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Rethinking Google+: Value Certainly There, But Mostly for Search

November 1, 2012 By John Faris
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While there's much debate around the merits of Google+ (G+) in the world of social media, the search engine optimization benefits of establishing a presence there are reason enough for most businesses and company authors to engage with the G+ audience. 

Truth be told, providing better search results was a primary driver for Google to launch the offering in the first place. Gaining access to the data that social networks have on what's popular on the web was a significant impetus for the search juggernaut to enter the space. This data will be critical for Google to defend its dominance in the field of search. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook have eclipsed blogs and websites as vehicles for the masses to share content. While Google can scrape public Twitter and Facebook profiles to understand connections between followers and the content that they're sharing, that data is relatively limited. 

With G+, Google has direct access to interactions between individuals, the topics being shared by those individuals, the popularity of specific authors and the topics trending across the web as a whole. So while the benefits of social media engagement with G+ are present, perhaps not in as great quantities as other platforms, there are significant benefits to improving search engine rankings.

Here are some reasons why. First, G+ pages are indexed quickly, adding another piece of owned media that takes a spot in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for brand queries. What's more, Google's version of the Facebook "Like" function, known as "+1," may be impacting organic SERPs for all users (i.e., not logged in) to some degree, and that influence is likely to increase over time. The organic SERPs for logged-in users with "friends" who have shared or authored content on G+ are directly impacted today. If relevant to the query, this content is given special treatment, often landing on the first page for people in their "Circles." 

Businesses with a blog, paid search campaign or retail location have a particular incentive to optimize their presence on G+. Google has pushed authorship information into their search results, typically displaying a thumbnail image of the author, a link to their Google+ profile and a link to more articles by the author. This boosts clickthrough rates and is likely becoming a ranking factor itself. If you're an advertiser investing in paid search, there are several reasons to leverage G+ for Social Extensions in AdWords, including free traffic to your G+ page. And if you have retail locations, you probably already know that Google Places was absorbed by Google+ earlier this year


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