Google is changing the way its search results will appear to various users. In a July 14th, blog post from Google Webmaster Tools it was announced that search results will include a warning as to whether a site will appear properly on the given device being employed by that particular searcher. Google has always made user experience a key component of search and this is an extension of that. Let’s take a look at how this impacts your firm.
Google’s search results will now warn users if your law firm’s website won’t appear correctly on their device
Search results will now show a warning that a site doesn’t work properly on a given device. For example, if you are searching from a smart phone and a website contains flash (which doesn’t work on modern smart phones) then, according to Google’s blog, the search results would appear in this form:
It goes without saying that clients are less likely to click on your site if they are given a warning that it won’t render properly on their device. This makes it even more important to ensure that your firm’s website is designed to render properly, and provide a good user experience on all devices. This also gives you a chance to get a leg up on your competition as many law firm websites, for reasons beyond my understanding, are still using outdated approaches to a multi-device world.
It’s important to understand that this discussion goes beyond smartphones. This new search appearance will show on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, phones, as well as a variety of new form factors hitting the world stage in coming months and years. In other words, an attorney’s website needs to handle itself equally well regardless of form factor.
Four ways attorneys can ensure their websites work properly regardless of the device being used
There are four things you should be doing right now to ensure that your law firm’s website is prepared for the “mobile first” world. First, you should be using a responsive design and, second, you should use the tools provided by Google to ensure that the search engine approves of how your site appears in search. Third, if your website is still using flash, and I don’t know why it would be, remove it immediately. Finally, it’s time to focus on the speed of your site.
Responsive Design – This is Google’s preferred method for handling mobile websites[i]. I find it interesting that many people still claim that they will use a different approach when Google itself, who is the Judge after all, explicitly states that this is their preferred way of dealing with different form factors. If your web developer is not using a responsive design then your site needs to be upgraded a.s.a.p. or you need a new web developer.
Use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool – Visit Page Speed Insights, which is a free tool provided by Google. Enter your URL and, under the “Mobile” tab, scroll down to the “user experience” section. You should ensure that your site scores at least 85/100 which is a passing grade as far as Google is concerned. The tool will give you a list of any items that need to be fixed and those items can be given to your developer. I wouldn’t suggest worrying about getting to 100, just ensure that you have a passing score.
Remove Adobe Flash elements from your website – Many attorneys still use Flash on their site. Besides the fact that it doesn’t render on most smart phones, slows down your site, creates security problems, breaks regularly, and is largely being abandoned by its developers, Flash is a great option. So in other words, if you don’t care about your firm’s web marketing at all, keep using Flash.
Focus on your website’s speed – I previously discussed why the speed of a law firm’s website impacts their web marketing. Mobile devices will inherently load websites slower than a traditional computer. This is for reasons I’ll spare you which deal with how mobile devices connect to a network. The important thing to remember is that your site is always going to load a little slower on a mobile which means you don’t have a lot of margin for error and should be focusing on speed.
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[i] Building Smartphone Optimized Websites, https://developers.google.com/webmasters/smartphone-sites/