From Neil Patel, Co-founder at Crazy Egg with strong search engine optimization expertise, on how social media effects SEO:

You need to get with the times and start expanding your presence on social media sites, instead of endlessly chasing the latest SEO tricks…….If you’re truly interested in SEO, you need to wake up and start looking at how the Internet works today. It’s about social media and social networking…….There’s no doubt that traditional SEO is slowly fading in importance when you compare it with the new social optimization indicators. So if you aren’t yet active in the social media world, you better start running because you don’t have time to walk.

Read Patel’s post entirety. It’s well researched and well reasoned.

It’ll serve as a wake up call if you’re fixated on meta tags, links from countless websites, having mini-sites on multiple domains from multiple IP addresses, using website analytic tools, looking at PageRank, and what have you. The SEO gimmicks list goes on and on from the books authored by and seminars put on by SEO people looking to take money from lawyers.

Patel cites some strong authority for his position.

  • From Matt Cutts, who works in the Search Quality group at Google, last December: “I filmed a video back in May 2010 where I said that we didn’t use “social” as a signal [an item like a like that effects search performance], and at the time, we did not use that as a signal, but now, we’re taping this in December 2010, and we are using that as a signal.”
  • In SEOMoz’s 2011 Search Engine Factors Ranking report almost 132 SEO and social media experts predicted that social signals at the page level and domain level would have a greater impact on search engine rankings than traditional SEO factors. (SEOMoz is a leading SEO consultancy)

What’s impacting SEO per Patel?

  • Links shared on Facebook. Content shared by Facebook contacts receives preferential positions in the search engine results, as well as with a picture of the person who shared it. By increasing the social proof of these results, Google increases the chances that this content will receive clicks.
  • Tweets or retweets of links by legitimate users on Twitter.
  • Google Plus? As social media consultant and author, Chris Brogran, said, “A social network made by Google impacts search.”

What action should you take if you’re concerned about SEO? From Patel:

  • Build an active, engaged presence on social networking sites – this isn’t exactly rocket science… if social media engagement is a new ranking factor, you simply can’t benefit if you aren’t there. If you haven’t already, now is the time to build profiles on these sites and invest time in connecting with your followers.
  • Optimize your sites for social media sharing – if your sites are built on WordPress, installing a plugin like Sharebar to enable social sharing is something you have to do. Don’t rely on your users reading good content on your website and then taking the time to navigate to social networks to share it on their own. Instead, you have to provide them with the tools necessary to get the job done in the easiest way.
  • Encourage your readers to share your content – smart marketers know that assuming people will take the action you want without you explicitly telling them to do so is a lost cause. You have to use strong calls to action in your posts, encouraging readers to share your content via social networks if they found it useful.

SEO in its traditional form is not going to become unimportant overnight. Good content that’s well indexed which is drawing organic links from strong relevant blogs and websites will continue to be important.

But chasing SEO gimmicks while you should be learning about social media and social networking is misguided.

Good news here for lawyers here who are personally offering valuable information and insight on blogs and in social media. Your content and insight will be cited on blogs, shared/liked on Facebook, Tweeted, and discussed on Google Plus and Facebook.

You’ll be establishing trust, authority, and influence. Key factors for SEO going forward.

Interesting times ahead on the SEO front for lawyers. Maybe the good guys win this time.

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