3 recent Google changes advisers need to be aware of (and what to do about them)


Even if Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is not one of your primary routes to market, it is always worthwhile keeping one eye on what Google are doing. If you’re not found by new clients on a daily basis, you might be surprised how many current clients type your firm’s name into Google every time they need to recall your phone number or address. If you’re chasing new clients then your search presence is even more important.

Here are three things Google has changed in fairly recent memory, how they could impact you and what advisers should do about them if you’re at all concerned.

Increased importance for SSL

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is a way of making the internet more secure for everyone. Way back in 2014, Google confirmed that it was a factor when it came to ranking sites, affecting some 1% of searches globally (still around 10 billion searches a year). Over the last few years it is likely that this impact has spread. Google also appear to have made it easier to make the change, in terms of how they assess your site pre, during and post changing.

What advisers should do: Your website host should be able to implement an SSL certificate onto your website. Many hosts nowadays will include SSL as part of your normal fee. If this is not the case it may cost a few hundred pounds extra a year.  This will give you the indication of being ‘secure’ in the top left of browsers when visitors arrive on your site, likely increasingly visitor trust as well as security and the potential impact on your Google rank.

Building search around user intent

Searching for ‘restaurants’ in Google would previously return the webpage that was most optimised for that word. Now things are very different. Google will look at your location and possibly any known future location before returning results for such a search. The same logic is being applied to other searches too. Someone searching ‘how to plan for retirement’, for example, could now realistically be directed to a page advising them on ideas for investing their pension, rather than a page matching that exact title. The logic is based on Google trying to give users the answers to their ultimate question in one search, rather than damaging their user’s experience by making them trawl through multiple options.

What advisers should do: There’s no easy answer to this one, but consider treating your website as a series of topic clusters, with a piece of core content at the centre and supporting content around it, as in the below diagram, which is a ‘live’ example of one of our own topic clusters. Every bit of supporting content should link to the core content and vice versa, thus indicating to Google, which jumps from link to link, that you can answer any question a user may have on or around that very topic. Time to warm up those keyboard fingers and get writing again!

Refinements in mobile are going to further impact advisers without a mobile-friendly site… as well as some of those with mobile-friendly sites

In our recent survey of the legal industry, it was surprising to find that there are still 14% of firms without a mobile-friendly website. Anecdotally, we constantly come across adviser websites which have not yet been made mobile-friendly. Google’s ‘mobile-friendly deadline’ was April 2015 and, at around this point, the way Google ranked sites changed to a split between a mobile assessment and a desktop assessment. Now, the way sites are assessed is changing further. Google is refining the mobile side of their assessment, meaning that advisers with poor mobile sites (a separate mobile site to desktop, or even a poor responsive site in some instances) or no mobile site at all are likely to fall further behind.

What advisers should do: You can see what Google thinks of your mobile site by going to google.co.uk/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly and pasting in your homepage URL. Advisers with poor scores should consult with their web host or developer as soon as possible.

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