Now that 2022 has come to a close, we are looking back at the developments in digital marketing last year that impacted legal marketing and predicting what we think will continue to emerge in the new year. Keep reading this post for insights that can help you assess how your 2022 marketing strategy measured up and consider strategies to start your 2023 off on the right foot!
Digital Marketing Highlights in 2022
The digital marketing space continued to be rapidly changing last year, with various developments occurring. Here are some key trends that happened in the digital marketing space over the past 365+ days.
The Page Experience Update for Desktop
In 2020, Google introduced Core Web Vitals to the search engine optimization world. These metrics (Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift) were created to measure user experiences when they land on a webpage. Then, in 2021, Google rolled out the page experience update for mobile search, officially changing the Google algorithm to make the on-page user experience a ranking factor.
In 2022, Google brought the page experience update to desktop devices. With this change, the key Core Web Vitals metrics also began to apply for desktop ranking in search engine results.
The Helpful Content Ranking Signal
Later in the year, Google released the Helpful Content Update. This change aimed to help searchers find “original, helpful content written by people, for people in search results.” In other words, Google tweaked its algorithm to prioritize genuinely helpful, authentic information over content explicitly created to generate additional search traffic.
In a related series of moves designed to help searchers better connect with authentic, helpful content, Google also raised the bar by increasing the emphasis on expertise, authoritativeness, and trust for YMYL (your money and your life) sites as part of the May 2022 core update and improved spam detection efforts late in the year.
Search Engine Marketing and PPC Updates
Evolving Google Ads
With Google dominating the search engine market share, Google Ads tend to dominate PPC advertising efforts. Thus, the evolution of Google Ads is often of particular interest to legal marketers.
During the summer of 2022, Google sunset expanded text ads on the Google Ads platform. While expanded text ads previously dominated the search engine results pages (SERP), responsive search ads have become their primary replacement.
Later in the year, Google also renamed ad extensions (now known as ad assets) and implemented new reporting columns that expanded conversion information for improved assessment of ad visibility.
Changing Google Local Services Ads
Google’s Local Services Ads (LSAs) also remained a hot topic throughout 2022. During the year, key LSA updates included Google’s crackdown on enforcing its LSA policies on duplicate accounts and an increased focus on business responsiveness as an LSAs ranking factor.
However, the most game-changing news for LSAs last year came when Google implemented the single business result for mobile searches. Now, a law firm in a market with low LSA participation does not have to wait for other advertisers to become approved before its ad can be shown in search results. Instead, a single business can show up in the Google-screened position for such a market, allowing that business to take full advantage of relevant impressions and clicks for higher conversions.
For personal injury lawyers, an additional LSA update also made waves in some sectors of the legal marketing industry when Google announced that all personal injury LSAs would need a minimum of five reviews on their Google business profile to run an ad, a significant increase from the previous requirement that a personal injury attorney has at least one review with three stars before running an LSA.
Many legal marketers continue to leverage non-Google PPC advertising solutions, and there were significant updates for many of these platforms too during 2022! Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) implemented URL tracking for its automated extensions. Similarly, Facebook launched significant updates to its Call Ads, including new features that allow users to request a call back from the company.
Trending Web Designs
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, colorful gradients became a dominant trend in web design in 2022. Gradients are design elements that depict a gradual transition between colors. Many think of gradients as a background effect, but this trend has also popped up within shapes, icons, and other graphics throughout the year.
Dark User Interfaces
In the 2021 edition of the State of Legal Marketing, we noted that users were increasingly utilizing dark mode on their devices in recent years, with 82.7% of participants in a 2019 survey reporting they used their devices’ dark mode functionality and other data indicating 95% of people surveyed expressed a preference for dark mode in late 2019.
The trend towards darker interfaces creates user-friendly designs for those using dark mode. However, it does create challenges for designers as they work to ensure positive user experiences, especially in the accessibility arena.
The glassmorphism design trend emphasizes key objects over blurred backgrounds that look like frosted glass. The style has been popular with tech companies, including ubiquitous brands such as Apple and Microsoft, for many years, and we predicted it would continue to dominate designs in 2022. This prediction seems to have been correct, with the usage of Glassmorphism continuing to expand last year.
Our Predictions for 2023
1. Google Will Continue to Emphasize Helpful, Relevant Content: We expect that Google will continue to improve search results for users in the foreseeable future through tweaks to the algorithm. This means a higher bar for content quality, and we expect the value of backlinks to diminish over time as Google looks for other ways to evaluate authoritativeness, content quality, and, ultimately, the user experience.
2. The Importance of Web Accessibility for SEO Will Increase: Web accessibility has played an increasingly important role in digital marketing over recent years. Prioritizing web accessibility is a best practice that can help law firms better connect with clients of all abilities, but we expect it to play an increasing role in search rankings too this year.
3. Google Will Crack Down on Fake and Spam Reviews: Review spam and fake reviews have been against Google policies for quite some time. However, we expect an even greater focus on weeding out spam and fake reviews in the coming months, with Google more stringently enforcing its policies and updating applicable algorithms to catch fake reviews.
4. Advertising Automation Will Continue to Rise: In 2021, we noted an increasing push toward Google Ads automation and predicted that automated bidding strategies would become increasingly popular in the coming year. This has proved to be true so far, and we can only expect that automated bidding strategies will be used increasingly in 2023.
5. Privacy Concerns Will Reign in PPC: Privacy and tracking have been hot topics in recent years. Tried and true methods of tracking and targeting users are shifting. As privacy regulation continues to change and internet usage continues to evolve, search engine marketing must adapt. We suspect that effective ad targeting will increasingly require specialized marketing expertise as privacy regulations become more stringent. Additionally, machine learning will likely become increasingly crucial to ad success and predicting user behavior patterns.
6. Artificial Intelligence Will Increasingly Play a Role in Design: Artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly commonplace in our daily lives. AI uses various pieces of information, coupled with machine learning, to help improve productivity while streamlining and optimizing processes. While AI (or robots as some may call it) cannot replace a skilled designer, we expect to see the use of AI in design increase as a way to streamline design processes and improve efficiency in the industry.
7. Copy Will Drive Design Choices in the Year to Come: Content has long been king in the SEO world and continues to play an increasingly important role in companies’ marketing strategies. Companies will continue to use creative copywriting to better connect with consumers beyond the screen, and design choices will be significantly influenced by content choices to ensure a consistent brand personality and visual identity.
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
Achieving your law firm’s full potential means setting your practice up for success! By understanding the ongoing trends in digital marketing, you can better assess your law firm’s legal marketing journey. Are you behind the latest trends, right on target, or perhaps even ahead of the curve? Knowing these answers can guide you as you implement your 2023 marketing strategies!
If you want to enlist the help of experienced legal marketing professionals in this new year, Justia is here to help. Our teams have years of experience specializing in digital marketing solutions for lawyers and law firms.
We offer state-of-the-art law firm websites through Justia Elevate, specialized PPC management services through Justia Amplify, increased visibility in one of the most frequently visited lawyer directories available online with Justia Premium Placements, and a tailored membership program for lawyers with Justia Connect. Contact us today for a no-commitment, free consultation!