With the end of the year in sight, it’s natural to stop, take a look ahead, and make a few predictions about what’s on tap for 2018. When it comes to marketing, the increasingly competitive legal industry coupled with a constantly changing and dynamic digital landscape means that law firms must remain proactive when it comes to finding clients. Any firm that fails to do so will stumble and give up its market share to the competition. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the marketing trends that will continue to shape the industry in the coming year.
Content Remains the King
The phrase “content is king” has been a marketing trope for a long time. Like most tropes, this one contains an element of truth. Content actually is still king, as long as it’s the right type of content.
Google is exceptionally interested in content. They always have been. In fact, content is one of the top three factors that Google’s algorithm uses to determine rank.
However, it’s not just any old content that gets Google’s attention. Google is constantly striving to provide its users with the best possible search result. Irrelevant, keyword-stuffed, and recycled content doesn’t make the cut.
What does make the cut is content that covers a topic in depth and gives a reader, viewer, or listener everything they need to know in one place. Think of it this way: Google likes content that is informationally dense, and it tends to weed out content that’s thin and unhelpful.
What does this mean for your firm in 2018? Try to produce content that fully covers an issue or answers a question completely. Remember, this is not necessarily about length. A long and badly-written article will not trump a cogently-written shorter piece. Instead, think about context when creating content, because that’s exactly what Google is doing once the content is published.
Backlinks Are Not Dead
To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the demise of backlinking are greatly exaggerated. Along with quality content, links are still among the top factors that Google uses to rank sites. However, in the same way that Google looks for quality content to judge a site, they also look for quality backlinks. Instead of saying that links are dead, it’s more appropriate to say that it’s only spammy linking that’s kicked the bucket.
Use your in-depth content to get links that matter – authority sites and real websites with real traffic that are relevant to your firm. Remember, content gets you the links and to a great extent, it’s still the links that land you on the first page in the search results.
User Experience is Key
We’ve talked about Google wanting the very best results for each search. One of the metrics that are used to determine if a site is a “best result” for a given search is user experience.
User experience encompasses many things, including how long a site takes to load, ease of navigation on the site, and quality and availability of information on the site. In short, a site that offers a great user experience is fast, clean, easy to navigate, and grabs and holds the attention of the people who visit.
It’s impossible to talk about user experience without talking about RankBrain, Google’s artificial intelligence/machine learning system that helps sort and rank search results. RankBrain has been in place in one form or another since 2015. However, since then, Google has revealed that RankBrain is the third most important search ranking factor, after content and linking.
Google continues to refine its search algorithm and RankBrain system will continue to grow in importance in 2018.
Part of what RankBrain does is look at the number of people who click on your site in the search results and how much time people spend on your site once they arrive there. These two factors are known as click-through rate and dwell time, respectively. The higher both factors are, the higher your site may rise in the search results.
Google is using these metrics as a way of measuring what user experience is like for the average visitor. In the coming year, sites that get great dwell time and click-through rates will likely continue to outperform sites that don’t. Google will often use user experience metrics as the deciding factor between two competing sites who are tied when it comes to content and backlinks. If you fail to optimize your site for user experience, you do so at your own peril.
Be Mobile Friendly
With nearly 60% of all Google searches coming from a mobile device, it’s imperative that your website is mobile-friendly. If it’s not, you’re likely wasting a majority of the traffic that you’re generating (and quite possibly paying big money for). No one on a mobile device will waste time trying use a non-mobile friendly site. Instead, they’re going to find a competitor’s site that understands that mobile searching is increasingly how people use the internet.
If you need even more impetus to get mobile-friendly, Google is about to give you some. In 2018, the search engine giant will finally roll out its long-awaited mobile-first index.
The mobile-first index is exactly what the name suggests – Google will now consider your mobile-friendly site to be your “real” web presence. This will be the case even if a search is done from a desktop computer.
If your website isn’t mobile friendly, now is the time to finally get the job done. If you are mobile friendly, now is the time to make sure that everything is shipshape and in superior user-friendly condition.
Make sure that your content is consistently available and easy to read across both your mobile and desktop platforms. Any content that is hidden in the mobile version of your site essentially doesn’t exist for Google.
More importantly, make sure that your site is beautiful and functional on mobile. If it isn’t, be prepared for your traffic to exit your site shortly after they arrive. This will not only kill your chances for conversion, but it will send a clear signal to RankBrain that your site doesn’t provide good user experience (which, truth be told, it doesn’t) and rank you accordingly in the search result.