If you think Google+ is just another Facebook or social media clone, you’re wrong. Trust me, making this mistake is easy to do. I made it when I first joined Google+ on July 11, 2011 and my first post basically proves it. I didn’t really get Google+ at the time and because my followers didn’t come over in droves from my blog and Facebook, I didn’t give Google+ the credibility it deserved nor did I spend the time to learn and understand it.
Fortunately in January of this year, Google+ announced Google Communities. Communities intrigued me and frankly I was getting fed up with Facebook, so I decided to give Google+ a second try. The Matrix has you.
I realized pretty quick that Google+ was different, very different. Google+ is certainly a social media tool, and you can share “stuff” and follow people, but that’s where the similarities end. If you spend a few days using Google+, take the time to learn Google+ and Google Communities, and engage with people that know and get Google+, you’ll very quickly see that it’s far more than just a mere social platform – some even call it a game changer. I agree 100% with this.
I won’t go into the details on how it’s socially different. Chris Jennings Penders covered this really well in his article The Power of Social. What I will discuss is how Google+ is far more than just a social platform and why I think Google+ is going to profoundly change the way we find information on the web. This change is what you, as a blogger or website owner, really need to pay attention to. This change is the aspect of Google+ that will be critical for your blog’s success in 2012 and beyond. I have no doubts about this.
What is this profound change? Knock Knock Neo
Google is slowly rolling out a new foundation for search. This new foundation will provide a fundamental change to our search results and the way search works in general. Google is making the interaction, sharing, and +1s on Google+ part of the data used to compose their search engine result pages.
That’s not all, there’s more…
Google+ is more than just a new social media platform
Google+ is absolutely all about sharing thoughts, content, and asking questions. Google+ is also about building relationships, meeting new people, and interacting with them. On the surface, these are its major features, but if you think about what Google is doing with Google+, and think about the information that Google+ provides Google’s search engine, you’ll begin to see that Google+ is far more than just social media.
Follow the white rabbit…
In the recent past, and even currently to some extent, Google uses a combination of back links to your blog, your content, your use of keywords in the article title and text and your site’s “credibility” to determine how to show your content to Google searchers. It also uses this information to rank your content on those result pages. The more high quality back links and the more keyword focused your article is, in theory, the higher it will rank. Now of course it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the nuts and bolts of it.
With the surge in popularity of social media over the past few years, Google was missing out on being able to factor social media in their rankings. This is particularly true of Facebook, where Google cannot see article shares or likes. Given Facebook, is currently the largest social media platform in the world, this was a problem. Google needed to build their own social media platform. The had a rough start with Google Buzz, but fortunately they got it right in 2011 when they rolled out Google+ and have been very aggressive about continually improving it.
Google+ is a better Facebook. A way better Facebook in fact. Just from a pure social media perspective, Google+ shines above both Facebook and Twitter. Google also has full access to Google+. Google+ can store information about social media activity directly into their core data engine and can use that data to understand what’s being talked about, what’s being +1ed by people and then factor that data into the search results. They can also see what you share, what you like, and use that data to customize the search results you see so they are more in line with your needs. Simply Genius.
Google+ is a social media platform, but more importantly a data feed into Google’s search and ranking engine. Google’s ability to factor Google+ data into its SERPs is the key concept you need to pay attention to.
While certainly not the only factor that will play to your blog’s success in 2012, Google+ should be a very very high on your radar.
Your level of participation in Google+ could have a direct impact on your rankings and credibility with Google. Let that marinate for am minute.
Think about it – If Google is using all the data from Google+ in its SERPs, than your participation as the author of that blog (see Authorship below) and the popularity of your blog on Google+ will more than likely influence how it ranks.
Don’t get me wrong, even if I didn’t have a blog, I’d be on Google+, it’s an awesome social media platform. Couple that, with added benefit to our blogs/websites where our content lives, and it’s a complete win/win situation for us as bloggers and website owners.
Authorship and Author Rank
If you haven’t implemented Authorship on your blog yet or maybe don’t even know what Authorship is, I want you to stop reading right now and go implement it. Mark Traphagen is an authority on Authorship and I would point you to his article: How to show your author photo in Google search results for implementing it on your blog.
Authorship is a Google technology that allows you to verify the “authorship” of your content using your Google+ profile. Authorship allows Google to confirm the author of content anywhere on the web using a two way link from that content to your Google+ profile, and from your Google+ profile, to the site where the content resides.
Authorship allows Google to know which content is yours and where that content is on the web. For some of you that have been blogging for a while, I’m sure you’ve had your content “stolen”, meaning someone scrapes your content and claims they wrote it. Even worse, is when that “someone” ranks higher on a SERP than you do – so irritating! Authorship gives Google the tools to know who wrote the content and thus the ability deal with scrapers. This alone is huge. At the risk of sounding like a cheesy infomercial….But wait, there’s more!
Here are just a few more benefits to having Authorship set-up:
- Your articles may show your Google+ profile picture to the left of the article link on Google SERPs. I say “may” because Google doesn’t guarantee it, but in general for all almost all of articles, my picture shows up. A picture to the left of your article on a SERP show’s credibility. Articles with credibility, in theory, should receive higher click through rates. The general reports from people I’ve been following have confirmed this and indicate they’ve received higher search traffic to their blogs as as result of implementing Authorship.
- You get additional analytics data in Webmaster tools. Since Google knows your content, Webmaster tools is able to show all of the content you’ve authored and the stats associated with that content regardless of the site. So if I write up articles for my blog and 10 other blogs, I can see the stats on all of that content, not just the article’s on my blog.
- You can view, in the Google search engine, all of the content written by a particular author. Rob Wagner put together a quick video, using me as the example, that show’s you how to search for what an author has written and tagged under authorship. Nothing profound here, but certainly a really nice Google search feature if you like an author and want to read more of their content.
There is one more benefit to setting up Authorship that I’d like to discuss – there is some speculation that Google will rank those that have authorship set-up higher in search rankings than those that don’t. This certainly hasn’t been confirmed, and again is just speculation at this point, but Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt did have this to say in his new book, and this quote has spread around the web like wildfire:
Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance
Let me emphasize again, that in order for Authorship to work, you need a Google+ profile. Reason number one to at least be on Google+ and heck, while you’re there, you may as well jump in and be active. Oh, and circle me too!
Let me start off by saying there is no official “Author Rank” as of the date of this writing. Author Rank is currently pure conjecture based on various rumor and rumblings from Google, SEO experts, and Google+ experts. At this time, Author Rank, at least as far as we all know, does not officially exist. Given the data that Google is collecting using Authorship though, it is very reasonable to conclude they do have something like this and may in fact already have it in place.
Author Rank is really a term coined for Google’s ability to rank you as an author. The basis for this ranking is your content and its popularity. Today, Google can already rank content quality using HTML validation, links, keywords, content analysis and probably lots of other super top-secret stuff ninja code most of us don’t even know about. Google+ data will give them even more data to use in this process. Let’s use an example:
Let’s say I share this article on Google+, and its well received by the Google+ population. Basically, this means people share it and +1ed it. Google can use the share’s and +1s as input to their content ranking. That ranking, since Google knows all of your other articles via Authorship, could be used to provide a ranking for your article and you as an author as well. That ranking score (currently called Author Rank) has a direct relationship to trust – both from web users and from Google. Think of it as page rank for people.
Again, I haven’t heard anything from Google that clearly confirms or denys this, and most other Authorship and Author Rank experts are saying the same. For a really good read on this topic, check out Mark Traphagen’s article: Google Author Rank: Has Google Chairman Eric Schmidt Confirmed It?
Authorship, Author Rank and Google+
I think where I’m going with this should be pretty clear, but in case it’s not, once again:
Your use of Google+ could very well influence how well you and your blog rank in future SERPs.
Google+ is clearly not just another Facebook. Google+ is a user interface of a very significant backbone or framework that Google is putting in place, and frankly I think this framework is going to make the Panda changes look insignificant. I’m very confident that the changes Google is putting in place right now, will change search engine optimization as we know it today, putting a much more significant influence on social media participation and activity through Google+.
Are you on Google+?
If you aren’t currently on Google+ and active, you need to be and hopefully this article made it very clear on why. Even putting all of the SEO mumbo-jumbo aside, Google+ is just fun and refreshing. Sign-up, set-up authorship, update your About page, join a few communities and start talking to people. Circle people that are interesting to you – engage with them by sharing their content, tagging them and commenting on things they share. Seriously, you’ll love it and the best part? You and you blog will benefit as well.
The Red Pill or the Blue Pill – Time for a choice
This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. – Morpheus – The Matrix
Facebook is the blue pill. Google+ is the red pill. Even their logo colors reflect this. Ever wonder how deep the rabbit hole goes? Join Google+ and find out. Wonderland is a great place, come find me.