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Google+, Google Authorship and Google Author Rank have the power to transform your law firm marketing online efforts.

Google+ is a unique social media platform, but many law firms already using Twitter and Facebook have expressed doubt that it might be important to their marketing efforts. It's just one more social media platform, and the least used one, anyway, right? Not even close. Now Google+ is pushing Google Authorship and Google Ranking, and how much you need these latest additions to Google+ is right there in the name. Google+ is increasingly indistinguishable from Google the search engine. If you want one, you need the other.

Google+ 101
All of the different Google-isms can be difficult to parse. The broad overview is this: Google+ is your identity platform, like your Facebook or Twitter profile. Google Authorship is your digital signature - a way you link your online profile to content you publish online. Google Author Rank is how Google ranks pages and sites, basing rank on what they consider higher credibility rather than simply relying on a firm's name or a URL.

Ready for Authorship
Authorship will drive far more traffic to your profile and raise your visibility. And raising your visibility is the number one thing you want to do online. In numerous eye-tracking studies, research has shown that when there is an image included in a search result, the viewer's gaze is immediately drawn to the image, and then the headline which accompanies it. Emotionally, your viewer will determine a number of things about you based on your image and on that headline. By having an established Authorship with a headshot, you have already begun marketing to you audience. You have also, within seconds, begun building a relationship.

Google Authorship also secures your work; it's your number one tool in battling online plagiarism. When you use Authorship, your content will be at the higher level of search results, instead of listed pages lower, after being snagged and rerun by content scrapers. Your Google+ profile will follow you as you when you leave comments on articles and blogs on other sites. Also, if you have a common name, your content will be attached to your profile to immediately clarify for anyone who runs a search on your name which one of the countless John Smiths is you. If you and another John Smith write articles on a similar topic and they both appear in a search, the search engine determines that the one with a verified account is more credible. You want that one to be yours.

First, you need to have Authorship placed on your Google+ profile and on your firm's website to connect them to each other. Authorship informs Google that your Google+ profile and your website are authorized by the same person. Your Google+ profile photo will then begin to show up in search results, which will raise your law firm website in search results, making it more visible for visitors.

If you have not done so, create your Google+ profile. Upload a high-quality headshot, fill out your profile information, and go to plus.google.com/authorship to sign in. Do not forget to click in the verification link Google will send you.

Ready to Rank
Why should you spend the time on Author Rank? Google followers believe that Author Rank will only become more important in terms of search and visibility algorithms, and Google seems to think so, too.

Your firm's success ultimately depends on branding - how clients and potential clients view your firm. You want the people who come in contact with your firm, both in person and via online, to view it as reputable, knowledgeable, respected by peers and professional organizations, and, though you may not think it's as important, approachable. All of those attributes which used to be imparted to others by word-of-mouth are now both establishable and verifiable to your clients and potential clients through social media.

However, your firm may be just as established and reputable as the one down the street – so why not pick the one down the street? Does your firm state that you really care about your clients? That you have been in business for a solid number of years? That your clients refer you to others? That you work hard to get them justice/high settlements/the big win? All of those things are also being touted by the firm down the street, and the one across the street, and the one down the block. Your firm should be established, and staffed with people who know what they are doing. Those are the expected value propositions. What makes your firm different? What makes your firm stand out? What makes someone looking for an attorney reach out to your firm?

That is where Author Rank comes in. Your firm should be generating strong, thoughtful content and published under individual Author Rank profiles. Author Rank allows you to basically craft an expert persona for yourself or for any and all attorneys at your firm. It is handing your firm a wide open stage on which to present an almost endless body of work. The higher Author Rank you generate, the sooner someone will see you in search engine results. It is also strong for you as an individual attorney; if you move to a new firm, that Author Rank, attached to your name and your profile, travels with you.

If you have not yet set up Google Author Rank for your own practice, now is the time to do so. Google is using Google Author Rank as a way to weed out the gaming of SEO online. By using the headshots of your experts and authors, you allow Google -- and your potential clients – see that your content comes from real people.

If you have not launched your own Google+ profile, do so. Join Google circles, begin sharing only quality content you want to have attached to your profile, and start writing high-quality content.

About Author

Barbara Atkinson is a former Bigger Law Magazine staff contributor and editorial board member.

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