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Annual audit of top 200 UK law firm websites show most aren't compliant with new Google updates - Sam Borrett, Legmark

30/06/21. Legal digital marketing agency founder, Sam Borrett, examines the data from the third annual legal sector review of law firm’s website performance and draws out some interesting conclusions from concurrent findings.

There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the demand for legal sector websites to deliver faster and smoother visitor experiences. However, according to the latest benchmark website performance report not all the UK’s big players have managed to rise to the occasion.

For the third year running, the report compiled by Legmark, reveals a mixed bag of website performance among the top 200 UK law firms. Most pressing, is that the data shows just how many firms are still not compliant with Google’s new update rolling out this year, and could find their websites penalised as a result.

Just 43% of the top 200 law firms recorded a positive adjustment in last year's performance rank. With each improved firm moving up the 2021 Legmark Index Rank an average of 30 places. The data also shows a 50/50 split in performance of the top 25 firms as ranked by revenue, with 48% of the firms recording a rank improvement in 2021 compared to 2020 and 52% recording a negative adjustment, with a slip in the rankings on average of 26 places.

The general trend from this year’s report appears to be that often just one or two particular facets of SEO can let down a site’s performance. Some firms fall short on link-building, many have low quality content, while others are plagued by user experience issues.

This year we’ve seen that almost all the top ten largest law firms have improved their performance from last year’s data but many firms have not yet prepared their sites for Google’s major algorithm update that could penalise slow websites.

With user experience a particular issue this year, due to the aforementioned Google’s Page Experience update being released this summer, some firms have already taken the opportunity to get ahead. Any significant updates by law firms have been reflected in the ‘Core Web Vitals’ scores and these have been published for all the top 200 firms as an addition in this year’s Legmark Website Performance Analysis report.

The podium places this year go to Irwin Mitchell for best overall performance, and Gunnercooke is this year’s star player for the biggest single improvement in its ranking.

The top five places on the Revenue Adjusted Legmark Index are dominated by smaller firms with Stephensons, Lindsays, Nelsons and Wright Hassall all featuring. Irwin Mitchell is the only large firm to feature in the top five.

The UK’s largest full-service law firm does have the best overall scores this year. With the Irwin Mitchell website performing well in all categories, jumping 27 places to 3rd place, demonstrates the firm's understanding of how critical it is to continue to invest in a strong online presence.

This year’s biggest improvement was delivered by Gunnercooke. The challenger law firm has been able to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the Covid-19 pandemic to deliver successful site improvements and now has an effective and efficient law firm website. Ranking the law firm in 22nd place.

These adjustments have earned the law firm a 165 place uplift from last year’s rank of 187th in the Adjusted Revenue Legmark Index. The site also secured the number one position this year for mobile page speed, with a score of 97. While Google’s new Core Web Vitals is not judging mobile page speed alone, Gunnercooke also tops the charts here showing a strong correlation between the two scores.

The annual report provides all the insight into the competition and seeks to educate law firms on what a great user experience looks like in the sector to help firm’s get the best value out of their SEO. Readers can learn who and why those firms are excelling online, how their site is performing and what measures are required to achieve the top status for their law firm.

Value per keyword is particularly pertinent in the personal injury sector. Specifically, website traffic value and value per keyword are two crucial metrics for personal injury firms, as the term “personal injury” is such a valuable keyword based on PPC data. Your firm may rank highly for the keywords “personal injury firm Manchester” but what is the value to your firm?

This year’s report revealed that “personal injury solicitor” is fifteen times more expensive in pay-per-click ads than “contract lawyer”. As a result, PI firms are not only competing for cut-throat ad space but they’re also competing to get to the top of the organic rankings. Using the traffic value calculation, we’d expect those firms such as DLA Piper to take the top spot for traffic value, given the number of visits they will likely receive each month. But the report instead showed that smaller firms can compete with the giants - in particular, those serving one niche, such as personal injury.

In fact, DLA Piper who ranks in first place for revenue, has fallen to 18th place at £32,200 in traffic value, from third last year, which suggests the competition has upped its game in terms of link building and enhanced visibility online.

Whereas, Irwin Mitchell and Slater Gordon take the top two places for organic keywords, with £531,400 and £342,800 respectively, just as they did last year - but they are by no means the biggest in terms of revenue.

If there’s one thing this report has served to highlight, then, it’s that there’s no silver bullet when it comes to a solid SEO strategy. Google may have thrown user experience into the mix with its new Core Web Vitals, but it’s just one slice of a very big pie.

With over 200 factors affecting your website rankings, SEO is a fluid and complex combination of technical accuracy, great user experience, strong trust and authority signals, and most importantly - the best content.

The bottom line being that in a highly competitive industry, if you aren’t improving your website performance more quickly than your competition, you run the risk of losing out on very profitable work that ends up in someone else’s pocket.

This year’s Legmark Legal Sector Website Performance report is available to download from Personalised charts are available to all law firms from Legmark and not exclusively limited to those in the top 200. Contact Legmark today on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 0161 818 8448 to see how your firm measures up.

Sam Borrett is a multi-award-winning marketing expert and the director of Legmark – a specialist law firm marketing agency – working with the legal sector to improve digital and online performance.

He transformed Bott and Co Solicitors into one of the largest consumer law firms in the UK, based on individual clients (over 100,000 per year), and managed the marketing of the firm between 2014-2018 when they had the 5th highest revenue growth of all UK law firms.

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