Google Plus – Social Network or SEO Tool? How Far Will Google Go to Save G+?

It’s clear that recent discussion of the importance of authorship has caused just as much buzz in SEO as other developments like Panda and Penguin. What’s caught our attention is how, once again, Google has raised the profile of a ranking factor that involves Google Plus.

1 in 5 Google search results now includes an author tag, with a link to that person’s Google Plus profile. Using this link enables you to establish yourself as an expert author in Google’s eyes.

Like Search Plus Your World, which shows results (pages, likes, posts) from friends if you’re signed into Google Plus; your degree of engagement with other Google platforms/software has become a determinant of which results you see first – and where your business ranks.

Google Plus For SEOThe individual updates all make sense on paper – they do seem to be valid ways of giving the user more appropriate rankings – but together they lead us to one question:

Is Google trying to save Google Plus?

Remember Google Wave?

Google doesn’t have the best track record with developing new software to break into markets other than search. Google Wave, an integrated communications platform, didn’t get much further than development due to a lack of interest. Google Video’s lack of success resulted in a Google purchase of YouTube as they just couldn’t compete.

With these failures in mind, a lot was riding on the success of Google’s foray into the highly competitive world of social networking.

Google Plus – The Black Sheep of Social Media…

Google Plus - black sheep of social media but valuable SEO tool?

Google Plus was introduced in 2011 and grabbed people’s interest by way of invite-only sign up and promises to provide functions that other social networks didn’t. Millions of people signed up but, after the initial flush, it seems that only businesses and search marketers use Google Plus on a regular basis. Actual social media users largely gave up because they didn’t fully understand how the circles worked – and neither did their friends.

…The Black Sheep with Powers

Social media marketing is all about engagement, right? So why would marketers want to use Google Plus when there’s almost no chance of being seen by potential customers and bringing them to your website? In steps Google with their algorithm changes – just when businesses were deciding that their marketing time would be better spent elsewhere.

The fact is that you can use Google Plus to benefit your company – you can use it for SEO both in terms of Search Plus Your World and in light of authorship. The increasing power of author rank feeds right back to the author’s Google+ profile. Which leads many to believe that, if you want to be ranked higher, you need to play Google’s game and build your network on Google Plus.

An SEO Tool vs a Social Network

Looked at from this perspective, doesn’t it seem like Google Plus is becoming an SEO tool; encouraged – if not forced – by Google themselves for improving search rankings without giving any extra value to the user.

Doesn’t that sound like something they usually frown upon?

Search results based on data from your world sounds great – but how can this be justified if that data is based on the patchy world of an under-used network? How can this be leading towards an improved experience for the searcher?

You can almost imagine the conversations at Google when they started realising that G+ was not taking off. Did they decide that, seeing as people apparently didn’t want Google Plus, perhaps they should make them need it?

It could be argued that paying attention to Google Plus at the expense of engaging on other social media networks is time spent on a black hat SEO technique. At Silicon Beach Training, we practice and train white hat SEO based on genuine engagement.

Google Plus Circles for SEO

Ultimately, you need the people finding you to be potential customers, and you don’t want people to find you who wanted something else entirely.

Building circles of ten thousand pages on Google Plus may make you rank higher when those people search – but it won’t turn them into your customers. It’s a bit of a dilemma all round.

Where now?

It seems evident that businesses who have been neglecting their Google Plus profiles need to start paying them attention again – but that this should not at the expense of other networks. You may not be getting much engagement from your updates but, each time you build your circles, you give yourself a better chance in the SERPs.

Some bloggers and SEOs are way ahead, to the extent of moving their blogging to within Google Plus. Will this pay off?

You never know, perhaps it will pay off for everyone – maybe social media users will follow the example of search marketers and start paying attention to Google Plus again. And, just maybe, Google Plus will gain the social popularity it wanted and become more than just a tool for SEO.

Is Google Plus still a social network, or just a tool for SEO? Let us know your thoughts.

(Black sheep image from Ionics on Flickr)

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Aaron Charlie

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