How fast is your law firm’s website? If you’re like the average law firm, you haven’t given this much thought. You open your website, and in a few seconds, it loads. Yet a few seconds is too long in this fast-paced online world.
Your website’s design, the message of the content it contains, and its overall optimization are probably high on your priority list, but site speed may not be anywhere on that list.
At Array Law, we believe that is a mistake. If you want an effective website that converts visitors into clients, you need a website that loads quickly. Request a free consultation with Array Law’s skilled marketing team to boost your website speeds.
Fixing Your Slow Law Firm Website Should Be Top Priority
You’ve spent thousands of dollars on your website, web server, and online marketing efforts, but is your site bringing in the new clients your law firm so desperately needs? If it loads slowly, it probably doesn’t.
Site load speed is a significant factor in how well your website performs. Improving your site’s load speed should be a top priority, and here’s why:
Impact on SEO
Optimizing your website for SEO (search engine optimization) and improving conversions can be a slow, uphill battle for your law firm. Some law firms will spend thousands on content marketing yet continue to find that their site doesn’t reach the first page. A slow website can be a big reason for that.
Page load speed is one of many factors Google and the other search engines weigh when deciding which web pages to rank first. If yours loads too slowly, and all other factors are equal, Google will choose your faster competitor.
High Bounce Rate
Website speed also impacts your bounce rate. A website’s bounce rate is the rate at which a user clicks away before the page has time to load. Website users are often quite impatient, and they’ll quickly click away if they have to wait too long for the site to load. This applies both to desktop and mobile devices, so make sure your web page has fast functionality on both platforms.
Bounce rate negatively affects you in two ways. First, a high bounce rate can harm your SEO, because this is one of the many metrics Google looks at.
Second, a high bounce rate hurts your branding. If people grow frustrated by your website’s slow load time, and therefore click away, they may get a less positive image in their mind about your law firm.
Ultimately, a slow website hurts your conversion rate. People who have to wait for your site to load will not turn into customers or leads. Statistics show that nearly half of all website users will abandon a website within just two seconds. If people don’t ever arrive on your site, they won’t convert. In addition, as many as 79% of people say they won’t return to a site that performed poorly. User experience is vital to the success of your law firm website, and page load speed is crucial to that experience.
Low conversions, a high bounce rate, and poor SEO are all problems you do not want to be associated with your website. Each one of these directly correlates with your site’s load speed.
If you want an effective website that reaches your target audience with your law firm’s message, it needs to load quickly. If you feel that your website is falling short, here’s what you need to do to improve website speed and get more people to take notice of your firm’s online presence.
How To Test Your Law Firm’s Website Speed
So how can you see if your site is up to par when it comes to website load times? The best way to see if your site loads quickly, not just on your own computer but also on the average user’s computer, is with a site speed service.
A site speed service tests a site’s load speed using several different testing methods. This test will give you key insight into how quickly and effectively your site loads. Here are three excellent websites speed testing platforms to try:
PageSpeed Insights (PSI) is a tool from Google Analytics that tests a page’s performance on desktop and mobile. It collects data from a 28-day collection period from real website users. It rates speed as Good, Needs Improvement, or Poor. By adjusting the factors that do not receive a “good” rating, you can improve your page’s load time.
Pingdom provides real-time insights about uptime and performance for a website. This tool offers both synthetic and real user monitoring services. Using this data, web hosting providers and website owners can take measures to improve the speed of their websites.
GTMetrix provides a summarized report about website speed. It gives it a letter grade and provides visuals to help website owners understand their ratings. This tool also lets the website owner track the site’s performance over a period of time.
Cloudflare is a free tool that gives page speed suggestions. You can use those suggestions to improve your site’s load time. It focuses on the website’s coding and how that coding impacts its load speed.
WebPageTest offers a free web testing and optimization service and a paid service. You can test your site’s speed by inputting the URL and clicking a button. This testing option is a fast and simple way to get a basic overview of your site’s performance.
Analyzing Your Website’s Speed Report
Once you receive your website’s speed report, you will need to understand it, so you can make changes to your law firm’s website to better reach your target audience.
While each testing platform will have its own reporting process, they tend to contain the same information. Knowing what these metrics mean and how they affect your site speed will help you make the necessary changes to improve that speed.
What Each Performance Metric Means
As you get your website speed test report, you’ll see many terms you may not be familiar with. Using the data from the report starts with understanding what it is measuring and how those measurements relate to your page and its load time. Here is what they mean:
- Time to First Byte – TTFB measures how long it takes between when the browser requests a page and when it gets the first byte of information from the webserver.
- First Contentful Paint – FCP is the time frame where the browser shows the first bit of content from the website. This bit of information shows the user that the page is loading. The FCP timestamp can be the moment text, images, or canvas shows up on the page, even if the full page hasn’t loaded.
- Speed Index – This is a website’s score that shows how quickly content is shown on page load. Most speed tests compare your site to the speed index of other sites based on data from the HTTP Archive. Anything you improve that improves page load time will increase your speed index.
- Largest Contentful Paint – LCP measures how long it takes the website to show your largest piece of content on the screen. This metric applies to content that shows above the fold.
- Time to Interactive – TTI measures how long it takes a website to be fully interactive and ready for the user to browse.
- Total Blocking Time – TBT measures how responsive a page is to user input during loading. If clicks and scrolling cause the load time to increase, it will hurt the TBT.
- Cumulative Layout Shift – Sometimes, a website’s images and page elements will shift while it is loading, such as if a large image uploads after the text uploads and pushes the text down the page. This effect is jarring to the user, so it can negatively impact a website’s load time.
- Assess Mobile Friendliness – Speed tests need to measure both desktop and mobile response times. If mobile users have slower response times on a website speed test, your site’s speed score will drop.
Once you get the report, take the time to analyze the findings to see where your website falls short. Then, make quick adjustments in those areas specifically, so your law firm’s site will load more quickly. If your report does not show one of these data points, consider trying another tool, or consult with a load speed time professional, to get accurate data as you move forward.
Improving Your Website’s Performance
Now that you have a basic understanding of what the test is measuring, how can you use that data to improve your site’s speed? Remember, even just a two-second delay will cause you to lose potential page views and conversions. Your site needs to load in milliseconds, or your page will lose potential views.
Quick Win Website Speed Optimization Checklist
Quick wins are actions you can take right now to make a fast change to your website load speed. You need to act quickly to improve load speed because your site and your law firm are both suffering due to poor load speeds. Here are some steps you can take.
1. Identify Optimization Opportunities in Your Website Speed Report
Do you have large layout shifts as your site loads? Is the network payload too large? Remember, everything from images size to the fonts you choose can impact how quickly your site loads.
Take some time to look over your website speed reports carefully. Identify those areas where you have some measure of control, and take steps to optimize them. Each tweak you make will impact your site speed, so go through the list carefully.
2. Reduce the Amount of Third-Party Plugins on Your Website
Third-party plugins are supposed to improve the user experience, but sometimes they slow the site down as the site is busy loading plugins instead of loading site elements. As you build your law firm’s website, you may end up with plugins on the site that have no purpose other than to slow down its load time.
Check your site for any plugins or widgets that you aren’t using. If you are using some, make sure they are helping the website user without hurting your speed. If you use WordPress, make sure all the plugins are WordPress optimized. By taking these measures, you’ll reduce the number of impactful or unwanted plugins on your site.
3. Consider Implementing a CDN or Content Delivery Network
One drawback to using a CDN is that it requires multiple HTTP inquiries to retrieve your files. Though this happens very quickly, the repeated inquiries do slow down the load time.
4. Reduce Redirects
Redirects occur when you forward traffic from one location, often the search engine, to a different one. You might use a redirect when you have a page on your website that is no longer active but is still getting traffic from the search engines. Installing a redirect keeps that traffic on your page, just on a different part of it. It helps protect the user experience and reduce bounce rate.
A redirect is a very helpful tool, especially when upgrading and updating your website. However, moving someone from one link to a new one does take time, and it can impact your site’s loading speed. Redirects are helpful, but too many of them hurt your page speed.
To take advantage of redirects without hurting your page load speed, consider them a temporary fix. Use them when you make a change and need them, but do not rely on them all the time. A few redirects will have minimal impact on your load speed while ensuring you are not losing traffic to a competitor because of dead links.
5. Reduce Server Response Time
Check your hosting and web server platform to ensure they are working at optimal levels. Reduce the load on your website databases by getting rid of things on the page that aren’t necessary. Use small files instead of large files to improve your server response times. If your server still responds too slowly, then it might be time for an upgrade.
6. Upgrade Your Hosting Platform or Server to Increase Memory
Sometimes, sites will load slowly because the server doesn’t have enough memory to load them quickly. Your hosting platform and server have the hard job of holding all your files and data. If you’ve outgrown the capabilities of your server, and your site’s speed is hurting as a result, then it’s time to increase memory with a server upgrade.
Often these codes have extra characters that aren’t necessary to display the desired look on your website. Minification of these files means using a tool to remove some characters to improve load speed without hurting the site’s overall look.
8. Enable Caching
Caching allows you to store data on the user’s computer. This, in turn, makes the site load more quickly when the user returns to it. The data stays on the user’s computer for a short time, typically less than a couple of days, but if they visit the site during that time, it will load more quickly for them.
Caching is easy to do with WordPress. The W3 Total Cache plugin or the WP Rocket tool lets you add caching to a WordPress site quickly to improve your site speed.
10. Compress Image Files
Large images hurt load speeds, so you must figure out how to make your images smaller. Yet you don’t want to sacrifice image quality, which will make your website look less professional.
Thankfully, you have options to compress image files without hurting the page quality. You can use Photoshop or Smush to compress images, so you have better image optimization for your website. Smaller images load more quickly than large images, so image compression is a key factor in site load speed.
Before compressing images, consider converting them from JPEG/JPG to PNG. PNG files don’t lose quality when they get compressed, unlike JPEGs. Thus, you will maintain a crisp image. However, keep in mind that PNG files do take longer to load than JPEGs, even if you compress them. If you need the load speed to be as fast as possible, you will want to optimize images in the JPEG file format.
11. Use Hosted Fonts
When building a website, you will use a variety of stylesheets to ensure that every component of the site aligns with your branding goal. Those stylesheets will include fonts. What many law firms don’t know is those fonts, just like the images on your site, have to be hosted.
Once you choose your font, you must choose where you will host it. Websites can use third-party fonts to make their sites look great, but choosing fonts from CDNs can actually hurt your load speed.
A better option is to host your fonts on your own server. Self-hosting your fonts allows you to minify the CSS that comes with the font, so your page loads faster. Also, self-hosting your fonts leads to fewer HTTP requests because the font is part of your page. Reducing the number of HTTP requests in this way improves your site’s response time.
12. Prioritize Above the Fold Lazy Loading
The content above the fold, which means above the point where the user has to scroll down to get more information, is the most important for the user experience and your page speed scores. You can use lazy loading to load images and text asynchronously. This strategy means your site will load all the content, including the images, text, and headers, that shows above the fold first, then load the below-the-fold content later when the user scrolls down.
Because site speed metrics prioritize above-the-fold first, this can help you improve your site speed without the need to compress more images than you want. It artificially reduces the page size when the user first opens it.
13. Consult a Professional WordPress Developer
If all of this discussion is getting too technical for you, or if you lack the time to put into your website to make sure it loads as quickly as possible, you need the help of a professional WordPress developer who understands the demands of law firms. You will find that help with Array Law.
When To Consult a Professional
How can you tell that it’s time for your law firm to consult a professional? If you lack knowledgeable staff who understands these benchmarks and how to optimize and compress your site effectively, you may need professional help.
If you need your site to load faster, and you need improvement to happen quickly to stop the loss of traffic to your competitors, you may not have the freedom to wait for your team to learn how to use these tools.
If you are putting in the effort to improve your website speed, but those efforts are falling flat, then it’s time to consider hiring a professional.
Your site’s load time isn’t something to leave to chance, but as a busy law firm, you don’t have the time to invest in learning about the tools that you need to implement to improve that speed. It’s time to hire a professional.
Array Law has been helping law firms build and optimize websites that show up well on mobile and desktop devices. We are passionate about ensuring law firm websites have the right optimization to reach potential customers through fast, search-engine-friendly website design.
At Array Law, we have a team of technical site speed experts who can help you make your site fast and responsive. We have won multiple awards for our digital marketing services specific to the legal industry. We handle every aspect of your digital marketing efforts, from branding to advertising, and will help you build a site that is optimized for the search engines and converts well for users.
Let our proven digital marketing strategies go to work for you. Request a free consultation to discuss your site speed needs with our team. Call (800) 933-3067 or complete the online contact form to speak with an experienced digital marketing expert at Array Law today.