The future of business is social – Barry Libert, Social Nation
Launched in September 2010, Google Plus is Google’s fourth product in the social networking arena. With its integration of Google Buzz and Google Profiles, and introduction of services including Circles and Hangouts, Google Plus is considered by The New York Times to be the company’s biggest attempt at emulating the social networking giant, Facebook. Users reading articles and news stories online will be familiar with the various social networking buttons that can be used to share the content. ‘Facebook Like’ and ‘Tweet This’ have now been joined by Google Plus icons. So what, if anything, does that mean for the search engines?
The impact of the Google Plus button will depend somewhat on Google’s success at making their social network the network of choice for the future. Facebook has an incredibly stronghold on this, so Google will have its work cut out. Even though Google Plus membership is expected to grow to around 400 million members by the time 2012 is out, Mashable’s Todd Wasserman reported that the 90 million or so current users spend under four minutes each month on Google Plus compared to the vastly superior 7.5 hours spent on Facebook. If Google does manage to stake a decent claim in social networking, SEO experts expect that the Google Plus button will become as commonplace as the Facebook Like button. They go on to speculate that the search engine giant will use the data to influence search results.
Google includes Google Plus statistics in its suite of tools for webmasters and goes so far as to say how many users have clicked the +1 button on a website and how that in turn has impacted traffic. This serves to suggest that there is indeed some level of correlation between Google Plus votes and search rankings.
It seems likely that 2012 will be a period of testing for Google. Those in the industry will know that Google is not afraid to tweak its algorithms from time to time. The exact workings of Google Plus will probably remain shrouded in secrecy for some time to come. Like the majority of social signals, users will see a high correlation between Google Plus buttons and top rankings, but right now at least the button itself won’t necessarily have contributed anything significant to the ranking. At the moment, the concept is still fairly open to black hat techniques so it would be far too easy for unscrupulous users to affect the results to their own gain. This is something Google will have to work out properly before it starts attaching any significant value to the numbers.
Google are still building their Google Plus product, so it’s still very much a newcomer on the social landscape. It won’t stay that way forever though. Users who jump on the bandwagon early enough are likely to garner the biggest advantages.