Google+ Shaking Up Social & SEO at #SMX West 2012

Posted in Google, SMX West

And we’re at it again! After a quick break post Day 2 keynote with Susan Wojcicki, Senior VP of Advertising at Google, attendees headed over to SEO for Google+ and Google Search with moderator Danny Sullivan and speakers Sean Carlos, CEO of Antezeta Web Marketing, Janet Driscoll Miller, President and CEO of Search Mojo, Daniel Dulitz, Product Manager at Google,  and Monica Wright, Social Media Editor at Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. Read on for a full recap.

Jumping right in, Daniel discussed some of the basics concepts behind what we are seeing on Google+ everyday. What has changed and what remains the same? Giving an overview of what remains a constant with Google, Daniel said the goal is still to make the best content available even without SEO. However, he pointed out there is still much work to be done. In addition, Google still utilizes hundreds of quality signals and is constantly updating and fine-tuning them.

When it comes to Google+ though, what can users do to achieve “good” content?  What is the process?

  1. Ranking:  Give the user what they want, and you will help build your own reputation.
  2. Appearance: Make sure the user knows why it’s good (How is your content different from others? What makes it a touch above the rest?)
  3. The click!

Back in the dark ages, your web page was your brand’s identity – your reputation was based entirely on how good your web site was. These days, things are a little different. With Google+, there is a new identity connection between your website and your Google+ page. But how do your Google+ page and your website tie together? Daniel describes how what your page is about directly correlates to who is interested in your page. People who are interested in your page are the ones who will +1 you. Next, who authored the Google+ page is connected to what your page is about as well as the group of people who are interested in them.

So, what effect does your Google+ page have on Search?
Your Google+ page allows brands to display fabulous, deep content, show who authored the page in SERPs, note the site’s Google+ page, see updates from your circles (namely who +1’d or shared content), and lastly, it allows you to have a conversation with people on the results page (basically, you can see the +1s and help develop your reputation).

Daniel used “Joe’s Camera” as an example to show how this works. As a newbie to Google+, Joe’s Camera should:

  • Choose an area of expertise
  • Create a Google+ page
  • Find great content across the web (create new content with rich pieces)
  • Post about that content on your Google+ page
  • Promote yourself (think of how you label or describe yourself in the space)
  • Results will appear as “Joe’s camera shared this”

Daniel wanted to leave us with these final tips about how to best utilize a Google+ page:

  • Make your content pop with rich content
  • Develop your reputation online via your Google + page
  • Reach out to your fans
  • Convert customers to fans with a page badge

Next up, Sean Carlos took the stage and right away, he offered up a few gems as a refresher to the crowd. He mentioned how Google+ pages for businesses were introduced last November and introduced Direct Connect search, which lets you focus searches on Google and Google+ pages. If you want to do a search for only Google and Google+ pages, simply enter a “+” sign before the text and Google will match your search query with the appropriate results.

To be eligible for Direct Connect, companies need to cross-link their Google+ page with their website. Furthermore, Sean said its not imperative to put a Google+ page on your website, but you certainly can – it’s more important that the Google+ page link to the website.

Google+: To log in or not to log in?
If you perform a query while logged in to Google+, you will be asked to either add a company page to your circles or you will see information about circles you’ve already added the page to.

Changing the pace, Sean discussed how Google wants to be a source which provides information about people. For example, if you search a person’s name, you may see profiles coming from Google+, but users who are not logged in may see the standard SERP. What if you don’t want your Google+ page to be found when someone searches for you? There’s an easy fix for that! You can opt out of profile indexing.

Google page authors are allowed to add photos, bylines and rich descriptions that are tied directly into the Google+ page.  This is a pretty nifty deal as it allows you to pop up in the SERPs. Another feature of Google+ is that brands associate their employees. For example, do a query for “restaurants” and you will be able to see the employees and/or products right beneath the brand.

If you search for something on Google, decide you like it and +1 it, that action is directly associated to that page.

So why is Google+ important to Google Search? Sean described it as: “Google+ is important to Google because its prime real estate in the Google SERPs that money can’t buy.” You should always keep in mind whether you want to direct people to your Google+ page or to your home page. Which is more important to you? Google+ is an ever-evolving experiment and is changing every day. In the future, we should expect real time results and eventually global expansion.

Next, Janet took the stage and discussed the 3 parts of Google+: Direct Connect, +1 buttons, and Google+ badges. How do they all work together for SEO purposes? We’ll delve into that in a bit, but for now, let’s dig in to Direct Connect. What is it, exactly?

Direct Connect is a way to integrate all these different social aspects into one Googlicious monster. You need to connect your website to your Google+ profile in order to let brands’ Google+ pages be returned in the Google auto complete (which some refer to as Google suggest).

How many Fortune 100 companies are utilizing Google+ to the fullest? Less than you might think. While 57% of Fortune 100 companies are on Google+, only 2% of those have Direct Connect enabled. So what must you do to enable it? Create a link between your Google+ page and your website, then put the code onto your website.

What’s all this hype about the Google+ badge for?
Basically, the Google+ badge:

  • Enables Direct Connect
  • Helps rel=author
  • Encourages web visitors to add your Google+ page to their circle

There are currently only 3% of Fortune 100 companies that have Google+ badges.

If you want to put the Google+ badge onto your website, first put your ID number from your Google+ page into the tool, decide what kind of badge you want, and you will find the code to put onto your site at the bottom of the box. To check the code, Janet suggested using a rich snippet testing tool. If you put the page URL in the box , you should see the image from your Google+ page show up.

When adding your website URL to your Google+ page, make sure it is in your website box, not the information page.

+1 buttons are the same concept as the Facebook “like” button, but they pack a little more punch when it comes to SEO. It’s possible that +1s may be or are becoming an important SEO ranking factor – some search results are already being altered based on social circles.

There are 2 types of +1s:

  • +1s for brands
  • +1s for content

When considering where you want to put your Google+ buttons, you should definitely let how Google sees +1s factor into your decision.

Fun fact: 11% of Fortune 100 companies have +1 buttons.

What types of measurement should you be using for Google+? Either Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools can do the trick, but they have a few subtle differences.

Google Webmaster tools let you measure:

  • Search impact
  • Activity
  • Audience

BUT the data for Webmaster Tools is only available for 30 days. There is no easy way to download the information, so you need to copy it down somehow. Make it a point to review your data regularly.

Google Analytics let you measure:

  • Engagements
  • Action
  • Pages

Finally, Monica Wright got up front and center and asked us, “Why bother?” referencing Google+. Offering up two pretty valid reasons right off the top of her head, Google+ drives traffic and Google+’s referral traffic has increased dramatically recently.

What are some more of the Google+ features?

  • Analytics
  • Successful tracking across platforms
  • User tagging (from a brand page)
  • Hash tags
  • Prolific commenting which is less like micro blogging

Just like in any other social media channel, you need to actively manage your Google+ page. Here are a few tips Monica offered up:

  • Monitor your brand and see what’s trending
  • See how your brand results come up in Google search
  • Save searches and see trends, see what people are talking about and how it changes over time

When sharing links, be sure to add tracking to all of your post updates. Within each individual post, you can bold parts of the text, use images as the link of the article you posted and definitely be sure to cross promote your other social channels on your Google+ page too.

As far as Google+ Hangouts go, you can only have 10 people in a hangout, so it does limit your audience but it is a great tool for an internal meeting or for certain circles of people. Don’t forget to organize your circles! As your friends grow, you need to be able to track how you know all of them.

Whew! That was a good load of Google+ info there! Hope that helped provide some insight to everyone grappling with why Google+ should be a part of a social and SEO plan. Thanks to the speakers for a great presentation and for the wealth of information! We’re not done yet, though – be sure to check back for more coverage.

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