Did Google + Just Became the Most Important SEO/Marketing Tactic of 2012?
It’s been quite a LONG time since I’ve written a post that wasn’t some diatribe for musicians that would cause headaches and break hearts (and ultimately be looked at as rubbish, even though I was right). Now, with the recent news from Google regarding the inclusion of Google+ sharing as part of their search results, I’ve decided to re-join my SEO family that gave birth to me so many years ago and pick apart the topic. After months of insight boiling in the back of my mind, and seeing the growth of Google+ (and the +1 signal) influence on search in my own projects, I’m here today to say that Google + is going to have a very important impact to your SEO strategy here in 2012, and it’s going to be a lot bigger then you might expect.
Social SEO Has Been Around For Years
To start, I’d like to point out that much of SEO has been very heavily influenced by the “social” aspect of the web for years now. First, us savvy marketers used social bookmarking and news platforms like Delicious, Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon to get our content in front of the “linkerati” as a means of obtaining those ever-so-important links that are the backbone of SEO. If you’re reading this thinking that spamming comment forms, directories, and article submission sites are the answer to your Google ranking woes, jump in a time machine and meet me at a bar circa 2007 so I can buy you a beer and set you on the right path.*
At this point in time, links were all-the-rage in Google land. While the algorithm was very advanced, and not every link was worth the same (remember this little tidbit), the only way to really gauge relevance of a web page was the link algorithm, and it made sense. The pages with the best links, and more of them, deserved to rank high in search results. And just like the techniques that came before them, us SEO soldiers figured out ways to get them. The smarter we got, the smarter Google got, and the game continued to get played with no end in sight.
As Facebook and Twitter rose to heights that nobody saw coming, it become apparent that the way content was being shared on these services was a solid indicator of the quality of said content. Now instead of just Google’s algorithm determining the importance of a web page, people we’re determining this via sharing on these social networks (instead of just linking from their own sites). The better an article or blog post was, the more likely it was going to be shared, “liked”, or tweeted. Google acknowledged this and soon these signals became part of the algorithm.
Google+ Is NOT the Facebook Killer…It’s a Twitter & Linked-In Killer
Google isn’t stupid, and so it began toying with it’s own social network. It screwed up royally with the launch of Buzz a few years back, and “we the people” helped that die a fast death. But low and behold, last summer, Google launched Google+. Everyone went into a frenzy, labeling it as a “Facebook killer”. I quietly laughed at that notion and checked it out. While it had some cool features, I kind of thought it was pretty redundant. I mean, the whole world uses Facebook and we all love it, so much that we complain every time they update the service, yet spend more and more time on it. Why would Google try to compete with that? And the more and more I started playing around with it, I realized what was really happening. Google wasn’t trying to kill off Facebook. No, it was going after Twitter. And now it’s taking that war to the battlefield that it just so happens to own, the beloved search engine results page. And it might prove to be a formidable foe.
How is Google+ more of a threat to Twitter then Facebook? It’s simple really. Facebook, for the most part, is a closed, friends and acquaintance-only social network (forget that “subscriptions” bullshit – anyone who really uses Facebook and is not a celebrity would cringe at the thought of this). Facebook is all about stupid status updates and pictures if you and your friends getting drunk. It’s not something we want shared with strangers.
This mindset goes against the way Google+ was set-up, where people would add you to “circles”. It’s not like a “friend request” – people add you if they want to. Depending on your settings, if your sharing updates publicly, then those who added you get your updates in their news feed. People can be very open with things on Google+. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s cause it’s pretty much exactly how Twitter operates, just with some added, Facebook-y features. It’s a far superior platform to do the kinds of sharing of information that Twitter allows you to do (which makes the “circles” concept so damn good).
Now, of course Google+ did take the one thing Facebook provides as far as social signals are concerned – the “Like” button, and incorporated THAT into the whole platform as well. The “+1”, Google’s version of the “Like”, is the perfect and final reason why its platform works so damn well. Now Google can take the content sharing/network that works so well on Twitter and combine the “like” aspect of Facebook to completely change the way the algortithm deems content worthy of ranking. And, as stated earlier in this article, it makes total sense. 5 years ago it was links that make content relevant (and early form of what we consider “social”, even though it was always social – links were given by people, right?). Now, as social signals have evolved, Google is just doing what it does best – delivering the best possible results that it can that are relevant to the user.
And why do I call it a Linked-In killer? Because, as you’ll find out below, Google+ will very much become the “professional” social network. I’ll saved the Linked-In rant for another day, but I see it as becoming obsolete.
So here we are with the news this week that Google has introduced the Google+ and +1 signals as an integral part of their algorithm and user experience. Yes, users have the ability to opt-out of the service, but methinks that’s not going to really affect the masses of Google users who login to the service on a daily basis, which makes this integration VERY powerful for those who want to take advantage of it.
Let’s start by talking about your personal Google + profile and how it can affect SEO. Now, it’s really easy to hear all the hype surrounding Google+ and to just start going on a friend-addding frenzy, or to start +1’ing all your content (and begging others to do so). For just a minute, sit back, take a deep breath, and understand the following, otherwise you might screw your future success up with Google+ right from the start.
From my analysis, here is how Google is going to look at you via your Google+ page, and how it affects SEO now that Google + Your World is in full effect.
Connections are key. Every social network to rise up has it’s early adopters who figure out a way to spam their way to lots of friends (I know, I toyed with that myself with Twitter). However, this is king Google we’re talking about here – they’re not stupid. Google is going to look at who you add to your circles, then analyze all the factors of their profile as well. This includes their own connections and the quality of the content they share or +1 on their own Google+ profile. Make sense? Let’s use the following example:
Joe adds everybody and everybody to his Google+ circles, he has 1000 people. He’s never met these people, and about 60% of them are either fake accounts or users who don’t even use the service. The friends who DO use their Google+ account are spammers or affiliate marketers who are just pushing links out to shady products.
Now Jane, on the other hand, only adds people she knows or follows closely to her circles of connections. She only has about 200 of them, but most if not all use Google+ on a regular basis. They all share quality content and conversations and +1 good content on the web.
See the difference here? While Joe has more connections, it’s Jane who has the more valuable Google+ one account. Google’s algorithm is going to favor those who actually use the damn thing to make their search results more valuable for all users.
So that’s the real advantage to using Google+ for SEO & marketing. It’s all about building a valuable community of people and sharing the right kinds of content. YOU have the power to have a very powerful SEO signal if you create a Google+ profile that Google deems authorative, and the +1’s you give to content will have a profund effect on their search rankings.
All sound familiar? That’s because the ecceence of Google+ is the same as it’s link algorithm. The more +1’s you get from highly authuratative Google+ users, the higher you will rank. It’s not just quantity, but quality. Power will come with those who network well just like Digg/Reddit/Social Power Users.
Finally, even with all that has been said regarding Google+’s influence here, at the end of the day, if you’re trying to rank for keywords in search, you have to have quality content. I know it’s been preached about here and everywhere for years, but none of the SEO and social signals you read about mean a damn thing if you don’t have the content first. Create it, and then get it in front of the people who have the power to give you the links and Google +1’s (and Tweets and Likes and so on), and you’ll have a shot to play in the SEO game with the rest of us.
So, if you don’t mind…can you give me a +1 up in the left hand corner? 🙂
The Industry Weighs In on Google+
I figured I’d include the following articles from those who have been hiding in a cave to see what the reaction about Google+ has been from some of the sharpest minds in the game.
Search & Social – you can’t get the cream out of the coffee by Joost de Valk
Are You Trusted by Google? by Bill Slawski
*If you’re having success using these “golden-era” methods of getting links (crappy directories & article submissions), good for you. I hear they can still work for some of those non-competitive niches, but that isn’t going to last much longer. Social is taking, or already has taken, over. If you want to do your clients/projects a disservice, then continue building links this way. I’ll see you at the top of the search results, or at the bar wooing your clients away.