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How Google+ Affects Rankings (Now)

posted by: - 02.26.2012

Google+ pages are now being shown in search results for non-branded keywords.

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A few months ago I wrote a post about the importance of claiming a business profile on Google+. Since that post was published, Google’s social network has only grown larger and more relevant to ranking in the search engine. Google+ now boasts 90 million users. In fact, the network is growing faster than its predecessors, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Although Google+ is still far behind Facebook when it comes to a user base (483 million daily users), the potential impact Google+ can have on how a company ranks in Google is worlds away from that of Facebook. And that impact doesn’t have to wait until it grows to a network the size of Facebook.

This post is an update on the impact Google+ business pages are having on search results for unbranded keywords. 

Google Returns Google+ Pages

Since we last discussed Google+ business pages, the network has begun to display content from Google+ pages alongside its regular search results from all over the web. Want to know what I mean? See the screenshot below where I search Google for one of my favorite things: 

               

Above are the results I see following a search for “coffee” when I’m signed out of Google. This means my search results are not affected by search personalization (things I’ve searched for in the past) or my Google+ profile. As you can see, Google has returned a list of its own Google+ brand and personal pages for this keyword. I’ve pointed them out inside the red square above.   

What This Means

As more and more users flock to the social network – Google+ profiles and business pages will only weigh heavier on search results displayed by Google. And the fact that Google+ pages show up in search engine results for users who are not signed into Google+ (or Google in general) means your business should be there. Like, now.

“Even if your audience isn’t active there, it’s almost mandatory to have a profile and be active there because of the way Google is showing more Google+ content in its regular search results.” (Web Pro News)

In the past, we've discouraged our clients from creating profiles on social networks unless they are certain their audience is there. However, in the case of Google+, setting up a profile can have an impact whether your audience uses the network or not.

How Are Google+ Pages Displayed in Search Results?

Based on studies from SEO expert, Ian Lurie, Google seems to have some ground rules for favoring Google+ pages in search results. Much like traditional SEO, the Google+ pages displayed first in search results are those that are most active with their publishing and those users and brands that are endorsed by others by way of inclusion in more users’ Google+ Circles. These two factors are similar to two principles at the core of SEO – fresh content and getting links (endorsement) from other websites.

The iE Verdict:

As Google+ evolves and grows as a social network, it will only have a larger impact on search results.

At the very least, claim your company’s Google+ business page. You can put minimal effort into keeping your profile alive without spending a ton of time or resources on it. (For now.)

As it stands, Google+ pages for niche industries are not represented in a simple Google search. For example, a search of “stationery” on Google doesn’t pull up a single Google+ page. This is most likely because there aren’t huge networks established around this topic. However, no Google+ pages are displayed on a Google search for “shoes”, either. (Zappos is on Google+ but Nike isn’t.)

That doesn’t mean the importance of Google+ for small businesses and niche industries won’t grow. Obviously, in the case of a mainstream topic, such as "shoes", Google is still optimizing its algorithm around Google+ search results. As more users flock to the network, brand pages and their Circles will continue to multiply. All signs point to the fact that Google is integrating Google+ signals into its algorithm more and more every day.

We recommend addressing Google+ in some fashion to many of our clients, whether it’s on their website with the +1 button, or setting up their own business pages on the network. But, like most new social networks, we’ll continue to monitor its growth to make sure it continues to be a relevant channel for web traffic, engagement and brand recognition. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you with your own Google+ business page.

Are there other ways Google+ is having an impact on your company’s search engine ranking? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below or tweet us @iexposure.

Photo by west.m and licensed through Creative Commons. 

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