Adam is CEO of Gladiator Law Marketing. He’s an Afghanistan veteran, outdoor enthusiast, husband, and dog parent to two German shepherds.
It’s no longer just millennials who search for nearly everything on their smartphones. Everyone is doing it these days. And many of the searches are done by voice rather than typing words into a search engine. So that means four important things for law firm websites:
• Design should be built for mobile display as well as display on laptops and tablets.
• Content should be optimized for voice search.
• Content should respond to natural language processing (NLP).
• Load speed must be fast.
The legal field tends to be staid and somewhat cautious in exploring the digital frontier, but embracing mobile is not optional. Law firms that are slow to focus their marketing efforts on mobile will be left behind. Consider these statistics:
• 61% of Google searches are performed from mobile devices, according to Q4 2019 data.
• In 2020, 211 million Americans used mobile phones to conduct searches.
• Over half of all website visits came from mobile devices in Q4 2021.
• 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load.
• 58% of consumers used voice search to find local business information, according to SCORE data.
• The voice recognition market is expected to reach $27.16 billion by 2026.
If you want consumers to find your website, you must design and optimize for mobile and voice search.
1. Design for mobile.
Nearly half of Americans report spending five to six hours a day on their smartphones. If you want to engage with consumers, your law firm website must be designed to look pleasing and load fast on mobile devices. To be mobile friendly, websites must be designed to be “responsive,” meaning that on-page elements adjust dynamically (effortlessly and automatically) to the size of a user’s device. That means placement, measurement and orientation of photos, graphs, headings and other elements look just as good on phones as they do on tablets and desktops, and vice versa.
We’ve all seen websites that look wonky on phones even though they look fine on laptops. Your website design must be programmed on the back end for mobile digital engagement. So, make sure your ad agency or webmaster is designing with responsiveness in mind. You’ll know your site may not be responsive to mobile if:
• It loads slowly and chunks of text are missing or sluggish.
• The entire page (side to side) isn’t visible at initial glance.
• Text is too small, requiring a user to squint.
• Navigation is clunky, reducing UX.
2. Optimize for voice search.
Smartphones, in-vehicle voice connectivity and voice-activated in-home smart speakers have revolutionized the way users conduct searches. Rather than typing, they speak. This has significant ramifications for content SEO because writing must focus on long-tail phrases rather than simply short keywords. While brief keywords will always remain relevant to SEO, creators must now pay attention to user intent, meaning you must anticipate the meaning of a user’s query, not just the actual words used.
Users may type two to four words when searching, but when they speak a search, they tend to use longer phrases spoken in a conversational tone. Your website content must anticipate these phrases and optimize for them. So, relevant long-tail phrases need to show up in your H2s and H3s on web pages, and in the case of blogs, the long-tail phrase may be the H1 (title).
Also, when a person speaks a search, they often ask a question. About 20% of voice searches are triggered by just 25 words. These include: “how,” “what,” “best,” “where,” “top,” “when” and “who.”
3. Be cognizant of natural language processing (NLP).
Google’s algorithm made great strides in machine learning with the rollout of Hummingbird and RankBrain updates, which enable Google to produce search results by anticipating the meaning of a user’s search (not just searching for the exact words). It’s almost as though the algorithm became intuitive. Voice-recognition technology enables Google to learn a person’s voice patterns and search phrases. Over time, natural language processing (NLP) allows Google to “listen” for the unique inflections—and even the accent—of an individual’s voice and “remember” the person’s search behaviors, browsing interests and online buying patterns.
NLP enables digital devices to understand questions and language just like humans do. This means website content must increasingly be written in conversational tones, reflecting the way people speak. This is a particularly challenging task for lawyers, who often lapse into legalese and formal speech without knowing it because that’s how legal briefs and statutes are written.
4. Increase load speed.
Every one-second delay in mobile page load time may cause conversions to drop by up to 20%. Mobile searchers are an impatient bunch, and if your website loads slowly on their smartphones, they’ll simply skip over your firm and move on. Jettison pictures and images that take a long time to load, even if they look nice, and opt for elements that load quickly. Speed is key.
Research shows that 1 in 4 consumers will abandon a site that takes more than four seconds to load. Fast sites reap disproportionately large benefits. Pages that load within two seconds have a bounce rate of only 9%, but sites that take five seconds to load have a bounce rate of 38%. And forget if it takes your site seven seconds to load—the bounce rate skyrockets to 53%. So, measure the load speed of your law firm website. Two seconds is an ideal benchmark.
Law firm websites need to be geared for the ever-increasing group of mobile searchers. While lawyers may conduct the majority of their research on desktops or laptops, consumers increasingly don’t. That means law firm websites must adapt to best practices for mobile design, voice search, natural language processing and load speed. By doing this, you’ll stay relevant and be competitive in the vast and expanding digital frontier.