Social Search is finally here!

Google has revealed it will imminently be integrating Google+ into its search results, to deliver search results that better reflect your preferences and also incorporate content shared by people in your Google+ Circles. This is a major change to how Google's search results are assembled and so we want to give everyone a brief overview of what this really means for us as marketers.

So, what will actually be changing?

Firstly, it's important to stress that the fundamentals are not changing; they are just being supplemented by social elements. Natural search results will remain and will be determined in the same way as they are now (relevant content + links + engagement signals), and Paid Search ads will still operate within the same model. That said, the changes are significant and breathe life into something we could call 'Social Search', something at Greehnlight have been expecting for a while and are incredibly excited about. The key changes in a nutshell:

 1.     Google+ content to be integrated into search engine results pages (SERPs)

If you have a Google+ Brand page as a business, any content you post will appear within the natural search results for anyone that has you in their circles, assuming it is deemed relevant to their search. This can be beneficial (Google+ content produced by you gets wide exposure) or a threat (a negative review about you posted by someone with an extensive Circle membership will get increased exposure). The opportunity here is that if you were to create great viral content, then it could be shared by lots of people and therefore appear in the results for lots of people.

 2.     Relevant Google+ Brand pages to be showcased in the SERPs

Google will be suggesting relevant Google+ profiles to follow in the search results when searches are made. For instance, if you searched for 'music', Google would display options for you to add the Brand pages of 'Britney Spears', 'Snoop Dog', etc. to your circles. If you then did that, their content would appear regularly in your search results. This could be beneficial as this promotion of Google+ Brand pages to the populace will grow the number of people who add you to their Circles, giving you a captive audience to market to and consolidate your presence in their future search results. There are a number of threats here too though - if you don't have a Google+ page right now, you'll potentially leave yourself open to your branded search results being hijacked by people pretending to be your brand, but you will also not be amassing people who have added you to their Circles, whilst your competitors might be. This will obviously result in reduced visibility and mindshare for you over time.

 What should we/you be doing to respond?

 A brand wanting to take advantage of these changes (or not fall victim to them) would need to undertake several activities:

 1.     Create a Google+ Brand page immediately

This would need to be carefully put together to ensure that it appeared official, useful and worthy of people adding to their Circles. This should also be optimised to ensure it ranked for your brand search terms.

 2.     Put a Google+ content strategy in place

Once you have constructed your Google+ Brand page, you'll need a content strategy designed to deliver high quality, engaging content, consistently to that audience (i.e. daily!). Content that not only begs to be shared, but also content that uses search terms and themes that your audience might be searching for, therefore increasing and broadening your rankings. For instance, if you were a company that sold computer games, you'd want to have regular Google+ content that showed which were the top 10 most purchased games (or anything else that we know people are searching for in Google). If people have you in their Circles they'll see this content in their search results when they conduct relevant searches - but also this content would encourage other people to add you to their Circles too. Content essentially needs to be used to increase your exposure to those people that already have you in their Circles, but also compel others to add you for the first time because there is an incentive to do so. And this should be aligned to the list of search terms we target for you already in natural and paid search.

 3.     Benchmark your activity against the competition

As with most things, it's important to ensure that you're keeping close tabs on how well your competitors are doing - particularly in terms of the number of people that have added them to their Circles over time.

 This is perhaps the biggest change to Google in the last five years and, as such, cannot be ignored. It's a huge opportunity for brands and businesses to increase their rankings and also extend their search presence into the realms of CRM, PR, and more.

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