Google Plus IconThe issue of Google+ has recently come up due to a few changes made by the search giant. I’ve heard from quite a few attorneys who think there is now no value in the social network because 1) their picture will no longer show up in search results and 2) a belief that “author authority” is somehow diminished by Google allowing people to use false names. I couldn’t disagree more with either of these ideas and believe that a lawyer’s Google+ strategy should not change.

Cnet recently reported that Google will now allow people to use identities other than their real name on Google+. This follows the search engine announcing that one’s Google+ profile picture will no longer appear next to one’s website in search results. I’ve previously discussed why Google+ is the most important social network for attorneys. This has not changed.

The importance of Google+ is the fact that the search engine uses the network to determine how important one is the world. In 2011, just before the social network launched (I was one of the cool kids who was on G+ via invitation while it was still closed to the public). Google’ Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, made very clear that this was the purpose for which the network was being launched. At the D9 conference, Schmidt stated the following:

 For years, I said that in the internet we missed something, which was identity.

[Facebook] is the first general way of disambiguating identity and identity is very important in the online world because you need to know who you’re dealing with.

If [an alternative to Facebook existed] we would be able to use that to make our search better…we will use the technology that we’re announcing over the next [few months] to make our search better. [i]

In other words, the more authoritative one is on G+ (in terms of quality interaction) the more influential the search engine will view you as. This “authority” is now a factor that the search engine considers when ranking websites. So if an attorney is seen as authoritative on the social network, and has linked his profile to his website, his website will then receive a boost in search. This is the big value of being on Google+. If you think that having your photo was more important then, by all means, ignore the social network and hurt your site’s search performance.

I’ve also spoken with people who have suggested that this idea of authorship and authority, via G+, is now “dead” because Google is not requiring real names for the social network. The fact that one can use an alias changes nothing. If one links his or her website to a profile using an alias, and that profile is seen as authoritative, then the website will get the same boost. Establishing that authority takes time and work, which is why I’ve written on how attorneys can establish themselves on Google+, and someone putting that level of work into a social media presence isn’t going to abandon it or use it for “fly by night” purposes. In other words, I don’t see the big deal over the recent policy changes.

Google has made the reasons for which it started the social network clear. It remains the most important social network for attorneys and law firms. What are your thoughts on the recent policy changes? Feel free to chime in through the comment form below.

8/5/15 Update – Several changes to the social media landscape in 2015 have led me to write as to why attorneys should consider Google+ dead in terms of being useful to their law practice.

12/5/14 Update – After this article was written Google announced that it would no longer be tracking authorship or using it as a search ranking factor. We still believe that the social network is important to an attorneys online strategies for other reasons and subsequently wrote on how attorneys should incorporate Google+ into their social media strategy.