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Is Google+ Leading the Way in Social Search?

In 2011, Google threw its hat in the social ring and launched Google+. With all the circles, hangouts and +1’s, how have these social aspects worked their way into online behavior and marketing? Short answer: although Google has implemented integration of Google+ and increased usage since launch, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube still remain the perceived “top dogs” amongst the social landscape.

The low volume of usage is not a result of Google’s lack of effort. Beginning in 2012, Google integrated Google+ links into search engine results as well as Google+1 social extensions into sponsored search ads and search engine result listing. Google has also required that users must log into the Google+ profile in order to post reviews of restaurants, businesses or mobile apps. 

Google recently reported on its blog they now have over 500 million people opted into Google+ with 27% actively engaging (+1’ing apps, hanging out, connecting with friends, etc). Compare this to eMarketer projecting Facebook to reach 1 billion users in 2013. 

Although there is minimal activity and social engagement across Google+ today, the future opportunities and implications are exciting. 

Current Opportunities in Search:

  • Increased brand awareness and brand advocacy for businesses that develop Official Google+ pages. 
    • Integration of Google+ Local page with Google Places pages across search, maps and mobile giving brands more dominance on search results.
    • Remember to implement basic best practices for SEO such as the name of your Google+ page as this influences your search engine results page ranking.
    • +1 Buttons should be added to all content and articles for quick indexing and easy endorsements.
  • Google+ Hangouts and Circles are optimum platforms to launch new products and offerings. 
  • With Google social extensions, advertisers can link their Google+ icon into AdWords ads allowing searchers to see recommendations by friends in their network. 
  • Although we have yet to see increased lifts in CTR or quality score adjustments, the theory is that searchers are more inclined to check out brands if endorsed by someone in their social circle.
  • In January 2012, Google began delivering Personal Results as well as Google+ People and Pages recommendations providing search results based on Google+ Circle recommendations and conversations. 
  • Verification Badges can protect your brand; this is especially important for brands with heightened presence of counterfeit competitors or trademark violations.

Projections for 2013, Opportunities in Search:

  • We expect Google to offer the ability to target users and display different ads based on social relevancy to the brand.
  • With Google requiring Google+ login for review submissions, marketers’ targeting capabilities will become more robust and accurate as Google continues to build its database of users personal information, interests, product and business endorsements and +1’s.
  • As Google+ audience builds, brands will be able to publish content and engagement tools across Google+ communities and hangouts, aiding and participating in conversations while also having the opportunity to share content.  Active engagement and content publishing will work side by side with valuable saturation of search engine results listings and increased potential for linking or further sharing and +1’ing.
  • Relationship building will be key in 2013 since everything a brand writes and shares can be included in search results.  Increasing follower count will begin to trend upward as company goal.

Google will continue to increase its Google+ recommendations and listings across search engine results pages.  I would not be surprised to see new looks across SERPs in upcoming months as Google adjusts the placement of sponsored ads and organic listings to make room for Google+ social listings.  The advertisers who created their Google+ pages and built their audience base will reap the benefits while everyone else will run wild to play catch up. 

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