It's now essential to up your game on critical user experience issues for SEO and conversion gains
It has been a long time coming...
Google has now upped the ante on website user experience. It's game on to deliver the best online experience possible for your clients.
Doing so helps maintain and gain search engine rankings and higher conversion rates.
Fail to do so and face declining rankings, less traffic and lower conversion rates.
Welcome the tougher internet marketing game and enjoy giving more customer experience love
Internet marketing is getting tougher. It's more complex now. The playing field is maturing.
And Google is telling us how to respond.
Ignore Google's guidance at your peril
About 80% of new traffic to most sites nowadays comes via search engines. How Google ranks your content in search results matters.
So when Google tells us to pay attention to user experience, you don't just consider it, you do it. Otherwise, forget relying on the massive free source of organic traffic.
Don't despair. This is actually great news.
Firstly, Google is telling you with clarity what to pay attention to.
Secondly, your potential clients are the winners.
And that's good reason to rejoice!
After all, you are 100% in the business of satisfying client needs, right?
Your clients point of view (what they need and hope for) must be 100% centre stage.
Fail to do so and Google will strike you down.
Google's latest algorithm updates (Page Experience in particular) have made this very clear. It's all about user experience optimisation.
Pay attention if you want to keep:
- improving SEO to attract more quality traffic; and
- enhancing conversion rates and converting more leads into clients.
User experience (UX) explained, plus why it's pivotal for your firm's website performance
The International Organisation for Standardisation tells us that UX relates to:
“[a] person's perceptions and responses resulting from the use and or anticipated use of a product, system or service.”
That's to say, website UX concerns how a person experiences your brand and service online.
Having said that, that subjective experience can begin and end off-line, too. Let me explain.
When your prospects search online, Google serves up search results including your website. The snippet includes content that entices them to click. It also promises them they'll get the answers they hope for. The user experience journey has begun, right here, because your snippet has made a promise. They click with intent, looking for fulfilment.
And the journey continues even after they leave the site. For example, the moment they pick up the phone to call your reception. Online, they've gathered information and valued the firm's ability to deliver value. Expectations carry over to the receptionist experience. And so on goes the online/offline user experience journey.
UX thus relates to how prospects feel about every interaction with your firm. From search to first appointment to case management and case settlement... and beyond to the final invoice.
Pretty big experience, right? But that's what Google's user experience framework is expecting you to respond to.
How user experience (UX) differs from user interface (UI) and why it matters
The user experience challenge is vast. It includes both subjective design and planning work with more technical aspects.
Recapping, UX concerns the subjective feelings and attitudes users have when interacting with your digital assets. UI concerns the more technical aspects of this process.
UI concerns the degree to which the website is effective in functional terms. Is the site easy to use, easy to learn, efficient, error-free, satisfying to use, etc.?
UI is a question of functionality. "Don't make me think," so the classic UI call goes. We can add, "Don't waste my time". Buttons and links must work. Navigation mustn't leave you reeling for orientation. Videos must not freeze. Images must not fail to load. Colours and typography should help us read, not hinder our access to messages, and so on.
Important point: you can have great UI without awesome UX. You cannot have great UX without great UI.
With that in mind, here's...
Why UX matters so much to Google and your law firm
Google's Page Experience update was clear. It will measure elements of how users perceive the experience of using your website. That is UX centre stage.
It takes a few seconds for site visitors to know if the UX works for them. In 1 to 2 seconds the ease of engagement becomes clear. If they can't see what the page is about in an instant, you're off to a bad start. Distracting sliders or annoying pop-ups blocking them? Things fall apart, fast.
You've got 1 to 2 seconds before feelings and attitudes form and harden. In 10 to 15 seconds, it's game over. They either like what they see and feel, or they're gone.
Capturing attention is an art and science. It's what is on the page: design, visuals, text. And it's what lies behind: technical functions and procedures.
And Google is going to extreme lengths to understand and measure it all; the full user experience. How you measure up will determine how you rank in the search results and ultimately, how well you convert.
Google measures in ever-more complex ways. Earlier Core Web Vitals measured page speed and mobile responsiveness. Now Page Experience goes further.
Google will continue to up the pressure. Sites serving UX excellence will win. Those that do not will lose. And this is great for you if you take up the challenge. Competitive advantage is up for grabs.
All you need to do is pay attention and execute on...
What Google is looking out for in UX excellence (so far)
Google tells us that its UX ranking signals include:
Core Web Vitals is essential; which relates to how fast your site loads and how stable it is for visitors. And talking about speed and stability, we're referring to factors like:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which concerns how fast the largest page element renders;
- First Input Delay (FID), which is the delay between a discrete user input and a browser's response; and
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which measures how much page elements shift around.
Social Hive is well placed to help you assess the results and optimise UX outcomes.
Social Hive will take you even further with the full range of UX matters, like...
We now use our mobiles daily for search. In fact, 60% (and probably more) of Google searches now are from mobile devices.
Your website must now provide adapted page experiences for those devices. Pages designed purely for desktops won't provide great UX in all instances.
Of course, your copy (the words that deliver your content) must work for mobile readers. Optimised sites often have unique and adapted copy for mobile displays.
There are technical issues to prioritise, too. Optimal button sizes or positioning can change across devices; for example. Image sizes, colour ranges, form fields are all sensitive to screen size. Solutions include using AMP pages to boost load times with cache optimisation.
But there are many other things to consider, like...
Your website is your law firm's online branding machine. Don't leave your site visitors feeling at risk. They will if your site feels like spam or unsafe, jumping around or unresponsive.
Insecure servers and weak security lead to malware, spyware or malicious scripts. And automated ads can be an open door to undesirable content, damaging your brand image.
Google is watching out for signs of this nature. Make your site secure, which brings us to another critical issue ....
Site security and HTTPS
Security online must be a paramount concern. Data encryption is critical to user experience.
Massive amounts of sensitive information moves between users and servers every second. To protect them, use a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. SSLs scramble data during transit. Hackers can't intercept it.
Here's how to know if a site is using an SSL: the address will begin with https://
If it is not, the address will only show http://
Up your Google UX score by adding an SSL certificate. And also pay attention to...
Nonintrusive interstitials (pop-ups)
Pop-ups drive most (all) people mad. They get in the way of us getting to the content we came to the site for in the first place. Don't obstruct or disrupt a visitor's journey to the content they expect to find.
Having said that, not all interstitials are bad. If your site is visible in Europe, for example, you'll need to display GRPD information. Or wherever you are, display "Cookies" policies. Let users know what data your site is collecting (e.g., site analytics). You can also use them to warn about sensitive content or login dialogues.
Interstitials are not "banned" by Google. They request careful use; use that enhances the user's experience.
Make interstitials minimal and non-intrusive. Put them at the bottom of the screen, for example. Don't make people click to remove them. Don't make them so big they block key content.
And on the subject of content...
Never underplay the importance of high quality, value-generating content
This should be no surprise. Helpful, quality content is the staple of healthy business generating online marketing. And Google keeps telling us that it is so.
For over a decade, Google has been on a crusade to increase the quality of content. It is a major SEO ranking factor. The mantra sticks, "Content is King".
SEO studies place content quality and relevancy in poll position again and again. It's the #1 factor influencing search results. And awesome UX is not possible without it.
Repeat after me, "CONTENT IS KING".
What you need to do now to keep ahead of algorithm updates for UX optimisation
Google's latest update is now active. Read about it in detail here.
UX is now, more than ever, at the forefront of online marketing. And the range of tasks to take it further will only get larger as time goes on.
This should be of no surprise. Customer service has always been a challenge demanding ongoing adaptation.
Remember how the COVID pandemic threw us all into a flurry of inventing online services. Smart law firms embraced Skype to take their legal services online. What a great tool and a perfect example of the new era of UX challenges!
To make these shifts work, keep diving deep into how your clients experience your firm. Customer discovery should be integral to UX development, both online and offline.
And from what you learn, act. Adapt your website and online marketing strategy in an agile fashion.
Some key pointers to explore right now include:
- Upgrading your web host to a faster, more secure service
- Compress and resize images
- Redirect broken links and pages
- Make sure you redirect broken links and have an error 404 page
- Use heat-mapping to observe user behaviour to improve user flow and navigation
These are a few ideas only. Talk to Social Hive about identifying key needs and prioritising development work.
And get ahead of the curve with law firm UX. It's your competitive advantage in the making.
Your clients, prospects and Google will love you for it.
Looking for assistance with any aspect of your law firm's digital marketing? We'd love to help.
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