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The question of whether or not being on Google Plus as a business will help your Google rankings or drive more organic traffic to your website is posted almost daily.
What is Google+
For those of you who don’t know what Google+ (Google Plus, G+) is, let’s start with that.
Google+ is a social platform that was built and is run by Google.com. We as users think of it as a social network, but Google likes to refer to it as a “Social Layer” that is spread out over its properties to help with personalization, insights into user metrics, and as Google describes it, “real-life sharing rethought for the web”.
Google+ launched in June of 2011 as an invitation-only beta, and in September of the same year was open to everyone 18+. Early adopters of Google+ have been mostly male (71.24%) and the dominant age bracket (35%) is between 25 and 34.
On November 7, 2011, Google launched Google+ Pages, which let businesses connect with fans in a manner similar to Facebook Pages. These businesses received corporate accounts to start sharing information about themselves and invite others to join in on the conversation.
Theory of Social Media
The early adoption of Google+, coupled with the fact that it’s owned by Google.com sparked questions such as, “would having a Google+ account and page for your business help with your rankings in the organic search results?”. The answer to this seemingly simple question is not so simple.
Let’s start by exploring the theories behind social networks. At their core social networks and social media are about creating a space online that your users can use to interact with your brand and with each other. Some digital marketers would argue that these social sites have evolved to take the place of traditional websites; I would disagree. The benefit that social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ have over traditional websites is their built-in user base. What most businesses don’t understand is that this user base only represents the potential reach, and you still have to build your community through proof of value and conversation.
Building a community is not easy and is very time-consuming. Social media is what digital marketers refer to as an “earned media type”. This means that you need to earn your community by providing enough value to not only grab the attention of users and get them to “join” your community, but also retain the community you have built by providing ongoing value.
SEO Benefits of Being on Google+
So now that we have established that social media is about building communities around your brand and then interacting with those communities, what does this all have to do with SEO, and will it help your Google Rankings?
Yes It Will “Help” Your Rankings
As we know, Google views their product as a “social layer” in which they integrate across other Google products; one integration point being their flagship Search Engine.
The way in which they do this (here comes the if-then statement) is if a community member that has you in their Circle on Google Plus searches on Google.com and you have a piece of content that you have shared on Google+ that is a good match for that search, then there is a strong possibility that your page will show up on the first page of Google’s search results for that user. This happens because Google feels that if a searcher has you in one of their Circles on Google+ then they would be more likely to want to see content or products from your website.
Remember, just because you are in someone’s circle does not mean you will always show up when they search. The primary reason for this is because if they have your business in their circles and are interested in the type of products you offer, then they probably also have added some of your competition to their circles. This brings in a new layer of competition in which you now need to prove that the value you provide by being in their circles is better than the value that your competition is providing.
Another thing to think about is it does not technically help with what we all think of as traditional SEO. As you might have derived from the article so far, the only people that will see this SEO boost will be the people who have you in their circles; which is yet another reason you need to provide enough value that people will add you to their circles.
No, It Will Not “Help” Your Rankings
If you think that the simple strategy of creating a Google+ page will suddenly boost your rankings for targeted keywords, you will be sadly disappointed. Much like with any social network, the act of joining does not mean nearly as much as what you do after you join. As a business, you will still need to build the community around your Google+ page to see value in the search results.
How much does Google+ help rankings? It’s a signal Google will look at and they’ll see how good it is. Over time, they will continue to experiment. Cutt said Google doesn’t put a lot of weight on +1’s yet.
Quick Test To Know If Google+ is the Right Social Network For Your Business
So with Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+ vying for your attention, how do you know if Google+ is the best social space for your small business? There is a simple test you can do to find out if this network will provide SEO value.
In November of 2011, Google rolled out what they claimed was an initiative to help protect online privacy for their searchers. They put in place a “privacy” filter that said if a user is logged into a Google product, then don’t show webmasters, (through Google Analytics or other analytic programs), the referring keyword that brought the user to your website. They simply reported it as “(not provided)”.
Whereas this seemed like an issue, it can be turned into an insight into whether Google+ is a good social network on which to focus your attention.
Let’s look at how to find and trend “(not provided)” referrals.
- Change “The Date” of your report to represent January 1, 2011 – Today. [Report will refresh to represent that date]
- Click on “Traffic Sources Tab” in the left-hand navigation. [It will expand to show traffic sources]
- You will now see an “Overview Link” under the “Traffic Sources” section. [Click the Overview Link]
- You will now notice that the lower right-hand area of the page will list your top referring keywords for January 1, 2011 – Today. Most likely the first result in that list will be (not provided). This represents the number and percentage of people who were logged into their Google account and potentially have Google+ Profile (since Google hides those individual’s referring keywords from you).
- If you click on that “(not provided)” keyword it will take you to a page that shows the trend of (non-provided visits for the time frame specified.
If you see a large percentage of your organic referrals fall into the “(not provided)” bucket or see an increased trend in this referral type, you can take advantage of those users personalization by creating a Google+ page and strategically building value and community around it. The G+ community you build will have a higher probability of seeing your content in their top 10 search results each time they search.