Google is constantly changing its algorithms. This ensures every advertiser can access a level playing field while providing users with the best possible experiences. If you do not stay up to date with these changes, you are putting your firm’s website at a serious disadvantage. Google uses a complex system of algorithms for retrieving data. These algorithms are responsible for determining what shows up and in what order when you type something into the search bar. Search engines rely on a system or rankings and algorithms to instantly retrieve and deliver the most relevant webpages on the search engine results page (SERP), which is the list of webpages that shows up after you type your search request and hit “enter.”
The Evolution of Google Search
For many years, these rankings and algorithms stayed the same. However, Google now makes thousands of changes to its ranking system every year. With approximately 3,000 algorithm changes per year, many of which cause little to no noticeable difference in your site rankings, it can seem pointless to keep track of the changes. While many of Google’s changes are so slight, they are hardly noticeable, others have a much more significant impact on SERPs. It is essential for law firms to stay informed of these changes and update their webpages accordingly when a significant change is rolling out.
A website is like a home; it requires constant care and upkeep to continue looking and functioning its best. Luckily, it isn’t too late to start learning about recent Google algorithm changes and updating your site for maximum SERP optimization.
What to Expect From Google’s New Page Experience
Google has had this major update in its plans for over a year now. This update is set to launch in May 2021 and focuses on improving user experience. Many recent Google updates are already emphasizing user experience. For example, mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, and no pop-ups are already preferred by Google’s algorithm and will continue to affect rankings after the new update rolls out. In May, Google intends to add to its current system of prioritizing user experience. This new update will change the algorithm, adding three Core Web Vitals, which will make a faster, more convenient user experience while simultaneously impacting how webpages are ranked. Under this new system, webpages will be ranked primarily on three new factors:
Using the signal from the Largest Contentful Paint (when the largest item on your page becomes fully visible), this new system will examine the length of time your web page takes to load the main page and analyze loading times of the pages containing the most material. Websites that load the fastest will rank higher, while sites with slower loading times will rank lower.
Google will test interactivity using the First Input Delay (FID) signal. This signal will test the length of time it takes a page to load completely after a specific page element has been clicked. If a user clicks an element and it takes too much time for the page to appear as intended, the site will receive a lower ranking. Conversely, pages with efficient interactivity and fast internal loading time will get higher rankings after these May changes come into play.
Google will use Cumulative Layout Shift metrics to test its new emphasis on visual stability. This test will determine how well your site can handle pop-ups. If there is a noticeable “shift” in your page’s layout or function after a pop-up finishes loading/appearing, your site may receive a lower ranking.
In short, you can expect Google to start giving even more importance to user experience after the new algorithm updates in May. In the legal sector, updating your webpage to take these changes into account is crucial. There could be hundreds of other law firms operating in your region offering nearly identical services, with nearly identical pages. No matter how skilled you are at litigation, your firm could sink into total obscurity if your webpage is not prepared to handle these changes. Standing out from the competition is the key to success in nearly every business, and the legal sector is no different. Luckily, you can perform a site-wide audit using Google’s Web Dev Tools, enabling you to test loading speeds, HTTPS, security, and more.
New Updates Focus on Content
In January 2020, Google released another momentous update that dramatically impacted SERPs and may still affect your site’s rankings. Unlike the other thousands of small algorithm changes made by Google every year, Core Updates usually cover a broader spectrum and require more substantial web design changes to maintain good rankings. The January 2020 update focused on webpage content. Suddenly, pages with thorough, well-written, fact-backed content were sent to the top of the search results page. While this new content-driven algorithm applies to all industries, it holds law firms to an exceptionally high standard. This is because Google knows the relative importance of legal information. It knows that users expect to read highly factual, detailed, and informative content when visiting a law firm’s webpage. As a result, the sites which can deliver are pushed to the top. This update is especially beneficial to small law firms, which can improve the rankings and rise to the top by simply creating excellent content.
Google released another update in May 2020, which continued the trend of rewarding well-written content. Similar to the previous Core Update in January 2020, this update gave even lower rankings to pages with thin content. Webpages with under-developed pages or pages giving only basic and sparse information were pushed down on the rankings. Pages boasting thoroughly developed pages with plenty of content and detailed, nuanced information were suddenly ranked much higher.
While it can be difficult to keep track of all the recent Google updates and algorithm changes, there is a straightforward takeaway from all this; Google’s current focus is on user experience. As you continue updating and adding to your legal website, think like a user. Imagine what a user would like to see when visiting your firm’s site. Pages with great content, easy navigation, quick loading times, and great security will improve your site’s rankings and help you get more clients. For more information about improving SEO, rankings, or developing an effective marketing strategy, contact RizeUp Media today and request a free strategy session.
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