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Google Update: Mobile Website Design Critical for Law Firms

Apr 08, 2015 | by Stacey Burke | Google | SEO | Google Analytics
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Your law firm may have received a notification email from Google in the past few weeks that one or more of your websites fail to meet mobile friendly requirements. You might have ignored it, forwarded it to your marketing directory or agency, or deleted it. But, now Google has told us all that mobile usability will be factored into its ranking algorithm for searches that originate from smart phones. 

Google is launching its mobile-friendly algorithm update on April 21, 2015. What does this mean for law firms’ websites? Many digital marketing experts have spoken out, claiming that this increased focus on mobile-friendliness will have a huge impact – far greater than Google’s previous Penguin or Panda updates. According to Google Webmaster Central, Google’s mobile-friendly update will be the most significant mobile algorithm change ever, as the search giant will be expanding its use of mobile-friendliness as a true ranking signal. The change will affect mobile searches worldwide and will have a significant impact on search results.

Why?

Google is making this change to provide a better mobile experience for searchers, and to give people what they are looking for because:

  • Over 60% of Google searches are made on mobile devices
  • Mobile email open rates have grown 180% in the last three years
  • Mobile searches account for 30% of organic traffic
  • Smart phone use is expected to surpass 2 billion users by next year

How Will Google’s April Algorithm Update Work?

  1. It will operate at the page level, reading page-by-page, not website-by-website: the algorithm update will assess each of your website’s pages individually for mobile compatibility. This means that even if some of your law firm website’s pages are not mobile perfection, it won’t impact the rankings of the pages that are mobile friendly.
  2. It will operate in real-time: whenever you update your website’s pages to their mobile-friendliest, you can resubmit your site for indexing so that Google can pick up on your compliance.
  3. Ranking factors may go from blended to separated: Google may start to measure metrics such as page load time separately for desktop machines and mobile devices, and may even go so far as to give over device-specific data for all of its metrics.
  4. It will show the best mobile results for mobile searchers: Google will rank mobile search results differently and show searchers the results that will display best on their particular device. Mobile-friendly websites then should see a significant boost in mobile traffic and mobile organic rankings.
  5. It won’t affect your desktop search rankings. The new rankings are thought to be related to a totally new spider or crawler that climbs around on mobile sites only, leaving desktop alone.

What Is So Important About Mobile?

Google is the world’s largest mobile search provider. If you regularly review your website’s Google Analytics and/or Webmaster Tools, you have seen that an increasingly high number of your web visitors are using mobile devices to arrive on your site. In some areas and in some demographic groups, users own only a mobile device and do not own a computer, and that trend is projected to continue. All law firm websites across the industry have shown an increase in mobile visitors each year, and the rate of increase is even higher for non-legal industry websites.

All firms should be aware of mobile responsive design issues as they impact the overall user experience for your website because a huge percentage of your audience is reading your site from mobile devices and that number is going nowhere but up.

Mobile or Responsive?

Don’t be fooled by the overuse of the word “mobile,” Google really likes responsive design best. That means no matter what platform is used to access your site, your site will display the same URL and the same code, but it will render differently depending on the device being used. When responsive design is done correctly, no operating system or browser should impact your website’s usability. 

mDot [m.website.com] websites are true mobile websites and they seem to also be ranking well in search engine results. Some believe that the little m is in itself a mobile-friendly signal to Google.

Four Ways To Check Your Website for Mobile-Friendliness

Google will use over 200 different factors that determine ranking, such as small font sizes, clickable buttons designed too close together, and more. Once your law firm website has all of the important factors, you benefit from the algorithm update.

  1. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page. While the test is not without its flaws, it is the only real test we have and so you should use it. Pages are evaluated individually, so another quick way to get a sense for how your top pages perform is to do a "site:" query for the domain in question on your phone. That will allow you to see all the pages indexed to the domain, and evaluate which ones are considered Mobile-Friendly and which are not, without having to submit them to the tool one at a time.
  2. Each of your website pages will be either mobile friendly or not – there is no halfway or middle ground. With each page you change, run it through the test tool to see if your update has been a success.
  3. Search for your website on a mobile device. If the SERP entry bears the “mobile friendly” label, then you’re in Google’s good graces (see my screen capture below for my own website).
  4. Run your site through the Mobile Usability Report in Google Webmaster Tools for recommendations to improve mobile use.
  5. Monitor your metrics carefully up to and following the rollout of the April 21 algorithm change.

 Stacey E. Burke Mobile Friendly Website

Additional resources:

Google’s Mobile Update: What We Know So Far - Moz

5 Tools To Test If Your Website Is Mobile Friendly – Search Engine People

Run For Your Life Chicken Little – The Google Mopocalypse Is Coming – Search Engine Land

Mobile Optimization and the Google Algorithm Change – 7 Steps to Stay Friendly – Search Engine Watch

Infographic: Mobile SEO Tips To Help You Survive The Coming Google Mopocalypse – Search Engine Land

Sidebar stacey e burke About Stacey Burke

Stacey E. Burke is both an experienced trial lawyer and law firm business consultant. She works with lawyers and law firms around the world to improve their business development, marketing, and infrastructures.


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