How To Use Google Plus For SEO

Posted on Oct 15th 2011 in
Google Plus and 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.

Matt Cutts Google Plus Profile Within The Search Results

Google has compiled this search engine listing from a combination of following details on Matt’s Google Plus profile:

  1. Where Matt currently lives.
  2. Matt’s occupation.
  3. Matt’s current employer.
  4. 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.

Matt Cutts Google Plus Profile with Sitelinks

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.

Google Author Information Displayed Within The Search Results

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.

About the author
My name is Barry Fenning and I am the Webmaster of this site. Please feel free to follow my Google+ updates. To keep up to date with my SEO tips follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or through my RSS feed.
4 Responses
  • Rank Checker on October 16, 2011

    Has anybody seen any of the author results for non well known people – I’ve only seen it for those that are quite well known/in the SEO space which leads me to believe that it’s not really worth it to bother with the rel=author tag when the likelihood of getting that picture is low/not existant

  • Robert on October 16, 2011

    We have all our authors optimised, but don’t get shown. It think that the author profiles are only showing for a VERY select few.

  • Sarah on October 17, 2011

    @Rank Checker, I think it’s definitely worth a shot. It only takes a small amount of time.

  • MarkB on October 25, 2011

    My own personal view is that Google+ may well become a major factor for SEO.

    When compared to link building which is obviously already open to a lot of abuse anyway, it offers a more trusted recommendation about a site. Having a just a link from another website offers no intelligence, in the fact that Google has no way of telling apart a positive link (e.g. a recommendation) from a bad link (e.g. a complaint or rant about a bad site).

    With Google+ people will instead be giving a trusted thumbs up to a site/page, which offers more value in my opinion for producing good quality search results for Google.

    Like always spam is a potential issue. However, I can see Google+ having less abuse than current link building techniques. Mainly because you need a Google account to be able to +1 a site/page, therefore Google can check to see your history and how often you use services such as google docs, gmail, and calendar, as well as your search history.

    Potentially if these types of services are used regularly and without any repetitive patterns of use, then a +1 from these guys could carry more weight than a plain account with no activity and few people in their circle. In fact Google could even potentially penalise sites if they have lots of +1’s from accounts with no activity.

    With this extra level of information Google has access to, I could see Google+ gradually carrying more weight in the future for SEO purposes.

    I’m sure Google won’t be naive enough to switch too much weight to +1’s in the short term, but I can certainly see them experimenting with it more and more to see if it can provide a positive influence on their search results.

    I guess a lot comes down to how successful Google+ becomes – if it doesn’t take off in a big way it may not provide the significance required to make a positive impact on search.

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