By: Naveen Hariprasad
Google+ (also known as G+, Google Plus or Plus) is the biggest trending topic online these days. So, what is it and why should you care about it? Simple – it’s a new social media site that is directly tied into the most widely-used search engine on the planet, with looming search engine optimization (SEO) implications. If you care about your company’s online reputation – what consumers are saying and where they are saying it – you need to read this post.
1. Yes, It’s a social media site.
Google+ is Google’s answer to Facebook. If you’ve ever used Facebook, you already know how this works. You can share content (such as text, photos, video, etc.) to a network of contacts. Your contacts can respond and rate your shared content in turn. You can add contacts, block them, connect to other services like Twitter, and much more.
2. It’s sort of like Facebook – but different.
Privacy issues have been a burr under the saddle of Facebook since its inception in 2004. Users have complained that the privacy settings were too obtuse and instructions on how to protect their accounts were confusing. G+ removes the confusion by introducing a better privacy management system. You’re able to create groups for contacts (they call these Circles) and then select them on the fly as you create content.
Any post you make can be edited to remove or add contacts individually, or entire Circles. This sort of direct control is lacking in Facebook and is a boon for those who want to manage their information online in an organized manner. (EDIT: I was wrong about this – you can’t actually remove anyone from a post, but you can add them. Thanks to mabonafe for pointing this out) The other change is perhaps more important for businesses. The +1 button is a way to signal your approval of a contact’s post (whether it be text, a photo, a video, etc) and effectively validate it as a good source of information. On the surface, this may appear as simply the equivalent of Facebook’s “Like” button, but this is where it gets interesting – and a little bit confusing.
3. The +1 button will probably directly impact SEO – but we’re not yet exactly sure how.
If you used Google’s search engine in the last year, you may have noticed a strange development – a little “+1” button that would show up in search results. Clicking on it would indicate to Google that you have endorsed that result as a solid source of information for the search term you used. Naturally, everyone speculated that the more +1 clicks that a site received, the higher that Google would esteem it for that particular search term. Google denied this at +1’s implementation but did not dismiss the possibility of +1 affecting search rankings in the future – which means it will be a reality soon enough.
With G+ using the +1 button as a way to endorse a post by a contact, the overall vision for +1 is revealed to be a bit grander. Google envisions +1 as the tool that ties together all user-endorsed content across the web. Whether you +1 something in search results or a photo that your friend took of his dog and uploaded to Google+, you’re contributing to your personal version of Google’s search algorithm, meaning that content may eventually be served to you differently based on your +1 behaviors.
This concept is very bold and presents an interesting problem for SEO management, if it does indeed create a personalized set of results which varies wildly for every user. When the SEO community reaches some sort of consensus (or if Google releases more information) then I’ll do a follow-up to this post on how +1 affects Google+ SEO performance.
4. Google says that businesses should not create profiles for themselves on Google+ yet – but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it out.
While it may seem logical to create a G+ profile for your firm and get ahead of the competition, there won’t be special business profiles until later this year. These new business-only profiles will reportedly contain features that are highly useful to companies – my guess is that they will be analytics-focused, providing deeper details on user demographics and the like.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with G+ as it currently exists, but be aware that you may end up having to recreate the profile again this fall. Of course, it would be to your benefit to try out the new platform that consumers may use to talk about your company.
5. Google is putting its full weight behind G+.
Pretty soon Picasa and Blogger will cease to exist and you’ll be using G+ for blogging and uploading photos. What’s next? Will we see more Google services die a slow death, only to be reborn as a part of G+? Absolutely. We’ll also likely see new services pop up, such as games, plugins, and more customization. What does this mean for you? SEO is going to be influenced by this in a big way. Instead of being an aggregator or a channel to find blog posts about your firm, G+ will instead be both the platform and means of distribution for content.
Once we know more about how this whole thing effects SEO performance, I’ll give you some best practices for using Google+.
Google certainly has big plans for G+, that much is clear. It’s taken aim at Facebook (and, to a lesser degree, Twitter) in a big way. The bottom line is that any company that cares about what consumers are saying – and where they are saying it – should get familiar with Google+ now.