Not to imply that every blog you write isn’t chocked full of relevant, well-written content, tailored for just the right audience, I’m sure it is, but understanding the real implications of Google+ should have you thinking twice before you hit any publish buttons. More than ever, especially with the advent of the search engine giant’s most recent, most misunderstood social networking offering, content quality and relevance to a target audience count. Here’s why.
Jumping to conclusions has been the common response to Google’s latest entry into the world of social media. Comparisons to you-know-what are legion as are dire predictions of failure linked to previous false starts by Google, Wave and Buzz to name the last two. More cynically, others have assumed that the companion +1 button is nothing more than a rip off of the Facebook “like” button, again comparing Google+ to the dominant social media site, with the sole, rudimentary utility of upping rankings. These exercises in overlooking the subtleties that make Google+ very unique and innovative are not the stuff of sound analysis.
To be sure, Google+ will be competing with Facebook. Just as Google’s free e-mail service, Gmail, with just under 200,000,000 users worldwide at present, tend to be held by a comparatively more tech savvy base, Google+ is likely to share with and sometimes capture from Facebook a similarly more sophisticated user, as in Gmail, there’s no reason to presuppose that Google has any intention of directly competing for any form of dominance. Just to point out the obvious, Google+ will certainly draw from those Facebook account holders currently burned out on Facebook and who are looking for an alternative social media site – and that’s not unintentional on the part of Google.
Amid months of speculation of what then should have been apparent, Google has a site making it unequivocal as to the ranking implications of Google+’s attendant “+1 button. Sadly, some SEO firms have ignored the available information and are actually charging their client blog owners money for the purchase of +1 buttons hits—bad idea because audience counts.
Just as Google+ allows its social media users to select groups called circles differentiating access to content shared, Google’s +1 button hit are analyzed, in part, according to profile characteristics of the users. If your +1 hits come from a random pattern of worldwide hits with no discernable connection, don’t expect a bump in ranking, and don’t be surprised if those hits are recognized by Google for the likely spam they are. Google’s webmaster tools link allows a web owner to actually analyze the audience characteristics of site visits, made anonymous, but otherwise very telling. As always, length of time spent on a site, with or without a +1 hit, helps move rankings up. This speaks to the second thrust of Google+’s primary focus: content counts.
Let’s briefly revisit the dubious, self-defeating practice of an SEO customer purchasing +1 hits. In the celebrated algorithm known but to God and a Google statistician, frequently changed without notice, one thing that has been known for some time is that length of view is tracked in any analysis of a site. Now, add to the mix a +1 hit for a given site. Those with hits, but little time spent by a viewer will, at best, not improve the stature of a blog or other internet site. Those with hits and a significant duration of a visit will correctly be assessed as having quality content, again, a well-known factor in improving search standings.
Google+ is neither, as a myriad of “reviewers” have pronounced, either a direct development from their notable flops involving social media, nor a FB wannabe. If speculation is to be done with any degree of informed reflection, Google’s temporary suspension of new requests for Google+ accounts, (invitation only initial account holders were given free reign to invite others to join, an unlimited privilege that caused millions of second degree invitees to apply for accounts), should be highly suspect. Not new to the business, it’s hard to imagine that allowing unlimited invitations would produce anything more that enhanced demand and that a well-publicized suspension of processing, temporary barely in name only, would simply add to the feeding frenzy.
Time will be the only true test as to whether or not Google+ was a flawed effort at playing ball on Facebook’s field or a revolutionary innovation that changed SEO practices. So far, the evidence, both circumstantial and empirical, suggests the latter. More significantly, if Google+ provides incentives for better quality content, a penalty for spamming patterns of behavior and a distinct focus on audience, it’s unlikely that anyone will remember much about Buzz, Wave, and to a certain degree, Facebook.
Guest Bio: Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He writes on behalf of Colorado Technical University and has a keen interest in blogging and social media. He also writes for www.professionalintern.com.