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What Does Google+ Mean for Search Marketers?

July 18, 2011

There’s been a lot of talk and excitement around Google+ lately. There’s plenty of information out there about Google+ and how to use it, but what are the possible implications for businesses and what questions should search marketers be asking? Here’s my take on it.

Quickly, what is Google+?

Google+ is a new social platform; Google’s newest plunge in the social media space. When people have asked me what it’s like, I’ve described it as Twitter (without the character limit) in a Facebook interface.

Rather than friend people (like Facebook), you simply follow people (like Twitter) by grouping them into circles of friends. You define what these circles are, depending upon your own social circles. This makes it really easy to see and share information depending on your different social circles. For example, my non-search marketing friends no longer have to see articles about black hat PPC techniques (their loss!). Whilst my work colleagues don’t have to see pictures of me stuffing my face with ribs (unless they really, really want to).

In addition to Circles, Google+ have a bunch of other stuff going on like Sparks (content based on interests), Hangouts (video chat), and Huddles (group messaging).

After the anti-climax that was Wave and Buzz, has Google finally gotten social right? So far, Google+ has over 10 million users with over 1 billion items shared a day… and it’s still only in beta to a “limited audience”. The question remains, is Facebook set to become the next MySpace?

How do I set up a Business Profile?

Whoa there cowboy! Businesses have been told not to set up company profiles under personal usernames, but to hold out for specific Google+ business profiles which are coming and will bring with it deep analytics and the ability to connect the business profile with AdWords. Despite this, several companies have anyway (the rebels!), including Ford, Mashable and Search Engine Land.

So what does this mean for businesses?

1. The AdWords connection

Google+ opens up a whole new revenue source for Google (but of course!) by giving advertisers the option to extend AdWords beyond traditional Google search, onto the Google+ social ad network. Afterall, Facebook’s ad revenue hit $2B last year. Why shouldn’t Google want a piece of this too? But with this comes questions for search marketers, including:

  • Will Google use social data in Google+ to serve up relevant paid search ads?
  • Will social relevance be used to set different cost per click levels by advertiser?
  • Will social relevance also have an influence on ad position?
  • Will social targeting be utilized to supplement keyword targeting?

2. Impact on SEO

With direct access to all this additional social data, you’d be naive to think that Google aren’t going to get evil with it. You can also bet they’ll use it to determine future SEO rank through social relevance.

For a long time, linking has been used to determine page popularity and relevance; it has been the major factor in influencing rank. Social connections, influencers, sharing and preference (through +1s) is the next logical progression. We’ve already seen studies on how social sharing and preference on Facebook and Twitter has been correlated with rank. Now that Google has their own social firehose, watch out.

Now more than ever, it’s time to make social media a part of your website and ensure the content on your site is highly sharable. Make it easy for your visitors to share and push your content across their social graph. Just like Link Farms before them, expect to see more Like Farms, Tweet Farms, +1 Farms, Re-sharing Farms and people trying to game the social search system.

3. The application of Circles

Circles is a central feature of Google+ and has some interesting possibilities, one being customer segmentation and the ability for companies to better target messaging, testing and research through different circles. This can be particularly useful for larger enterprise companies with different divisions or distinct customer groups. Theoretically they can maintain a single company profile (instead of several) with messaging and interaction targeted accordingly.

There’s also networking and recruiting opportunities through circle connections, perhaps encroaching on LinkedIn territory, particularly when you couple this with impending Business Profiles, Hangouts and Huddles.

What other ways do you think Google+ will impact businesses and search marketing?

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