Rethinking Google+: Value Certainly There, But Mostly for Search

  By: John Faris, Director of Cross-Channel Marketing at Red Door Interactive Featured in eM+C November 1, 2012

While there's much debate around the merits of Google+(G+) in the world of social media, the search engine optimization benefits of establishing a presence there are reason enough for most businesses and company authors to engage with the G+ audience. Truth be told, providing better search results was a primary driver for Google to launch the offering in the first place. Gaining access to the data that social networks have on what's popular on the web was a significant impetus for the search juggernaut to enter the space. This data will be critical for Google to defend its dominance in the field of search. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook have eclipsed blogs and websites as vehicles for the masses to share content. While Google can scrape public Twitter and Facebook profiles to understand connections between followers and the content that they're sharing, that data is relatively limited. With G+, Google has direct access to interactions between individuals, the topics being shared by those individuals, the popularity of specific authors and the topics trending across the web as a whole. So while the benefits of social media engagement with G+ are present, perhaps not in as great quantities as other platforms, there are significant benefits to improving search engine rankings. Here are some reasons why. First, G+ pages are indexed quickly, adding another piece of owned media that takes a spot in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for brand queries. What's more, Google's version of the Facebook "Like" function, known as "+1," may be impacting organic SERPs for all users (i.e., not logged in) to some degree, and that influence is likely to increase over time. The organic SERPs for logged-in users with "friends" who have shared or authored content on G+ are directly impacted today. If relevant to the query, this content is given special treatment, often landing on the first page for people in their "Circles." Businesses with a blog, paid search campaign or retail location have a particular incentive to optimize their presence on G+. Google has pushed authorship information into their search results, typically displaying a thumbnail image of the author, a link to their Google+ profile and a link to more articles by the author. This boosts clickthrough rates and is likely becoming a ranking factor itself. If you're an advertiser investing in paid search, there are several reasons to leverage G+ for Social Extensions in AdWords, including free traffic to your G+ page. And if you have retail locations, you probably already know that Google Places was absorbed by Google+ earlier this year. With all of these potential benefits, I'd certainly recommend companies consider launching and managing an active G+ presence. Here are the basic steps to do that:
  • Create a G+ page for your overall business, as well as for particular priority product lines and events (if warranted).
  • Invest in time-sharing photos, links and other content before promoting the page.
  • Make sure all important posts are made public.
  • Promote your G+ page through your typical website, social and other marketing communications channels.
  • Add +1 buttons to blog posts (and potentially even web pages), as signs point to page-level and site-level social factors influencing search rankings.
  • Promote your page to employees, customers, partners and media.
While I'm not sure G+ will usurp Twitter or Facebook in the social sphere anytime soon, I do know one thing: discarding the platform based on its failings in social media will be perilous for companies that are serious about search and content marketing.

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