Google’s Mobilegeddon arrived this week and neither law firms nor the businesses they represent were ready for it. Law firm content marketing, whether via legal blogs or websites, is going to take a big hit in search results as a result.

Business Insider’s Jillian D’onfro (@jillianilesreports that Google’s major update to its mobile search algorithm, described as “Mobilegeddon” in social media, could crush millions of small businesses.

The algorithm will start favoring mobile-friendly websites (ones with large text, easy-to-click links, and that resize to fit whatever screen they’re viewed on) and ranking them higher in search. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly will get demoted.

About 60% of online traffic now comes from mobile and Google wants users to have a good experience whenever they click on a mobile link.

Many small businesses did not know about the change. Others put off the expense of re-doing their sites.

Small firms are not alone. Sarah Perez (@sarahintampa) of TechCrunch reports Google’s mobile-friendly update could negatively impact almost 50% of Fortune 500 websites.

Law firms are in lockstep with American businesses. Vizibility reports 53% of the 350 largest law firms do not have a mobile-friendly website.  As I reported in February, 73% of the almost 1,000 blogs published by the Am Law 200 are not ready for mobile viewing.

Google is recommending responsive web design (RWD) for mobile use. Depending on the user’s device (desktop, tablet, mobile, non-visual browser), your site’s display is then rendered differently (i.e., “responds”) based on the screen size.

This graphic makes clear just how unprepared Am Law 200 firms are for mobile and responsive design.

image

Vizibility puts the consequences in perspective.

For law firms, mobile devices generate one-third of the website traffic reported by FindLaw customers. But this growing issue is foreshadowed by mainstream browsing which skews 50% higher than that. According to a February 2015 IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark survey, mobile traffic accounted for 46.5% of all online traffic. Even if you don’t have a lot of traffic from mobile devices today…you will.

“What if my law firm audience for content is mostly desktop? Then there’s no reason to have mobile sites and blogs, right?” Directly from Google’s FAQ’s on mobile-friendly:
Not exactly. Statistics show that more people are going “mobile only” — either because they never had a desktop or because they won’t replace their existing desktop. Additionally, a non-mobile-friendly site may not see many mobile visitors precisely for that reason.
The mobile-friendly update will apply to mobile searches conducted across all sites, regardless of the site’s target audiences’ language, region, or proportion of mobile to desktop traffic.

D’Onfro says businesses who did not act in time fall into four camps.

  • We didn’t know the change was coming.
  • We knew the change was coming, but the process of making our site mobile was too difficult or expensive.
  • We knew the change was coming, but still scrambled to update my site at the last second.
  • We didn’t know the change was coming, but knew mobile was the future so we’re prepared and excited.

At LexBlog, we’re seeing the blogging law firms fall in line with D’Onfro’s four camps. We let our members know the change was coming and advised going to responsive design, but many other law bloggers had no idea — and still don’t.

Many law firms, including large firms, knew of the change but said they had other more pressing matters or didn’t have a budget to move to responsive until next year. It’s amazing, as firms look nothing less than foolish to their target audience by not adapting to technology and not making their content readable on their audience’s smartphones – primarily the iPhone.

The last two camps are where we’re seeing the greatest momentum in the move to responsive blogs. 20% of the blogs on the LexBlog Network are already responsive, including 35% of the network’s Am Law 200 blogs.

Google carries a big stick. What it wants, law firms and other businesses are going to deliver. For content, Google now wants mobile, preferably responsive design.

Those law firms who don’t act will suffer the consequences of their content being ranked well below mobile-friendly content on smart-phones. The result will be significant reductions in search traffic.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Aray Chen

  • I think this is a good thing if it gets professional services firms (not just law firms) to sit up and think a little more about Marketing themselves and the importance of their digital presence. I wonder how many small legal and accountancy firms even use GA to track their presence and the impact this latest release might cause?

    • Thanks for the comment, Will. I agree the change can wake people up to what’s needed. What’s sad is how many lawyers and law firms give it a low priority. While lawyers are concerned about their offline image because the can understand, they blow off their digital image because they do not understand its importance. For those firms who do, they monitor Google Analytics closely.

  • techieworm

    While I agree that users are moving towards mobile/tablet more, the question is how many users actually search for law firms or legal matters using mobile browser or apps. My hunch is it may not be much although I don’t have any numbers and I predict that could be the case for future