How Google+ Changes Search (for the better)

by Joe Schaefer No Comments February 24, 2012

change search road sign

How Google+ Changes Search

Here are a few ways Google+ will influence how you will get traffic from Google’s search engine, whether by boosting your position in search results, increasing the chances that people will click into your site, or other factors.

1. Improving Google Search

As a result of Google+, Google will be able to improve its search engine results pages through the enhanced information it will be able to collect from your social circle.

Google+ offers a lot of elements that will allow Google to understand trends and what people are interested faster than ever before. Not only can they see what you share with your friends or what you are reading, but now they can also see which of your friends are most important to you.

In the past, they could have had a broad vision of your followers on Twitter, but now they can directly see exactly how you interact with those people. For example, do you frequently share links with only a small handful of people?

If you have a very tight relationship with a small network and a broader network that you are less engaged with, Google could know to promote your tight relationships in search results or use ads over the broad network.

Essentially, Google is getting deeper vision into how individual users share and discuss things on the internet. In the past, it had a limited vision of this. Now Google can own the complete picture. When placing recommendations on the results pages or looking for a certain page to promote, Google will now know which of your friends you trust and listen to the most.

Also, Google will have better insight into who your favorite authors are on certain blogs. If a blog has many authors and you tend to prefer a few of them or specific topics that the blog covers, Google can better adjust its rankings to show what you are interested in.

2. Improved Search Results Quality

Another benefit that Google+ brings to search is that results become much harder to cheat. Google can now more easily police who has a real profile and who is a spammer, and watch how they try to influence search results.

It’s not for Spammers. But that’s a good thing!

When Google sees a profile that only shares and votes for things on one website and nothing else, it knows who target as a spammer. If it sees profiles dominated exclusively by +1s, it might get suspicious. Let’s take this one step further.

If profiles are only following other profiles characterized by such behavior, Google might consider them suspect. Less gaming in Google’s results is a long-time goal for the search engine giant. Some spam sites are trying to sell +1 votes already, but it is unlikely to be worthwhile- -Google can easily watch for profiles that do nothing but spam votes and discount the value of those votes.

PRO TIP: For that reason, I’d suggest you avoid buying Google+ Like gigs on sites like Fiverr.

3. Changing How You Get Traffic

Google also rolled out its version of the tweet or share button, the +1. These +1 buttons appear in Google’s search results and can be embedded on other websites as well. They are tied to a destination page address, just like shares or tweets are.

The +1 count that is displayed on each button is based on the address of the page where it sits. This detail is really important to be aware of, because this may influence how you design your website.

If you’re creating landing pages for paid search campaigns, and your pages have several variations, all of the +1 votes that you earn will be broken down separately for each page address.

Also, be aware that the number of +1 votes you have for a specific page can affect its Quality Score, which is critical when working on a budget for your paid ads. This isn’t a huge problem, but it’s important to be aware of.

Every time you move a page or change the address of something, you’ll be resetting the +1 count for that page.

4. Improved Click-Through Rates!

improves click thru rateThe fourth major factor here, which is an often forgotten attribute to SEO success, is click-through rate, or how often people who see you on their results page actually click on your page in the results.

One of the powerful ideas behind the +1 votes is that if you can see that certain results are extremely popular, or that people found a specific resource particularly helpful, you have that information available without even clicking into the site.

You can see how many people have already found a certain page useful before you ever click or read any other details about it. This is similar to what Twitter and Facebook have given us access to with some of their customized buttons that reveal numbers of times something has been shared.

It’s still very early but some of the testing I’ve tried unearthed interesting data around social sharing.

I’d suggest there’s a powerful “first post” effect that marketers can leverage. In other words, people might be more willing to share a piece of content if they have a chance to be one of the first people to spread the word. In any case, now Google+ gives us more opportunities to speculate about social proof and its effect on social and viral behaviour online.

The access to this insight will strongly encourage searchers to click on specific “good” pages and ignore ones that are not as popular with their readers. If you’d like to see an example of how this can work, look at your Google Webmaster Tools dashboard. Google provides a chart to show your click-through rate with and without +1 results in the search results.

For example, in the diagram from Google below, you can see that people who saw a page in the search results with +1 information next to the website’s homepage were substantially more likely to click on our link. This is great reinforcement for us to place +1 buttons across our site, so that all of our pages can take advantage of the improved click-through rate!

As you can see, Google+ is not just like any social network out there. It has the power to affect our search habits, and the search engine giant is not afraid to use that to its advantage to penetrate the social media space.

While here we covered most of the important ways in which Google+ will affect search results, there is one more element that needs to be discussed. With the launch of Google+ Business Pages, Google also rolled out an interesting new integration between Google+ and Google search. The name of this integration is Direct Connect, and in the next section, we will discuss what it does and how to set it up.
search impact

5. Direct Connect +

direct connect example
How to Set Up Google+ Direct Connect

Google has added a feature to Google search in which adding a ‘+’ when searching for a brand will bring up their Google+ business profile. This doesn’t yet work for all pages and so might take a while to become fully functional.

Users who want to find a company’s Google+ page can now simply add a “+” in front of the company name in search to go directly to a company’s Google+ Page and skip over the traditional search engine results page.

In order to enable this awesome new “+” search operator to work for your business, you first need to install the Google+ Direct Connect code on your business’ website to help verify that your Google+ page is the “official” page for your business.

To do this, go to your Google+ page, and click the “connect your website” link under the “Get Started” section. Once you have done this, you will be taken to a screen that gives you options for six different Google+ buttons.

One of your options is also to display no button and just install the Google+ Direct Connect code on your website. That said, don’t you want people to connect with you on Google+? So go ahead and use one of the buttons to turn website visitors into Google+ Page subscribers!

Once you add the code to your website, you will be eligible to be included in Google Direct Connect.

But keep in mind that this doesn’t happen automatically. Google has stated it will be using an algorithm to determine which companies get included.

Make sure you are promoting your Google+ Page on your website, blog, and other properties off of Google+ in an effort to help influence the Direct Connect algorithm and get your business listed.

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