Google has finally launched their social networking offering under the name Google+ (Google Plus).
A staggering 20 million members have joined in a little over a month since it’s beta launch! That’s pretty amazing growth, even by Google’s standards. Google+ brings a number of tools to help you communicate with the people in your life including:
- Circles – Drag and drop your contacts into different circles helps you share relevant information with different social groups e.g. friends, co-workers, classmates, family.
- Hangouts – Face-to-face video chat with one or many of your friends at the same time.
- Sparks - Create feeds of information on topics you’re interested in
Google+ or Facebook
Google+ differentiates itself from Facebook by focusing on sharing content with your various social groups. Although you can adjust your privacy settings and set up lists within Facebook, Google has made the task of segmenting your content a synch with it’s intuitive HTML5 interface. It appears that the early adopters of Google+ have mostly been from the tech community and it will be interesting to see if the general public will take the plunge over the next six months or so. Whether Google+ can continue to grow at such an alarming rate is arguable - Facebook took over two years to reach 10 million members, Google+ took two weeks! I suspect that the 20 million odd users are running both social networks in parallel with very few closing down their Facebook accounts in favour of Google+. How long are users going to be prepared to commit their precious times to both networks? I sense D-Day will be arriving in the not too distant future.
Google +1 and the Rise Of Social SEO
The big SEO related feature that has come out of Google+ is the new Google +1 button. The +1 button is already starting to bump shoulders with the ubiquitous "Like" and "Tweet" buttons at the top of blogs, product pages and websites in general. The one other area that Google +1 now appears that none of the other social buttons have a hope in hell of showing up is in Google's search results pages next to each of the search listings. When you do a search when logged into Google, any results that you’ve +1′d — or which have been +1′d by those in your network — will be enhanced.
So what's the +1 button all about? To answer that we looked to Google's official +1 page:
||The +1 button is shorthand for this is pretty cool or you should check this out. Click +1 to publicly give something your stamp of approval. Your +1's can help friends, contacts, and others on the web find the best stuff when they search.
Ben Gomes, a Google product developer for over 10 years says “We see social as a layer in search that provides you with more relevant information in certain situations, so if you were looking at product reviews, those of your friends would be marked in the results. But the most important thing in search is still the search term, and how your computer understands that.”
What does this mean for the future of Google Search?
It means that search results are about to get a whole lot more personalised. No longer will users see the same results when searching. Your search results are going to be tailored not only based on what your social circles +1 but also based on the wider general audience’s +1. According to Mashable, Google says that +1 data will "directly influence its market share dominating search rankings." Thus, we may see modifications to the algorithm. In a study conducted by Nielsen in 2009, 90% of people trust recommendations from people they knew compared to 41% who trust search engine result ads. Google clearly understands the power of recommendations by your peers and by integrating the recommendations from your trust circle into search results will increase the relevancy of what you see.
What can you do in this changing SEO landscape?
For starters, add the “+1” button on your website. At the moment the most obvious application for the Google +1 button is on blog or news pages, (similar to Facebook and Twitter buttons which we are all familiar with) but you can also add these buttons anywhere you like on your website. While you’re there, make sure you have Twitter’s “tweet” and Facebook’s “like” button too. Google and Bing’s search team made an admission last December that Facebook and Twitter did in fact directly impact search results.
You should also think about ways to build advocacy for your website by giving users a reason to click the social promotion buttons. Generally, people who find the information you provide to be informative and useful will be more inclined to “like”, “share” or “+1” your content, so make sure you keep your site up to date with timely and relevant information.