When Google launched it’s new social network Google+ on June 28th, user adoption soared, and many called it the fastest growing social network ever. Since then, industry opinion has gone back and forth. Some have said Google+ is losing users fast, others have predicted that Google+ will soon pose a serious threat to Facebook.
However, one universal point of frustration was that Google+ didn’t allow businesses, brands, or any other “non human” entities to create pages. This has now changed.
Google+ is now officially open for business, and we’ve recently seen a flurry of activity, as everyone from major brands to local businesses rushes to claim their space on Google’s newest social network.
There’s no doubt that expanding your social presence to Google+ is a must-do for any business that cares about social networking. For anyone still on the fence, this post covers 4 critical reasons why Google+ is a crucial component of a modern social marketing strategy.
The SEO Benefits Should be Obvious
It should come as no surprise that being active on Google+ could have a seriously positive impact on your organic search presence.
We’ve known for a long time that social signals have a powerful influence on search rankings. The 2011 Search Engine Ranking Factors report created by SEOmoz estimates the impact of page-level social signals at 7% of total ranking value.
Social signals are also expected to rise heavily in importance, at both the page and domain level, while at the same time traditional SEO factors such as exact-match domains are expected to diminish in value.
Google+ Pages can be directly connected to a website, and Google also offers embeddable G+ badges. With this in mind, it seems obvious that Google will not only understand the connection between a website and a Plus page, but that Google will be mining this connection for social ranking signals.
Having an active G+ page, that produces quality content, and engages with G+ users, seems like a very powerful way to send positive social ranking signals directly to Google.
Direct Connect Changes Search Behavior
It seems likely that Google+ pages will have strong SERP visibility themselves. Issues of anti-competitiveness aside, Google will probably consider a brand’s +page to be very relevant for that brand’s name and keywords.
However, SERP visibility of brand pages isn’t limited to just traditional ranking systems. Google has released a new feature called “Direct Connect”, that allows Google searchers to find and connect with Google+ pages directly from the search box.
Basically, users who begin a query with the + operator will enter into plus-profile search mode. Google will suggest +pages associated with the query directly from the search box, and users who click a suggestion will be brought directly to a Google+ page. (Incidentally, this explains why Google killed its “other” long-standing + operator)
As the name implies, direct connect also allows users to instantly follow Plus Pages, just by using the direct feature (and opting in). Google has a video here explaining how the system works.
This is important for two reasons. Firstly, if this behaviour catches on, not being available for direct connect searches will be equivalent to invisibility.
Secondly, from a tactical perspective, this shows how much leverage Google is applying to increase G+ adoption. Basically every single Google query now becomes a vehicle for G+ to reach “normal” Google searchers.
Google’s Going All-In
The direct connect system goes to show how much pressure Google’s putting on G+ adoption. But direct connect isn’t the only signal that shows Google’s commitment to Plus.
On October 14th, Google announced it was formally shutting down Google Buzz, an earlier social networking attempt that was largely a failure.
Shortly after the Buzz announcement, Google redesigned Reader, and in the process, killed Reader’s social functions. While most people wouldn’t consider Google Reader to be a “social network”, Google’s decision to remove its social functions has been met with a surprising amount of resistance.
The implications of these product deaths are obvious. Google is axing all of its other social systems, in an attempt to funnel more users towards Google+. Whether or not this will be successful remains to be seen, but it’s clear Google is devoting every resource possible towards the success of Google+
The Local-Social Connection
Google+ pages already contain several features designed specifically for local businesses. +Pages for local businesses include a map of the business location, and feature basic local information, such as address, phone number, and hours of operation.
While this functionality might not be mind-blowing right now, the more interesting issue for local businesses will be the possible future integration between Google Places and Google+.
If this Places/Plus integration does take place, we could see Google creating a tremendously powerful local-social system. Local businesses will be able to translate Plus content into richer, higher ranking, and better converting Place pages.
All told, while the future of Google+ user adoption may still be uncertain, the advantages of having a business presence on Google+ cannot be ignored. Google has implemented powerful incentives for businesses to create a presence on Plus, and at this point, failing to include Google in your social strategy would be a massive missed opportunity.