How To Use Google Plus For SEO
Today I learned some sad news… Google has announced it is shutting down Google Buzz to allow the company put a greater focus on its latest product, Google Plus, in an attempt to take a large market share of the very lucrative social network industry.
To be honest though, Google Buzz held very little appeal for me. A combination of poor user uptake and a severe lack of differentiation features from its competitors (Facebook and Twitter) led me to see little value in Buzz.
From a SEO perspective I couldn’t find many ways to leverage Google Buzz either. Adding a Google Buzz social icon on a website to encourage people to share stories could bring with it additional traffic sources. However, the value of this traffic versus the amount of real estate the buzz button demanded on my web pages (versus that of a Tweet or a Like button) just didn’t stack up.
Google Plus is a different beast altogether though. It is a solution with multiple different layers of functionality wrapped up in a beautiful user interface that even hard-core UX designers were quick to praise. Since its launch it has also achieved what Google Buzz failed to do… it has encouraged people to use it!
A lot more people engaging with Google Plus brings with it a larger audience and a greater reach for information to be shared across this platform. This is great for increasing your social reach, but when it comes to the SEO benefits of Google Plus, there are quite a few quick wins available for webmasters and online marketers who are willing to spend a few minutes optimizing their profiles.
Optimizing your Google Plus profile for self-branding benefits
The following image is a screen grab of how the Google Plus profile of Matt Cutts, the head of the Google web spam team, appears within the search results.
Google has compiled this search engine listing from a combination of following details on Matt’s Google Plus profile:
- Where Matt currently lives.
- Matt’s occupation.
- Matt’s current employer.
- Matt’s introduction.
The listing also includes an image of Matt which he uses as Google Plus profile picture.
Updating this information within your own Google Plus account only takes about two minutes and allows you to control exactly what information appears within the search results when your Google Plus profile listing is displayed. If Google Plus profiles rank within the search engines in a similar manner to other products such as Google Places then it would be safe to assume that the more complete your profile is, the better it will rank within the search engine results.
The short time you spend on completing your Google Plus account can offer you significant self-branding benefits within the search results.
Site Links within Google Plus search results
Within the Matt Cutts search engine result you can see specific sitelinks below the ‘introduction’ information.
It is very easy to control what you want to have listed as the sitelinks which appear beneath the search engine listing of your own Google Plus page. Simply add ‘recommended links’ to your Google Plus profile in the order you want Google to display them and you can give greater emphasis to sites which are relevant to your expertise (i.e. your personal blog, your company’s website address, your YouTube channel etc.). This tactic can also help send traffic to the specific websites you optimize your sitelinks for.
Using your Google Plus profile for SEO benefits
One of the most eye-catching announcements regarding the launch of Google Plus from a SEO perspective is that the links on Google Plus are dofollow. This means that links within Google Plus profiles or links which are shared within Google Plus updates are a type of link which passes page rank from one site to another. This in turn helps improve your website’s search engine ranking. The value of having links shared on Google Plus looks to offer greater SEO value than that of nofollow Twitter and Facebook links.
However, it would be foolish to think that the Google web spam team weren’t consulted when the decision to offer dofollow links was made. These links will no doubt offer some SEO benefit, but due to the potential for spam, I really doubt they will be a silver bullet to help sites rank for competitive keywords due to the fact that these links are extremely easy to build (and therefore spam).
Google Plus should be embraced within your overall social marketing strategy and the benefits of reshares of valuable content within the Google Plus network will help you develop a lot of inbound links, send social indicators to Google to indicated your content is valuable, generate new followers for your profile, and most importantly, new visitors to your website.
Google Plus links can be achieved through sharing content within your profile feed, but if you want a very quick and easy dofollow link to your website then you only need to add ‘recommended links’ to your Google Plus profile (as discussed above).
Using your Google Plus profile and the rel=author tag for SEO benefits
Another very useful feature which Google Plus has offered online content writers is a simplistic way to link their Google Plus profile to content which they publish on numerous websites. To identify the author of a blog or article, Google checks for a connection between a web page (such as an article) and a Google Profile.
From the image above you can see an example of ‘author information’ being displayed within the search results. The inclusion of the author’s image can greatly differentiate their content from the other search results around them. This should provide their webpage with significantly higher click-through-rates.
Google doesn’t miss a trick either as they provide a link to the authors Google Plus account in an attempt to increase user interaction on Google Plus (something which Google Buzz never seemed to achieve).
Although authorship markup was something which technically was possible in the past, the launch of Google Plus has brought with it a very useful way to spoon-feed Google all of the information it needs to publish the necessary content beside your posts (e.g. profile photo, a link to your Google Plus account, and the number of people who follow you within your circles).
Full details as to how to associate your content with your Google profile can be found here.
Google Buzz is dead… Long Live Google Plus!
Whether or not Google Plus can take any significant market share within the social network industry is something which I don’t see the point either speculating on or losing sleep over.
For the moment, Google Plus provides online marketers, content writers, and webmasters with a few more tools that they can leverage to increase their websites performance within the search engines. For those who are attempting to rank their website or raise their personal profile, Google Plus is not something to be ignored.