Travelmole reported recently that Google is urging travel firms to set up Google+ pages to aid their search engine rankings. According to Marketing Land this is all part of Google’s “Search Plus Your World” update (live in US, not UK yet).
Numerous articles have been written on the introduction of Google+ and “Search Plus Your World” so we’ll keep things brief in terms of what it means from a user-perspective. In short, there’s a new “Personal Results” view that appears in Google searches, personalising the listings you see based on both your own behaviour and social connections. Search results combine personal signals (your search and web history) along with social signals (who you are, who you know and what you and your friends like and share). If you have a Google+ account, it will look through anything that’s been privately shared with you, to see if it matches what you’re looking for. Those results then get mixed in with web-wide matches.
To see these personalised results you have to be logged into your Google account (i.e. Analytics, Gmail or Google+) otherwise it will not affect the results you see as you are searching “anonymously” (however you will still get listings down the right hand side about “People and Pages on Google+” related to your search query). It is worth noting that all search results are personalised to a degree based on your behaviour and have been for a number of years. The launch of first Google+ and now “Search Plus Your World” are extensions of this with Google seeking to make search results even more relevant based on your social connections. You can see a full, up-to-date guide to every aspect and angle of Google+ and how it impacts search on AJ Kohn’s blog.
In terms of other social networks, “Search Plus Your World” doesn’t include content from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or any social network or place where content might be shared. As such, “Search Plus Your World” would be better described as “Search Plus Google+”, according to Search Engine Land. So ultimately, this is Google favouring its own Google+ social networking service. However, having a Google+ page does not, at the moment, directly affect your main website ranking. However, in time, if the network really takes off, a lack of a branded Google+ page and activity across the network will undoubtedly have a negative impact on how Google perceives your business.
Things to consider before you create a Google+ account
So should you be jumping on the latest social media bandwagon and setting up a Google+ profile? An important thing to consider is the demographic of the platform compared to the audience you may be aspiring to attract. According to a report by Website-Monitoring.com, two thirds of Google+ users are men, 42% are single and the most popular occupation listed is ‘student’. This goes against the popular notion that women are far more prolific users of social networks. So if your primary audience is women, you might be better building a strategy around a different social network…for now anyway.
As with any social media activity we would also recommend building a strategy around content before diving in. There is no point opening a Google+ page, or any other social media channel for that matter, unless it is supported by genuinely useful and engaging content.
For the moment, as an agency we’re not jumping on the Google+ bandwagon until we have carried out internal testing and have more visibility of the platform. We are advising our clients to carefully consider their objectives before they invest significant time and resource. All too often agencies push their clients to set up social media accounts ‘just because they should’ without considering the audience, content strategy to support social media activity and the time and resource to manage it.
It’s early days so it will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out. Bear in mind, this wouldn’t be the first time Google have attempted to enter the social media space…with pretty disastrous results. Remember Google Buzz anyone?