they visited, and how long they stayed on those pages. This can be cross-referenced against calls. 

Making the Data Work

  • WHO. You receive a call from a lawyer in Tampa, for the first time.
  • WHEN AND WHERE. Web-Stat reveals a user from Tampa spent 10 minutes reading your article about IMEs that same day.
  • The caller never mentions your website.
  • HOW. Google Analytics tells us “Independent Medical Exam” was one of 4 search terms used that day.
  • WHY. Mangools reports that if you look up “Independent Medical Exam” as a search term, where is your site in the “results hierarchy.” It also tells us what other sites the “Independent Medical Exam” searcher will find.
  • WHO ELSE. Typically results on Google begin with something like Wikipedia or an NIH article, but eventually we may see your site and that of a few of your colleagues/competitors
  • Digging deeper–collateral effort. I like to read what those sites have to say, which helps us build on what is working on your site.
  • Note: Web-Stat and Mangools don’t share your information with anyone else
  • Google will “share” your data if you don’t specifically check the box that restricts it.

The best scenario data can reveal

Traffic

  1. Is the Site functioning? How many people are going to your site? Taffic data answers this question.
  2. Fixes. Is the site on the SEO radar at all? If not, something is wrong and the fix is sometimes simple.
  3. Assumptions are factored into Data. One doctor client of mine gets almost no traffic yet she tells me most of her callers come from the website. This means the content on her site is adequately compelling. Another doctor gets significant traffic but most callers state they learned of him elsewhere. The DATA will tell us if the site did, or did not, make a difference.

(a) A visitor to your home page or article “journeys” around your site. If this includes your CV / About page, for example, that is a likely sign they are serious. This is called a “High Value” user in marketing lingo.

(b) Relevant / “High Value” Users.  The “High Value” user is simply someone you want to hear from: usually an attorney, but anyone who might retain you in a medical-legal case.

(c) Not Relevant / “Low Value” Users.  A person may simply want to know more about what they face (in an IME) or what IME stands for. They are not users who will produce forensic work. I don’t call these “irrelevant” users because their curiosity might be associated with a legal matter that might some day produce a call. They are not irrelevant.

Incognito: a Google Search Feature

I begin by going “incognito” — a Google feature that “cleans” the results I get from the bias of a non-incognito search. The non-incognito search tailors results to your own historical behavior.

The Non-Incognito Search

Results if you don’t go incognito:

  • I searched doctors in my location, lamps available in another city for a family member, and 2 dentists.  I then search “Medical Expert Witness” and could get only those Experts in the city where the lamps are, and a handful of dentists. 
  • Data incognito produces more valuable information.

*Online marketing guru, Neil Patel, cites 3 different studies that put the “sweet spot” for a website article at between 1500-2000 words. “How long should your blog article be?” Blog is just another way of say content, by the way.

 

Does a website make you look like a mercenary?

It’s a legitimate and common question.

“I don’t have a website because I’m afraid it will seem like a sales pitch.”

The APA has a website. Family physicians, hospitals and your colleagues have websites. They, and you, control the tenor of site content. It’s not a sales pitch unless you make it one. 

You studied for many years and will continue to learn for the rest of your life, to serve jurisprudence.

But you aren’t a volunteer.

“Activity that supports or provides active encouragement for the furtherance of a cause, venture, or aim.” (Definition of “Promotion”, Oxford Languages). 

You do have a venture. And you want to further it. You have aims. You have fees.

You do not have a price.

Q. “Do I need a website?”
A. Yes.

You Need a Website and Here’s Why.

By Beryl Vaughan

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