The impact from the Google update known as Mobilegeddon could have been worse for many of the legal websites I have been tracking, since there were two of the search engine company’s updates that affected websites more at around the same time, but flew under the radar. As Google often does, for a number of reasons, they rolled out a bunch of updates all at once.
What I saw impacting legal websites more than ever during this last series of updates, was an emphasis on on page factors like markup, siloing, and to a limited degree, page rank sculpting by limiting the number of links to inner pages on the main index page.
The mobile algorithm update over the past month, since it was used to change the core algorithm of the search engine to make ranking changes for mobile users, has only had slight affects on law websites that are not considered mobile friendly. Admittedly, most lawyers online placed a bit of energy into this, when they probably should have focused on markup, etc.
Many complaints I am hearing is that Google is shrinking the reach of law firms, and limiting their local reach to the local area code, limiting consumer choice to a zip code, instead of more traditional trust factors. One of the reports about how Mobilegeddon has affected websites, especially law sites, is Mockingbird Marketing, that has tracked results after the update and determined the difference between mobile friendly and sites that are not mobile friendly is about 2 percent. The one thing that was found that was interesting is that the websites that are not mobile friendly are outperforming sites that are mobile friendly.
Why Did Google Place Emphasis on the Mobilegeddon Update?
While it seems that an extremely low percentage of websites have been affected so far with the mobile friendly update that Google didn’t admit to until after the algorithm change there are some innuendos why Google would do this after the Panda and Penguin updates.
These range from whether Google is going page by page, whether their evaluators are using the mobile friendly tag that could result in some pages being left out or if it was to cause more mobile friendly websites because webmasters updated to keep their rankings up. What wasn’t apparent was the two updates by Google that have gone unnoticed while everyone was paying attention to how the mobile friendly update would affect sites. These two updates are having a much larger affect in search results than Mobilegeddon. Currently there has been no official word by the search engine company about the updates.
Confirmation about the Affects of the Updates
These updates are impacting the search results and two reports have weighed in on them. Search Engine Roundtable Berry Schwartz has an article out about the sudden rise in the number of local results for queries due to Mozcast data with the article hinting it may be the return of the Pigeon algorithm.
There has been no official word on this suggested Pigeon algorithm update, but local results and map packs presently have been ranking higher in search results. Stickyeyes confirmed the other update was not a Panda algorithm update, but instead a complete “Quality Signals” algorithm. This update has affected the impact on search rankings that resulted in fluctuations in rankings. There were some sites that saw improvement with engagement metrics and social media signals.
Websites that showed improvement were based on the amount of time visitors spent on the site and the ranking on Google’s search engine. The websites are believed to be attractive to visitors because of high quality content and the top ranking sites also had the lowest bounce rates. Of course, you and I know that every webmaster in town is trying to reverse engineer the top ranking legal websites, so it goes without saying that the sites on page one, probably benefited from traffic that was not even from potential new clients.
Andre van Wyk’s Predictions
Andre van Wyk confirmed earlier today that sites with rich images, that ALSO load fast, are one of the best ways to keep people scrolling down your page. In fact, images, effects and gadgets are probably the wave of the future now that Google is looking more at bounce rate and time on page/site as a meaningful ranking factor. This is clearly part of the broader user experience and engagement ‘movement’ – which is not only an aspect of the bounce rate equation, but plays into the conversion of site visitors into clients or regular readers of your content. Look for lawyers to come up with some really cool apps and gadgets.
The other thing that was found is while the during the first part of the year social signals seemed to be weaker, but recently social signals seem to be stronger resulting in Facebook click throughs and likes. This also includes Google + and Plus Ones showing stronger social signal results. The one place that did not seem to see better results was Twitter, even though there is a relationship between Google and Twitter.
The reports on these two updates could be showing a change in which social presences will be strong and brains with social media marketing will benefit in search engine rankings. Website owners will need to be watchful and creative with their strategies to keep ahead of the Google updates and how they affect search engine rankings.
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