On the heals of Facebook’s announcing the launch of Instant Articles, AdAge has learned that Google intends to launch it’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) on February 24.

AMP is an open source initiative which aims to dramatically improve the performance of the mobile web. Google wants webpages with rich content such as video, animations and graphics to load instantaneously. Google also wants the same code to work across multiple platforms and devices so that content can appear everywhere in an instant—no matter what type of phone, tablet or mobile device someone is using.

The platform will be built on existing web technologies and allow websites to present light-weight webpages.

To get a feel of what the faster web may look like, check out this demo from Google.

Why AMP? From Google:

Smartphones and tablets have revolutionized the way we access information, and today people consume a tremendous amount of news on their phones. Publishers around the world use the mobile web to reach these readers, but the experience can often leave a lot to be desired. Every time a webpage takes too long to load, they lose a reader—and the opportunity to earn revenue through advertising or subscriptions. That’s because advertisers on these websites have a hard time getting consumers to pay attention to their ads when the pages load so slowly that people abandon them entirely.

From AdAge:

AMP is a direct response to similar but proprietary platforms like Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple’s News. Unlike them, however, AMP is open source, meaning anyone can use it.

Google says AMP pages load 85% faster than standard mobile web pages. The company wants to reinvent the mobile web by delivering content at near instant speeds.

Publishers, meanwhile, have been eagerly awaiting their chance to test AMP’s efficacy in encouraging readership on mobile devices. The Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed and the Washington Post are among those who will have AMP sites ready next week.

What does AMP mean for lawyers, law firms and other professional services who are publishing and blogging? Not something to get all freaked out about.

Most professionals have a lot to work on with their existing technology. A significant amount of firms are not even using responsive design which enables a pleasant mobile reading experience. Others have poor hosting and technology resulting in slow load time. Some firms bury their publishing in graphic laden websites, as opposed to publishing for the net on independent sites.

Others have marginal content. The vast majority are also challenged when it comes to social media for personalized distribution.

Google and marketing companies like AMP because of the speed at which video, animations and graphics can load. Publishing by professional services firms is not ad driven, it’s reputation and relationships driven. Firms and their professionals can do a lot with what they have before worrying about AMP.

AMP may well become the way of the world. WordPress plugins have been developed and are probably being used by the 30 publishers, including the New York Times and Washington Post, who have been using AMP since last year.

At this point, just know that mobile publishing rules and that AMP exists. We’ll follow developments at LexBlog and share developments and our thinking as things progress.

Image courtesy of Flickr by David Wise

Earlier today, we were live on our Top 10 Online Technology Mistakes webinar.

In case you missed it, Joshua Lynch (our Director of Product Management) went into detail around just how risky some law firms are when it comes to their use of blog and website technology.

Josh’s insights clarified things to absolutely avoid in order to be in full legal compliance with your online presence. Other tips focused on elements of a bad user (potential client) experience and how this can kill any chance of earning new business.

The full webinar recording, recap summary, and associated slides are below. We hope you take a look (pro tip: click the arrows within each embed to expand to full screen).

I also pulled together some of the cool stats and quotes Josh shared:

  • Just 10% of Am Law 200 firm websites currently use SSL and only 1% of Am Law 200 blogs use SSL (Am Law Report Webinar 2015)
  • 47 percent of people use passwords that are at least five years old! (TeleSign)
  • WordPress power 59% of all websites on the internet (Dashburst)
  • 83% of hacked WordPress installs were not running the latest security release (WPBeginner)
  • 33% of Am Law 200 blogs have no mobile approach at all (Am Law Blog Benchmark Report 2015)
  • The average person in the U.S. looks at their phone 150 times a day (KPCB)
  • 52% of users say a bad mobile experience makes them less likely to engage with a company (Google)

Putting blogs under the firm website risks stifling the personality of the website and of the lawyers who are blogging. […] Developing a blog’s readership is difficult at the best of times and will be more difficult within the confines of a firm website.
Steve Matthews, President of Stem Legal

  • The U.S. CAN-SPAM Act requires all email notifications for blogs (or other commercial email) contain a physical postal address (FTC CAN-SPAM Act)
  • A mishandled site or blog migration can devastate a well-established site’s traffic by 65% (Half Dome Partners)

On Security:

  1. Make sure to secure your blogs for not only your users and authors, but readers as well using SSL encryption.
  2. Avoid “pluginitis” on your site as they are often a point of vulnerability to hackers.
  3. Remember to update not only your platform, but plug-ins if they are installed.LexBlog works off a revolving update schedule so when WordPress updates, we ensure our blogs are updated quickly after as well.

On Infrastructure:

  1. There is a big difference between hosting and managed hosting – make sure your provider includes support, security, stability, speed, as well as scale for your sites.
  2. Also how does your software enable or dis-enable the purpose of your blog or website? Make sure the two align for ease of use.
  3. We’ve all seen a blog within a website, but to truly have a stand alone publication which builds credibility and is easily shareable, having a blog outside of a website is key.
  4. Along with that, make sure to have well branded subscriber email notifications which follow the CAN-SPAM act as well.

On Tactics:

  1. For SEO, focus on writing great content that your target audience wants to read as well as citing and linking to influencers vs. obsessing over analytics, keywords and ranking.
  2. Be careful with migrating your sites to avoid downtime, broken URLs, error pages, and search engine penalties.
  3. Lastly, spend time on your title tags! Make sure your provider provides custom title tags with a solid structure to comply with search engines. Our Account Managers here at LexBlog spend lots of time developing custom title tags for each blog that launches with us.


Webinar Image Credits:

 

Blog post header image cropped. Original by Flickr Creative Commons User drestwn.

Law firms talk about content marketing left and right. Lawyers invest tens of thousands of dollars in time creating content. The smart firms are guided by a cohesive content strategy.

But the vast majority of law firms lack a mobile strategy. And per Mike Iadone of HubSpot (@iadone), that is a very big mistake.

  • Almost one third of the visitors that reach a site via search are coming from some sort of mobile device, whether it be a phone or a tablet.
  • People now spend 2.8 hours accessing digital media using a mobile device, while only 2.4 hours a day using a desktop or laptop computer
  • In the US, 39/50 news sites get more traffic from mobile devices than desktop computers.
  • 27% of consumers will leave a site if it is not mobile-optimized. Which means if content is the way you’re bringing people in, you may risk losing them well before conversion is even a possibility.
  • Magazines saw +65.3% growth in mobile web audience in 2015, compared to print and digital at +0.2%.
  • In case you missed it, Google really cares about mobile accessibility now. Google is recommending responsive design and penalizes those sites not optimized for mobile.

If these stats were not enough, Iadone shared just how serious The New York Times is taking mobile. From their editorial lead, Clifford Levy:

Every division in the company is looking at how they can shift more resources to mobile. We’re trying something in the newsroom as a whole: How can we think more about our journalism in the context of the device…

It makes sense for law firms to develop a “mobile first” strategy which would:

  • Recognize that mobile publishing is as important, if not more important, as publishing for non-mobile devices.
  • Recognize that simplicity in design, as opposed to heavy graphic design with features, is now more important for their publications.
  • Designing for social sharing in that social takes place more on mobile than non-mobile devices.
  • Publish all future publications on responsive design sites.
  • Transition with all due speed all existing publications to responsive design. Claiming no budget when you are spending your lawyer’s time creating content that will not be read by many people is simply dumb.

It’s not about what you think, how you consume content, and when you can fit mobile design into your schedule and budget, it’s about your audience of clients, prospective clients, referral sources and their influencers.

Do you care about them or not? Do you want to look professional or lame in their eyes?

 

Lawyers and law firms are regularly asking about video. We did an entire panel discussion on the use of video in blogging at the Texas State Bar Annual Meeting last week.

Leave aside the question of the why and the how, no one raised the possibility that the smartphone is the primary vehicle for many people when it comes to viewing video.

Yet smartphone video viewing is growing approximately 20 percent each year. This per a Nielsen Report presented at the Mobile Commerce Daily’s Mobile Research Summit.

Nearly 70% of Americans use their smartphones for staying abreast of news and information. This would include news and info produced by law firms in any format, including video.

A legal marketing professional shared on Facebook last week word of their new website. I complemented them on the clean and light feel which was easy to navigate. A nice responsive design.

Everyone else on Facebook discussed the video on the website. I never saw the video, I was viewing the site on my iPhone 6 Plus which I use 80% of the time. The video did not display on a smartphone.

How many others never saw the video? Did the firm and its lawyers consider the declining audience for their videos on non-mobile devices? Did the firm consider producing video which would be viewable on mobile?

A report just out finds that Facebook is nipping at the heals of YouTube in video viewers.

One reason is mobile. Facebook users are likely to be on a smartphone. Another reason is social sharing, Facebook videos move socially through sharing and likes.

Social is another reason to be thinking mobile for any videos. Users moving items, including your videos, across social networks are more likely to be on mobile than non-mobile devices.

Bottom line for lawyers and law firms, think mobile first in all you do online.

For video, that means realizing that everything you are shooting needs to be shot for viewing on a smartphone. Can it be seen? Is it easily viewable? Will users want to share the video?

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jack Fussell

The impact of Google’s “Mobilegeddon” has been significantly greater than expected. This per a study from Stone Temple, a Boston-based digital consulting company.

“Mobilegeddon” was a name given by webmasters and web developers to Google’s algorithm update of April 21. The effect of the update was to give search priority to sites that display well on smartphones and, in effect, penalize those sites that do not display well on smartphones.

Google recommended responsive design as the solution of choice. With responsive, the same design can render differently (“respond”) regardless of the users’ device (desktop, tablet, mobile, non-visual browser).

The study, which pulled data on the top 10 results for 15,235 search queries a month apart, found that the non-mobile friendly sites got slammed.

Nearly half of them dropped in rankings, and 2.3 times as many dropped as went up. In contrast, the Mobile Friendly pages fared much better, with an overall increase in rankings.

mobile-friendly-gains-and-losses

The reason that rankings on mobile sites did not increase more is because they had little opportunity to gain. They were already ranking highly.

Eric Enge, the CEO of Stone Temple, believes the impact of this algorithm is only going to grow.

It is typical for Google to test some things and see how they work. Once they have tuned it, and gain confidence on how the algo works on the entire web as a data set, they can turn up the volume and make the impact significantly higher.

The ramifications of not providing an optimal smartphone experience for your law firm’s readers of blogs and other digital content is huge.

According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of smartphone owners use their phone to follow along with breaking news, and to share and be informed about happenings.

As long as a year ago, Green Target’s State of Digital and Content Marketing Survey found over half of in-house counsel found receiving business information on a smart-phone or tablet to help them stay informed on issues critical to their business.

Blogs across the LexBlog Network are seeing mobile readership as high as 25 to 40 percent.

How is large law responding to the need for mobile first? Not well.

Per LexBlog’s 2015 Am Law 200 Blog Benchmark Report, there are over 900 blogs being published by large law — and 73% of the blogs are not ready for mobile viewing.

Only 26% of the Am Law 200 blogs are built on responsive design providing an optimal viewing experience – easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling – across a wide range of devices from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones.

Some law firms do use a non-responsive “mobile template” for their blogs. In theory, this can work, but in most cases leaves a less than optimum reading experience.

Content buried in websites is likely to be even worse for mobile.

Law firms would be nuts to dismiss search performance on mobile. Large law may not be looking to rank in the first three results for Chicago M&A lawyer. However, if a lawyer writes a post on OPEC’s decision to maintain oil production and its impact on M&A activities, the lawyer expects the post to be found on a search by an exec or in-house counsel on an iPhone.

It’s the same for small law firms writing on unique issues. They want to get seen by consumers and small business keying in a question, as sophisticated clients are apt to do.

As the impact of Google’s “Mobilegeddon” grows, I expect law firms will begin to move quickly to mobile responsive design for their content. It’s a little surprising more firms have not moved already.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Omar Jordan Fawahl

Beginning this week staffers of The New York Times will only be able to view www.nytimes.com via a smartphone or a tablet. No desktop monitors.

As The Next Web’s Nate Swanner (@nateswanner) reports, the aim of the experiment is to make all sure staff understand how crucial mobile is to the future of The Times. Over half of The Times’ traffic comes via mobile.

The New York Times isn’t encouraging staff to think about mobile, they’re forcing them to consume content via smartphones — and it’s brilliant.

Here’s the announcement.

Mobile only blogs
Time and again lawyers look to create a piece of art in the design of their blog. They’re then apt to add features having little or no value because they see “space” to do so on their desktops.

Many marketing professionals accustomed to the design and the develop of websites do the same thing.

Take away the desktop, make lawyers and legal marketing professionals look at the law firm’s publications on a smart phone or tablet.

It’s how your most important readers — reporters, leading bloggers, association leaders, clients and prospective clients — are viewing your publications. Even more so during prime time commutes.

To the extent your fancy design and features don’t work well on mobile publications, forget them. You’ll be adding by subtracting.

Not only will you get law firm personnel using mobile for consuming your publications, but their input as to modifications of design and formatting will be meaningful. Otherwise their input is virtually worthless.

As Swanner says, “Smartphones aren’t a fad, they’re the most ubiquitous delivery device on the planet.” The trend to mobile will never reverse.

By now you’ve heard of Google’s decision to give preferential treament to mobile-friendly websites and blogs in searches on smartphones. It’s impact has been widely labeled “Mobilegeddon.”

Some lawyers and law firms have felt some security in their belief that most search traffic to their sites is coming from non-mobile devices.

Not so fast writes Joost de Valk (@yoast). First, more search traffic is coming from mobile than you think.

Whether mobile search is important, hugely important or incredibly important for your business depends on the market you’re in. Numbers differ but it seems in most western countries 50-60% of searches is conducted on a mobile device now, with that number rising every year. Not ranking well in those search results as a result of this Mobilegeddon update means you’re not ranking well for the majority of people searching.

Second, Mobilegeddon also indirectly impacts desktop search.

This Mobilegeddon update will probably not impact desktop search directly. But Google is known to use click through rate (CTR) from the search results as a ranking factor, which I’m guessing would be impacted by this change. Also: if 50% of searches happen on mobile, it’s a major discovery method. People can only share URLs amongst them, link to those sites etc., when they’ve found your site. This ties back to rankings, so this will impact desktop search quite heavily in the long run.

Both are huge for bloggers. An awful lot of content is consumed on mobile decices. The influencers of your clients and prospective clients  — leading bloggers, mainstream media, association leaders, heavy social media users — are using mobile to share content across Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Not only will your content not get shared, but your search rankings will drop on desktop searches if you are not on mobile. Social shares are signals that Google considers in search rankings. Content getting shared more is viewed as more valuable and influential by Google.

Whether you as a lawyer are a heavy user of mobile or not is irrelevant, the world is.

With Google’s Mobilegeddon you have no choice but to publish on mobile-friendly sites, preferrably on responsive design, Google’s recommended design platform.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg made clear in a conference call on Wednesday that he wants the company’s focus to be on mobile devices.

Ken Odeluga, an analyst at City Index told CNET’s Ian Sherr (@iansherr), reporting on the call:

The CEO and management team have made little secret of the fact that they want to be a mobile-first business. They’ve realized everything on the Internet will be mobile, essentially.

And why shouldn’t team Zuckerberg see mobile as the future.

  • Of Facebook’s $3.32 billion in revenue derived from advertising for its first quarter, 73 percent came from ads shown on mobile devices. That figure was 59 percent a year ago.
  • More than 85 percent of the people who log into Facebook’s service each day now do so from a mobile device.
  • Videos, exploding on Facebook, have been watched more than 4 billion times on the service, and more than 75% of those were by people using mobile devices.

Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, joining Zuckerberg on the call said, “As consumers shift to mobile, businesses are following and we’re focusing on helping them take advantage of this opportunity.”

The message here is so important to law firms. Everything on the Internet will eventually be mobile. Almost 90% of the users on the most widely used social network (by far) are using mobile devices.

The world has gone mobile. It’s simply no longer an option not to have your content easily viewable on mobile devices.

Not only will you lose your blog and website audience if you are not built for mobile, but you’ll not have your content shared on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And it’s social sharing that’s critical to the distribution of your content.

I blogged yesterday on Google’s take on mobile — have a mobile ready site or your website/blog will be penalized in search.

Today you have Facebook agreeing that it’s a mobile world.

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

Google recently announced that starting April 21, it will be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a search ranking signal.

This change will have a significant impact for search results on smartphones. Users will find it much easier to get relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for their smartphone. In turn, content on sites that are not mobile-ready will appear lower in rankings.

For mobile web development, Google is recommending the use of responsive design that renders web content differently (i.e., “respond”) based on the screen size.

The change affects lawyers and law firms big time. After all, they are publishing more content than ever as a means of demonstrating their expertise, building relationships and keeping their clients up to speed on legal developments.

A just-released Pew Research Center report on U.S. Smartphone Use demonstrates just how important it is for law firms to get their blogs and other content onto mobile-ready “responsive design.”

While smartphones virtually didn’t exist six years ago, they’ve become a way of life for Americans, with 84% of people living in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more per year owning one.

Smartphones are used for much more than calling, texting, and Internet browsing. Americans are using their smartphones for information, services and to learn.

  • 62% of smartphone owners have used their phone in the past year to look up information about a health condition.
  • 57% have used their phone to do online banking.
  • 43% to look up information about a job.
  • 40% to look up government services or information.
  • 30% to take a class or get educational content.

A substantial majority of smartphone users use their phone to follow news events and to share details of local news with others.

  • 68% of smartphone owners use their phone at least occasionally to follow along with breaking news events, with 33% saying that they do this “frequently.”
  • 67% use their phone to share pictures, videos, or commentary about events happening in their community, with 35% doing so frequently.
  • 56% use their phone at least occasionally to learn about community events or activities, with 18% doing this “frequently.”

The consumption of news and information via a smartphone is not just for young people.

Four-in-ten smartphone owners ages 65 and older use their phone at least occasionally to keep up with breaking news, half use it to share information about local happenings, and one-third use it to stay abreast of events and activities in their community.

News, information, commentary and updates are exactly the type of content law firms are publishing on blogs and related online publications.

It’s not just search, which generates content readership for law firms. I’m finding that 30% or more of blog traffic coming from social networks. Social network use is smartphone-based. 91% of smartphone owners ages 18-29 use social networking on their phone compared with 55% of those 50 and older.

Though some lawyers may feel tethered to their smartphone, that’s not the case for most Americans. A substantial majority of smartphone owners feel that these devices are “helpful” rather than “annoying,” “connecting” rather than “distracting,” and that they represent “freedom” rather than a “leash.”

Having non-mobile content produced by lawyers billing hundreds of dollars an hour that will get seen increasingly less often in search results and on social networks makes no sense.

Over 50% of the traffic coming to most law blogs is coming from Google searches. Americans are receiving their information on mobile from from social networks at alarmingly increasing rates – ask any newspaper.

Blowing off mobile while feeling secure that your business readers are using non-mobile devices is fool-hardy. 25 to 40% of law blog traffic is already coming from readers on mobile devices. That number may rise to close to 50% by years end.

As long as a year ago, Greentarget’s Digital Marketing Survey indicated in-house counsel were already heavy consumers of legal content via their smartphones. Here’s the breakdown by type of media and publication (you can expect these numbers to have jumped by 3o%).

  • Blogs – 23%
  • Social media sites – 46%
  • General business media – 35%
  • Legal industry trade publications – 19%
  • Trade publications covering their industry – 15%

Is large law ready for smartphone readership and Google’s April change in search rankings? Hardly, if law blogs are any measure. Per research LexBlog is conducting for its State of the Am Law 200 Blogosphere report, there are over 900 blogs being published by large law. 73% of the blogs are not ready for mobile viewing.

There’s no question that moving at the speed of technology is a hardship on law firms – in dollars and manpower. But law firms have no other choice than to move to mobile for content publishing if they intend to demonstrate their expertise, build relationships and keep their clients up to speed.

This post was originally published as a guest columnist at Above the Law.