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It’s no secret that mobile Internet usage has exploded over the past few years. More than 7 out of every 10 people in the U.S. now use a smartphone. Does this impact how people find lawyers online? We polled over 1,500 people to ask which device they would use to research a lawyer online. The results might surprise you.

As the chart below shows, 72% of American’s own a smartphone, including 92% of those age 18-34. It’s no wonder why Google gives mobile friendly websites a ranking boost when you see statistics like this.

With smartphone penetration so high in the U.S., we wanted to find out if people are using their mobile device to research which law firm to hire. We know that most people use their smart phones for social networking, checking email, maps, etc. but do they use their mobile to dig in and do research on which law firm to hire? Hiring a lawyer is not a decision most people make quickly (a previous study we conducted found 85 percent of people take two or more days) so we wanted to find out.

In a study we conducted this last month involving 1,506 participants, we asked each the following question:

“If you needed to hire a lawyer, what device would you use to conduct your research on what law firm to hire?”

Here are the results, broken down by age groups.

Rather surprisingly, the majority of respondents (67 percent) indicated that they would use a desktop to conduct research when hiring an attorney. This result is a little bit at odds with trends in overall search traffic, of which nearly 56 percent is from mobile devices. While this study shows that – for now – desktop is still king in the legal industry, you shouldn’t ignore mobile traffic. Desktop’s share of the pie is decreasing – albeit at a slower rate than most industries – and eventually mobile traffic will outpace it.  Satisfy the “right now” and plan for the future by making sure that your website and marketing campaigns perform across all devices and all screen sizes.

Key Takeaways

Your website should be “responsive” –  33 percent of all participants indicated they would use their mobile or tablet device. If your site visitors do not have a good experience browsing your website, it’s not question of “if” but “how many” visitors you will lose to your competition. Today’s Internet users do not have a lot of patience for slow loading, outdated websites that aren’t built mobile friendly. Additionally, websites that aren’t mobile friendly do not rank as well in mobile search results. But remember, 67 percent are still visiting via desktop, so be sure that your responsive design does not degrade the desktop experience.

It’s not just younger demographics that use mobile – In looking at the numbers, I expected the youngest groups to have the highest mobile usage rates but I was surprised to see the 35-44 year olds at nearly the same percentage.  I was also not expecting to see desktop statistics to be so close across all age groups. There were also not any significant differences between different levels of income, although the highest percentage of those that said they would do their research on a mobile device were those with an annual income less than $25,000.

Consider mobile targeted ads – Depending on what types of cases you are targeting of course, the data shows there are plenty of potential clients who would use their mobile device to search for lawyers. For example, it may be smart for a criminal attorney targeting DUI cases to run a call-only Adwords campaign. Considering how laser focused you can get with Facebook Advertising campaigns, it could make sense for a you to start considering adding Facebook to your marketing mix. Mobile marketing options are only going to get better with time.

If you are going to run mobile ads, it’s also important to remember that there are millions of people who only use their mobile device to access the Internet. A study by ComScore last year showed that number at 11.3 percent of Internet users fall in this category. Typically, these are people who in most cases cannot afford Internet services at their home so the only Internet access they have is on their mobile device. If you are a personal injury lawyer, it doesn’t matter if your prospective client has any money but if you are a criminal lawyer, divorce lawyer or other non-contingency fee based law firm, it’s something you have to keep in mind.

Now, more than ever, you should make sure that your law firm website gives users a great experience no matter which platform they are using to access your website.

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