Google Plus Affecting Google Searches

Are you trying to rank better on Google? A recent article on Search Engine Land suggests that Google’s new social site, Google Plus, just might be a quick trip to high rankings. But there’s a catch.

The catch is that you need to join Google+ and get people to add you to their Google+ Circles. Then you’ll rank very well when they do searches, as long as they’re logged in. At least, that’s what Danny Sullivan discovered on a recent search.

Sullivan is friends on Google+ with Ford, one of the few companies that Google lets maintain a profile on the social network. It’s strictly as a test account. Google plans to let other brands and businesses open up accounts on Google+ some time in the future, but for now, as Sullivan noted, if you see a business on Google+ without a big red bar on its profile that says “Test account,” they just haven’t been caught yet.

Be that as it may, when Sullivan did a search for “cars,” a listing for Ford showed up in the tenth position of his search…along with an enhancement stating that Ford had shared the link shown. It was just below the entry, and contained a link to Ford Motor Company. When Sullivan hovered his mouse over the Ford Motor Company link, a note popped up that said “You are connected to Ford Motor Company on Google+.”

For those tuning in late or who haven’t been paying attention, something of this nature has been happening since October of 2009. Specifically, if you’re logged in to Google, its Social Search results have given a big boost to content from people you know, so that it ranks higher. And Sullivan “knows” Ford, since they’re connected through Google Plus.

But what happens without that connection? “When I’m logged out, and Google can’t tell that I know Ford, the page doesn’t appear in the first 50 search results that I reviewed, which means it’s effectively invisible,” Sullivan notes. In short, being connected via Google+ took Ford, for Sullivan, from being invisible to being in the top 10 results. That’s pretty impressive; it’s a great illustration of the power of social connections.

If you run a business in which your name is prominent, you might find Google+ to be a good place to promote your business, thanks to this boost. Keep in mind that it works only for people who have you in their Circles, and even then, only when they’re logged in. On the other hand, many users are logged in all the time, and rarely bother to log out before searching.

I’m guessing, though, that you might not be able to get into someone’s Google+ Circle simply by adding them to yours. Sure, lots of people added friends indiscriminately on Facebook and other social networks, and you’ll still see some people doing that on Google Plus, but among a number of my friends, I’m seeing a different attitude. There’s a sense that you don’t have to add someone to your Circle just because they’ve added you to theirs. If you don’t, they’ll only see your public posts anyway.

This means if you want to get into someone’s Circle, you may need to give them a good reason. Sharing some good links or other information can do it. Enough people are still trying to get their feet under them in Google+ that if you could show them how to use it to help them solve their own problems, you might get added to some Circles just for that. Humor also works; I always look forward to posts from one of my cartoonist friends.

But let me talk more specifically about brands. Google seems to be planning to allow business profile pages around the third quarter of this year, with special tools and other options that don’t come with personal profile pages. Once your company gets a page for its brand, you’ll be able to make direct connections with people through Google Plus. As a consequence of those connections, you will quite possibly rank better for those people when they perform a search on Google, as long as they’re logged in.

I don’t believe this will completely trump traditional SEO. Remember the conditions that must be met for this to work. You need to have a Google+ profile that is directly connected to the searcher, and the searcher needs to be logged in while searching on Google. That means the searcher needs to have already heard of you in some sense for this to work, and few companies or brands are world famous. Still, this approach could supplement a more standard SEO campaign, and help remind customers of your existence just when they’re planning a purchase. In all likelihood, it’s worth getting that business Google+ account when it becomes available. Good luck! 

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