As one of the most innovative organisations on the planet, Google improves the way it does things every day. And for our law firm clients to beat their competition online, we need to as well.
Earlier this month, Google quietly rolled out an improvement to the appearance of search results. It may not seem like much at first, but a 100 pixel increase in the length of search results, alongside a few other important algorithm updates, could play a significant role as to which law firms win more business online. This blog takes a look at some example legal services searches (showing before and after comparisons), covers some of the other algorithm changes and suggests what law firms (or their digital marketing agency!) should do if they want to reap the benefits of these changes.
What has changed?
- The column for organic search results has been increased from 500 pixels to 600 pixels
- The local ‘snackpack’ is also much wider
- AdWords results are also slightly wider, displaying more text
- Whitespace between organic search results and features in the right sidebar has been reduced from 65 pixels to 60 pixels
- Ultimately there is now a new meta title & description length – in the SEO world, that’s important! Law firms (and indeed everyone and every type of organisation) now have the chance to get around 70 characters showing in Google for their meta titles on their sites rather than around 55-60 max previously. And for meta descriptions there’s an extra 20 or so characters to play with (note it’s really based on pixel length but effectively it’s a character limit difference).
Why does this matter?
As a law firm decision maker you might be thinking, who really cares about such changes? For us, incremental improvements are incredibly important. The most subtle difference in approach to any aspect of online marketing can have a big impact. So, for our retained legal sector clients and for our upcoming optimised legal website builds, this is a great opportunity for the meta data within each of the law firm websites we manage and maintain to be re-examined in a new light. This means that firms will have a chance not only to have slightly more keywords showing in Google for their legal practice areas, but also for them to make more use of their key messages.
Let’s consider some examples, showing what the changes have done to certain searches:-
1. On a search for ‘employment lawyers bristol’, the following firm (Scrase Employment Solicitors) now has more of its homepage meta title appearing, with a keyword (Bristol) now appearing, when previously there wasn’t enough space in the meta title for it to appear. (although whether they were actually aware of that is another matter.
2. Again as part of this ‘employment lawyers bristol’ search, you’ll see from the following screenshot that the results for Lyons Davidson Solicitors are slightly different, with more keywords appearing in the url and, crucially, no third line of meta description text, meaning their next competitor is brought around 30 pixels higher up from beneath them. In the example below, however, Lyons Davidson don’t appear to have constructed good enough meta data for this page so there’s opportunity in any case.
3. Or, completely unrelated to legal services but still indicative of the shift in providing longer extracts, consider this Princess Leia example as provided by Jennifer Slegg here:-
Providing a great search user experience to tackle legal problems
Overall, one of Google’s aims is to provide a great user experience when someone is searching for information, including when users search for their new solicitor to help them with a legal problem. These changes mean that slightly more information is going to be readily available to users at a glance.
And while firms may be appearing slightly higher up than usual, perhaps more of your competitors are likely to be appearing within the same amount of space in search results, especially given that those listings with longer descriptions may need one less line. So your firm really does need to try to be as high as possible for as many relevant searches as possible.
A moving target – why law firms need to maintain their investment in online marketing
These changes come alongside the recent, very significant change to Google Ads being capable of showing 4 listings at the top of the results page, with no more ads in sidebars and with only 3 firms being shown initially in the new local snackpack. Plus earlier in May Google’s John Mueller confirmed that its new round of mobile friendly ranking updates (as mentioned in their blog from March) have now taken place – while not quite of ‘Mobilegeddon’ proportions, these updates are a useful reminder of the importance of having a mobile-friendly website if you want to be ranking better and acquiring more relevant traffic from relevant keywords in mobile search.
And it’s ongoing changes like these that mean that firms really do need to be maintaining (if not increasing) their investment in their online marketing activities – getting a beautifully designed (and even basically optimised) website is not enough; you need to be making constant improvements and putting constant energy and investment into boosting your online presence. While doing a great job for your clients should always be one of your main priorities for business development purposes, the legal sector is still in a state of flux, with new competitors entering the market every day. Just as Google is doing every day, lawyers should also be making constant improvements and should be embracing modern technology.
To give you an idea of how many significant Google updates there are each year (particularly in respect of ‘Penguin’ and ‘Panda’ updates, take a look at this graph our Client Relationship Director and legal digital marketing expert Dave Kerr prepared for one of our clients showing how we’ve not only helped them weather the storm, but actually help them thrive and gain increasing amount of relevant web traffic and enquiries:-
Get the organic & paid search rankings your law firm deserves – free initial consultations available
For further reading on the types of considerations your law firm should have regarding SEO to improve your search rankings, increase traffic and generate more enquiries, see our full guide to law firm SEO here, and if you think you’re missing out on better rankings or enquiries through the internet, we’d love to have a chat to see if we can help you. Fill out our online enquiry form here or give us a call on 0333 130 8043 and ask for Chris.