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If you’ve already got a mobile-friendly law firm website, you can breathe a sigh of relief: you won’t have to worry about the latest change Google’s about to make to search results.

But if you’ve been waiting to getting yourself a mobile-friendly website, be careful: Google is about to boost its mobile-friendly algorithm that was launched last year — and it may hurt your firm in mobile search results.

A recent article by SearchEngineLand’s Barry Schwartz reveals that Google is about to make updates to its mobile-friendly algorithm, a gradual rollout that will begin in May.

The algorithm, which arrived on the scene in April of last year, is designed to give mobile-friendly pages a leg-up in Google’s mobile search results. That’s great news for attorneys if you’ve got a mobile-friendly site. But if you’re not quite there yet and you’re hoping that Google sees “degrees” of mobile-friendliness, think again: Google determines that your website is either mobile-friendly or not mobile-friendly — no if’s, and’s, or buts.

Schwartz writes that the reason for the gradual rollout may be this:

The mobile-friendly algorithm is a page-by page signal, so it can take time for Google to assess each page…And depending on how fast Google crawls and indexes all of the pages on your site, the impact can be slow to show up.

However, taking a wait-and-see approach here isn’t a great choice for your law firm for a number of reasons. Here are three reasons why you’ll want to have your website ready for Google — and for your clients on mobile devices — well before May.

1. Your next client will likely find your law firm on their smartphone.

At LawLytics, we recognize the importance of responsive design — that is, creating sites that are designed for the optimal user experience through automatic adjustments to various screen sizes and devices. The result is a website that shape-shifts itself accordingly to give mobile web users a great experience in terms of both content and navigation, even if they’re not at a desktop or laptop computer.

We did a mobile vs. desktop study a few years back — the results of which were surprising: in looking at nearly 750,000 visits across randomly-selected law firm websites from different regions of the country, we discovered that a surprising 45 percent of those visits came from mobile phones. Looking to today, we know that nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone — that’s up from 35 percent in 2011. 

Not only are there more people who own smartphones, but people are also using them more frequently than ever before. A recent study indicates that desktop web surfing makes up only 40 percent of the time Americans use for viewing digital media. Where is the other 60 percent of their time going? To mobile web apps and mobile web surfing. 

What’s even more valuable for you to know as a lawyer is that this same study confirms that Google Search is the fourth most popular app used by mobile web users. If this is the method that people are using to ask Google questions — and based on what we know about Google’s interest in mobile friendliness — this is a good opportunity for you to have a mobile-friendly site that gets returned in mobile web user’s relevant search results.

2. Attorneys: Google knows mobile-friendliness matters.

This year, Google has really focused on the mobile aspects of search. From the release of its mobile-focused search guidelines to the public to Amit Singhal’s year of mobile-only search experiences, Google clearly recognizes that mobile web browsing and voice search are the future for the average consumer.

Since Google hit the web in the mid-nineties, the search engine giant has often been an ahead-of-the-game innovator. Knowing what we know about Google’s history and the fact that inclusion in Google’s search results is up to Google — not a given right for lawyers or anyone else — then your law firm should be focused on adhering closely to Google’s interests. Doing so gives your law firm the best chance of staying in Google’s good graces, having your content found easily by potential clients, and giving those clients a superior experience in terms of aesthetics, usability, and navigation. Lawyers always have the option to check out Google’s mobile-friendliness tool, but because trying to optimize a regular website for mobile-friendliness can be challenging, we find that it’s easier to simply start with a website that makes use of responsive design in the first place. Sites that use responsive design are inherently mobile-friendly and look great on every device — no matter what the screen size.

3. There’s no excuse for lawyers who don’t have a mobile-friendly site.

Even just a few years ago, having a mobile-friendly site wasn’t a given. But now, not only are most sites mobile-friendly, but many of them use responsive design. At this point, there’s no excuse for attorneys not to have a website that uses responsive design. Technology has started to meet the demands of mobile web users, and mobile web users expect a site that’s easy to find on the web and that’s easy to navigate. Most of all, your potential clients expect that your website will make it easy to find answers to their questions.

Sometimes it’s not a great idea to be an early adopter of a trend — but as more and more people use their mobile devices to browse the web, responsive design isn’t going anywhere. But unfortunately, your potential clients might go elsewhere if your law firm’s website isn’t easy to access or engage with from places other than a desktop or laptop computer.

Interested to learn more about mobile-friendliness or responsive design for your law firm’s website? Want to know more about how to market your law firm on the web? Email us at [email protected] or get in touch with us by scheduling a free marketing consultation.