Here at FreshNetworks we’ve been keeping a close eye on the significance of Google+ for brands. We were very excited about the arrival of Google+, and predicted, a back in July last year, that it would impact social search:
…”Potentially, in the future, this could mean that the more popular pages from within your Circles could outrank those pages that are better optimised in the traditional sense of the word.”
The launch of Google’s new personalised search results display, known as ‘Search, plus Your World‘ means that this has indeed become reality, suggesting a presence on Google+ is something that brands should be considering now more than ever, especially as the network grew to 62 millions users by the end of 2011, with predictions for that figure to reach 400 million by the end of this year.
Google+ and the new school of linking
To briefly touch on a key factor of SEO, Google places weight on the quality and quantity of links that a page receives from other sites – which Google view as impartial endorsements and indicators of relevancy.
The importance of these links will not go away, but as sharing links is a key activity on social media, the average user is now effectively in the position of a publisher. In terms of relevancy, a display of recommendation from a person or entity that you trust or are interested in enough to follow on social media will have a strong boost, as an attention grabbing indicator and also as a sign that it is something you may well be interested in.
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Will Google+ content be promoted above paid for advertising?
Just seeing the recommendations from your connections is not where it ends though as Google is aggressively promoting its Plus profiles and shares.
As Rand Fishkin, CEO of SeoMoz explains in his excellent video, certain elements of Google+ are receiving significant prominence on search results for users who are logged in – to the extent that, for certain terms, the avatars of influential brands or individuals are placed above the paid ads, which link you to information on “Learn how you could appear here too”
For example, when logged in to to Google+ and searching for “SEO”, well-known SEO experts Rand Fishkin and Danny Sullivan appear in my results even though I haven’t connected to them on Google+ (yet…) and also shows that within the results, 120 of them will be personal to me and my network:
How Google calls the shots
The recent changes have caused some controversy from the clear bias that Google+ is receiving over other networks such as Twitter and Facebook, which clearly are significant drivers of link-sharing and endorsement. While integration may take place further down the line, the current tension between the key networks and Google suggest that, for the time being, Google+ is the place to be.
While these changes are currently only applied to searchers logged into Google+ and using the US version on Google.com, all signs are pointing towards “social search” becoming the norm across all of Google’s domains, and one that brands (and individuals) need to prepare for.