What 6 Months Has Taught Us About Google+

by | Feb 27, 2012 | Blog, Blog Archive, Industry News, Multi-Channel Marketing | 0 comments

In June, 2011, the search giant Google launched Google+.  At the time, many people thought it was a challenge to Facebook’s domination of the social media space, and treated it as little more than one more social media channel among many.

Just over six months later, Google+ marketing best practices are starting to emerge.  It’s already clear that two things make Google+ quite different than other social media platforms.  One of them is the “Hangouts” feature that allows companies to engage with fans, prospects, and customers through video conference calls.  Of all the Google+ basics for corporate marketers, this feature is the one that is the most surprising and different.

The other is the Google+ effect on search results.  It’s the second of the Google+ basics for corporate marketers that catches them by surprise.  “Plus ones” – endorsements from users on the updates a company publishes there — can alter search results dramatically.  This is a place where sheet volume can make a significant different in page rank very quickly.  (For more information on how Google’s search results favor Google products, see this recent post from this blog.)

Google says that as a result of Google+, it is able to improve search engine results pages (SERPs) thanks to the enhanced information it collects from your “social circle”.  For the search giant, it’s all about trends – what you share with friends, what you’re reading, which of your friends is most important to you.  So, while the Google+ effect on search results is clear, you might be wondering why it’s so important.  The number of Facebook likes you get doesn’t affect your search ranking.  The truth is that the kind of profile data generated by Google+ is valuable to Google – and its advertisers.  So that’s one of the reasons that the search giant places so much weight on Google+ these days.

Content marketers and bloggers quickly realized that not having a Google +1 button on their site was a bad mistake.  Google not only links each +1 count to the address of the page where it appears, but it factors that into search results. The Google+ effect on search results is especially pronounced in Google Instant search results.

One thing that marketers need to know about the +1 button is that it is linked to the page – not to an article on a page.  So if you’re creating different versions of landing pages for campaigns, all of the +1 votes that you earn will be broken down into separate counts, by page address.  Also, the number of +1 votes that you have for a specific page will affect its Quality Score for Google AdWords – and that, of course, affects the price of your paid ads.

It’s not a huge problem for most marketers, but it’s something to watch for.  Another of the Google+ basics for corporate marketers is to remember that every time you move a page or change the address of something, you reset the +1 count for that page.

Why does that matter?  Because data shows that pages with a high +1 count continue to get higher traffic than pages without a large number of votes, even after the content is no longer new, and the number of +1 votes remains stable for 30 days or more.  There are two reasons for this.  First, people are attracted to things that other people value.  A high +1 vote count shows people looking at search page results that your content was thought valuable by a large number of people.  And that makes people wonder what they’re missing.

More importantly, Google likes Google.  A lot.  So pages with a high number of +1 votes get more traction with the search engine than pages without.  How do you get people to click +1 on your pages?  Start by asking them nicely – and making the social sharing and voting buttons easy to find on each page and each post.

Don’t forget to offer an incentive.  It can be an entry in a contest, liking a page instead of completing a form to download something they want, or any one of a million other creative ways to get people to click the button.  Remember that if they click the +1 button on a landing page, then it’s the landing page – not your main site – that gets the SEO boost from the vote.

Technorati, WebPro, and ClickZ have all carried recent articles on creative ways for corporate marketers to use Google+.  Check them out, and add it to your social media mix if you haven’t done so already.