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Did You Notice Your Live Chat Change This Past Month?

Feb 20, 2018 | by Emma Hanes | Law Firm Website Design | SEO | Intake
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Live chat is a very popular conversion tactic used by law firms. A small popup box generates after a user visits a website, offering visitors the option to live chat. Live chat is incredibly helpful for law firms, and the intake questions the chat service will ask can be specified beforehand so law firms receive the exact information they want from website visitors using the live chat functionality. However, you may have noticed a change to your website’s live chat last month and you might be concerned about it.

How Did Live Chat Change?

Previously, many live chat services utilized a popup box offering live chat that appeared in the middle of the screen as a small square. This is the most common form of the live chat popup across nearly all industries. A recent update changed the small box in the middle of the screen into a bar at the top of the screen. While changes will vary from vendor to vendor, your new live chat box might look something like this:

chat bar

The live chat bar will now not appear in the middle of the screen, but on the very top or very bottom of the screen. Some law firms might see their square chat box moved from the middle of the screen to the corner and look something link this:

chat box

Why Live Chat Changed

Popups are what the Google search engine calls “interstitials.” Basically, an interstitial is anything that gets in the way of a website, like popups. Google has never liked interstitials and refers to many of them as “intrusive interstitials.” Google doesn’t like intrusive interstitials for a very simple reason: users don’t like them either. There are few things as irritating as landing on a webpage from search results only to be immediately accosted by popups.

Google has long penalized websites for intrusive interstitials, but this really only hurt websites with multiple popups. However, in January Google announced an update to its algorithm that targets all types of intrusive interstitials. Previously, law firm websites could use live chat intrusive interstitials, but Google’s new algorithm update now makes these popups result in a penalty for the website.

When Google penalizes a site, it makes it much less likely that the site will appear in organic search results. This means a decrease in traffic and thus leads. To prevent live chat users from suffering this penalty, live chat services are beginning to update their designs to be less intrusive and to avoid picking up a Google penalty. 

How The Live Chat Design Change Actually Helps 

While some live chat clients have complained about the new designs, it’s actually a really good thing. Even though intrusive interstitials are only now hurting SEO value, they have always been troublesome for the best user experience. Internet users search Google for answers to a question or a problem, then they review the results and click on the one they believe will answer their question or address their problem best. Imagine how irritating it would be to find the answer, but immediately have the content blocked by a popup!

Don’t get me wrong, live chat is a useful and powerful conversion method, but it doesn’t work for every user. The new designs still prominently display the chat option for users who are interested, without annoying the users that aren’t ready to convert. If a less eager user becomes ready to convert later on, the chat option still remains available at the top of the screen (or bottom if you specify).

Has Your Chat Not Changed? 

Google’s update penalizing intrusive interstitials is fairly new, so not all chat services have adapted to the new change. If your live chat still populates in the middle of the screen, you need to immediately contact your live chat vendor and discuss options for making it less intrusive. This may seem like a small issue, but it can have profound implications for your law firm website rankings.

The Change Is Here To Stay

Google has made it clear intrusive interstitials of any kind will not be tolerated. If your law firm website utilizes live chat, popup forms, or any other kind of interstitial, it’s time to make some changes or suffer a decrease in organic traffic. Interstitials must be used non-intrusively to avoid penalties. If you’re unsure whether or not your popups are intrusive, you need to consult a digital marketing expert.

Sidebar emma hanes pic low res About Emma Hanes

Emma Hanes has written content for dozens of attorneys and law firms with a variety of different practice areas. Her work has been featured in the Texas Bar Journal, the Top 10 Blog Posts from the Texas Bar Today, and SmallLaw's Pick of the Week.

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