In what’s probably half designed to make search results more personalized and half an encouragement for people to use Google+, Google implemented changes to its search algorithms recently. Google+ users who are frequently signed in while performing searches have likely already noticed, but Google+ results and pages that have been +1’d or shared by a connection are now given a massive boost in the search, usually to the front page.
Say your company sells PCR primers. If you mention PCR primers in your Google+ profile or in a post or other content on Google+, and a scientist that you’re connected to on Google+ searches for PCR primers, your post will almost guaranteedly display near the top of the results (assuming the person doesn’t have lots of other connections also talking about PCR primers). Likewise, based on information that Google compiles about a user, it will have “recommended” connections and content from recommended connections get a similarly high-profile
Of course, this type of simplification ignores the difficulty of growing a following on Google+. Unlike Twitter and more similarly to Facebook, Google+ doesn’t let companies follow people who aren’t following them back. Facebook at least partially makes up for it by allowing you to have high customized pages which you can use to incentivize engagement. Google+ has no such capabilities, so building engagement can be somewhat more difficult.
Another thing about the change is that it places a huge premium on social content – posts, links, videos, images, everything. Have pictures of the team from the last conference? Put it on Google+. Was there a news article about your company or products? Put it on Google+. While you’re at it, write search engine optimized descriptions; just keep in mind that people will read them so don’t go overboard.
With that one change, social media marketing for companies with Google+ went from kind of pointless to extremely worthwhile. Just know that like any social media marketing it’s a slow process with long-term rewards, so be patient, provide good content, and do your best to build your network.
Also, expect that Google will continue to try to integrate Google+ into search, so long as they don’t do anything that creates a massivle backlash. The past few days there have been reports of google asking searchers if they’d like to ask their Google+ connections about their search. Not sure if that particular feature will stick, but it’s certainly an indication of the direction Google’s trying to go…
UPDATE: Between the writing of this and its posting, we noticed another change. Google now integrates social results from your Google contacts. This means that if someone in your gmail contacts or from a synced android phone shared something, it will also show up in the new “personal results” section and receive greater visibility, even if you’re not signed up with Google+. Furthermore, if you have a website listed in your Google or Google+ profile, Google’s search well respond as if you’e shared all pages on the site, even if you haven’t actively done so. The screenshot below is taken from a search where I was signed into Google on an account that does not have a Google+ account.