Law firm websites are not ready for latest Google update

Legal digital marketing agency founder, Sam Borrett, examines the data from the third annual legal sector review of law firm’s website performance and draws out some interesting conclusions to help law firms migrate to a new digital-first world.

The general trend from this year’s report appears to be that often just one or two particular facets of SEO can let down a site’s performance. Some firms fall short on link-building, many have low quality content, while others are plagued by user experience issues.

This year we’ve seen that almost all the top ten largest law firms have improved their performance from last year’s data but many firms have still not yet prepared their sites for Google’s major algorithm update that will penalise slow websites.

With ‘user experience’ a particular issue this year, due to the new Google’s Page Experience update being released this summer, some firms have already taken the opportunity to get ahead. Any significant updates by law firms have been reflected in the ‘Core Web Vitals’ scores and these have been published for all the top 200 firms as an addition in this year’s Legmark Website Performance Analysis report.

The podium places this year go to Irwin Mitchell for best overall performance, and Gunnercooke is this year’s star player for the biggest single improvement in its ranking.

The top five places on the Revenue Adjusted Legmark Index are dominated by smaller firms with Stephensons, Lindsays, Nelsons and Wright Hassall all featuring. Irwin Mitchell is the only large firm to feature in the top five.

The UK’s largest full-service law firm with conveyancing and property specialist solicitors does have the best overall scores this year. With the Irwin Mitchell website performing well in all categories, jumping 27 places to 3rd place, demonstrates the firm’s understanding of how critical it is to continue to invest in a strong online presence.

The annual report offers detailed insight into the competition and seeks to educate law firms on what a great user experience looks like in the sector to help firm’s get the best value out of their SEO. Readers can learn who and why those firms are excelling online, how their site is performing and what measures are required to achieve the top status for their law firm.

Some interesting insight for smaller firms comes from analysing the Website Traffic Value. Looking at every keyword that each law firm’s website ranks for and the expected number of visits from each search term, multiplied by the equivalent cost of generating that traffic from pay-per-click, determines the overall website traffic value of a website.

Generally, those sites with a high traffic value have a large breadth of coverage for both high and low (based on competition) keywords. However, low traffic value is not always a bad thing, especially if as a smaller firm you offer a niche service with less expensive search terms.  As a smaller firm, it pays to focus on the keywords that convert. Blake Morgan, for example, was not even in the top 20 last year. The full-service law firm has now climbed to third place, despite ranking only 55th in terms of revenue.

Reviewing firms’ performance against Google’s new Core Web Vitals provided further interesting insights for smaller firms. Lindsays held a coveted top three position for mobile speed but was penalised overall as the site suffered on their Largest Contentful Paint and First Input Delay scores, suggesting there is some work to do on their homepage to avoid any ranking penalties from Google.

We must give credit to Stowe Family Law, who have made it all the way into sixth place on the website performance scale. Jumping 74 places from last year, Stowe Family Law have invested in page speed, while they also benefit from high traffic numbers and value per keyword.

If there’s one thing this report has served to highlight, then, it’s that there’s no silver bullet when it comes to a solid SEO strategy. Google may have thrown user experience into the mix with its new Core Web Vitals, but it’s just one slice of a very big pie.

The bottom line being that in a highly competitive industry, if you aren’t improving your website performance more quickly than your competition, you run the risk of losing out on very profitable work that ends up in someone else’s pocket.

With over 200 factors affecting your website rankings, SEO is a fluid and complex combination of technical accuracy, great user experience, strong trust and authority signals, and most importantly – the best content.

 

This year’s Legmark Legal Sector Website Performance report is available to download from legmark.com/top-200-law-firm-websites. Personalised charts are available to all law firms from Legmark and not exclusively limited to those in the top 200. Contact Legmark today on [email protected] or 0161 818 8448 to see how your firm measures up.

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