If you frequent tech and marketing blogs, by now you’ve heard about Google’s latest major change to search – Search Plus Your World (or SPYW, possibly pronounced as “spew”).
Google now offers a “personal results” option for logged-in Google Account users that incorporates content shared by connections within Google+ and Gmail contacts (pretty much anyone in your email history with a Gmail address).
For example, a search for ‘handbag’ shows me 10 personal results, one being Zappos, which I have added to my Google+ Circles.
Clicking the link shows me my contacts’ shared content.
Smart Zappos uses Google+ to share photos as well as informative articles that stand out in these kind of results. Zappos needs not to be in one’s Circle to appear, if a Google+ friend or Gmail contact has shared Zappos’ posting, it will also show up.
How SPYW Transforms Word-of-Mouth Marketing
While social sharing through Twitter and Facebook is good (and cheap) word-of-mouth for brands, Tweets and Likes have a very short half-life. The more Facebook friends you have, the quicker your Ticker updates. News Feeds are condensed to show only the most “relevant” stories, thanks to EdgeRank. Even if shares are noticed, if they are not relevant at that given time, they get lost in the haystack of updates.
Search Plus Your World obliterates the half life, hanging on to and indexing these shares and resurrecting them when they are relevant to a user. Who cares what Jessie, Joey and Johnny think about TurboTax until you’re in the market for tax software?
If Google could work a deal with other social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, it would really provide value to users. (Hey, it could happen!) But for now, if you want to show up in personal results, you've gotta drink the Googleaid.
How Search Plus Your World Affects Ecommerce
It’s obvious participating in Google+ helps your visibility in personal results. But it’s also likely that Google is or will factor social shares as a trust signal, and thus a ranking factor. Spammy sites don’t tend to get organic shares, so it's one way to spot chaff among wheat. Because Google has full visibility into Google+, it’s easy to spot the fake “sock puppet” accounts -- it's tougher to game the system.
Social link building is becoming as important as old school link building. If you think you don’t need to invest in Google+ until it hits critical mass, or until you can demonstrate a “measurable ROI” from your efforts, competitors who do grok the Plus could leave you in their dust in traditional search rankings, not just personal results.
What You Should Do About Google+
1. Put the Google+ chicklet on all your site pages
2. Treat the chicklet like a call to action (don’t bury it, consider testing placement for best engagement, measure clicks on the button as a micro-conversion metric, etc.)
3. Appoint someone in your organization or an outsourced specialist to own your Google+ marketing effort (this can be part of a larger social media role)
4. Share images and video content regularly, tag appropriately with keywords (multimedia content stands out in search and may be weighted higher, also more likely to be shared by others)
5. Optimize your shares like you would for Twitter or the Facebook Newsfeed
6. Encourage Facebook and Twitter subscribers to also follow you on Google+
7. Segment your email subscriber list and target Gmail accounts with a special request to add you their Circles (along with the benefits of doing so)
8. Use Google+ as a microblog to give product usage tips, feature customer reviews, announce new products and sales events, etc.
9. Engage in “social listening” within Google+, find out who’s talking about you and engage with them. Activity across the network may give your social profile a bit more clout with Google when personalizing results, similar to EdgeRank’s Affinity Score.
While Twitter and Facebook are still important networks to nurture, Google+ deserves serious attention. If you want to be found in social search, now is the best time to start seeding the search engine with your content.