In part one of this two-part post, Jared Correia reviewed Google’s revised search protocol, represented as “Search Plus Your World“—how and why it works, and how to opt out if you prefer to keep your social media and search functions well separated. Today, Jared explores some of the ways you can use the new functionality to your benefit.
What Can Lawyers Gain from “Search Plus Your World”?
With regard to the substantive work that lawyers do, there will likely be very little change owing to Google+ results being folded into Google search engine results. Not many lawyers I know do their research, exclusively or primarily, through the Google search tool. For those folks out there who do, the Search Your World opt-out is currently available if “pure” results are sought. Where lawyers are using Google regularly for case and analysis research, that work is probably being done through Google Scholar, which seems, thus far, to have been left unaffected by Search Plus Your World.
Probably obviously, Google Search Plus Your World will most substantially change the way lawyers market themselves online. Previously, search engine optimization (SEO) could be viewed as a separate discipline from social media marketing. Now, the two are tangled up. While Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines remain available, Google is, and has almost always been, the primary search engine. Consequently, SEO most often means “getting on the first couple of pages of Google results.” Now that social media posts have been incorporated into Google search results, lawyers who wish to optimize their presence within search results will also have to establish and maintain their presence within social media sites.
Most lawyers do not, and probably should not, connect with their clients personally on social media. Lawyers do, and probably should, however, seek to draw clients to their professional sites, including social media business pages. Most lawyers do aggressively connect with colleagues on social media, for a number of reasons, but mostly for the purpose of generating referrals. In either case, these connections now help generate leads in a second-fold manner. Solely by virtue of cultivating social shares, lawyers are staying top of mind with potential clients, clients and colleagues; but, at a second level, they are now potentially appearing, prominently, within the search results of their contacts—including their potential clients, clients and colleagues.
Much of marketing is about being consistent—staying on message, releasing content on a regular schedule—so that you can broadcast your capabilities on a recurring basis to those likely to require it or to know of people who might. The more eyes that potentially view your regularly recurring content, the more potential leads you develop—especially over time, when multipliers come into play. Now, though, social media is no longer an end in itself. With the advent of Google Search Plus Your World, your social media marketing efforts will directly affect your SEO efforts. All those lawyers who would eschew social media must now consider getting involved, given the potential benefit to their search engine rankings. All those who would eschew search engine ranking tactics as a vestige of the old school must now consider the continued relevance of the new system, given its revised connection to their preferred method of personalized networking. In one sense, Google Search Plus Your World promises to make things a bit easier, because a blending of search rankings and social media into a composite “social search” means that lawyers will be able to create more effective online marketing strategies.
You want to get in on this Google social search frenzy? It could mean significant changes to your marketing platform. Here’s how to join the conversation:
- Use Google+. If you haven’t done it yet, set up your personal professional and business professional Google+ pages, and begin posting, sharing, +1’ing relevant information and commenting on colleagues’ posts and shares. Over time, the activity will cause your Google+ network to grow. And all of that content that is in some way attached to you via your Google+ profile will potentially appear within your social connections’ relevant search results, and will definitely appear within the personal results link. Congratulations! You’re at the top of page one on Google—just by participating in the Google+ experiment.
- Don’t Forget About the Other Google Platforms. While Google+ is the easiest way to get picked up in social search, it is not the only place from which Google gathers personalized results for Search Plus Your World. Posting images to Picasa, linking to items on Blogger and +1’ing videos on YouTube can all get you into the social search results.
- It’s a Mindset Change. Google can no longer be viewed as a search engine separate from a social networking engine separate from a blogging platform separate from a video sharing platform. While Google treated YouTube, for example, as a separate website for years, the recent push for social has drawn YouTube in closer to the Google orbit, along with the other, seemingly disconnected Google tools. Google must now be viewed as an interconnected suite of products. Changes in one bucket will now potentially generate a ripple effect through to the rest of the Google suite. So if you decide to +1 a Snoop Dogg video on YouTube, you must be prepared for it to show up in some one of your connection’s searches. In an unfortunate consequence, then, your ability to maintain a private life online is inversely proportionate to your ability to market your law firm, unless you create and maintain multiple accounts. Another mindset change is that local search becomes even more important. While we generally think of local search as the pulling of relevant content as respects physical geography, Search Plus Your World defines a new locality: Your online neighborhood, or those circles of friends that you create content for and distribute content to and share information with on Google+ as well as via other media. Now, when you’re thinking of appearing in search, you’re no longer thinking only of standard search results derived from queries made by persons you do not know—you’re considering searches made by the people in your online neighborhood, and about how what you post will relate to those folks. Having some knowledge of even a portion of the audience to which you are broadcasting online can be a tremendous advantage.
- Head Shot. Google+ social results in search will include the profile picture of the person who has shared the information. Because of this, you’ve got to add a profile picture to your Google+ account (preferably a professional headshot). A photo is a visceral connection point for people and may prove especially useful in marketing to contacts you do not know well. You’re also more likely to get into others’ circles if those potential adders can see what you look like, and that you’re a real person (not a bot) who cares enough about his social media presence to include his picture. (Otherwise, the assumption is you are too lazy, or too disinterested, to even bother to post a photo).
Using social media to market your law firm is cost-free (although there is a not-insignificant time commitment). And now that social media is being integrated into search results, you are generating some homegrown SEO just by getting in on the social conversation. For larger firms, this may be a way to reduce the search engine optimization spend. For small firms, this is a way to compete that doesn’t significantly hamper budgets.
Whether you think Google Search Plus Your World is a further erosion of privacy as we know it or the beginning of social search as we will come to know it, you must determine a course to take with respect to how you will use, or not use, the revised system.
Jared Correia is the Senior Law Practice Advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program. Prior to joining LOMAP, he was the Publications Attorney for the Massachusetts Bar Association. Before that, he worked as a private practice lawyer. Jared is a graduate of Suffolk University Law School and of Saint Anselm College, where he was a captain of the debate squad that finished as national runner-up in 2000. He loves James Taylor.