On-Site SEO for Lawyers: Improving Your Law Firm’s Website Speed

On-Site SEO for Lawyers: Improving Your Law Firm’s Website Speed

| July 27, 2016

Google is obsessed with page speed1.  So much so that they made it one of their ranking factors back in 2010.  Page load time directly effects user experience on a lawyer’s website so it makes sense that having pages load as fast as possible is a good goal to have.

What is Page Speed?

Page speed or page load time as it relates to SEO is all about how quickly a page is rendered in a browser.  It is measured starting at the time a visitor visits a web page to the time all of the images, text, scripts and other resources of the page have loaded.  Every page of a website can have a different load time.  A variety of factors effect page load time including the size of images, the size of Javascript files, the size of style sheets and the way those resources are configured.

A Visual

It can be difficult to see an example of a slow loading page but most of us have experienced one first hand.  There are also many online tools that can help lawyers see slow loading pages.  For example Google’s Page Speed insights can quickly analyze web pages and identify areas that are causing a bottleneck.


Seconds Make a Difference

It might not seem like several seconds is a long time but it can seem like an eternity when waiting for a web page to load.  Think of the last time you were made to wait more than 2-3 seconds at a red light.  It typically seems much longer than that.

Numerous studies have been performed2 on page load times and how they affect everything from bounce rates to conversions on websites.  One particular infographic presented by Kiss Metrics3 reported that every two seconds of load time equated to a 25% increase in bounce rate.

One popular study by Akamai4 that is frequently cited states that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.  People can be forgiving to a certain extent but if a page is taking more than 5 seconds it’s a good bet that they will look elsewhere for information.

Best Practices

Note that there are always different factors that can impact site speed however here are some ways to reduce the common culprits of slow loading pages.

  • Reduce image file size: It helps to load images at the same dimensions as they are when loaded onto your website.  This reduces work for browser that have to resize images to fit into a design.  If images are very large, they take longer to load.  The size of files in bytes can also cause challenges with page load time.  Using WordPress plugins like WP Smushit5 can easily compress image files with minimal effort.
  • Eliminate render blocking Javascript and CSS: Whoa that’s a mouthful.  This is actually very simple.  When a page loads, it calls on other files to help it render.  Regardless of whether a file is needed or not for a page to work, the file is still called in the order in which it appears on the page.  Since not all files are needed for all pages, load time may be slowed down because  a page is waiting for a resource to be loaded.  Moving these scripts to the bottom of a page or removing unnecessary files altogether will help pages load more quickly.
  • Browser caching: This is a setting in the code of your website that tells browsers how often they should check for a new version of a resource.  When a browser loads a web page, it requests all of the resources that it needs to load that page (i.e.  images, files, etc).  If it has already loaded that page in the past, lawyers can instruct that browser to not look for resources that probably haven’t changed.Here’s what that looks like in a browser:network-panelThat speeds up the time that the browser can load the page because it doesn’t have to go looking for things it already has.  W3 Total Cache6 is an excellent plugin for easily enabling browser caching as well as a host of other page speed improvements.
  • Compression of files: Pages can load faster if the files used to render them are smaller.  It is not always possible to reduce the amount of code in a file but they can be compressed using gzip or deflate.
  • Reduce HTTP Requests: Like we mentioned earlier, each time a page is loaded, a browser requests information that it uses to render information on the page.  For every script, image, Flash file and other resource needed, the browser needs to make a separate request.  The more requests, the slower the page load time.
  • Reduce Redirects: Redirects are fine but each one lawyers have on their site creates another HTTP request that the browser has to deal with.  The fewer HTTP requests the better so make sure your redirects are absolutely necessary.  Avoid using mobile versions of pages and instead opt for responsive design.  Remove unnecessary redirects that have outlived their usefulness.

Page speed is a crucial part of SEO and one of the many different ranking factors that Google has openly disclosed.  Lawyers can find lots of low-hanging fruit to improve load times which will help improve their site’s position in search.