Social is now the most important Google search ranking factor, per online marketing specialist, Jeff Woelker (@jeffwoelker).
Woelker cites an in-depth study by Search Metrics which found Seven of the top eight factors associated with high search rankings social in nature.
I know, it sounds counterintuitive to what we’ve been hearing for years. From keywords, to page titles, to link building, the emphasis has been on everything but social. Now, however, a major groundswell is happening that is forcing search marketers to rethink the way they have been approaching search for years. As more and more search marketers were gaming the system and creating content only geared towards bots and crawlers, the web and Google were becoming a vast wasteland of unusable content farms and link pollution, some of which still remains today.
With Google’s ranking algorithm changes, the company is incorporating more human elements and vetting within the machine and using social as a way to signal what’s important and what is not. And Google only continues to move in this direction. Many marketers have dismissed or pushed aside Google+ as a second-rate social network only meant for niche audiences. As you can see in the chart, however, Google is going to be taking content shared at Google+ much more seriously and forcing marketers to pay attention by any means necessary.
It is not just Google+ impacting search. Facebook mentions, shares, and likes are three of the top 10 factors effecting search. Tweets referencing your content, at ten, is also viewed as more important than factors which we historically placed emphasis on for search performance.
What should lawyers and lawyers take from the study?
- You need to get your target audience sharing your blog content. Thought leaders in your area of practice; regional bloggers and reporters (assuming your practice is metro or state oriented); associations comprised of clients and prospective clients; and clients and prospective clients themselves.
- As Woelker says, you need to publish blog posts which your target audience enjoys reading and looks forward to sharing with others. You need to be interesting, compelling, and honest. What differentiates your posts from others? It’s not a summary of a case or legislation, alone, which other lawyers have reported.
- Your ‘pushing’ your own content onto social networks or hiring distribution services to do so will not work. It will not grow your influence, build trust, or improve your search results. You need to share others’ compelling content on social to build ‘social media equity’ and trust. Your target audience, seeing you truly wish to provide value to them, will in return share, like, and comment upon your content.
Perhaps most important to realize is that we are not going back to the days of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) gaming tactics. The days of hiring a company to produce content, do on-site title tag and meta tag work, and garner links from other legal content, often the company’s own content, are numbered.
Of course basic nuts and bolts search and local search work will remain relevant to rankings and visibility. But we’re moving on to a time where social networking, influence, thought leadership, and who trusts you is more important.
This is good news for lawyers inclined to rely on relationships and reputation to garner business. Perhaps not as good news for those lawyers who look at Google as a way to advertise their existence through organic search results which results are going to disappear for them.
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