It’s no secret that Google is doing everything it can to encourage individuals and brands to sign on to Google+. Whether your company believes the hype, or has been reluctant to adopt the social marketing medium, we’re here to clear the air. Here’s a brief overview of what we know and a look at next steps.
Last June, Google introduced the rel=author tag, which displays an individual’s Google+ profile information within the author’s correlating search result. Not only does the tag display the author’s picture, but it also shows the number of people that have that author in their circles—thus improving credibility if the author is a member of many circles. Studies have been done on the effect the rel=author tag has on search, and the most notable finding is the increased CTR on results marked-up with the author tag.
Not logged into a Google+ account? The effects will still be seen. Even when a user is not logged into a Google account, the number of overall +1s (as well as an author’s image) can still be viewed in the search result, and on the right panel. This also has been indicated to improve CTR, however studies are still being developed.
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As of now, the main benefit of Google+ on SEO appears to be this effect it has on organic click-through-rates. By allowing for the display of more and more information about a brand, an active Google + presence will allow that brand to occupy significantly more real estate on the results page, as well as increase its credibility. Both these factors can increase clicks.
The “+1” is the Same as a Facebook “Like”
Wrong. The “+1” has a very clear impact on search results that Facebook ”Likes” do not. When logged into a Google account, a user can see who in their “circle” has previously given a page or article their +1 vote of confidence. This causes the user to be more intrigued, and more likely to visit a particular page. From a brand perspective, if a brand is in a user’s circle, the +1’s a brand has received could be a major influence on where the user clicks. This is an impetus for a brand to get as many individuals as possible to add that brand to his or her circles. Also, a brand or Google+ user’s previous +1 pages can be viewed on their profile. Essentially, the +1 is providing a social relevance signal on a purely individualized basis. One important thing to note, however, is that at this time, +1’s have minimal to zero impact on an individual pages ability to rank in the traditional organic search results.
Google+ is Measurable
Something that has long been debated is how to quantify and measure the impact of social media from a nominal perspective. To address this concern, Google added the ability to track the number of +1’s through Webmaster tools and Google Analytics. These stats can provide a brand with information such as how much traffic the “+1” drove to the site. Therefore, Google is providing a more transparent view of the benefits of Google+ to a business’ bottom line in terms of traffic, conversions, and ultimately, revenue.
The Bottom Line
The overall impact of Google+ depends on the success of Google+. Google has been criticized in recent months for evading the question of “how many active users are actually on Google+?”. While we know Google won’t go down without a fight for their “social layer”, the active use of Google+ is speculated to be unimpressive. This is why Google has yet to incorporate +1’s into their organic algorithm; there simply isn’t enough use to justify it. For now, the effect on click-through-rate is clear, as is Google’s desire to make Google+ a success and ensure it can incorporate a social component to improve its organic results. If the day comes that Google+ has enough users that the search engine can incorporate these signals into its results, it will be a game changer, and any brand without an active presence is going to be playing catch up.