Why Your Business Needs to Pay Attention to Google Plus

There’s a bit of an ‘in’ joke going around the more nerdier circles of online marketing lately that the only ones using Google Plus – Google’s new(ish) social platform – are Google employees and businesses who have no idea what to do with it.

This is an exaggeration, of course, and to dismiss it as a platform which nobody is using would be folly. After all, just a few days ago Google Plus hit the 100 million users mark.

The statement mainly highlights three facts:

  1. Google Plus definitely hasn’t got the user numbers of Facebook
  2. It hasn’t become the giant killer most predicted it was trying to be (We’ve discussed the Google Plus vs Facebook question here)
  3. People signed up purely because it was the new kid on the block.

So if the audience isn’t there, what use is it to business?

To get a better understanding of the above question we should probably look at what else Google is up to.

A few weeks ago Google launched (in the US only so far), a feature called Search Plus Your World – an opt out feature of Google search results.

This feature essentially changes the content of a typical Google results page like this:

 (Organic search results, paid ads and services menus)

 

To more customised results page like this.

(Organic search results, paid ads, services menus & now results based on your friend’s online activity)

‘Search Plus Your World’ alters your typical Google search results based on your personal circles of influence. Sounds nerdy, huh?

Google believes a search result/website that your online friends have visited previously is more relevant to you than one that hasn’t – almost like a personal referral.

For example: Your online buddy Jim found ‘awesometoywebsite.com’ last week and shared the link on his Google Plus profile. A week later you search online for My Little Pony toys for your niece’s upcoming birthday. ‘Search Plus Your World’ will now emphasise your mate Jim’s recommended website in your search results. A result that otherwise may not have been fed into your results organically.

Essentially, your friends and their online activity will now influence what you see in Google.

Some people hate this feature. They believe that it will render their search results as no longer ‘organic’ or unbiased (truth be told, if this ever was the case, then people like me who play with search results all day would be out of a job – but that’s a whole other blog post). The issue is so large in the US that politicians and social groups are calling for government anti-trust investigations.

Others see it as the natural progression of the Internet. The world-wide web has grown from static to interactive to social.  It just makes sense for the biggest fish in the Internet pond to go this way.

Either way, it’s a game changer. And if your business has an online presence, you need to learn the rules in order to stay in the game.

So what can my business do?

Well, this is where we come back to my original point: to dismiss Google Plus as ‘just a Facebook wannabe that can be ignored’ is a dangerous move in this brave new nerdy web world.

Sure it’s still a young platform. Sure maybe most of your friends don’t use it – or at least don’t think they do. Actually, if you have a YouTube login or a Gmail account or any other Google service, then by default you have a Google Plus account. You just haven’t filled in the pretty ‘social profile’ stuff yet.

Your results are already influenced by a bunch of unseen factors like your location while online, sites you’ve previously visited, sites you’ve purchased from and a whole lot more.

Start becoming influential

‘Search Plus Your World’ hasn’t hit our shores just yet but it’s not too far away. The best thing you can do to ensure your business isn’t left behind is to get all your ducks in a row for when it does launch.

Here are a few tips to give your business/website an advantage for when ‘Search Plus Your World’ hits our shores:

  • Get your personal Google Plus page in order – Visit Google and press that little button in the top left nav that reads ‘+You’
  • If you have a business, set-up a Google Plus business page – add details of your business including websites, location, images, phone numbers – whatever you have. You’re likely to start seeing this profile showing up in Google results within days.
  • Integrate Google’s +1 button into your online content. This is essentially like Facebook’s ‘Like’ button, although when people press +1 on your site it goes towards influencing their friends’ search results. Think of it like a vote. The more votes you get, the more likely you’ll appear in search results.
  • Promote +1ing your content. Encourage customers, readers, visitors, anyone to press that little button or share your content via their Plus account.
  • Utilise your Google Plus Circles – Google Plus Circles are a way of grouping your online influencers. Who you add to your circles will influence the content you see online. Set up circles that are relevant to your industry, things you like and people you find interesting. Sure you can follow all of the Jonas brothers and Miley Cyrus, but do you really want what they look at online to influence what you see?
  • Get added to influential user circles – This is easier said than done, of course, but this is where the fact that Google Plus is still very young could be an advantage. It’s still a small pond with some big fish swimming around. The famous/popular/unapproachable people of other social networks are also new to Google Plus.  Contact the type of people you would ideally like to influence. If you can be added to their circles, then you have a much better chance of them seeing your content.

Google Plus is setting itself up to be a major influence in online content. As mentioned in my previous post, Google Plus seems to be not so much a Facebook clone as it is the glue that will hold your entire online experience together in the very near future.

Whether you’re ready for it or not is up to you.

 

Daylan Pearce | Search/Content Developer – MYOB