Practice Development for Expert Witnesses
Beryl Vaughan, Consultant
Nationwide

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

You Need a Website and Here’s Why.

By Beryl Vaughan

Q. “Do I need a website?”
A. Yes.

You Need a Website and 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.

It displays

  • 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 would be 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. This is your “footprint”.  The bigger the footprint, the easier you are to find. Once at your website, you can go into a deeper dive about your areas of expertise and medical-legal practice.

What you’ll find in this article:

Function of a website

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.

Managing your reputation online. (e.g., ensuring attorneys see positive information and how to counter negative material like reviews or personal information online.)

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. An Internet Audit.

I always search my client or potential client by name. Why? To identify name-alikes and ways to distinguish you. I have a client who shares a name with a prominent Emergency Medicine physician. Another client shares a name with a dentist.

In the case of these doctors, our marketing includes techniques to distinguish them from others with special emphasis on the area of medicine in which they practice and photographs. I audit photos publicly available associated with your name to see who else is popping up and if the attorney will find something off-putting. Search your name on Google and after results come up, click on “Images” to see what I mean. If top results are you and photos of which you approve, that is the best result.

Repeat Business.  Distinguishing you in an internet audit is especially important in bringing back attorneys who have used you before. If they are simply looking for your phone # and cannot see it is you, they may end up talking to a dentist and you will lose cases.

Social Media References Do Not Belong on Your Website with One Exception.


I find the default on many “rubber stamped” websites includes links to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, even Pinterest, when, in fact, the doctor does not have these accounts, the accounts or irrelevant, or the doctor uses them for personal reasons, not professional reasons.

A website is not a social media vehicle and links and icons are not appropriate there.

LinkedIn is the only exception because it is specific to business topics, in your case expert witness work and law.

It works. LinkedIn *has* produced cases for my clients, when done properly.

“Properly” is out of the scope of this article, but I can teach you more; please call.

A LinkedIn icon is appropriate on your website.

If you don’t have a website, you are missing an opportunity to make your LinkedIn network and efforts do double duty.

The sites of your colleagues and competitors.

I also search for colleagues with similar credentials to yours. I use terms relevant to your practice others practicing geographically near you.

Discrediting an Expert.  A decent opposing counsel will look to diminish an expert witness’ testimony, or even have them disqualified before trial starts. It’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.

Give Them Something to Talk About. Your website is a forum for what is true about your practice and expertise. It is how you voice what is important to know about you. If you do not have a website you have no way to “tell the story” of your serious professional acumen. It’s absence leaves plenty of room for an opposing counsel to paint an unfortunate picture of the emptiness of your acumen, which you must then defend. A defensive posture is unacceptable for a successful medical-legal expert.

A word about reviews 

Clinical websites occasionally emphasize that they are “5 star” practices and may include links to Yelp or other review sites. Reviews are usually from patients, not attonreys. Attorneys may be confused by your 2 star review. It is an alert there could be something brought up on the stand that is embarrassing to you. Reviews, and references to review sites are inappropriate on a medical legal site. If you do have a problem with “low stars” we must address it–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 wherever it appears.

A website bio is different from a bio on a directory or CV.  For forensic/med-legal work, your bio is distinct from others. If you have a website, you can include the logos of schools you have attended, professional organizations to which you belong, and other visual cues that support your claim you are qualified. A bio on a hard-to-find website is not helpful to build your practice.

These are inadequate alternatives to a website bio:

“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. Universities, for example, will not include your medical-legal practice or experience.

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

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 visually empty, or 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.
  • Don’t break the nomenclature of website function. A site should be easy to navigate by providing universal clues to access content. We have come to expect and understand the nomenclature of websites: 3 horizontal lines on a phone mean it is a menu. On desktop sites, contact information is found in headers and footers. A menu includes basics: Home page, About Page, Contact Page. Thus, attorneys are given another tool to easily and quickly determine what they need to know about you (time=money). Are you an expert, for example, in orthopedic injuries? Medical malpractice? Standard of Care in a hospital setting? Your website provides answers, in your words, specific to the focus of your practice as it applies to legal cases. There is no other platform, even a clinical website, that accomplishes this.
  • Don’t assume your clinical practice website is adequate to convey you are a medicolegal expert. Attorneys don’t need to make appointments, do not care about insurances accepted. They need to know you have a clinical practice but the tenor of that website generally does not address the needs of an attorney.

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, though you must do so because browsers require sites respond to mobile devices as the browser itself is used on mobile devices.

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.

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:

“navigation” or how pages are found (menus and links); the margins around text, fonts and colors, images that play well on a cell phone and a vast array of features that need proper coding to work.

 Sometimes my client has a website person to do this. I am happy to collaborate with that person. I also work with someone I trust, I’ll explain why and we can decide if who is right to build the backend of your site.

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

The Power of Data

What the data can tell us about how your website is performing, e.g.

  • 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 (too long to read) is untrue for a forensic practice.

Data into practice, watching the client move around the site. A recording of a user’s screen while visiting a site is made by CrazyEgg–another data site. The user’s identity is anonymous–this is information just for us. Last month I watched a recording of a cursor traveling 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 user’s behavior on the site showing the cursor, scrolling behavior, navigation through the site, and live time spent on each page. No identification information is collected and your user’s anonymity is protected.

-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. Again, specific user information is not provided and anonymity of users is protected.

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 your site falls 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.

dIs it true that any website is better than no website at all? No.

Depends on your “Any website.”

A Good Basic Website:

Contact info and specialization is front and center

Legitimate and true facts of your expertise and experience are provided

It is visually neutral or attractive

A website is worse than no website:

Content that is conjecture

Personal and professional opinions

Content about which you are not qualified to address Implication of bias 

Is outside best practices and ethical and professional guidelines

These and other pitfalls can undermine your entire practice. 

If you don’t know your way around such nuances, stick to the basics.

The purpose of the bare bones site is to make it easier for an attorney who already knows your name to find your current phone number or email online.

If you are in a niche specialization, it may produce SEO benefits. generated work.

Try it–search your name. What do you find? Who do you find?

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