Is the User Experience of Your Law Firm Website Affecting Your SEO?

by Jul 9, 2018

Getting your content on the first search engine results page (SERP) for a relevant query may not be enough to keep that content at or near the top of rankings for that particular search.

This is because both Google and Microsoft (which powers both Bing and Yahoo searches) measure user experience by tracking user engagement metrics.

Search engines measure metrics such as:

  • Click-through rate (CTR). This metric measures how often a particular link on a SERP is clicked.
  • Click-back rate (“Pogo-sticking”). This metric measures how often a user clicks on a link, then quickly “bounces” off a page using their browser’s “back” button to return to search results or perform a new query.

By measuring these metrics, search engines are able to determine whether the results they offer for particular queries are sufficiently satisfying to the users that click on them, or if users tend to be generally dissatisfied by the information they find on a particular page.

It’s not clear just how much user engagement metrics factor into Google’s (or any search engine’s) algorithm, though it’s possible that they may be looked at as major indicators affecting the placement of content on SERPs. There are a number of reasons why a user might “pogo-stick” from your page after landing on it.

The remainder of this post is dedicated to outlining some of those reasons.

Your Law Firm Website Makes It Hard to Find or Read Content

One reason a user might not stay on a page of your law firm website after navigating to it from a SERP is because that user is having trouble locating the information they were searching for on the page.

This can happen if your page is cluttered with too many visual elements, such as ads or auto-play videos. This is exactly the type of situation that Google addressed with their “Ads Above the Fold” update in 2012.

Users might also have trouble reading or locating relevant information on your law firm website if the content on your site is not formatted for easy reading. Use the “white space” on a page to your advantage by making sure that the paragraphs in your content are short, and divide that content into easily digestible chunks by making use of headings and subheadings. According to research conducted by Human Factors International, good use of white space on your site can increase the readability of content by twenty percent.

Proper use of headers also makes it easier for users to scan your content for the information they deem most relevant. Research suggests that most users are reading less than one-third of the content on a given page, so you are going to want to make sure your site is optimized for readers that are not reading every word you write.

Adding summaries to long-form content that helps address key points quickly can also prove useful to users who prefer to skim content rather than read it in its entirety.

Your Content Is Thin or Fails to Address the Questions Posed by Potential Clients

When Google places content high up on a SERP for a particular query, it’s because the search engine has deemed that the content is likely to satisfy a search engine user’s desire for information related to the search query they entered.

If a user navigates to a page expecting to find an answer to a particular legal question but finds only a sales pitch for your law firm, that reflects poorly on the search engine and is therefore bad for its business model of selling pay-per-click ads for placement on its SERPs.

Google refers to such content as “thin content,” and populating your law firm website with thin content goes directly against the search engine’s Webmaster Guidelines.

There are a number of ways to add thin content to your law firm website—either directly or inadvertently—including duplicating content from other pages on your site and changing only certain geographical information (such as city or county names) between them, or “scraping” (effectively, plagiarizing) content directly from another site to publish on your site. Such tactics are unlikely to prove helpful to your website’s SEO and are more likely to harm any so-called “white hat” SEO tactics you undertake.

As a rule of thumb, when adding content to your law firm website, make sure that the content is thorough enough to answer the question posed by a search engine user who might find their way to that page from a SERP, and make sure that at least eighty percent of the content on that page is unique to that page alone.

The Content on Your Law Firm Website Is Not Optimized for Mobile Devices

Gone are the days when mobile-friendliness can be treated as a secondary design consideration for your law firm website. Today, more than half of all Google searches are being performed on mobile devices, which means that many of your potential clients will be finding your law firm website’s content from their smartphones or tablets, as opposed to viewing your content on a desktop or laptop computer.

It is important that your website be mobile-friendly, and that it is not necessary, for instance, to zoom in on a page in order to be able to read the page’s content. Permanent sidebar menus are great for viewing on large computer monitors, for example, but make for a poor user experience when viewed on a mobile device.

For this reason, Google recommends that all sites be built using “Responsive Website Design,” which automatically optimizes the content of your site for viewing on whichever platform a visitor uses to access the site. All LawLytics websites are built using responsive design, so if you’re a LawLytics member, this is just one less thing you’ll need to worry about. If your website is not mobile friendly, or you are not sure if your law firm website was built using responsive design, contact us to discuss migrating your site over to LawLytics.

Your Law Firm Website Takes too Long to Load

Though page load speed is likely only a minor consideration in Google’s ranking factors, if your page takes too long to load users may not stick around long enough to even take a look at your website’s content.

According to Google, as page load time increases from one second to five seconds, bounce rate increases by ninety percent.

Though the average mobile page takes 22 seconds to load, more than half of mobile users will bounce off of a page at about the three-second mark. Your potential clients might wait around slightly longer to view content on your site that is relevant to their legal issue than they would to view a sales page for a pair of shoes, but it’s still a good idea to make sure that your page does not take so long to load that it negatively affects the user experience.

The good news is that, for websites built by LawLytics, the essential optimization for page load speed is performed automatically. If you are not a LawLytics member and would like to discuss the performance of your law firm website with us, click here to schedule a call.

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