Monday, January 16, 2012

Jump Through the SEO Hoops: How Google has Made Engagement in G+ Mandatory

There have been a lot of words used to describe Google's social media foray, Google+, but most of them are words that Google+ would not want on its resume -- until now. Google has thrown its proverbial weight behind Google+. Google's integration of Google+ conversations into the top of searches poses an interesting dilemma to those that care about search engine optimization.  Take a look at this image:

Marty Stuart, while maybe not a pop powerhouse,  is a recognizable brand/star. But, look what happens now when you search for his name. 

There are 1.83 million results found by Google. A simple post I had made a while back with a photograph of him from a live performance is now the third result with a big thumbnail image. It's two of his own websites then my post. 

There have to be tons of more qualified entries on the web than my picture of the day. But, there I am, up top. 

So, therein lies the question. What if someone badmouths your brand on Google+ and you're not there? It could be your participation on Google+ that is right up top. You could be using your own messaging within a social media outlet and getting top billing on your own terms. Or, you could leave that fate into the hands of others. It's not something I'd advise risking. 

I've been fond of reinforcing lately that domains are a nice calling card addition to your existing outreach. But, if somebody knows your domain, they're either already familiar with your brand -- or they've been subject to your messaging along with your domain. The people you need to worry about are the people that aren't familiar with you--the people using search. This is where your converts are. So, if you're losing a top spot by not engaging in Google+, it's a risky proposition.

But, why would Google do this? People and brands weren't engaging in Google+ as they did with Facebook and Twitter. While the early adopters like Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble and such publicly engaged in Google+, the rest of the crowd were still pulling their parents and grandparents reluctantly into Facebook. 

So, wisely, Google is forcing the hands of brands and those with an interest in driving web traffic to join Google+. These people that are out there promoting their brand or site now know they need to engage to control their results. Google is creating its crowd at gunpoint hoping this will have an exponential effect. 

Google+ has a great photography community, early adopters community and some other niches. This is Google's effort to draw (force) that next level of adoption. I'll be interested to see how it plays out. 

In fact, I've created Google+ brand pages for a couple of the brands that I am affiliated with. Time will tell if people using the search engine giant see this as a qualified find for their searches -- or if they blow over it like most do with advertised/sponsored results. But, in the mean time, you may want to take a close look at how your brand is being communicated within Google+ public results. 

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