Google Will Hammer 92% of Law Firms in April

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Today I tried 14 random attorney websites before I found one using responsive web design. When I finally found one, I actually jerked in surprise, as Google’s Mobile friendly test responded: Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.

This was the beginning of my 75-site random sampling of law firm websites to see if they were “responsive” to the type of device used to access them – desktop, laptop, tablet, and smart phone.

My final results: Google saw only 6 of the websites, or 8% of those tested, as usable on a smart phone.

Sixty-nine of the law firm websites I tested failed when Googlebot tried to render them for mobile: “Text too small to read”, “Mobile viewport not set”, “Links too close together”, “Content wider than screen.”   I tried each site on my own Galaxy Note 3 and drew the same conclusions.

google mobile tester, mobile websites

Zoolander might say: “I don’t wanna hear your excuses! The website has to be at least..3x bigger!”

The Unforgiving Landscape

These results are unfortunate, especially given the changing landscape lawyers face:

  • Google is implementing a change that will have a “significant impact” on ranking if a site is not mobile-friendly as of April 21, 2015. All other factors being equal, if you display poorly on a smart phone, your rank is going to tumble.  “This is the largest, most significant and wide-reaching algorithm change from Google that we’ve ever seen,” says Conrad Saam, an industry veteran at Mockingbird Marketing.
  • 38% of consumers search for a lawyer primarily via the Internet (FindLaw, 2014). The Internet now outpaces “Ask a Friend” and the gap continues to grow.
  • 76% of consumers use the Internet at some point in their search for legal assistance (Pew, 2012). A viable internet presence is really no longer an option for an attorney.
  • 72% of all web pages viewed in January 2015 were viewed on a mobile phone (Statcounter, 2015)
  • A recent study found that 80% of local searches on mobile phones convert to a sale (Neustar 2014). Restaurants, movies, and auto repairs may not correlate exactly with legal aid, but lawyers have to see the opportunity here.

Risk and Reward

Lawyers, like most professionals, want to focus on their clients, not on marketing and technology. Still, it is amazing that so many are completely unprepared for this change. While the Google mandate is new, the mobile opportunity has been growing for a couple of years now, and 92% of law firms have missed the boat.

There is a very large opportunity for firms that act fast to jump up the rankings. Says Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land: “If 50% of your traffic from Google comes from mobile devices, it sounds like if you are not mobile-friendly that virtually all of that traffic from mobile is at huge risk.”  Is it possible that beginning April 21, virtually all mobile traffic will divert to the 8% of law firms optimized to receive it?

An interesting study I would like to do next: determine what percent of searches for legal aid are done on a mobile device. Right now, that would be a frustrating experience, so the numbers might be skewed low due to poor user experience – exactly what Google is trying to combat.

How Do I Avoid the Hammer?

  • Test your site quickly with these two Google tools: Mobile-Friendly Test & Mobile Usability.
  • If you have no idea how to proceed, do your business a favor and attend this educational Webinar: “A Little Mistake that Can Affect Your Google Rankings” from We Do Web Content on Tuesday, March 24 at 2:30 EST. 
  • If you have expertise yourself, or experts on staff, get in contact with your website developer or marketing agency and ask them what the heck they have been doing.

Final Tips

  • There may be ways to convert your site to mobile-friendly without redoing it entirely. It depends on your existing platform and the level of customizations you have made.
  • If your site isn’t responsive, but is already on the WordPress platform, there is still time to quickly rebuild your site on a new responsive WordPress theme.
  • It is possible to create a quick mobile-friendly version of your homepage without touching your existing site. But this is only a band aid, as the in algorithm is page-specific.
  • Make sure you are working with an expert you trust.
  • “Check your traffic volume from mobile using Google Analytics – and if you aren’t mobile optimized, be prepared to kiss much, if not all, of the non-branded traffic goodbye.” – Conrad Samm, Mockingbird Marketing