Google has revealed it will imminently be integrating Google+ into its search results, to deliver search results that better reflect user preferences and also incorporate content shared by people in their respective Google+ Circles.
“This is perhaps the biggest change to Google in the last five years and, as such, must not be overlooked by online players”, said Andreas Pouros, Chief Operating Officer of Greenlight, a leading specialist search and social marketing agency. He adds: “It is a huge opportunity for companies and businesses to increase their rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPS) and also extend their search presence into the realms of customer relationship management (CRM), public relations (PR) and more.”
Social search is now here - but what will actually change?
It is important to emphasize that the basics are not changing, but will simply be complemented by social elements. Thus, natural search results will remain and will be determined in the same way as they are now (relevant content + links + engagement signals) and paid search ads will still operate within the same model. That said, the changes are significant and will breathe life into something that can be called ‘Social Search’.
Greenlight summarizes the key changes we should expect as follows:
- Google+ content to be integrated into the SERPs
For businesses with a Google+ Brand page, any content posted will appear within the organic search results of the user that has the respective firm in their circles, assuming it is deemed relevant to the users’ search. This can be beneficial (Google+ content produced by the business gets wider exposure) or a threat (a negative review of the firm posted by someone with an extensive Circle membership will get increased exposure).
- Relevant Google+ Brand pages to be showcased in the SERPs
Google will be suggesting relevant Google+ profiles to follow in the search results when searches are made. For instance, if you searched for ‘music’, Google would display options for you to add the Brand pages of ‘Britney Spears’, ‘Snoop Dog’, etc. to your circles. If you then did that, their content would appear regularly in your search results. This could be beneficial as this promotion of Google+ Brand pages to the general public will grow the number of people who add the respective brand to their Circles, giving brands a captive audience to market to and consolidate their presence in their future search results. There are also a number of threats to be faced - if brands do not have a Google+ page right now, they potentially leave themselves open to their branded search results being hijacked by people pretending to be their brand. In addition, the respective brand will not be amassing people who have added it to their Circles, whilst the brand’s competitors might be. This will obviously result in reduced visibility and mindshare over time.
Businesses and brands that want to take advantage of these changes - or not fall victim to them - would need to undertake several actions:
- Create a Google+ Brand page immediately
This would need to be carefully put together to ensure that it appears official, useful and worthy of people adding it to their Circles. It should also be optimized to ensure it ranks for relevant brand search terms.
- Put a Google+ content strategy in place
Once a Google+ Company/Brand page has been created, a content strategy has to be designed to deliver consistently high quality and engaging content to that audience (i.e. daily). Content that not only begs to be shared, but uses search terms and themes the target audience might be searching for as well, will therefore consequently increase and broaden the rankings. For instance, if you are a company that sells computer games, you would want to have regular Google+ content showing the top 10 most purchased games. If consumers have you in their Circles, they will see this content in their search results when they conduct relevant searches. It will also encourage others to add you to their Circles too. Content essentially needs to be used to increase the Company/Brand exposure to those consumers that already have them in their Circle and also compel others to add them for the first time because there is an incentive to do so. This should be aligned to the list of search terms the Brand/Company already targets in natural and paid search.
- Benchmark your activity against the competition
As with most things, it is important to ensure that close tabs are kept on how well competitors are doing - particularly in terms of the number of people that have added them to their Circles over time.
Interestingly, Forrester Research recently published a study that stated Americans and Europeans would take a more passive approach to social media than consumers in emerging markets, claiming that, for instance, more than two-thirds of online adults in metropolitan China and India create social content, while the majority of online Americans and Europeans are more “spectators”. Who would have thought that? Considering the region’s enormous size and huge as well as still growing population this newly gained fact about active social content creators in Asia seems to be very promising indeed!
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