Beginning in 1998, I formed one of the first web development and SEO companies in South Carolina. That was back in the days when HotBot, Lycos, and AltaVista still mattered. The techniques behind SEO for lawyers were VASTLY different than they are today. I continue to delve deeply into the art of SEO for attorneys, blogging, web design, and more. The landscape now includes an emphasis on social media influence (social signals), semantic indexing, and so on. All of this brings me to the balance between SEO and Engagement on Google Plus or, what I call “Diversifying Your Social Media Investment Portfolio.”
Diversification is the Key to Long Term Success
Like many other folks from many different industries, I’m on Google Plus for mixed reasons such as promoting my law practice, establishing social influence, and to engage with others. In other words, I don’t put my entire social media investment portfolio into one basket, namely narrowly focused strategic SEO.
Short Term Gains vs. Long Term Influence
My background in search engine optimization for law firm websites leads me to one inevitable conclusion – while focused SEO strategies may work in the short run, they’ll come back to haunt you in the long run. Take for example inbound linking strategies. For the projects I’ve worked on, I always emphasized quality over quantity. I stayed away from link farms, etc. even back in the day when these strategies certainly worked to give sites a boost. Thankfully, that meant that the sites that I was involved with didn’t get penalized by Google Panda. Am I saying I am prophetic? Heck no! What I am saying is that if you don’t diversify your strategy, then: (1) it’s hard to adapt to changes and (2) sooner or later Google will pick up on the strategy and take away and/or penalize you for it.
Targeted Strategies on Google Plus Don’t Equal Engagement
On Google Plus, it does’t take a trained eye to start to see targeted SEO-driven patterns vs. actual engagement. The patterns typically involves a group of cooperative folks within a niche who (1) link dump (just posting links without any commentary); (2) systematic plus one each others posts (which, in and of itself I think is OK especially when there’s little time to read them); (3) share dumped links (what I call “double dumping”); (4) share posts without reading them regardless of whether the posts have any value to a reader; and (5) other ways to call attention to low value posts in a round-robin fashion.
Prediction Why Narrowly Targeted Strategies May Fail
So, here’s my simple prediction for what it is worth. Google eventually catches up to every “system” SEO enthusiasts engage in to “game” the system on [tooltip title=”A search engine results page (SERP) is the listing of results returned by a search engine in response to a keyword query. The results normally include a list of items with titles, a reference to the full version, and a short description showing where the keywords have matched content within the page.” placement=”top” trigger=”hover” class=”” id=””]SERP’s[/tooltip]. So, to the extent Google Plus “strategies” have an impact on SERP’s, they will develop the methods and the algorithms to do the SAME thing (a la Panda), to catch up with these systems on Google Plus.
Real World Examples of Site Visitors’ Experiences
A good portion of the new clients my law firm gets come through Google search. Rather than just rely solely on analytics, my staff takes time to ask them about how they found us, who else they found, and why they chose us instead of the competition. You’d be surprised at how willing folks are to share their search and user experience with you. In other words, my law firm looks for “real world” feedback to contrast with numbers, analytics, and so on. In all the years I have systematically tracked this feedback, the take away is VERY clear. When a visitor clicks on the link at the top of the SERP and is taken to a low quality post, they feel cheated that something was “over promised” to them and subsequently “under delivered.” Let’s face it – this is precisely what Google wants to eliminate. Although the visitor has no knowledge of SEO, latent semantic indexing, and so on, they know when they’ve been “had,” and they bounce onto the next site. Stated another way, being #1 in a search doesn’t mean being the #1 choice for the prospective client or customer.
In the end, it’s really quite simple. Whatever strategy you develop to improve your visibility on SERP’s, make it synergistic with Google’s goal of providing QUALITY and RELEVANT content for the user.
Happy Google Plus’ing!