Google+ :: The Merging of Search and Social

Travitt and I have had an ongoing conversation over the last several weeks about Google+. How successful or useful is it as a social network? Is it worthwhile to recommend that our clients spend the time and effort necessary to set up a Page and maintain it? What benefit will they get from it? Does it have advantages over the other social media platforms?

Our SEO outsourcing partners (and office mates) at seOverflow had been having a similar discussion, prompted by Google’s announcement that they would begin incorporating social media into their search algorithms.

The Interviewees

Mike Belasco is the President of seOverflow, and has carved out a niche as an industry leader in Search Engine Optimization since getting his start during the mid-90s dot com boom.

Everett Sizemore is the Director of SEO Strategy for seOverflow, after serving time on the Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices treadmill.

With Google+ in the air, we thought the time was right to sit down and pick their brains about how brands could leverage it for better SEO rankings. Travitt and I both started the conversation as Google+ skeptics. This conversation convinced us that it will be an increasingly important component of all of our SEO strategies.

Here’s our takeaway, but if you want more details, we’ve included a partial transcript of the much longer, fun, and wide-ranging interview below.

The short version is that Google+ can be a great way to share high quality content with a very focused audience, and the more you share that content, the better your search results will be.

For Web professionals, it’s getting harder to separate SEO from social media marketing.

General Observations

  • Google+ has a lot of strengths as a social media marketing tool that aren’t immediately obvious
  • It’s a great way to share content with a very targeted, motivated audience, and you can get in on the ground floor if you jump in now
  • Google+ is more business focused right now than “friend,” focused like Facebook
  • The more you interact with your followers on Google+ the better your search rankings will be – and Google’s results are already reflecting this

Leveraging Google+ for improved search rankings

Here are some tactics you should start implementing right now to start improving your search rankings

  • Set up a profile and start posting quality content to your page, and be sure to comment on other individual profiles. (Commenting on others’ posts will get your profile seen, and circled.)
  • Offer promos or freebies that people will be excited about sharing
  • Host a Google+ Hangout with industry leaders to expand the reach of your visibility
  • Interact with your Circles at least once every 72 hours
  • Get +1 buttons on any of your content that appears on the Web and add the Google+ button to your Website
  • Active Google+ brand Pages are being featured in a box at the top of the universal search results – interacting is no guarantee, but if you don’t interact, you have no chance of showing up here
  • Getting your audience to participate and share can be a really strong SEO strategy even today when Google+ is relatively small

You can start sharing your awesome content with us right now!

Head over to Google+ to Circle Travitt, Kandra, Mike, Everett, and our companies, Phases Design Studio and seOverflow.


Highlights from the full interview:

Briefly, so we can all be on the same page, what would you say are the key differences between Google + and Facebook, or the other social media sites?

Mike: From a business standpoint, right now I seem to be getting more value, especially for work, from Google+, especially in terms of content. Both the way it’s shared and the way I can consume it. I’m sure it has to do with who I network with on each platform, but Facebook’s never been where I go seeking information for work.

Kandra: I think what you’re getting at seems to me like from a brand perspective, Facebook is for friends and Google+ is for business.

Everett: But that might just be because of the types of businesses that are early adopters. Tech businesses, online marketers, Website designers, SEO professionals. That’s where Google+ is right now. Where they’re going to be in 2 years, who knows. But if you want to show up in the search results… you need a Google+ page, and an active one at that. Businesses have an interest in getting their content shared, and in getting their employees who write on the Web to have their content shared.

Travitt: Both of you guys have active Circles and streams and it seems that you get a lot of value out of Google+?

Mike: I do. Definitely, I get a lot of value out of it.

Everett: On a personal level, as a user I get great value out of it and like it better than Facebook, any day of the week. This may change over time as different people adopt, but one of the things I like is the quality of information. It tends to be people sharing quality content, thoughts, links, videos, and pictures.

How can our clients leverage Google+ to enhance their search rankings?

Everett: Choose carefully the email address you’re going to use… [and] be careful about who has access.

Then come up with a design strategy. I’ve seen some cool things, like the Muppets, who have pictures of individual muppets in the five photos go at the top of the page. That could be a good strategy if you have a small team you want to showcase. Or you could take one large landscape image and cut it up into smaller square images, which looks really good visually if you have a good logo or product image you want to show off.

There’s a title and description that goes on the profile – use keywords you want your Google+ page to rank for in the introduction under About. Link back to your Website and leverage the recommended links as well.

Put the Google+ badge on your Website.

Comment on other people’s posts so that everyone in that person’s Circle who’s looking at their posts will see your comment and be exposed to your brand, even if they’re not in your Circle directly. This… allows you to increase your brand page’s visibility and communicate with people who have not yet added you.

Share good content. People will see you when you share their content. Offer valuable, free stuff that gets you shared around.

Host a Hangout. If you can host a Hangout with one or two high profile people in your industry, and they have a lot of followers, and they announce it to their followers. Then you interview these high profile industry types via Google Hangout, and their followers will be exposed to your brand.

In terms of what to post and share, now’s your chance to get in as a fairly early adopter and be the first to share good content, which is how you’re going to get followers, whether they’re Circling you as a person or as a brand.

Are there any sort of pointers or Best Practices you’d recommend?

Mike: Best practices still being developed. Right now, get +1 buttons on your content. In terms of Circling and posting, as Everett said, take advantage of the segmentation and work on creative strategies to get more Circles on your brand Page. Post at least every 72 hours to increase your chances of showing up in the people and places ranking we were talking about before.

Everett: Also remember that Bing has a significant share of the audience as well, although a slightly different type of user. But those people shop too, so you can’t ignore Bing, and they’re making some similar inroads with integrating search and social media.

Also, just follow regular social media etiquette. Don’t post every single thing that comes across your blog. Then it becomes a feed for your blog rather than what it can and should be be: a mechanism for you to share exemplary content with your audience and customers.

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