A study of top 100 law firm websites has rated only one as ‘excellent’ in terms of speed and only 13% as having no broken links.
Web designers Shape Works said that, in a remote-working world, where recruitment had “increasingly become the primary goal” of websites, effectively demonstrating a firm’s values, culture and brand was “paramount”.
The survey, which did not name law firms, found that only one member of the top 100 had “excellent” page speeds for mobile devices. Two-thirds had poor page speeds, while the rest were rated as having ‘room for improvement’.
The results were better for PCs, with the proportion being rated as excellent for speed rising to 27% and only 10% being rated as poor.
Websites were described as “riddled with broken links”, with just 13% being completely free of them, and an average across the top 100 of 225 broken links per site.
A majority of law firms (57%) had between one and 50 broken links, 21% had between 51 and 500, while 4% had between 501 and 1000 and 5% over 1,000.
Researchers said: “Whilst SEO performance might not be affected by one or two broken links, having large volumes of broken links can be significantly detrimental to search placement.
“Google only has the ability to scan so many URLs at once, and their resources are better used scanning links that work, rather than links that don’t.”
When it came to website design, most firms (58%) were rated as ‘average’, with only 8% having ‘great design’.
The majority of websites lacked a unique approach, with an average score of 5.3 out of 10 for creativity, while usability was the strongest performing metric with an average score of 6.1.
Researchers said design quality could be hampered by work with third-party suppliers – the requirements of an SEO or lead generation supplier could lead to changes that left sites looking “inconsistent and discombobulated”.
They added: “The management of the site by internal website editing teams, and their lack of experience or poorly governed editorial controls can cause original design concepts to be ruined and muddled.
“Additionally CMS [content management systems] or browser updates can have an impact on design across the website.”
Just over half of top 100 law firm websites (54%) were not well optimised for searches.
Researchers said that while “a minority of sites” had good search optimisation, “an alarming number” had “really quite basic errors that suggest a poor level of care and consideration in their construction and management”.
Despite growing investment in recent years, market uncertainty had contributed to the top 100 law firms reducing their marketing and business development spending last year, the report observed.
“Historically, law firms were seen as having been behind the adoption curve of really embracing digital marketing and cloud technologies.
“More recently, this reticence has been blurred with an overwhelming concern about reputational risk in the sector, effectively seeing any content published as a liability rather than a potential marketing benefit.
“Whilst it’s likely that the majority of the law firms with the largest revenues are not competing for lead generation online to the same degree as smaller/regional firms, their sites are increasingly a fundamental element of their ability to recruit talent online − and poor performance here hampers both facets of a website’s ability to attract, retain and engage interested visitors.”