By now, most people understand that mobile usability is a ranking factor for Google. Though we don’t know the exact details (because we don’t know the precise algorithm), we do know it’s something to pay attention to, along with several other items. So what happens if your site experiences mobile usability failure? Will your site fall permanently behind in rankings? And if so, what can be done?
SEO for Law Firms
Google’s John Mueller recently responded to a question on this topic on the popular information-sharing site, Reddit. On the SEO discussion subreddit, a person asked about a search console warning regarding mobile usability which was soon followed by a rankings drop on their website. Because the timing of the drop in rankings happened soon after the search console issued the warning, the user assumed that the two events were related. However, after the user fixed the mobile usability issue and validated the fix through Google search console, they did not see an improvement in rankings. In fact, the rankings changes have not reversed.
In responding to the user’s question, Mueller observed that in his opinion, the mobile usability issues were unlikely to be related to the rankings drop. His direct quote: “I’ll go out on a limb and say the reason for rankings changing has nothing to do with this. I’d read the quality raters guidelines and the content Google has on the recent updates for some thoughts…” Additionally, he explained that for indexing issues, “validate fix” really just helps to speed up recrawling. The main purpose of such warnings is to give users information on what’s happening and to let them know if the changes they’re making are having an effect.
Essentially, he elaborated that it may seem like the reason for something happening is obvious, but it doesn’t mean that’s accurate. When figuring out a problem with ranking, it’s important to keep an open mind about the causes and not jump to an immediate diagnosis. In this case, the Google expert suggested that the mobile usability issue was not serious enough to affect rankings.
Rather, in most cases, serious content quality issues are more likely to cause a rankings change. This is particularly true if a rankings change happens around the same time as an algorithm update. This is why it’s important to become familiar with the Google Raters Guidelines in order to properly assess site quality in the most objective manner possible. In many cases, experts on SEO for law firms are too close to their sites and have subjective ideas about what constitutes site quality. Following the rater’s guidelines will help you to see if the description of what defines site quality is aligned with the site in question.
On that note, it’s a great idea to review Google’s latest documentation for helping publishers understand what Google considers rank-worthy content. It includes a section called “Get to know E-A-T and the quality rater guidelines”. We know that Google’s algorithm uses many factors to understand whether a webpage is Expert, Authoritative, and Trustworthy. If you have concerns about changes in your ranking, it will be useful to really dig into the latest guidelines to determine what you can do to make improvements in one (or all three) of the areas the algorithm focuses on.
While mobile usability should be a priority when it comes to SEO for law firms, it’s unlikely that a slip-up in this area is going to result in a drop in rankings. If you experience a sudden drop, it’s important to evaluate your site with E-A-T in mind. There could be something going on that’s totally unrelated to mobile usability (or any other issues you see in your Google Search Console). If you’re not sure exactly what’s going on with your current rankings, contact us today for a free consultation. We’ve helped many law firms and legal companies improve their rankings.