Google+ is like the Rodney Dangerfield of social networks. No one respects it but it has tremendous potential value. I’m here to tell you that if you’re trying to succeed in search and social media, you must start using Google+ and you must start using it effectively. Here’s why:
Google wants EVERYONE using Google+
Whenever I get into a discussion about Google+ someone will say: “Why should we use Google+? No one else is using it!” Well, that may be true right now, but it won’t be the case in the future. You’ve got the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something huge. Google is going to do everything in their power to drive people to use Google+ because, as my colleague Dan Cristo so eloquently put it in his post Like It or Not, You Will Be Using Google+: “The goal of Google+ was not to create another social network. The goal was for
them to improve their search product. They believe heavily that search results will be better if they are deeply personalized for you.”
Google wants their users to give them more information so that they can deliver a better product. Delivering a better product means more people will use Google, and the company’s profits will expand. The data that’s willingly handed over to social networks is so valuable that Facebook was able to buy a silly photo app called Instagram for $1 billion! Trust me, Google wants a piece of that.
The evidence is already starting to add up. Does your business have a physical location? Well, you may have noticed that all of those cleverly optimized Google Places pages you worked so diligently to cultivate have now migrated to the Google+ Local section. Google is starting to frame all of their products with the Google+ platform. Google Places, Youtube, Gmail, Google Calendar, and a bunch of others have already been rolled up into the service, and Google’s users are growing every day.
Search + Your World is in Your Future
I’m just going to put it out there: The future of search is personalized search. Whether you, I, or our respective mother’s think that’s a good thing or a bad thing is irrelevant. It’s happening. Google has been personalizing your search results for years, but they went all in with the implementation of Search Plus Your World. Now, whether you’re signed into Google or not, you’re going to see personalized results for almost every single query, and eventually you’re going to see them for all queries.
Google thinks that personalized searches are better for the searcher and therefore good for Google’s bottom line. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day all of us SEO’s wake up to find the entire organic portion of the SERP (what little of it remains) completely occupied by personalized listings. We need to start thinking about how to win on personalized search, and I’m here to tell you that Google+ is a guaranteed win.
My logic goes something like this:
We already know that if you’re logged into Google when you do a search, Search Plus Your World draws upon your circles and followers to find related photos, posts, and paraphernalia. If you’re a search marketing agency like Catalyst, and you’re circled by someone who does a search for “SEO” or “search marketing,” all of those posts you made on Google+ about how great you are at “SEO” and “search marketing” are going to show up in their search results.
So, the more people you have in your Google+ circles, the more personalized search queries you’re going to be a part of, and the more opportunities you’re going to get to convert those queries into traffic and sales. In addition, filling up a searcher’s personalized search results influences their personal filter bubbles, and constantly reinforces your brand whenever they perform a query related to you.
Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if all of the people who circled you on Google+ never saw a single search result from your competitors again? Hell, they might never find out your competitors even exist! Yeah, that’s the potential power of an effective Google+ strategy.
Google’s +1 Button Influences Organic Rankings
Okay, okay, maybe you’re not ready to gamble with the idea that search will ultimately be completely personalized. I get that. I don’t really want to see that happen either. But you can’t deny that Google+’s influence on the organic listings are happening right now without personalization. It’s called the Google +1 button, and it is one of the only social signals on the market that the SEO industry can claim affects a webpage’s ability to rank on the organic SERP.
Here’s a direct quote from Google’s Webmaster forum:
“+1′s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality.”
Webmasters rushed to add Google’s +1 button to their webpages faster than any social sharing button. Why? Because they recognized that Google could use data — like the referrer term, annotated impressions, annotated clicks, all impressions vs. +1 impressions, and all impressions vs. +1 clicks — to establish the credibility and quality level of the page getting the +1 vote. And that was even before Google announced the connection with Google+. Now anytime someone clicks that little +1 button on your blog post, they’re sharing it with their circles on Google+.
Even if you don’t add the +1 button to your pages, Google often adds +1 and Google+ share buttons to their SERPs. People can do a search query, find a result they like, then instantly share the result with all of their circles on Google+ directly from the search page and thus increase your referral traffic, social recognition, and organic search rankings all in one click!
You got link building opportunities in my Google Analytics data!
You know how I mentioned earlier that whenever someone pushes that Google+1 button on your page it shows up in their follower’s Google+ feeds? Well, it shows up in your Google Analytics data now too.
Check this out:
The above is a modified screen grab from a Search Engine Land post about the new social reports available on Google Analytics. Basically, whenever someone +1’s something on your website, you get all of their Google+ information including their name, a link to their profile, and when they shared your stuff.
You can use this information to create an additional link building opportunity. Anyone who +1’s your content is someone who likes your brand, or at least likes something you had to say at one point in time, and that means they’re already primed to accept outreach requests from you for further link building. Want to get links with guest posts? Look up the people who +1’d you. I bet they’ve got a blog listed on their Google+ page and it probably has something to do with that great post you wrote. Want to hold a contest or giveaway? Reach out to those people who +1’d you on Google+ and get them to start talking about it.
If you’re active on Google+ you don’t need to send cold emails to blog owners you barely know. You’ve already got an in with these people. Circle them and send them a friendly message about your new piece of content. Maybe they’ll give you another +1 boost, or maybe they’ll do you one better and write an actual blog post about it with a link to your site!
Google+ offers a better way to engage your customers
In simple terms, Google+ is an amalgamation of several services you’re already using, and the goal, according to Google, is to do them better. They’ve watched Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and a heap of other lesser known social networks grow, die, or evolve. They’ve pinpointed what’s good about them, what’s bad, and they have developed a product around that.
The problem with Google+’s adoption rate so far has been that most people (and brands) are already stuck in their social networking ruts, and they don’t want to branch out to a similar new service with fewer users. What most people (and brands) don’t understand is that Google+ offers a bunch of features that the other services don’t. Below are a few things that Google+ does better than anyone else:
• Conversations: Unlike Twitter, Google+ doesn’t have a character limit for posts and comments. Google+ threads act more like forums or email chains where people delve into detail or keep things simple when necessary. In addition, it allows users to craft their message and answer questions without having to leave the platform — that makes for a better user experience.
• Video Hang Outs: Have you ever wanted to start a video series or a podcast? You’ve probably run into the cost problem. It’s expensive to make good videos and good podcasts, but it isn’t expensive to do a quick hang out with all of your fans. Invite experts in your field to hang out with your followers, record those hang outs, and publish them for free on YouTube. Most of the major media outlets are already doing it, why not brands?
• Events: Is there a conference you want people to attend? Maybe a fundraiser? Well, you can find out who in your circles live in the area and send them event invites. If they accept, it will automatically get added to their Google Calendars. That’s a great way to get the word out to the people most likely to attend, and it barely takes any effort on your part to set up.
• Expanding Communities and Networks: Google+ has this great feature that allows you to share circles with your circles. If you’re trying to cultivate a community around your niche, what better way than to show all of your followers the influencers in your market? The people following you will appreciate the opportunity to expand their interest groups, and the people whose profiles you shared will appreciate the recognition and probably share your profile in return!
Start Using Google+ Now or Get Left in the Dust
Here’s the bottom line: The larger your presence on Google+, the more opportunities you have for consumer engagement, brand recognition, and search domination. You can’t say the same thing for any other social network, and even if you could, you can’t compare Google+ to social networks because it is so much more than that. Remember, Google is arguably the most powerful company on the internet. They can affect billions of websites with one or two algorithm updates. Do you really think Google+ is going to remain a ghost town forever?