by Laurie Anstis on March 25, 2013
For years, Google has been the undisputed king of web searches, and made billions of dollars of advertising revenue from that position.
Then newcomers like Facebook and Twitter came along. Search was now going to be “social”. Instead of searching on Google to find a good restaurant near Paddington station, we were supposed to go to Facebook to find what restaurants near Paddington one of our Facebook friends had “liked”.
Fearful of losing advertising money, Google then came up with their own social network – Google Plus. Launched in summer 2011, it was generally received with indifference, and perhaps also some irritation that there was now another social network to check and remember a password for. It is still often considered a poor also-ran behind Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
But Google still dominates in straightforward web search, and if you’ve been searching on Google recently you might have noticed search results like this coming up:
Small profile pictures are now appearing next to some search results.
Search results with these profile pictures stand out more than those without. They are surely more likely to be clicked.
Where are these pictures coming from?
The answer is that they are coming from Google Plus. They are Google Plus profile pictures linked to the author’s Google Plus account, and linked to the search item in question thanks to “rich snippets” and the magic of the “rel=author” or “rel=me” codes. Google explain how it is done here.
So if you want a picture next to your search results, you need a Google Plus account. That search result will also often say how many Google Plus “circles” you are in – effectively, how popular you are on Google Plus. Profile pictures and popularity on Google Plus seem likely to add lots more clickthroughs to search results.
Savvy law firm marketers who are looking for clickthroughs to legal articles, bulletins, or newsletters are going to want to have their lawyers’ pictures appear in search results next to articles the lawyers have written. Those lawyers will need Google Plus accounts, and suddenly Google Plus starts to matter.
There is a catch in all of this, though.
What happens when lawyers move on? Their Google Plus profile will still be attached to the article, even though they have left the firm they were at when they wrote that article. Potential clients wanting more information will be able to go directly to the lawyer even if they have left that firm. That’s going to cause problems for the firm they used to work for. Will we then see firms attempting to assert rights over individual lawyers’ Google Plus profiles?