by Justine Daley, Mark Homer, Chris Casseday, Tres Homer, Joe Brodar, and Brianna Sullivan
There were a lot of changes this past year in Google search algorithms, from Penguin being baked into the core algorithm, local search factors adjusted that led to expansion in the distance for 3-pack, and more. Mobile-responsive really took off, with Google declaring war on websites that are not mobile-friendly and penalizing them in the SERPs.
Another major change this past year was the introduction to ETA (Extended Text Ads) Ads within Google Adwords. Google rolled out a new ad format, which will in time replace the legacy ad format, which hasn’t changed for years. The new format features 2 headlines, each with a 30 character limit. They also introduced a new display URL format which has two, 15 character path fields.
We saw a large growth in traffic to law firm websites from Facebook. Facebook has put a lot of emphasis on business pages and we are now seeing the results of that effort. We used to put Facebook in 4th place on where to focus on reviews for your law firm and now we would put it at second, behind Google. With the rise of mobile devices, Facebook is becoming a place where consumers spend a significant portion of their free time and since they are in Facebook, they are searching in Facebook. This is a big threat to Google in the long-term, but in the short-term is a great opportunity for law firms.
Digital marketing is a fast paced industry—sometimes it is hard to predict the next big change—but we keep our eye on the ball, learn from the past, and plan for the future. We asked many members of the team what they think 2017 will bring.
Here are our predictions for law firm digital marketing in 2017.
Mobile Revolution: Site Speed, Traffic, Conversion, and Voice Search
Google has shifted priority and now views the mobile index as primary. Since Google was formed, they relied on the indexation of websites via desktop searches. As smartphones came into the picture, Google developed a secondary mobile index to display results differently on mobile than desktop. For the first time, the mobile index is Google’s primary index. This is due to over 50% of all searches being done on mobile devices. This has huge implications on local search, mobile site speed, layout, etc.
This means your law firm website needs to be mobile-friendly (of course), but it also needs to be FAST!
In 2017, we will see this continue, and be taken a step further with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) being given an even higher ranking than pages that are just mobile-friendly. By the end of 2017, we predict that websites that are not ready for mobile devices will be penalized so heavily that they will be all but dropped from SERPs.
Mobile Traffic to Law Firm Websites will Cross 50%
We expect that mobile traffic to law firm websites will cross the 50 percent threshold to be a majority of the traffic (Google searches crossed 50% from mobile devices in the summer of 2015). Facebook has about half of its usage from mobile devices (and 84% of ad revenue comes from mobile)
Voice Search will Continue to Rise
With the rise in mobile traffic comes the rise in voice search. In May 2016, Google has said that 20 percent of recent searches were from voice search. Google’s answer cards will grow immensely. With the mobile index being the number one priority, the amount of voice searches and the faster indexation into the algorithm will spur a ton of new answer cards.
If you have not looked at your website on a mobile device, you need to do that as soon as possible.
It isn’t Just about Mobile Responsive, It is about Mobile Conversion
Mobile usage is going up, but conversion has stagnated across all industries. Conversion is linked to design, definitely, but also to content. Design isn’t the only thing that needs to shift in response to the mobile takeover. Are you maximizing your mobile visitors?
SSL Could Become Mandatory
SSL, or secure search, is becoming more important than ever before; it can be unsettling to submit any information through a site without the green lock next to the address. In 2017, we predict that Google will make an official announcement that they will be devaluing sites that are not SSL compliant. Secure search is going to start becoming “mandatory” across the web, with those failing to move by the end of 2017 suffering.
Lawyers must Pay to Play
Pay to play is getting more and more crucial. Google PPC is expanding to support this thinking (expanded text ads), and we are seeing success when having a balance between organic and SEM for clients.
PPC (traditional ads or local pack) will be a necessity for competitive markets due to incredibly competitive organic landscape. This is pretty much true now, but we think it will become even clearer in 2017. This could include SEM on Facebook, and other channels with the end result of generating leads (when previously SEM on Facebook was targeted at providing information, and increasing TOMA).
Reviews Across the Web
It will continue to be important to have reviews across a variety of channels (not just Google). With branded search it is becoming more and more important to get reviews across the top sites that have you listed. Google is still number one, but clients need to expand and think about others (Avvo, Facebook, Yelp, etc.)
Shift to Topic Based Searching
Keywords, in their old form will die and instead Google will focus on more topic based searching. This will reward content creators and take an entire site as a whole and rank them for a major topic instead of old keywords.
Outdated, Boring Websites Won’t Cut it Anymore
Law firm sites need to keep up with design trends to remain current. This adds legitimacy in the eyes of a website visitor/potential client. We see big shifts every 2–3 years, if your website was designed in 2013, it’s definitely in need of a face-lift.
Letting your firm’s personality shine through your online presence is going to be even bigger. Is your law firm a good platform for your clients’ lives? This means more attention to website content, but also to social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Law firm mannequin challenge, anyone?
It is time to take chances and make plans for 2017. Are you ready to take on the new year?