Given the recent high-profile launch of Google+, it's clear that the biggest player in the search space is making good on their commitment to social media as a major component for search results moving forward. If the buzz across other social media sites isn't enough of a sign that Google+ is worth paying attention to, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has gone on record stating that all Google products and services will eventually be completely integrated with Google+.
A few months ago, I wrote a post that suggested that the then-new '+1' feature signaled a coming merger of SEO and social media. Usually, I tend to avoid large pronouncements and predictions about the future of our industry, since I'm naturally a skeptic when it comes to tech-industry hype. In retrospect, however, I don't think that prediction went far enough; while I was correct that the lines between SEO and social media optimization were further blurred by +1, it is now clear that the lines between social media and all aspects of internet marketing are only temporary. Obviously, these ideas are all speculative, and they depend on the success of Google+. If + turns out to be the next HotPot, Google's latest social initiative will have little to no effect at all. However, if Google+ is able to attract hundreds, or even tens, of millions of users, we will probably start to see changes occur in each of the following areas of internet marketing:
As I discussed in my post about +1, the potential effects of social media on SEO are actually rather obvious and intuitive. As with its current ranking algorithms, Google's biggest concern when it comes to search results is and will always be quality and relevance. By that, I mean that they are always concerned with providing users with sites that provide information that users will find useful to their specific needs at a given moment. Social signals, such as a friend's recommendation as a page will simply act as another signal that a site provides good information to actual, human users. If one of my friends likes--or should I say 'Pluses'?--a page, Google can assume that I may enjoy it as well, and that site will be more likely to show up in my results. But this really shouldn't provide too much of a change for site owners, since predicting specific demographics and social circles to target will likely be beyond the reach of all but the largest sites and companies.
So to make the most of Google+ for SEO, you should:
- Provide high-quality content - Unless people actually enjoy your site, you aren't going to get anywhere in social media
- Include Widgets for users to interact with your site - Make it easy for users to share your site with friends
- Keep track of what works with Google+ - Do some kinds of content attract more user interaction? Pump more of that out!
Local search, long the victim of all sorts of spam and black-hat techniques, is a place where Google+'s direct influence can have the largest (and best) impact. Since our social lives are very much tied to our physical spaces and meeting places, any knowledge that search engines can gather about the places that I or my friends frequent can be massively important for personalized recommendations. Groups of friends are very likely to share similar tastes in restaurants, bars, retail locations, and virtually every other type of local business, so any brick-and-mortar business absolutely must be aware of how Google+ is going to effect their marketing.
How to Promote a Local Business on Google+:
- Ask your customers - Either directly or indirectly, reminding happy customers to give you a '+1' will likely have a huge effect on local rankings
- Take care of your listings - Customers can't promote you if you don't promote yourself; make sure that your profile is claimed in Google Places
- Provide 'likable' service to customers - At the end of the day, happy customers are obviously the most important thing for your business - online and off
The effect of Google+ on paid search is a bit of a wildcard. It seems unlikely that many users are going to be very keen to promote advertisements to their friends, so the direct impact of + may be smaller than that of SEO or Local Search. That being said, I don't think that it's much of a stretch to suggest that Google may be looking into integrating + information indirectly into AdWords. I'd speculate that, in the future, any time a Google+ user clicks on a particular ad, their social connections will be much more likely to see it. In other words, the behavior of your friends will serve as a kind of 'social proof', and Google will be much more likely to show an ad to others if their friends have shown a willingness to interact. In the future, this might also have an effect on the Quality Score of a given ad, and might even affect its cost-per-click. At this time, however, it's really too early to guess the effects of Google+ on PPC.