When it first came out, Google+ (Google Plus) seemed like nothing more than just another ill-fated attempt at being social. Wave had just failed, and the death of Google Buzz wasn’t too far behind. No one would have been particularly surprised if Google+ had died just as fast as it launched, even if it did get some good reviews.
For many business owners, Google+ seemed like “just another social network to update”. And its small user base meant that it didn’t have near the potential Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks did, so there wasn’t much point in wasting time and money on it. Even now, Google+ only has an estimated 62 million users, 1.44% of whom are believed to be Australian.
This works out to just over 502,000 users and 3% of the market share.
But, the recent introduction of Google+ to the search results could change all that, especially considering the other benefits the social network now has to offer. In fact, if you aren’t already broadcasting and connecting on Google+, you might want to start.
Hello Search Plus
The line between social media and search has been blurred for quite some time, but with Google+ content appearing in the search results (called Search Plus Your World), the line has all but disappeared.
Users who are signed into their account and using https://www.google.com/ to perform Google searches will now get two sets of results: personalised results, and “other results”.
The “other results” are what we’re used to seeing. Listings are personalised to the user through either their Google Account (using implicit and explicit information collected while signed into the account), and/or their web browser (if the user is signed out). There are universal results and social results, which include content written and shared by people you know. Under the new personalised results option, however, users will see something quite different.
If you choose personalised results (located just under the search bar where you find the number of results for a given query), you’ll see results determined by your own social networking behaviour, the behaviour of those you’re connected to, and your Google+ account.
In short, the three main algorithms Google uses to provide search results — the social, personal, and personalised algorithms — have been combined to produce one comprehensive list of results. This means users can search their social networks and the Web, without having to switch sites or perform multiple search queries.
Search Your World. Almost.
Sites like Twitter and Facebook may have more users, but relying on them to fill the social part of your search portfolio could be a huge mistake. Why? None of the information found on these sites are included in the Search Plus Your World feature.
This doesn’t mean they won’t be included in the future, but so far, there’s no indication that this will change. For the moment, Google+ has a monopoly on the personalised results pages and that’s the real benefit of this social network.
Still not sure why you should get on board and start using Google+? Here are a few more reasons:
- Google+ is young and it has tons of room to grow. In fact, the network is expected to have well over 400 million users worldwide by the end of 2012. And with Search Plus Your World being something users have to opt-out of, rather than opt into, these numbers could go even higher. That’s a huge number of potential consumers for a business of any size.
- Between paid search ads, universal listings (videos and images), local listings, and now social listings appearing on search results pages, organic listings are slowly being overtaken. If you hope to compete, you need to diversify and increase your chances of being seen.
- Rumours are already swirling that Google favours its own content over other results.
- Google+ Pages for Business let you take advantage of the search engine’s new “quick connect” feature. This makes it possible for users to find your Google+ Business Page by simple putting a “+” in front of your brand in the search box (like +Pepsi, for example).
- Google Profiles now appear in the search suggestion box and take up more space in the search results, providing businesses with even more opportunities to be seen. They also give businesses and professionals a chance to be included in suggested user boxes found on the right side of the search results.
- Google+ Circles are already in Gmail, which currently has over 200 million users. It’s only a matter of time before it’s incorporated elsewhere and content starts appearing inside products like Google Checkout, Google Wallet, Chrome, and Google Maps. In fact, information from Google+ could appear (or be used) just about anywhere.
- Google+ has a huge amount of potential. After all, Google already provides businesses and consumers with everything they need online. The only ingredient they’re missing is integration. If the search engine gets this right, there’s no telling how much more powerful it could become and which sites could get swallowed up in the process.
- Sites like Facebook focus solely on helping users connect, while Google has focused on creating tools and providing information. Through this, they’ve collected a ton of information and now control a large amount of an Internet user’s time.
- Google has become a trusted information source, and this is a big part of the conversion process. If Google recommends a particular product, service, or website, some of that trust transfers to the destination page, increasing the likelihood of conversion.
- The more situated and established you are on a social network before it goes mainstream, the more authority you can build and the more opportunities you’ll have to attract users. This is ideal for getting a edge over your competition. In fact, Vodafone, Telstra, iiNet, Google Australia, and National Australia Bank (NAB) took advantage of this when they became some of the first Australian organisations to create official pages.
How Australian Businesses Can Get the Most from Google+ and Search Plus Your World
Google+ is still relatively new, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to take advantage of it. First, if you don’t already have a Google+ Page for your business, get one.
Fill out the profile as best you can and include any relevant information consumers and users may find helpful. Be sure to include important keywords (in a user-friendly manner), images, and URLs. (If you need more information, look at ZDNet.com.au’s post on the Google+ Pages Guide.)
Once your Google+ Page is set up, you need to use it. Regularly. It’s the only way to stay visible and build your connections, but you need to be careful about what you post. Don’t fall into the trap of automatically posting content, or promoting only your own content and products. Look around the Web for quality content that will pique the interest of your target audience.
Want to get more interaction and attention out of your posts?
- Share content from new and unusual sources.
- Select content people are naturally passionate about. It might be a slightly different view on a particular topic, or provide just enough information to make people curious and want to dig deeper. Find things that are unique and unpredictable.
- It doesn’t matter what you want to see on the page. Choose information your target audience wants to see. This could include trends, news items, or maybe even variations of a popular meme.
- Be choosy when promoting your own stuff. Make sure it’s worth sharing. Otherwise, if every sale is the ‘biggest you’ve ever had’, users will tune you out and miss the most important information.
- A large number of Google+ users belong to the IT crowd. Keep this in mind when creating your marketing strategy.
- It may be a social network, but call-to-actions still count. Make sure people know what you do, what you have to offer, and what you want them to do.
- Use Google+ to do more than just broadcast information. Not sure how? Check out 7 Google+ Tricks That I Know and You Don’t from Unbounce.
The Rel=Author attribute has been available to Australian websites since October 2011, and since then, it has become a vital element of Google+ Pages and the search results. So, make sure you use it and get credit for each piece of content you publish by placing the Rel=Author attribute on each page you create. (You can learn how to implement this in SocialMediaNews.com.au’s simple guide.)
A link attribute like this might seem like a minor detail, but with the advent of Search Plus Your World (and even before this), content you create now appears in the search results with your name, photo, and a link to a page that lists other pieces you’ve published. Think of it like a catalogue of your content.
Search Plus Your World hasn’t been rolled out to all users just yet. It’s going to take some time, but don’t put it off. Take advantage of the advance notice by educating yourself and getting prepared for what’s coming. You can’t afford not to.
Have you tried out Google+ or gotten a look at Search Plus Your World yet? What do you think?