I confess. I hate Google+. I know, I know. As an Online Marketing Executive I should love it. But every time I force myself to go on it I just think ‘what’s the point?’ I know I’m not alone in this (I read an article that mentioned that even Google employees hate it!) so why should we care about Google+?
Although there is no confirmation from Google that Google+ boosts search engine rankings, there is evidence to suggest that it does and many predictions saying that even if it doesn’t now, it will in the future. So with this in mind, it might be a good idea to get on Google+ and start, well, getting used to it (because let’s face it, Google+ is hard to like).
If Google Hasn’t Confirmed It, Why Should I Care?
Google likes to feel that they always have one over on SEO’s and they never like to give everything away. Well, if they did then it would be too easy to manipulate rankings and their algorithm would be pointless. If you consider that Google’s algorithm looks at hundreds of different factors, it’s highly likely that Google+ is in there somewhere.
The curiosity over this topic has lead many people to do their own research and seek out the evidence that proves Google+ does have a direct influence on search engine rankings. Over at Moz, Cyrus Shepard wrote an article called Amazing Correlation Between Google +1s and Higher Search Rankings. They discovered that, after Page Authority, Google +1s or posts were the second highest factor that correlated with search rankings. This is a huge find considering that Matt Cutts is telling us that +1s don’t lead to higher rankings.
Google rolled out Authorship so that content could be connected to the author’s Google+ profile. One of the benefits of this is that, if an article or blog post is connected to a Google+ profile, Google will be more likely to trust it and therefore rank it higher in search results.
Another benefit of having Google authorship set-up is that it makes it possible for your posts and articles to stand out more in search results. With authorship in place, you Google+ profile picture can show up next to the post or article in search results. It’s not guaranteed that this will happen and we’re not sure about what Google actually looks at before deciding to do this. Obviously the more trusted you are as an author, the more likely this is to occur.
Evidence suggests that having a Google+ picture in place will make your article appear as a more trusted source of information and this results in an increase in click-through rates. But even the way your profile picture looks can have a direct influence on whether or not it will be displayed in the search results.
Our very own Wayne experienced this himself. Having experimented with professional and non-professional shots, full body shots and black and white shots, he found that when he changed his profile picture to his professional, colour headshot it began to appear much more in search results. Cyrus Shepard also has a great post at Moz on how optimizing his Google+ photo increased free traffic.
Google knows that Google+ is not going to become the new Facebook, but it is going to become more important for the purposes of SEO. They are constantly trying to improve its interface and introduce new features in order to provide a better user experience, attract new users and keep up with other social media platforms.
An example of this is the recent introduction of embedded posts. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest all already offer this, so it was about time that Google joined in. The new embedded posts allow for logged in users to +1 and comment on posts and also follow the user that shared it. It supports a variety of posts, including text, photo, media and community links. It doesn’t support posts from within a community, private posts, event posts or posts that are restricted to a Google Apps domain.
This allows for content shared on Google+ to be shared even further, which is a great thing considering the amount of content curation taking place. It’s also a great way for bloggers to integrate their Google+ activity into their blog or website. With what is shared in social media disappearing so quickly from our walls and timelines, the ability to embed posts allows for popular content or content you want to give that extra push, to last a little bit longer somewhere that it’s not going to be shoved away by the next piece of content shared.
The ability for users to +1, comment and follow ensures that maximum interaction is going to occur. Maybe some of your blog readers check your site everyday but never bother to see what you have to offer on Google+. Now they can easily contribute to the conversation without ever having to leave your blog.
So, What Can We Do To Stop Hating Google+?
It’s not going to be easy, I’ll admit that, but it’s important to recognise that there ARE some benefits to using it. You don’t have to become a Google+ addict, much like many of us are with Twitter and Facebook. But by simply filling out your profile a little, setting up authorship and building a few connections you’ll be prepared for the possible benefits that this will have on your SEO efforts.
You might even surprise yourself and begin to enjoy what Google+ has to offer. Rae Hoffman, over at Sugarrae, wrote a great blog post in which she recounts her experience as she gave up all social media platforms except for Google+ for a week. I know. Gasps! Shock! Horror! How did she do it?! I have no idea. But she did and she found that she had underestimated it and the experience changed her opinion about Google+.
She found that actually, the standard of the content shared on Google+ was much higher than on other social platforms and she was able to take part in some interesting and productive discussions. In her blog post she mentions all of the advantages and disadvantages (for her) and yes, there are of course disadvantages but no one ever said you have to cut out other social media platforms, right?
Google+ is still relatively new and it’s just a case of getting used to it. After all, every time Facebook updates its appearance we all hate it right? And then we grow to like it and hate the next update. I think the problem with Google+ is that because it’s similar to other social platforms (like Facebook), we didn’t really give it a chance and so we never had the time to get used to it. It felt…pointless. But as you can see, for the purposes of SEO, it quite clearly isn’t and the chances are that Google are going to make this even more so.