The online world is currently in the midst of one of its periodic upheavals due to one of the major players rolling over in bed. This time it is Google that has announced a significant new update to its search algorithm, which is causing consternation for online marketers everywhere. The news media have dubbed Google’s algorithm update as “Mobilegeddon” because it entails a significant shift in giving ranking preference to sites that are mobile-responsive.
Google’s announcement was straight to the point: “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”
Basically, the rationale behind the algorithm update is that websites perform and display differently to mobile devices than they do from the desktop; as more and more search queries are coming from mobile devices, Google has decided it only makes sense to give precedence in ranking to those sites that are mobile friendly.
So what does this change mean for law firms? As we have learned from our research into the legal market, the majority of law firms have been slow to implement web site designs that accommodate mobile traffic. This is consistent with the findings of our most recent survey that large law firms in a number of areas continue to lag behind the general corporate marketplace in their adoption of social media. But with this latest algorithm change from Google, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that mobile access counts since it will be a major consideration in determining ranking. Companies or law firms that fail to adapt to the changing technology landscape will be left behind or more precisely relegated to the back pages on all search queries.
Before investing in a mobile-friendly website, we recommend assessing the differences between your desktop and mobile performance. A tool that enables you to do that is Searchmetrics, which lets you see a side by side comparison of what your website looks like on mobile and desktop.
We realize that most lawyers are not web developers (although increasing numbers of new lawyers are) but that doesn’t mean its ok to tune this out. If you work for a big law firm, chances are your firm already has a developer working on this.
There are two ways to make your website mobile-friendly. One is to make a dedicated mobile site. The other is to use a responsive design that tells mobile devices how to display your standard website properly.
Responsive websites are typically more cost effective in the long run, although they have higher upfront costs than designated mobile sites. Once your new mobile friendly website has been created, search engines will index the site the same way they index a standard website and uses the same links. It should be noted that responsive websites are more likely to be compatible with future browsers or devices.
Once your website has been optimized for mobile, it is important to remember that you must still produce valuable, high quality content in order to take advantage of Google’s search algorithms. Design alone will not enable your site to rank highly on search engines. When it comes to search engine rankings, content is still the most important element. The content you write needs to be valuable and engaging in addition to easy to find.
Re-designing your website for mobile use is an important part of your marketing and business development strategy. Just remember however, that when it comes to value, content is still king.