August 19, 2011
Google+ and Search Results
You may have recently become aware of Google+ data being used in your Google search results, creating a socially personalised search experience.
When a link is publicly shared on Google+ by a user, what Google calls an ‘annotation’ will appear beneath that link if it is shown in a friend’s search results, saying “‘Friend X’ has shared this link”. But why is this significant for searchers, businesses and Google alike?
For Google this instantly integrates its new Google+ social network into everyday searching, increasing its visibility and purpose and potentially contributing to attracting new users and ensuring current users are retained. For searchers this development personalises results and hopefully makes them more relevant to you and your search. However, it is the significance for businesses and brands that could prove to be the most interesting and consequential.
Before Google+ is even fully accessible globally, this search enhancement is a clear message to brands that having an effective presence on Google+ will affect search results and therefore also the number of click-throughs and conversions. For example, if Marks & Spencer set up a brand page on Google+ and they were in one of your ‘Circles’, it would most likely be regularly and publicly sharing links and updates, therefore boosting M&S’s ranking in your search results.
The incentive will be to be in as many people’s Circles as possible so that a higher number of people see your page appear in their enhanced search results. However, if your competitors are also in the same people’s Circles their search rankings will also benefit. So the key to competitiveness is to develop a distinct motive for users to include you in their Circles, and before and instead of any of your competitors. Therefore to achieve the search engine optimisation benefits of Google+, brands will have to successfully utilise it as a social platform and engage customers as part of their broader social media marketing strategy rather than looking for a quick and easy rankings boost.
How will this situation work out? We’ll just have to wait and see.