We are inherently a social species. Even before the advent of social networks, we were 2.5 times more likely to listen to a friend’s recommendation than traditional advertising, and 50% of the General Counsel we recently surveyed ranked recommendations from a trusted source as the most important source when gathering information on law firms.
Web search is slowly but surely moving towards including a searcher’s network and their recommendations in results, making them much more relevant to users. Bing has included results from Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn for some time now. Google displays results primarily from Google+, with additional links to search on Facebook and Twitter. These technologies – and the relevance of social networks – are only slated to grow, given the importance we place on recommendations from our networks.
From an SEO perspective, search engines give better ranking to content that has been shared more on social networks. Search, especially using Google, has always considered the quality of content, its popularity (incoming links) and authority of the sources when presenting us with relevant results. In essence, this is the web community’s opinion about said content. Results from social networks go one step further, in that they consider what the searcher’s personal or professional networks are saying, sharing or liking about the query when delivering results. It is one aspect of personalization that comes easy – when the information is readily available – and is likely to have a positive impact on the user’s experience.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR SITE PUBLISHERS?
It’s now more important than ever to maintain a frequently updated website with high quality content. And as search engines start to place more weight on things like the number of shares, likes or retweets a piece of content has, firms must ensure their content is easily accessible and shareable. Here are a few ways you can use social to better market your thought leadership - and make your site a little more social-friendly:
- Don't underestimate the power of a simple sharing tool!
Regularly creating and publishing high quality content is the first step, but it won't do you much good in the social department if you don't give your visitors the option to share it with others. Thank your visitors for paying you the compliment of liking your content enough to share it by making it as easy as possible for them to do so. I'm talking one-click easy. Sharing tools like AddThis allow you to make sharing effortless for users, and they also make tracking your shares a breeze.
- Integrate you firm's social media presence into various sections of your site.
By the same logic, if you have clients and prospects that are interested in following you, save them the headache of having to find your many different social presences on their own. Providing links to your different channels directly on your site makes it much easier for visitors to find and connect with you. You can also encourage users to connect with your attorneys and professionals by integrating their Twitter feeds on bio or services pages, for example. Finally, by allowing your users to integrate their own social presence, using LinkedIn for example, you can enable them to see how they might already be connected to your firm, and encourage new relationships to form.
- Keep your own search social.
Add an element of social to the results you deliver by allowing visitors to sort or filter to view the most shared, read or bookmarked content on your site. This plays off that inclination they have to trust the opinion of others and allows your users to market your content for you.
In addition to the suggestions above, incorporating social media into your communication and distribution strategy in general will only help to increase the visibility of your content. Pay attention to the channels your audience uses most, create a presence and use those channels to engage with clients and potential clients; you'll extend the reach of your content AND create new content when you participate in the conversations taking place. Clients will appreciate this customized approach, and they’ll be more likely to consume and share your content with their network...giving you the opportunity to grow yours. And as your network and social mentions grow, so will your perceived value to search engines.