The Effects of Google+ on SEO
In early January, Google announced that three new features had been added to the search results: Personal Results, Profiles in Search, and Google+ People and Pages. Lumped together, the three new features are being called “Search, plus your world.” By adding Google+ profiles to the SERPs, Google says “you might see prominent people who frequently discuss this topic on Google+ appearing on the right-hand side of the results page,” allowing you to connect with them on your own Google+ profile. When a user is logged into their Google+ account and they search for a person, Google’s autocomplete feature will bring up a “personalized profile prediction.”
So what does all of this mean for your SEO?
For one thing, the Google+ pages and profiles are pushing down PPC ads in the right hand column of the SERPs. I would imagine that site owners who pay a lot for that ad space are less than pleased. A well-connected competitor on Google+ might outrank their PPC ad and considering how hard Google is pushing their social network on users, that kind of “endorsement” by Google might be worth a lot more in terms of consumer trust than a PPC campaign could ever buy.
Considering that Google is now listing Google+ pages and profiles, as well as including Google+ results directly in the SERP, I think it’s a safe bet to say that Google+ is having some kind of impact on the ranking algorithm. While I can’t say for certain how important having a Google+ profile is for your SEO, I would imagine that Google is using it to supplement the social signal component of their algorithm. Since they no longer have Twitter data and Bing and Facebook are well invested in each other’s success, Google+ is really the most accurate and valuable social data Google has.
But I’m still not sure if Google+ will be a success the way Facebook and Twitter are. Even if people are fed up with Facebook, they have years of their life invested in that social network—unless everyone walked and joined Google+ they could potentially lose the ability to connect and interact with their online lives. And (in my experience) Google+ is still mostly being used by tech and marketing people.
Almost everyone I know in the SEO industry has a Google+ page (and has had one since they were first available in Beta) but does the average Internet user really care? Google is now creating Google+ accounts for users when they sign up for Gmail, but having and actually using the profiles are too very different things.
The way I see it (and this is just my opinion) there is no harm in getting a Google+ profile for yourself and your business. There are 200 factors that affect Google’s ranking algorithm and some of them are beyond our control—website owners should take advantage of every opportunity the search engines give them to succeed at SEO. Even if Google+ fails to be as big as Facebook, if Google thinks it’s important enough to list in the SERPs that’s a good enough reason to create your account.