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Find balance with your search and social marketing efforts

zenEach new, highly publicized update Google releases causes some frustration among businesses that see their rankings fluctuate as the changes take effect. And Google will continue to hone its algorithm in an attempt to make search results as helpful as possible for those in need of information or services.

However, through all of Google's updates, the basic rules have remained the same. And so has the underlying formula: a combination of authority and relevance. The search giant has simply (and consistently) been stepping up enforcement of things long considered to be unethical or bad practices and attempting to reward content that is genuinely useful.

Social media increasingly has a place within this equation. Businesses that produce content others find helpful are more likely to get liked, shared, tweeted about and followed. And marketers just cannot stop talking about social media. But it is not the magic bullet that some seem to wish it to be. Search marketing that produces strong, organic results is still a key component to online visibility and conversion. Firms must find the right balance between search and social. Here are some items to consider when developing your budget, time investment and approach.

Social media is still not a good driver of actual conversion. Search marketing drives people to your site who are more likely to actually contact you. The fact that they are actively searching for information about services places them into a category of prospects that are somewhat to very likely to convert. However, people still use social media predominantly for entertainment – they do not visit such sites with the primary purpose of finding a product or service.

Search is good for mobile and local. People who are searching on mobile devices are more likely to act quickly, usually within twenty-four hours. Statistics show that over 70 percent of those who find a site via mobile search call or contact the business within that time frame. Mobile searchers are often using things like tablets or phones to do quick searches for local businesses – places they will either call immediately or use their device to get directions in order to pay a visit.

Search works better for people who are not already familiar with your firm. Social medial is a place people go to interact with others they already know. Those who use social media tend to follow individuals or businesses they are already familiar with in their offline lives. If they seek out your firm's Facebook page, chances are they have already had interactions with one of your attorneys. Search, however, gets information about your firm to people who may never have heard of you. A good organic search ranking can introduce you to potential clients and be their first contact with your firm.

Social medial may influence SEO. Both Google and Bing have admitted to using social signals as one element in determining rankings, but search marketers are not in agreement as to precisely how much influence social media activity actually has. For Google, the biggest factor appears to be whether or not your website is linked to a Google+ page for your firm. Being active on Google+ and having plus-one buttons on your content are likely one of the best time investments. Getting shares directly from your website and blog also seems to have some bearing on results, more so than likes or tweets. Links to your content from social media sites can also be helpful if that content is again shared.

Social media helps build relationships. One of ways in which social media participation is most useful is its ability to help you grow relationships with colleagues and clients. Word of mouth referrals are still one of the leading sources of new attorney business, and nurturing your online circles of influence can be beneficial in the same way as traditional networking. If you are taking full advantage of social media marketing, you will be doing more than just broadcasting story after story about your firm. You will also be engaging in discussions, recommending useful content and developing strategic relationships.

Incorporating social media buttons in email campaigns increases click-through rates. Email marketing is still a good way to stay in touch with people who have been in contact with your firm. According to MarketingProfs, a typical marketing email has a click-through rate of about 2.4 percent, while those that include social media icons have a click-through rate of 6.2 percent. Some social media participation may be able to boost email campaign performance.

Should you sink all of your marketing budget into social media? No. Organic and local search results are still the primary drivers of high-quality traffic to your website. But you should also not ignore social media altogether. The right activity can influence your search marketing efforts, enhance your reputation as a trusted resource, and help with peer-to-peer networking and relationship building. It is simply one piece of a balanced strategy that must also include your website, on-and-offline marketing and good client service.