Google Mobile-First Indexing: It’s What’s Next for Legal Marketing

The Hippocratic Oath cautions medical practitioners to: first, do no harm. If I could craft a similar oath for SEO practitioners, it would be: first, do not freak.

Many in the SEO world pushed the panic button when Google announced last Fall that it was moving to a mobile-first index. Before I explain how this move is not worthy of a full-on freak-out for law firms that have invested heavily in SEO and are enjoying the rewards of high ranking pages, let’s look at what this mobile-first indexing thing is all about.

What is Mobile-first Indexing?

First, you need to realize that Google is all about user experience. Historically, their ranking systems have looked at the desktop versions of web pages to determine the relevance of the content to the user.

However, since Google knows that most people are searching on a mobile device these days, they are moving their ranking systems to evaluate mobile pages first rather than desktop pages. This is a huge shift in their search index, which taken at face value could lead to consternation for those businesses that have not moved to mobile or don’t have a responsive design website.

This does not mean that Google will not index desktop pages; it just means that mobile page will have higher value and mobile page snippets, data and other content is what will appear in Google search results.

How Can You Prepare?

Google announced at SMX West in March that it is still working on the launch of mobile-first indexing and will not fully roll it out for a few months or quarters. So you have time to prepare for the changeover.

First, test your site to determine if it’s optimized for mobile at Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.

If your website was built using responsive design -- meaning your content will be served up correctly whether the user is on a desktop, tablet or smartphone -- you have nothing to fear from the mobile-first change at Google. This is the easiest way to make sure you’re covered. So if you have not updated your site in a few years, it’s time to do that and make sure your redesign uses responsive design.

If the desktop and mobile versions of your website were designed separately, then you have some work to do to prepare for mobile-first indexing. Since this blog is for attorneys, not webmasters, I’m just going to provide the link to the Google Webmaster Central Blog that you can pass on to whomever is responsible for your website.

Legal Marketing in a Mobile World

It has been more than three years since mobile first surpassed desktop among Internet users. Have you been paying attention to what devices visitors use to access your website and read your email marketing messages? If not, it’s time to do that right now. This is an important part of understanding your ideal target market!

If you have someone else who is responsible for your website, be sure you are getting analytics reports monthly. Among many other things, your site’s analytics will tell you where your traffic is coming from -- desktop or mobile.

If you are using Constant Contact, MailChimp or other email service for your email marketing, there will be information on what devices your email recipients are using to open your messages for every email you send.

How people access your website and email marketing will probably depend on the type of law you practice. Generally speaking, PI and criminal defense attorneys tend to have higher incidences of mobile use since their clients usually have an immediate need for legal services and that is how mobile is typically used -- for quick searches.

The best practice for law firms when it comes to mobile marketing is to be sure your visitors have a seamless experience, no matter what device they are using. This is because a lot of people use both mobile and desktop devices to conduct research and they want access to the same content across platforms. Since you shouldn’t spend your time guessing what device every potential client is using to find you, your best bet to cover all the bases is, again, responsive website design!

You must also be sure your sites are optimized for local search. Most people looking for an attorney are doing a local search, including on a mobile device. To be found, your firm must:

  • Display consistent NAP (name, address, phone) information on all your sites and social media profiles. Consistency is key here! If the way you display your NAP information is different across sites, Google will not be able to verify those sites as trustworthy.
  • Set up a Google My Business
  • Claim your law firm’s listing on local directories and legal review sites like Avvo.
  • Post testimonials on your website and encourage your clients to submit reviews on Avvo, Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Marketing your law firm effectively on mobile -- or anywhere else for that matter -- begins with understanding your target market and any unique behaviors they may have that you can capitalize on to get your messaging in front of them.

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