Google Reinforces the Importance of Speed & Security

Starting this month, Google is rolling out a couple of critical algorithm updates regarding speed and security. These changes have been a long time coming, and Mockingbird Marketing has made sure that our clients’ sites are prepared.

Speed

We’ve known for quite some time that desktop website speed is an important ranking factor. But now, Google will also be looking at how fast your mobile pages are and use that as a ranking factor in mobile search. In the past, Google has (not-so-subtly) hinted at the importance of mobile page speed by releasing tools like the Mobile Scorecard and Impact Calculator.

Google has stated that this change will only negatively impact the pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users.” At Mockingbird, we have several practices set in place in order to ensure quality site speed, including hosting our websites on WP Engine.

Security

Google’s Chrome browser will now mark non-HTTPS sites as ‘not secure’. This is one of the numerous changes that Google has made over the years in order to incentivize secure websites…and discourage non-secure sites.

 

This is what the recent update will look in a user’s browser.

Google has hinted at a small rankings boost for secure sites, which has successfully encouraged many webmasters to add a security certificate to their sites. This recent change, which punishes non-secure sites, solidifies the fact that user security is no longer just an option, it is a must.

Implementing HTTPS was one of Mockingbird’s essential practices long before these algorithm changes were made, and our clients websites should not be negatively affected.

Google Now Notifies Those Who Leave Reviews When Business Owners Respond

Google has announced that it will now notify users who post reviews on Google Local results after the listing/business owner responds to the review.

When you, as a listing owner, respond to a user review, Google will wait five minutes, and then send the user an email notifying them that you have responded. Google graciously allows you five minutes after posting your response before it notifies the user so that you are able to make any necessary edits (edit grammar or cool down that hastily written response).

This change should incentivize business owners to respond to reviews, whether they are positive or negative. Regardless of notifications, responding to reviews shows that a business cares and can help build relationships with clients.

In the past, responses from businesses would often go unnoticed by users, but this update is bound to change that.

So be aware when you’re responding to negative reviews that the user will almost surely see your response.

 

Example user notification

Blogging Basics: Keeping SEO in Mind

Blogs present a wonderful opportunity to produce content that can help build your website’s presence on the internet.

In order for a blog post to appear in search results and have link building potential it must be:

  1. Valuable to the reader and;
  2. Optimized for search engines

As an attorney, you have extremely valuable knowledge that users will be searching for. So, with a bit of digital marketing savvy, your blog can become a traffic driving asset.

Think Before You Write

Having an article that is valuable to readers and optimizing for search engines go hand in hand. As I’ve stated in past articles, user experience is at the root of most Google algorithm ranking factors. Don’t write for the sake of writing; write with your readers in mind. What questions are you consistently getting from clients? Do you have a fresh legal take on a current event? Whatever you’re writing about, make sure it’s something that people would actually want to read.

Structure Your Blog Post

Structure will make your content digestible for both readers and search engines. To achieve a well-structured blog post, you must utilize headings and lists. These elements help search engines understand what the content you’re producing is and for what queries it should be served.

Headings

Headings help search engines understand what the main topics of your blog posts are. Heading tags have a top-down hierarchy from <h1> to <h6>. You should only have one H1 tag (main heading), which will be the title of your post. Do not use multiple H1 tags, as having multiple H1s will confuse search engines.

(Remember, bolding and italics should not be used in place of actual headings)

Headings-structure

Lists

Bulleted and numbered lists make your content readable for users. A carefully placed list will draw the reader’s eye and allow for quick skimming. Additionally, using lists increases the likelihood that your post will be featured in a Google one box:

Write an SEO Title & Description

SEO Title

Your SEO title should be relevant to the content and include keywords that users are likely to be searching for; this includes:

  1. Subject/title of blog post
  2. Firm location
  3. Law firm name

Prioritize title and location if you run out of characters. Remember to break up the pieces of your title with dividers to maintain structure.

Example: DUI Punishments | Seattle, WA | Law Firm Name

SEO Description

Your meta description should describe what the content is and draw the reader in. Make sure to include relevant keywords (without keyword stuffing), as Google will highlight the matching words from the user search query in your description. This will draw the eye of the reader and signal that the page is relevant.

Conclusion

Blogging for the sake of blogging is pointless. If you want your blog to have SEO value, it must be written with readers in mind and optimized for search engines. When starting a blog or ramping up current blogging efforts, start with the basics:

  • Think before you write
  • Structure your writing
  • Write quality meta descriptions and titles

and last but not least, keep at it!

Google Illustrates the Importance of Mobile Page Speed with New Website Testing Tools

Google has made it clear that site speed (and thus page speed) is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. Google representatives have even made announcements declaring that the company is “obsessed with speed.”

Why are site and page speed so important to Google?

As we know, users are at the root of most Google algorithm ranking factors. Representatives explain the importance of site speed to users stating,

Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.

-Amit Singhal, Google Fellow and Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer, Google Search Quality Team

Google User

To further highlight the importance of speed, Google has recently released a Mobile Scorecard and an Impact Calculator. One of these tools compares how a site performs against the competition on mobile devices, and the other aims to communicate the impact mobile speed can have on profits. Both tools aim to drive home the importance of investing in speed.

Mobile Scorecard

The mobile scorecard can be used to find out how your website stacks up to competitor sites in terms of speed. In general, if your site loads and becomes usable in five seconds or less on 3G connected devices, and in 3 seconds or less on 4G connected devices then your site is doing well in terms of speed.

You can test your site on 3G and 4G connected devices by changing settings in the upper right-hand corner of the tool (see image below).

Speed Scorecard

Impact Calculator

The impact calculator quantifies the potential effect that speed has on conversion rates by calculating the revenue companies could potentially gain by improving site speed. Unfortunately, due to the complicated nature of payments in the legal industry, this tool will likely not be applicable to attorneys. But, it is important to be aware of the existence of the tool, as it shows Google’s commitment to driving home the importance of site speed.

Both tools can be accessed here.

Looking Back on SEO in 2017

For better or worse, 2017 has been a year of change. We have a new president in The White House, Fidget spinners (briefly) swept the nation, and (most importantly) Beyoncé gave birth to twins.

But don’t worry, I’m not here to talk about politics, strange toy fads, or future royalty Sir and Rumi Carter.

I’m here to talk about SEO. So let’s begin by looking back to some of the biggest SEO trends of 2017.

1. Reviews Dubbed Most Prominent Local SEO Ranking Factor

Having a significant amount of reviews has been highly correlated with ranking in organic search, even if the website in question has a poor “link profile.” Beyond the amount of reviews the business has, the quality of those reviews will affect ranking. If a review is rich with keywords, such as city names and practices, then it is more likely to have a positive impact on ranking.

To digital marketers the importance of reviews in ranking comes as no surprise. At the end of the day, Google wants to provide users with the best possible experience from start to finish. That means providing information that will help consumers choose the best product or service possible.

It is highly unlikely that reviews will lose their value in 2018, so if you are interested in improving your organic ranking, ask your happy clients if they might be willing to write you a review.

2. The Roll Out of Google’s Mobile-First Search Index

In 2017, Google began rolling out their new mobile-first search index, meaning that Google will now use the mobile version of a website’s content to determine page ranking in search results. This change was made in order to keep up with users and how they are accessing the web, which today is primarily through mobile devices.

If you are curious whether your website passes Google’s mobile-friendliness standards, you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, along with the help of the Mockingbird’s simple mobile-testing guide to find out.

phone

3. Ad Extensions (& More Ad Extensions)

In 2017 Google gave ad extensions, and more ad extensions and more ad extensions. The list includes:

  1. Sitelink Extensions
  2. Call Extensions
  3. Location Extensions
  4. Callout Extensions
  5. Structured Snippet Extensions
  6. Review Extensions
  7. Message Extensions
  8. Affiliate Location Extensions
  9. Price Extensions
  10. App Extensions

Ad extensions are beneficial for both users and businesses alike. They allow users to quickly and efficiently interact with ads, and they allow businesses to serve users useful information while taking up more space on the search engine results page…space that would have otherwise been occupied by another website.

AdWords Sitelink Extensions

If you want to know more about these extensions, you can read more about what ad extensions are and how to utilize ad extensions in the legal industry.

Summation

The SEO trends we’ve seen in 2017 have only confirmed what we already knew: Google puts users first. Every algorithmic change is made in order to improve user experience in the long run. Google is smart (like scary smart), and spammy marketing tactics that don’t benefit the user will eventually result in a bump down in ranking, hence Mockingbird’s 5th commandment:

White Hat to a Fault – “Don’t engage in unethical marketing – we are in business for the long term, as are our clients.”

Is Your Law Firm’s Website Mobile Friendly?

The world is becoming increasingly mobile, and there are plenty of fascinating (and potentially frightening) statistics to prove it:

  • 91% of people have their phone within three feet of them at all times
  • 84% of worldwide cell phone users can’t go a single day without their device in hand
  • 71% of people sleep with their phones next to them

The trend towards mobility does not exclude the legal industry. According to The National Law Review, approximately 31% of law firm related website traffic comes through a mobile search.

Mobile traffic rates may vary from 21-57% depending upon practice area, but regardless of practice area it is likely that a significant portion of your potential clientele are entering your site from a mobile device. It is therefore extremely important to assure that your website is mobile friendly.

What does it mean to be mobile friendly?

Technically, for a website to considered mobile friendly, it must simply be responsive on mobile devices, but there are a few more requirements for a website to be considered mobile friendly by Google’s standards.

Google Mobile Friendly

If you’re wondering whether your site meets Google’s mobile friendliness standards, using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test is a quick and easy way to find out. Simply paste the URL of your site into the text bar and click “Run test”.

Let’s see what happens when we test the mobile friendliness of the Mockingbird Marketing website.

Google Mobile-Friendly Test Screenshot

Below are the results of our test…

Results of Mobile-Friendly Test

It looks like our site is mobile friendly – awesome! A few pages aren’t loading properly, but in our case (and in most cases), the loading issues for these pages aren’t affecting our mobile-friendliness, so we can ignore that warning for now.

Mobile-Friendliness & SEO

Being mobile friendly not only improves a user’s experience with your website; it may help your law firm to be found.

With 60% of searches now coming from mobile devices, it’s only natural that Google would take steps to assure that the results they are providing will be helpful for those on mobile devices.

Google is currently implementing a “mobile-first” version of its index. This means that Google will be treating the mobile version of each page of your website as the primary page to index, with desktop versions being indexed secondarily. This update is currently in effect for some users, but will take time to be implemented to all pages on the internet.

“You either change or get left behind” -Carol Cunningham

The mobility of your webpage is not to be taken for granted. As mobile devices begin to dominate the world of search, it is important that we keep up, and adapt our websites to meet Google’s standards, and more importantly, the standards of potential clients.