Tech Tip: G+, Social Search, and Why it Matters

G+, the social network that Google launched last June, has grown to more than 62 million users in only six months. G+ allows users to connect over Google features like Stream (a newsfeed), Sparks (a recommendation engine), Hangouts (a video chat service), Circles (a friend management service), Games, and Photos. In November, Google rolled out “pages” for brands.

But given the ever-changing social media landscape, we’ve heard our clients say, “I have enough trouble staying up-to-date on Facebook, let alone Twitter. Does G+ even matter?” In short, yes, and here’s why:

Search

Much like Facebook “like” and Twitter buttons, Google’s +1 button allows users to endorse your content, which in turn can help drive traffic. For example, here’s what it looks like when I +1 the TOMS page:

While it’s currently unclear how much +1s will impact organic search rankings, since +1 data is integrated within Google Analytics, it’s likely we’ll see a correlation between +1 activity and traffic.

One of the most significant features of G+ is that it now enables “social search.” The new “Google Search Plus Your World” delivers personalized search results from Google+ friends and other public G+ content (like comments and photos) within traditional search results. So if someone who’s logged into G+ searches for your business, Google will give her customized results, including comments, pictures, or other content that people in her network have posted about your brand. It’s another way of garnering information from trusted sources.

Take, for example, my friend and colleague, Kat. She and I are connected through Google+ Circles. Now, when she’s logged on to G+ and searches TOMS, she’s alerted to “personal results”—demarcated by the little icon of a person—which include my recent endorsement.

We don’t know what’s on the horizon for Google+, but this is likely only the beginning, as opportunities to integrate with other Google properties emerge. But while most SEO experts agree that the new rollout is a big deal, it’s not without controversy.

According to Bill Ross, lead at Linchpin SEO, “As Google gets smarter at determining the value of +1′s, the integration points will continue to increase and influence their organic search results. The concerning part of this is that, much like selling links became popular (and manipulated) as soon as Google started valuing them as a key part of their ranking algorithm, +1’s (and Google+ communities) run the risk of falling victim to commoditization and manipulation once Google gives them more power.” We’ll be keeping an eye on this as new data surfaces.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

G+ also has an impact on SEM: The +1 button itself appears next to your headline on search ads, and personalized annotations show up beneath your URL so you can see how many of your friends “+1’d this.” Just like Facebook social ads, this can help boost click-through rates and conversions.

According to Robyn McCleary, Account Director at BeFound Online, “The recent integration of social and paid search is already having an effect on what paid search ads users are served and how they interact with the ads. Early adapters will be rewarded with an increased ad click-through rate, more engaged users, and targeting capabilities that, before social, were thought impossible.”

The line between search engine optimization and social media optimization is becoming increasingly blurred. Customer reviews and recommendations have always been invaluable to small businesses; now, by coupling these with recommendations from trusted social networks and a search platform as large as Google, G+ has the potential to be a very powerful tool. So give it a whirl: Add +1 to your site, measure it, and see how much traffic it drives.

How do you like G+? Want to know more about how you can optimize your site for social search? Shoot us an email or leave a comment below.

Kate Garmey

About Kate Garmey

Kate Garmey has written 26 post(s) in this blog.

Director of Marketing Fluent in: Google Analytics, Spanglish, Big Ideas, puns

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