Why Google+ is Important and How to Use It Effectively
Once Google entered into the social networking space by unveiling Google Plus (a.k.a. Google+) in June of 2011, it changed the landscape of search forever, although few of us recognized it at the time. This foray into the social arena afforded Google an entirely new level of insight into the search habits of its users, and personalized search results have now become the norm for those who choose to use Google’s search features while being logged into Google+.
For the uninitiated, the phrase “personalized search results” refers to Google’s practice of tailoring your search results to match your browsing habits, all of which are meticulously recorded, tracked, analyzed while you are logged into any service that requires a Google account (e.g., Google+, Maps, YouTube, Play, etc.). Once Google’s seemingly omniscient algorithms have collected enough information about your search queries and browsing habits, they begin to customize your search results, presenting you with links that their computers believe you are more likely to click on given your past online activity.
This specific-to-the-person customization is definitely a game-changer for those on both sides of the coin – the casual Google user and the person who intends to promote his/her website by way of search engine optimization. For the Google user, it can be a blessing and a curse; with one or two initial searches, you can expect to see search results that are better tailored to your own personal interests and preferences, but if you are conducting extensive research on a given topic and need to conduct multiple searches, it can really be a pain to get Google’s search function to understand that you want to look for other web pages besides the ones you’ve already been shown.
For the website owners who intend to promote their web pages via SEO, it is important to note that Google+ has inextricably tied their search engine results pages (SERPs) to certain social metrics that are built into Google+. So how can you leverage these recent changes to your advantage? Here are some important points to consider:
- If you have followers on Google+, any content of yours that they have +1’d will show higher in their personalized search results when they are logged into their Google account. This “skewing” of search results happens only when the searcher is logged into Google+ and actively performs searches while being logged in, so the relative percentage of users that will see these types of adjustments to their search results will be small. If your focus is organic rankings for various keyword terms, more than likely your position in Google will not be affected for the vast majority of searchers out there who are not connected to you by way of Google+.
- Google Authorship has also proven to be an extremely effective tool for gaining prominence in Google’s search results. Google Authorship allows your Google+ profile picture to appear beside your web page in search results. Several studies have shown that click-through rates for search results that feature Google Authorship (a.k.a. rich snippets) are significantly higher than purely text-based results, even if the Authorship-enhanced result appears lower on the page. You can use this to your advantage by connecting your Google+ profile to an author byline on your web pages.
- As most SEO professionals are well aware, Google still gives quite a bit of weight to whether or not you have a sufficient amount of external links pointing to your website. Several prominent SEO case studies have indicated that sharing links to your content publicly on Google+ will pass PageRank to those pages, giving them the added “juice” they need to rank higher in search results.
These three important points further confirm Google’s intentions to begin incorporating more social signals into the algorithms that govern their ranking factors. When you combine regular interaction on Google+ with other content promotion and link building efforts, you have a much higher probability of ranking well in Google’s ever-changing search results.