Do Law Firms Still Need a Website?

Everyone has a website these days. It’s seen, quite rightly, as a crucial marketing tool. But having a website, and having a website that works effectively for your business are two very different things.

The reality is that too many businesses (legal and non-legal) do not invest the right levels of resource and effort into their websites. They often become vanity projects built on subjective opinion rather than data driven fact.

Yet, what should you be looking at to ensure your website is working as it should be and doesn’t just become another vanity project?

The basics

Assuming that you have built your website the right way then you need to look at getting visitors to your website, and there are three main ways people arrive:

Organic visitors – someone goes to Google and types in a specific search around a legal matter. If your website is optimised well enough then it will appear in one of the organic positions and people will potentially click through to your site.

Paid visitors – using paid for digital marketing activities to proactively target people looking for your services and driving them directly to your website.

Direct visitors – this is in essence brand awareness. The visitor knows who you are and what your web address is and they go direct to your website.

When looking at Organic visitors you need your website to be well ranked by Google. There are many elements needed to get your website to rank. This is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

However, Google being Google means the art of getting your website to the top of the rankings is cloaked in secrecy, and well, I’m sorry to say, a certain amount of guess work. Google releases algorithm updates that can send the performance of your website ranking tumbling as easily as it can skyrocket. Google have been busy over the last four months and we believe they have implemented at least eight algorithm updates including four around page experience, which is one of its most recent, and certainly biggest updates.

Page experience examines the following factors for each and every website on the internet and scores it:

Mobile Usability – how well your website works on mobile devices.

HTTPS – how secure your website is.

No intrusive interstitials – how accessible is the content.

Core Web Vitals – this is the big one and focuses on the aspects of loading, interactivity and visual stability of your website. If you haven’t got this right then you will likely see the performance of your website suffer. It considers the following:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) - Measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, strive to have LCP occur within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load.
  • First Input Delay (FID): Measures interactivity i.e. when you can actually see the website properly. Strive to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures visual stability i.e. things don’t shift about on the page as it is loading. Strive to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.

How are law firms doing?

We analysed 20 websites – the top 10 law firms in England and Wales (which are predominantly more corporate focused but do cover most areas of law) and 10 firms recognised as more consumer focused.

Eight out of 10 consumer sites loaded within 2.5 seconds but only three of these managed a load time under 2 seconds. The quickest was an impressive 1.7 seconds. None of the top 10 law firm websites had load time of less than 2.5 seconds with the average load time running at 3.9 seconds. The quickest was 2.9 seconds and the slowest came in at 5 seconds.

When it came to First Input Delay the corporate websites kick in that bit faster with an average score of 20 compared to 27 for the top consumer sites. All of the websites we looked at had an FID of less than the 100 benchmark that Google is looking for.

Cumulative Layout Shift – again most of those audited did well here with only three of the consumer websites and three of the corporate sites having CLS scores worse than the Google benchmark.

What does this mean?

Most sites have failing Core Web Vitals because they still haven’t got on top of load time. In the main the larger firms are seeing the biggest challenges and will consequently suffer from bigger drops in visibility if they continue unchecked.

The corporate firms are focused on corporate activity and thought leadership content which are all still important ranking factors through Google’s E-A-T approach to content (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness). They appear to spend very little time and effort on technical infrastructure and the primary algorithm issues that we know about are impacting website performance.

Having said that they have built brands that are not as reliant on SEO and competition for organic or even paid traffic. Their means of doing business is different from other law firms.

So, do you really need a website?

The largest law firms don’t generate a great deal of work via a web presence, but it does help reinforce their reputation. They won’t feel as big a hit to their business if they are penalised because they’ve not met all of Google’s requirements to rank well because most of their traffic will be direct or from other marketing channels.

If you are a firm with a more local catchment or narrower consumer proposition however, then a website will remain vital to your business. But, a website alone isn’t enough. Look at the ongoing technical maintenance and ensure you understand how these ranking factors may change over time.

In addition to this you do need to ensure that you don’t forget about other things that Google are looking for in terms of showing your expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. Things that the corporates are doing well.

It certainly isn’t a one-off strategy and needs to be something that is continually monitored, refreshed and invested in.


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