It’s finally 2018 and the mobile revolution is at large -- everywhere. People are constantly on their mobile devices: searching, consuming content and purchasing. Rather than researching information on desktop computers at home, consumers are turning to their mobile devices on-the-go. In fact, 60 percent of Google searches are made on a mobile device. This widespread increase in mobile device searches has made an impact on both Google rankings and the Google Index.
What is the Google Index? The Google Index is comparable to a library’s index of books; the library’s index is a complete list of all of the books it has. Google’s Index is a list of all of its known websites. When someone does a search, Google crawls through its own index rather than searching the entire Internet to provide answers in the form of known websites.
The Google Index currently bases all of its rankings and searches on the desktop version of websites. The increase in mobile device use over the past few years has led Google to make a revolutionary change to its ranking process. Google announced in 2016 that it is testing a system that only uses the mobile version of websites for indexing, hence Mobile-First Indexing.
For many law firms, this should be a huge wake-up call for turning more attention towards mobile sites. While 60 percent of Google searches are made via mobile device, there is a different story for law firms. Custom Legal Marketing reviewed the online behaviors of over one million different visitors of multiple law firm websites based in the United States over the course of a year. These firms’ practice areas ranged from employment law to personal injury. The results showed that mobile traffic ranged from 21 to 57 percent depending on the practice area.
While the results may seem low compared to the average Google search, it is important to grasp the behaviors of the average person searching for legal support. The largest hurdle that often disconnects buyer and seller is the assumed risk of completing a transaction. Searching for the right law firm often requires a large amount of time and may come at potential risks that require further research.
When consumers turn to their smartphones for searching or browsing the web they tend to have extremely low attention spans. Many mobile users can be seen rapidly scrolling through information of all sorts like they would with their Facebook feed. Unless the mobile content is valuable and engaging, it will most likely be forgotten. In preparation for Mobile-First Indexing, ensure that your firm is moving with the mobile revolution and not fighting against it:
If you haven't already, adopt a responsive design. Rather than having two separate sites for mobile and desktop, consider adapting with a responsive design. Creating a separate mobile site may seem more accommodating at first, but it causes extra work to update different sites, creates issues with potential content duplication and leads to possible display issues with the Google Index. On the other hand, a responsive design is a single URL that responds and adapts the website design depending on the user’s device. With responsive design, the measurements are proportional to the device with text and images that are flexible rather than fixed. Using responsive design allows the firm’s website to reach a more expansive user base that possesses a wide range of devices.
Create a user-friendly navigation. Interacting with a desktop webpage is extremely different than navigating a small smartphone touch screen. Make sure the lead can easily find everything on the site without frustration. Place the firm’s phone number at the top and bottom of each page in clear sight and make all buttons, links and text large enough to press or view. Change drop down menus into a hamburger menu that has a static list to tap or not tap; remember that phones and tablets do not have the hover option of a desktop computer.
Optimize mobile site speed. It is easy for mobile device users to get frustrated and leave a page unread because the site took too long to load. Ensure that the website speed is up to user standard. The easiest way to escape the loading wheel is to remove large images that have to be compressed and avoid exorbitant amounts of HTTP requests. Having a good web developer is a must.
Publish mobile-optimized content. Researching user behavior is key to understanding how to best tackle website building. Mobile users will quickly exit out of a page if the content does not immediately grab their attention. There is about a five second window to draw a reader in before they leave the website. To counter this, create high quality content that tells a story and develops inspiration. Make the content relatable as opposed to outdated and dull; better content will lead to longer online sessions. Rather than having a longer headline, shorten it with action words and keywords. After the first bit of attention is grasped, it is necessary to keep the lead online with strong mobile-optimized content.
The mobile revolution is not on its way; it is here now.
Hannah Felfe is a writer at Custom Legal Marketing.