Google Plus Your World: Changes bring Changes
We have seen change after change occur, both algorithmically and to the user interface of Google. All of these changes affect what franchises do to generate leads to at the local franchisee location. In this article we will explain the impact of Search plus Your World and provide instructions on how to change with the times.
Explanation of Search plus Your World
In January of 2012 Google launched what they called Search plus Your World. The goal of this algorithm change is to create a very personalized result which they expect will have more value to the user than a more generic general result would. Google has been offering personalized search results for years, but average users didn’t even know that that they were being provided with personalized search because the difference between them and a generic search result was subtle. Search plus Your World entirely changes the search results layout and drastically changes the rankings of websites.
In 2010 Google launched a social network called Google+. What the public didn’t realize at the time is that one of Google’s purposes of this new social media platform was to create a way to authenticate people’s online persona. By doing so, Google can create rate the value of an individual social persona. This means that the websites recommended by a recognized industry writer will carry more weight than the recommendations of a faceless IP address. In the same line of thought, the recommendation from a peer in your circle of friends would be deemed as having more value to you because it is likely that they have the same interests and opinions that you do.
With Search plus Your World, Google brings those recommendations from your circle of friends right to the forefront and it can draw those recommendations from private conversations on their social network. The changes to the search results can be seen in the screen captures below. The image on the right shows how even a Google Image search is affected by this recent change.
click image to expand
The problem is that Google is now showing more preference to their Google+ results than it does to other social networks and websites. Google draws the data for their personalized search results from the Google+ network only, stating that once other social networks will be included when they sign-up for a long-term partnership and offer up their networks worth of data completely to Google. Obviously Facebook & Twitter, advertising competitors of Google have serious reservations about both of these requirements.
Google is also bumping up the positions from these personalized results right to the top position. This might be great if your friends happen to be discussing something completely relevant to what you are searching for, but could also be just a text mention of a product or brand rather than a local store or website that can fulfill your needs. Take a close look at the image above on the left. The third result is a personalized result pointing me to the Google+ network to find information on ‘search engine help’. Well, this Google+ post is about a free tool that can show me where my site is listed on Google, but this isn’t really search engine help, is it? Obviously this is not the most relevant result I could be looking for and is definitely not worthy of a top result.
Taking Advantage of Personalized Search Results
If you are wondering how your franchise can benefit from Google+ and Search plus Your World, the short answer is that every business can. Recently Google made a change to their search system that obscures the keyword terms that drive visitors to your website if they are logged into Google, whether that is because of Gmail, Google Docs or YouTube. So, instead of seeing the relevant keywords you will instead see (not provided). Now Google also creates a Google+ account profile automatically if you have create and account for any of Google’s online products. From this, we can see that the percentage of results arriving to your website as (not provided), actually have Google+ accounts and are actively logged in when they have made this search. According to reports from many companies, the current percentage of searches done by people logged into their Google+ account sits between 10-20%. One of our franchise client’s corporate webpage is showing over 30% of their search visitors are logged into Google+. That’s a significant percentage of potential leads and leaving them off the table by not optimizing for Search plus Your World makes no sense.
The link graph is dying. Obtaining links can be easily gamed. Recommendations from authentic industry experts and friends within a circle are the new most powerful search signals that Google is using to rate websites in their search results.
So How Can Your Franchise Optimize for Google’s New Socially Guided Results?
The first step is to setup a Google+ account for your business. Understandably a franchise may be leery about creating another social media account because they already have Facebook & Twitter accounts that they having difficulty keeping current, but Google+ is a game changer when it comes to search results and if you don’t grab a Google+ account for your business and begin posting to it now you will be playing catchup.
The first thing you should do is add Google+ badges on your website in conspicuous places on your website, near your companies contact information and in places near where your website’s visitors will be interacting with. These badges will drive interested users to your Google+ account and hopefully the content you post to your circles is interesting enough to them that they add you to their circles.
Secondly, you need to install a +1. Similar to a Facebook Like, a +1 button on your website encourages visitors to rate your website positively and these positive ratings will be delivered to others in their social circles.
The key to achieving success in Search plus Your World through your Google+ account is by recognizing your audience. Finding, growing and pruning potential leads and existing clients into your Google+ social circles is pivotal to ranking success. This isn’t Twitter. You don’t need millions of followers. What you should be targeting is your key demographic, people that are deeply entrenched in the products or services related to what your franchise delivers. Relevant links or Google+ recommendations –- similar to Facebook likes — from authentic industry experts will do more for your company’s search results than thousands of unrelated mentions from empty profiles will.
What do I share with my users?
Now the goal of this social build-up is to get your Google+ page shared with other users through search or having other users share your website material. By creating high quality relevant content you can increase the odds of getting users to +1 your website’s content. With every Google+ update you should keep focused on moving the user from your social profile to your website’s lead generators whether those are a contact form or a newsletter sign-up page. Track those conversions and the sources that led to them and use those metrics to drive your Google+ campaigns.
Keep in mind that a Like, follow or +1 is great and may be something that you can measure by a simple line chart it is not a conversion. A conversion is an e-mail, a phone call or a join form that turns a user into a qualified lead.