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A recent agreement between Google and Facebook will mean that Android smartphone Google searches will now display some content through Facebook’s app, including public profiles.

Facebook has allowed Google to index parts of its site since roughly 2007. It was a choice on Facebook’s part that made sense for the two competitors because of the advantage that it confers to each company: Facebook gets free Google traffic while Google is able to provide its users with extra content that may better meet their search needs.

This recent agreement between Facebook and Google intends to give a better mobile experience to those who find and click on Facebook content via mobile Google searches.

Here’s how: When a smartphone user clicks on a Facebook-related search result, that information will now open inside of the Facebook app, rather than in a smartphone browser. This development will only apply to information that Facebook has made available to Google, such as public profiles. Additionally, this feature isn’t available for logged-in and private Facebook app sessions — for access to that kind of information, users will have to search within Facebook itself.

So far, this agreement between the two companies will only affect those with Android devices; neither company has mentioned anything about extending this plan to Apple or Windows devices. As a result, Facebook-related mobile searches that are carried out in certain browsers such as Safari, for example, will not prompt the Facebook app to open.

Another point of interest is that, for the very first time, Google App Indexing is now able to index publicly-available personal posts and status updates — something they were not able to do previously.

Will Google’s Facebook App Indexing Affect Law Firms?

It’s no secret that mobile device use is on the rise. Recent research conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that roughly two-thirds of adult Americans own a mobile phone — an increase from the 35 percent who owned a smartphone in 2011. Nearly 20 percent of those users are partially or totally smartphone-reliant either because they lack access to a home Internet connection or simply lack access to other Internet options besides their mobile phone.

The Pew report notes that, in comparison to those Americans who are not reliant on cell phones, those who are smartphone-reliant are also less likely to own another type of computing device, such as a desktop or laptop computer. Additionally, the report notes that not only do 85 percent of young Americans own a smartphone, but that mobile phones are being used more and more by this demographic to seek information. For example, nearly half of young Americans used their smartphone to consume educational content in 2015.

The recent development between Facebook and Google App Indexing may be taking these sorts of considerations into account. According to SearchEngineLand Founding Editor Danny Sullivan, the purpose of Google App Indexing isn’t so much about new information as it is about how that information is presented on a mobile device.

An article from the Wall Street Journal had described the value in Google App Indexing as the following:

Facebook’s cooperation is a sign that Google is making inroads in confronting a big challenge – searching inside apps. Google’s search engine is dominant on the Web, but its computers can’t automatically “crawl” and categorize the information inside apps, where smartphone users spend the majority of their time. So it must persuade app developers to let it peer inside.

However, Sullivan didn’t quite agree with that statement. In his own article about Google App Indexing, he noted that a lot of times, it’s not that apps contain information that Google can’t index. Apps themselves are often reflections of the content featured on the desktop version of a website. “Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook are examples of publishers like this,” Sullivan writes, “where Google knows very well what’s inside their apps because what’s inside their apps is also what’s inside their websites.” Sullivan goes on to explain that the purpose of Google App Indexing at this point is to create a better mobile experience for users that sends them right into an app rather than a browser.

The data on increased mobile device use in combination with Google App Indexing’s enhanced mobile experience — on top of the fact that mobile users now spend more time inside apps than they do watching television — may reveal the importance of having content that can be accessed on mobile devices in the easiest and most appealing fashion. As mobile use increases and companies like Facebook and Google improve mobile user experience, mobile users may come to expect that law firms not only have responsive websites, but also an app-accessible and obvious social media presence.

Because Google App Indexing can now crawl personal updates and statuses that have been made public, it may be worth lawyers’ time to post legal content to their personal Facebook page and make it publicly available. Lawyers who choose to do this may see benefits from Google’s new ability to crawl this kind of information. Google will be able to provide access to content that may better meet the search needs of potential clients, and it may also give law firms the ability to increase their presence from a social media perspective because more relevant search results can now be made available through Facebook.

Social media presence can be valuable for law firms in general: an article written in Forbes suggests that employers may be suspicious of those who don’t have a Facebook because of the normalization of social media presence. Because of the ubiquity of Facebook and how often we use it, people may feel suspicious — or just frustrated with — law firms that don’t have social media presence. In an age where so many things revolve around the Internet — no matter from what device we’re consuming content — tech abandonment can raise red flags.

We’ll be monitoring any developments about this agreement between Google and Facebook, as well as other search engine updates, as they progress and their significance for law firms becomes apparent.

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