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Why Every Marketer Now Needs a Google+ Strategy

Posted by randfish

Last week, Google rolled out "Search Plus Your World," an update to Google's universally popular search engine that biases logged-in users to receive socially shared content and markup in the results. Danny Sullivan wrote two excellent must-read pieces on the topic - Google's Results Get More Personal and Real-Life Examples of How "Search Plus" Pushes Google+ Over Relevancy. Thank God for Danny. If it wasn't for his tireless coverage, I'd feel obligated to spend hours writing those pieces myself (and they probably wouldn't be as good).

SEOmoz received a lot of requests for coverage, but typically we don't like to rush into writing about a new service/technology/change until we've got at least a few days of playing with it, watching the tech news cycles spin and evaluating how it might change practices for inbound marketers. To be honest, we still don't really know - our own accounts sometime get access to SPYW, and other times it seems to go missing (right now, for example, my Gmail account, which was showing SPYW results all last week, is suddenly back to regular, non-personalized Google). However, we felt that this was a momentous enough to shift to warrant a video on the changes and some discussion. 

 

It's my opinion that if SPYW continues to roll out to all logged-in Google users and Google stays as aggressive as it's been in the last 10 days with pushing Google+ for even logged-out users, the service will become a necessity for search and social marketers. In 2009 and 2010, Google's integration with Twitter was remarkable - helping content get indexed in seconds, earning featured spots for logged-in users who were connected to each other on Twitter and showing up in all sorts of specially-marked-up results. Google's taken that much, much further with SPYW, and while I'm no particular fan of using your market power to force users onto a platform they may not want, I'm also a realist. When I see this:

SEO Logged Out Search with Google SPYW Results

I know that as a marketer, there's missed opportunity if I'm ignoring Google+ (the search above is done totally logged-out).

BTW - if you liked the video above and Whiteboard Fridays in general, check out our SEOmoz Google+ page which features a few more and will continue to host some unique, interesting content that doesn't necessarily make it to the blog. Like everyone, we're still experimenting with G+, and suggestions are welcome!

 SEOmoz on Google+

Look forward to your thoughts around the necessity of Google+ (and watch this space as we plan on having some more tips + tactics on that front soon).

Video Transcription

Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to a special edition of Whiteboard+. Today we're actually talking a little bit meta about Google+and Google Search Plus Your World, which is Google's new effort to take their social network, Google+, and involve it more in exceedingly intricate ways with your search results and with everyone's search results.

I want to talk a little bit about what this means and why, in my opinion, every web marketer needs a Google+ strategy for their site, for their content. If you don't, I think you're going to be missing out very, very quickly. I think Google has really forced marketers' hands in this way, businesses in particular that have content on the Web. I'll show you what I mean by this.

So I've got some reasons why I believe this. Number one, Google+ is in the search results like you have never seen before. Let me illustrate for you really briefly with some search results that I've drawn up here. I even made the little icon with my finger. So, when I perform a search, like "Rand Fishkin," and if you are connected to me on Google+, you'll actually see results remarkably similar to this where my Google+ profile outranks all my other content. There was a great rant from someone whom I'm not usually a big fan of because of his denial of the power of SEO, but Jason Calacanis actually had a nice rant on Google+ itself where he noted that his Google+ profile was outranking all the other content - his blog, his Twitter profile. My wife noticed the same thing for her Everwhereist account for her travel blog, how essentially Google+ had taken over the number one spot for a lot of brand names and personal names, obviously, with the intent of hoping that people will contribute more to Google+, that they'll keep their profiles updated because if you don't, it looks kind of bad.

So what you see here is my Google profile. You'll actually see a photo of me. You see that I'm in Seattle, Washington. It's pulling some metadata in here, and then they'll give you some links to other places where I am on the Web that I've chosen for my Google+ profile. So obviously, this is almost like having to claim a LinkedIn profile so that people can find me on LinkedIn or a Facebook profile so that people can find me on Facebook. Google is really making this essential, and the way that they're doing it is through Google+.

Now it's not just personal brand names and personal profiles. They do this for some pretty big sites too. In fact, you'll also see a ton of other Google+ stuff inside the search results. I'll show you what I mean here. So you can see obviously the +1, but they will often have a count of +1's that come from that. They'll also have people who in your network have +1'd or shared a particular result, and those are essentially almost rich snippets, rich data that you can't get any other way. There is no other way to get people in your network, whose profiles are connected. It's not like they're going to show you people who liked SEOmoz's Facebook page or people who follow SEOmoz on Twitter who you also follow. This, Google+ has become one of the only ways to get this social proof that you used to be able to get through all sorts of Google social search.

Now, this being said, Matt Cutts did point out - Matt Cutts is one of the search quality engineers at Google, runs the web spam team there - he did point out that for a few other networks, Flikr, Quora, FriendFeed, which was bought by Facebook, and a couple of others sometimes those results can be in here as well. It's extremely rare. You can find it, but it's tough to see, and Google+ is clearly the best and easiest way to get into this type of markup, into these kinds of results. And remember this stuff, not only is it appearing, it's pushes results higher.

So for example, if I am searching for something and let's say Kenny Martin from SEOmoz has shared something on Google+ or he's +1'd it, I am likely to see that higher in my search results because Kenny is in one of my circles on Google+. What this means, obviously, is that the size of your network, if my network on Google+ is quite small, the people that I follow are quite small, I'd better hope that one of them has done the sharing of the content that I care about. But what I'd really like to do is have a huge network. I'm not illustrating it well. A huge, huge, huge network that encompasses, hopefully, hundreds of thousands of people who are following me. You can see Danny Sullivan I think right now has something like 390,000 people who are in his circles. When you think about the power of that, everything that Danny has ever shared, ever +1'd, ever put on Google+ is going to appear in those hundreds of thousands of people's search results higher than it normally would. Right now Google is being extremely liberal about this, ranking things that may not even have the keywords in the title tag, maybe only have ancillary relevance to the keyword search that's going on. So they are really, really pushing this forward.

Then in one of the most aggressive moves I've ever seen Google make they have a new box on the side of the search results. This box says, "People and Pages on Google+." So for example, I did a search, a logged out search for news, and I could see entities that have their Google+ pages featured over here with their pictures. There were no pictures over here. I was logged out. I wasn't getting any of the "so and so +1 this," but here I was getting suggestions of brands that I should be following on Google+. These weren't major brands. They were smaller brands - I didn't even recognize them - with a few hundred thousand people in their circles.

Kenny was sitting next to me at the computer, side by side, here in the Whiteboard Friday room, and he did a search for "SEO" and up popped myself, Rand Fishkin, and Danny Sullivan. Think of the power of that. If you can have your brand, your personal brand on Google+ associated with a broad term like SEO, or web marketing, or surveys, or used cars, or whatever it is that you're selling or the idea that you're trying to promote, insanely powerful. This is one of the biggest reasons why I think Google+ is going to force its own success inside Google Search results.

Remember, when we talk about the power of Facebook marketing, we're talking about 800, or so, million Facebook users. Google Search has literally billions of users performing billions of searches a day. So the user group for this is absolutely phenomenal, just tremendous. It's not just in the US, although Google Search Plus Your World is much more US focused right now. I suspect it will be rolling out in the weeks and months to come.

So obviously, Google+ in search results, the personalization that we talked about where these results are ranking higher, you can see an example of that down here. Your images related to you, you'll see this little icon, this guy here. When you see that icon, that means it's being personalized. Google+ is essentially personalizing your results inside of Google Search to show you content that they think is either your content or content of people that you're connected to. Photos is one of the most obvious ones that they're showing right now. But they'll show you profiles, they'll show you links and URLs that have shared, that you've shared, that they think are part of your world. Fascinating stuff, but definitely a bias towards Google+ related content. If you're sharing on Facebook, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, you're rarely ever going to see this here unless you have some very deep social connections, often through Google+ or through Quora, which is kind of how Google is accessing social data to Twitter and Facebook right now.

Number Three, Google+ adoption. I think things like this, look at this, "Learn how you could appear here too." There's a link right there so for those searches, when CNN does a search for news and they go, "Where are we?" Well, "Learn how you can appear here too." "Oh, well we'd better get on that. We've got to get a campaign going. If we don't, we're going to be losing out," because they know people are going to be clicking on these results rather than on these results. The adoption of Google+, something over 60 million users right now, I would suspect that number rises to 100 million very fast, almost certainly by the end of this year.

The richness of the snippets and mark up, you can see the visuals in here, the visuals on the side, the visuals with the personal elements, with the images, with the icons of people that you know and follow, and entities and brands that you know and follow on the service. It's going to be absolutely huge. Imagine having the ability to have endorsements of your brand from people that your customers already know. I think that's going to be a big one.

Number Five, I see Google using this long term, perhaps even in the short term if they can get enough adoption, for web spam and search quality signals. Essentially saying, "Hey, this brand, this entity, this website, these URLs, they have no activity whatsoever in our social graph. They haven't been shared through any service that we can connect to, nor have they been shared on Google+ or +1'd. I'm not so sure that this website is of high quality. It just seems to have a bunch of links pointing to it. Perhaps we should be discounting some of that link graph unless there are social supporting elements." I think over time that's one of the ways that they intend to fight manipulative link spam. So definitely, people need to be thinking about that from a marketing perspective.

Number Six, the biasing to social and Google+ in Search. For a long time, search results had, yeah you could do a search like this, you would see some social results. They'd generally be the one or two bottom results if there was something relevant. But nowadays, you're seeing that Google is essentially saying, "You know what? We are willing to forego a little bit of quality and relevance in favor of showing Google+ and social stuff in our results more heavily." I think that's them saying, "We're going all in, baby."

Now this being said, I won't get into it, but I think there are certainly some risks for Google, that quality and relevancy stuff, there are a lot of examples out there on the Web, on blog posts, all over the place, on Mashable, on TechCrunch, on Paris Lemon's blog. Danny Sullivan wrote about it on Search Engine Land, that Google's not doing the best job with relevancy because they're biasing to this Google+ stuff. That being said, if they keep doing this, if they stick with it, I think marketers, and brands, and companies, and pages will embrace this and make sure that these results are good. Over time, Google can pull back and show the more and more relevant stuff as more stuff gets shared on Google+.

So I think the only institutional risk that I see with this program that Google's rolled out is the governments of the world essentially saying, "Hey, you're doing monopolistic behavior using your vast market share advantage in Search to force people to use your social network." I don't want to comment on that. I'm not a lawyer. I'm not a political expert, or anything like that, but what I can say is, as a marketer, Google's very, very clearly forcing our hand and making sure that we use Google+. If I were you I would be setting up a Google+ content strategy. I would be making sure that whatever social sharing I'm currently doing also applies to Google+. If you are tweeting it, you're Facebook sharing it, you're posting it to LinkedIn, you're putting it in your Pinterest board, for God's sake man, put it on Google+! You're losing out if you're not because the biasing is so heavy right now.

All right, everyone, I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard+. I look forward to the comments, participating in those. We will certainly have more content coming soon around specific tactics and strategies for Google+. I hope you will join us again. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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