There has been speculation for a number of years that Google would have to include mobile factors when it ranks websites/pages. While not a surprise, the actual implementation of mobile factors is bound to have a large effect on many sites, including law firm websites. If you do not have a mobile-friendly website, this could cost you points in terms of how your law firm ranks on mobile Google searches. It may also cost you new clients. But that's the only change hitting the search giants legendary algorithm.
Google’s other algorithm modification involves doorway pages to improve user experience. This announcement has come as a surprise to some as these pages were frowned upon years ago and many people stopped doing them. There are still people who create these pages specifically to garner search traffic only, not for user interest. Or as Google said in its Webmaster Central Blog: “We have a long-standing view that doorway pages that are created solely for search engines can harm the quality of the user’s search experience.”
Or as Google’s Brian White stated recently, “ Google is targeting sites that have tried to maximize their search footprint without adding clear, unique value.” Precisely what Google defines as having value is, according to some industry pundits, rather vague, other than the obvious: duplicate pages, bad grammar, swiped content, etc.
It is important to break this statement down into two parts: maximizing a search footprint and not adding clear, unique value. The whole point of SEO is and remains maximizing a search footprint. That is not a negative factor. A law firm website must maximize their footprint to garner clients who hopefully convert to new cases. Thus, to do so under the newest changes, a law firm would need to keep adding unique, clear, concise, useable, and relevant content. Clear and unique content is virtually a code word reference to relevancy in all things online.
Is Your Page A Doorway?
In the interests of calming troubled waters, Google has offered up five questions intended to help you determine if a page may be considered to be a doorway page.
- Is the reason for the page to optimize for search engines, sending surfers to the actual “usable/relevant” portion of your site? Or are they an integral part of a visitor’s experience?
- Are the pages intended to rank on generic terms, but the page content is very specific?
- Do the pages duplicate “useful” aggregations of items, such as products or locations, which are already on the site for the purpose of capturing more engine traffic?
- Are the pages specifically created to attract affiliate traffic and send visitors along without offering “unique” content value or any specific functionality?
- Are the pages an “island” isolated from other parts of your website and any links within your site to such a page solely created for search engines?
Mobile-Friendly Google Coming Soon – Mark Your Calendars
Google’s announcement in December that they were going to start counting mobile-friendly factors as part of their latest algorithm revamp had been anticipated for quite some time. In fact, it was inevitable that they must consider mobile use to be a major part of web page ranking. It was go mobile or be considered irrelevant and since Google has a complex about relevancy, it made sense that mobile-friendly factors would become very significant.
Google said: "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."
This statement from Google, complete with a start date, is signalling to Internet users that if they have not adapted their websites to include mobile users, then site rankings are going to be affected. The intention is clearly that Google plans to reward mobile-friendly websites with higher rankings in mobile search. Websites that are not designed to be mobile-friendly may see a significant drop in mobile rankings. It almost goes without saying that mobile-friendly websites are certain to become the norm in order to stay relevant in mobile search.
Ultimately, watch for a Google preference for responsive mobile designs over dedicated mobile sites. Google loves responsive designs because they feel it provides users with a better experience. Responsive designs are also not as prone to errors as dedicated mobile sites.
Google search engine algorithms are changing to meet their user's demands.