Does your website rank in the search results when someone Googles your law firm’s service? Chances are you have spent quite a bit of time and effort on ensuring that it does, but recently, Google made some changes that could impact your results.
For today’s law firm, SEO is a vital part of your online marketing success. Yet many firms have gotten so focused on search engine optimization that they have neglected the impact of their site on the user directly. While it is true that you cannot reach new clients if you are not easily found in a Google search, user experience is also essential.
That has all about changed with the rollout of the user page experience update on Google. Now, user experience and SEO are combining, and your firm needs to take measures to improve the user experience to continue to reach people effectively online.
What Is the Google Page Experience Update?
Historically, Google structured its algorithms to reward websites that offer a good user experience. The search engine’s primary goal in search results has been to find and report pages that users enjoy browsing. Factors like the quality of the content and the load speed of the page all played a role in the results.
To make this possible, Google identified signals that indicate a web page provides a good browsing experience to make this possible for users. The Google Page Experience Update takes this further while also providing specific tools site owners can use to measure these metrics. This update changes the search engine algorithm so that even more successfully rewards sites that have a good page experience score.
The Google Page Experience Update has had a slow, gradual launch, but it became fully integrated at the end of August. If your law firm website has suddenly dropped in ranking, this may be the reason why. Array Digital wants you to understand these changes and how they may be impacting your firm’s website.
How Is This Update Different From Past Updates?
If you’ve had a website for a while, you know that Google is famous for updating its SEO algorithms. Penguin, Panda, and the Medic Update are some of the most notable updates, and these came without much, if any, warning. With these constant updates, it seems as though the search engine giant always has something underway to change the way it ranks websites. However, the Page Experience Update is different from many of these past changes.
More Warning for Developers
Often these algorithm updates came without warning, leaving marketers scrambling to update websites to accommodate new rules. However, with this newest one, Google gave developers and marketers ample warning, so they would have time to prepare for the change.
The update is here now, but this early warning was a definite perk to this particular one. It gave developers the chance to make changes and also left the guesswork behind. That means that if your law firm hasn’t already made the necessary updates, we already have the data to help you do so effectively.
Not only that, but Google added tools to its Google Search Console to help sites and marketers track Core Web Vitals at individual URLs. The search engine giant also launched the Page Experience report tool, which delivers essential data about your site’s score and where you could stand to improve.
Focus on Better Coding and Web Practices
Ultimately, this update is rewarding websites that use good coding and web design practices. The end goal is to make the user experience a positive one, which requires solid back-end design.
A Gradual Launch
Finally, this is one of the few updates that has had a gradual launch. Rather than a sudden and unexpected change, this rollout was a planned, slow, and steady change. The changes are all live now, but the process took time.
What Are the Google Page Experience Signals?
In the latest update, Google identified five-page experience signals. Some of these signals were already part of your SEO planning, but others are new.
1. Core Web Vitals
Google’s Core Web Vitals are a significant component of the latest update. These signals, which will be explored more thoroughly later, include:
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
These three factors measure the responsiveness, loading speed, and visual stability of websites. They are a critical part of the latest update, and you must have them in place to score well for your user experience. This area is where the majority of your focus should be if you are creating a new page structure to accommodate the changes in the update.
2. Mobile Friendliness
Over several past updates, Google has made it clear that they want mobile-friendly websites. Mobile usability is a critical component of your SEO strategy because mobile users need access to your page content just like desktop users.
This latest update’s primary focus was on mobile users. While desktop sites also have an impact, the main target is mobile. You can no longer ignore mobile and expect good search results.
Check your site to make sure it has a fast load speed on mobile devices and shows up in mobile search results. Perform a mobile-friendly test, so no loading or formatting problems exist with your page content when searchers are on mobile. Ensure that your site delivers an excellent page experience across all devices.
3. Security Issues
Users should be able to visit your firm’s website without getting infected with malware or viruses. Make sure your site has the right safety protocols in place to give visitors a safe browsing experience.
In August of 2021, Google announced its former Safe Browsing will no longer be part of its Page Experience update. However, the search engine will still penalize websites with obvious security issues, so pay attention to security.
4. HTTPS Usage
If your law firm isn’t already using HTTPS, you are going to lose traffic. With the latest algorithm update, HTTPS server status is necessary, or the site will not receive Good Page Experience status. If you are not using HTTPS, Chrome, and other browsers will display an error to the user, and the user is likely to click away and visit a different site.
Now, Google will add this into its search engine results metrics so that HTTPS will be even more critical. This change is one you have probably already embraced, but it is worth mentioning.
5. Ad Experience
You can have advertisements on your site, but they should not be intrusive or distracting. If ads on your site hurt the user experience, you will have a lower score for this ranking signal.
For most law firms, this is not an issue. Your goal is not to bring in ad revenue but rather to gain leads from your site. Still, if you do have paid ads or other elements, like newsletter signups that pop up in front of the main content on your site, evaluate them to ensure they aren’t hurting the user experience and, as a result, your search engine rank.
What Are the Core Web Vitals?
At the heart of the update are Google’s new Core Web Vitals, and many website owners, including law firms, are not aware of how they work. These three elements are new metrics that measure page experience and speed, and Google is very open about their impact on the SERPs. Here’s a closer look at each one and how you can improve them for your firm’s website.
1. First Input Delay
First Input Delay measures the interactivity of the website. Google likes to see that sites respond quickly to a user’s click, and with the update, it will now measure how many milliseconds it takes for the website to respond when the user inputs their information or clicks a button.
Your goal is an FID of under 100 milliseconds.
If you have a signup form on your website, FID is vital. If your website is primarily for reading information, it is less so.
2. Cumulative Layout Shift
The second part of the Core Web Vitals report is the Cumulative Layout Shift. CLS came into play in June of 2021, and it measures your website’s stability as each page loads.
What does this mean? When a page loads, do the images shift or stay in place? If they remain in place, you have a good CLS. Sometimes, page elements that load more slowly than others can cause content or images to bounce around, causing everything to shift, and this hurts your CLS score. You want to achieve a low CLS score, below 0.1 if possible, to rank well.
This element is tricky for your law firm because some factors impact CLS that you cannot control. For example, a slow internet connection on the user end can make the CLS higher, and you cannot fix this. However, you can program your website to have a good CLS by specifying the dimensions of page elements and choosing web fonts that render efficiently.
3. Largest Contentful Paint
Finally, the Core Web Vitals Report will measure the Largest Contentful Paint, which measures the loading experience. The LCP measures how long it takes the page’s most important content to load, and this metric gets measured in seconds.
The LCP is different from the load time because it focuses on just the most important or largest content element. If your hero image or main header loads quickly, but other page elements load more slowly, you can still get a good LCP.
For a good score, you want an LCP of 2.5 seconds or less. If your load time is higher, consider these strategies:
- Remove unnecessary elements from the page
- Limit the number of ads or images on the page
- Choose a better web hosting provider
Take these steps with your law firm’s website to improve this ranking factor, and your overall Core Web Vitals Report score will improve.
How Does the Page Experience Update Impact SEO?
The Google Page Experience Update has an impact on your site’s SEO. Not only does it serve as a tiebreaker in the content reports, but it also improves factors like bounce rates and conversion rates. These impact your SEO and your lead generation, so you want a good user experience for your law firm’s site if you want it to succeed.
That said, other SEO factors remain relevant. You can have a site with excellent Core Web Vitals scores, but it has terrible content with poor keyword strategies in place; it will not rank well. However, if two sites have excellent content but have a higher Core Web Vitals score, the faster, the more user-friendly site will rank higher.
When Does the Page Experience Update Take Place?
The Page Experience update is already in place. The shift started gradually in the middle of June of 2021. The final update went into effect at the end of August. If your law firm’s website hasn’t made changes, you are already behind the curve.
How Can Law Firms Prepare for the Page Experience Update?
The page experience update aims to give search users SERPs that show user-friendly, helpful, and relevant websites. While you need to be aware of the changes, it may help you know that the goal remains the same as past Google algorithm updates. The search engine giant wants to show users sites that meet their search intent.
It’s also important to note that this algorithm change is not a reason to panic. Unlike past changes, these are not a deal-breaker in terms of your SEO results. Instead, they serve to “break the tie” should two sites rank similarly. That said, if you want the best chance at making the top spot, you do need to give these changes some attention, and Array Digital is here to help.
So what can web admins and site owners for law firms do to embrace these changes? First, you must determine what problems your site has. These are highly specific, and what applies to you may not apply to others. Array Digital can help you perform a website user experience evaluation to determine where your problems may lie.
That said, there are specific strategies that most sites can benefit from employing, including these:
1. Focus on the User Experience
It’s easy to get caught up in metrics and digital marketing terms, but this core update wants to see a good user experience. Focus, first, on building a high-quality website that loads lightning-fast, responds quickly to users, and does not change up the layout while people visit the site. If you do this, many of the metrics that apply to this change will naturally fall into place, and Array Digital can help ensure they are there.
2. Focus on Security
Security is one of the five main components of the new update, so spend some time here. If your website has unwanted software downloads, malware, or hacked content, it won’t rank well. Clean it up to ensure a high ranking, and if you offer any downloads to potential legal clients visiting the site, make sure they are safe.
3. Watch for Intrusive Ads
Intrusive ads, also known as intrusive interstitials, block users from seeing the content they want to see. In 2017, Google started penalizing sites that had these, and that penalty remains in place, so you will want to be sure any ads are not intrusive.
How does Google define intrusive ads? Typically these are pop-ups, but not all pop-ups are damaging to your SEO. The key feature here is whether the ad interferes with the user accessing the site’s primary content.
If a potential client comes to your law firm’s blog and must close a pop-up that covers the main content before they can read it, that is considered intrusive. If the site has a standalone interstitial that has to get closed but isn’t a pop-up, that also is intrusive. Finally, above-the-fold advertising content that comes before the main content would get penalized.
Some pop-ups do not receive penalties. These include:
- Requests for logins that are needed for private content areas, such as a login for your legal clients to access client-only site pages.
- Legal obligation pop-ups, such as age verification or notices about legal advice on the site.
- Banners that are small and easily dismissable without covering the main content.
4. Accommodate Mobile Users
You can no longer ignore the mobile site visitors. Your site must be mobile-friendly, load quickly on all mobile browsers, and offer an excellent user experience on mobile devices. Much of the focus of this update is on mobile user experience, so spend some time and effort on making your site truly mobile-friendly.
What Tools Can Help Measure Core Web Vitals?
As you consider your law firm’s website and its user experience scores, some tools can help you diagnose and measure your Core Web Vitals. At Array Digital, we recommend and often use these:
- Search Console – This tool has sections for Mobile Usability, Core Web Vitals, and Page Experience. You can use all of them to see how Google views your site.
- Chrome UX Report – This report shows the user experience from millions of websites based on data from opted-in users. You can search the public database to see information about your law firm’s site.
- PageSpeed Insights – Use this site to analyze the content of your website and its overall load speed. It will create a list of suggestions that will help the page load faster.
- Lighthouse – This open-source tool helps website owners improve the quality of their pages. Anyone can use it to test their website conveniently.
- Web Vitals Extension – You can add this extension to your browser to see instant data about the Core Web Vitals.
Even with tools like these, managing the changes that came with the Page Experience Update can be confusing. You may want to work with a professional optimization expert to give yourself an edge. Array Digital specializes in helping law firms with their online marketing, and we can help you optimize your website to stay up-to-date with the latest Google algorithm changes.
How Does Page Experience Impact Revenue?
Ultimately, your goal for your law firm’s website is to convert site visitors into clients, all while branding your firm as an expert in your particular area of law. According to Google and other industry research, a good user experience translates into good conversions. The Page Experience Update simply gives you a metric to better measure, and therefore improve, your user experience.
Page load speed, for example, has a tremendous impact on the success of your website. If your page can load in under 3 seconds, you might see a nearly 2% conversion rate. If that doubles to 4 seconds, your conversion rate drops to less than 1%. At close to 6 seconds, you will have a 0.6% conversion rate.
Load speed can also impact bounce rates. A page load speed of three seconds sees its bounce rate increase by 32%. If that doubles to six seconds, the bounce rate jumps by 106%! If that many site visitors are leaving, your conversions will suffer.
What do all of those statistics mean for your firm? Simply put, user experience not only helps your rank, but it also helps you get more conversions, and that means it’s a place to spend some time and effort. This update simply makes it easier to do so.
How Can Array Digital Help Improve Your Core Web Vitals?
Google has given website owners an extensive list of tools to improve their Core Web Vitals, but you are busy running your law firm. You may not have time to delve into these tools and determine the changes you need.
That’s where Array Digital is ready to help. We understand the metrics involved in this latest update and how they work with the existing SEO rules. We can help you implement the changes to improve your website’s user experience and organic search results. We can also help you evaluate your website to find areas where it may be lacking to create a custom plan for improvement.
Because we are a full-service digital marketing agency that focuses entirely on the legal industry, we have a unique advantage over SEO firms. We will help you craft a fully integrated digital marketing campaign that includes but is not limited to an optimized website. Our goal is to help you create a solid online presence, and we use the latest technologies and our real-world marketing experience to accomplish that. From SEO and Website design to PPC advertising, our team of digital marketing experts will help your law firm convert more case leads online.
Schedule Your Consultation with Array Digital Today
The Google Page Experience update is here. Is your website ready? Array Digital can help ensure that you are.
To get started building an effective plan to update and optimize your law firm’s website, request a free consultation with Array Digital. Call 757.333.3021 or fill in our online contact form to speak with an experienced digital marketing expert today