Learning Center: SEO for Lawyers

Understanding Google’s Index Splitting And What It Means For Your Law Firm Website

It goes without saying that every law firm needs to invest in a responsive website design. A site that’s not responsive not only compromises user experience but also undermines your SEO. In fact, SEO for mobile devices is huge and it’s evident going by most recent change – Google Index…

It goes without saying that every law firm needs to invest in a responsive website design. A site that's not responsive not only compromises user experience but also undermines your SEO. In fact, SEO for mobile devices is huge and it's evident going by most recent change - Google Index Splitting.

As you may have heard, Google will be dividing its index in the coming months into a separate mobile and desktop version. According to Gary Illyes, Google's Webmaster trend analyst, the search engine is said to be prioritizing mobile index by making it the primary index and making sure it's kept more up to date than the desktop index. What does this new prioritized index mean for law firm marketing?

The growth of mobile search

Did you know that over half of Google searches are happening on mobile? Over the years, Google has reported a significant rise in mobile activity with mobile searches exceeding desktop year after year. Perhaps these big strides in search have made Google to realize that they need to stop relying on the desktop index for mobile queries.

This new index change emphasizes on the importance of having a strong mobile presence. It's critical now more than ever for law firms to invest in a site that works well on mobile. SEO for mobile devices could mean higher rankings, more leads and conversions for your business. Google has made it very clear that we live in a mobile world and it's now time to embrace it. What your law firm needs is a fast and responsive website that gives users a great experience across all devices.

Is there a need for a separate mobile index?

By combining the mobile and desktop index, some information regarding how well a page ranks could be overlooked. Right now what it has is one big index where all the results after crawling desktop and mobile are kept. Put quite simply, when you use your phone to browse a website, you can end up on a desktop version of a site. This is exactly what Google is trying to fix by splitting its index into two.

Coming up with a separate index for mobile allows the search engine to focus more on exactly how the site is functioning on mobile devices and then rank them accordingly. This means that if your law firm website is built with the needs of the mobile user in mind, it has a high chance of ranking higher once this index change is implemented.

Do you need a separate mobile version of your site?

Some webmasters have gone a step further to create a mobile version of their website. They do this by stripping certain pages or page elements that would bog down the website creating a cleaner and faster mobile version. This is one strategy that Google is not so happy about. Other than creating different mobile versions of your law firm website, invest in a design that is responsive then work on building your rankings by taking into account its existing features and content.

The reason why Google doesn't like the idea of creating several mobile versions of a website is because this strategy tends to undermine the user's browsing experience and quality based on the device they use to access the site. Google prefers if your content and display remain consistent regardless of what someone uses to access the site. Perhaps that's why Google is pushing AMP (accelerated mobile pages) which helps to boost page load speed and mobile friendliness, which are both ranking factors.

Why prioritize on the mobile index?

Google realized back in 2014 that mobile search is growing at a really high rate. This means that they are getting more searches on mobile devices than desktops and hence they need to ensure that the content published is served better and faster. while it's still not clear who will be mostly affected by the index split, you need to ask yourself a few questions when reevaluating your law firm website:

  • Is your law firm website responsive/mobile friendly?
  • Is your responsive site fast enough?
  • Is the site user-friendly?
  • Do you have quality and engaging content?

There could be areas that you need to work on as you prepare for the index split. For instance, take time to test your page load speeds. Make sure you don't have page elements that are not user friendly. In fact, get rid of any type of content that could distract your mobile site users or hinder their browsing experience. Most importantly, work on a content strategy that will keep your users engaged.

Work on your mobile site now

If you want to remain ahead of the game after the index split, it's time to start working on your site responsiveness. Google will still continue to index desktop but failing to move to a mobile-first platform could hurt you in the long run. Start by testing out if your site is responsive using online tools (you can find several options online by doing a Google search). Also, increase the speed of your web pages using AMP. This will help certain pieces of content, such as blog posts to load instantly even when there's slow internet connections. Work with a good development team to meet AMP requirements because it will ultimately be worthwhile.

What does this mean for desktop search?

This major index change could mean that Google is slowly moving away from desktop indexing. This is not to say that the needs of desktop searchers will no longer be met or that you should not prioritize on ranking your law firm website for desktop. Desktop search and optimization still is and will remain important for a number of years.

However, this index change is an eye opener for all marketers, SEOs, developers and business owners. You need to think through where you're spending your money on. If you need help with SEO for mobile devices, we're here to offer a comprehensive service.