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It’s incredible how much the web has evolved. More specifically, it’s incredible how many new products Google has introduced in the past year. When Google first announced their new platform, today known as Google+, I thought, “This could be a game changer in the social space.” But did I jump on it right away? No, not really. I was traveling in Vancouver for a company Face-to-Face event when Google+ was made available on a limited access basis. It was good times when all of us at Cardinal Path were able to take Google+ and Hangout on a test drive for the first time.

There’s been a lot of discussion since then around the potential of Google+. SEOs are taking advantage of what Google is doing with their platform like Authorship and AuthorRank. While Google+ is not a social network, we default to thinking it is because it’s another one of those sharing and communication tools with users who are always saying, “If you’re not on it, you’ll be missing out”.

Google+ is a ‘social layer’ that sits on top of many of Google’s products. You may have noticed the ‘+ Share’ button appearing in the top right of many Google properties and the many privately owned websites with the +1 button on their pages. Google wants you to use their platform because they believe there is some unique value in it that we, as users, can benefit from.

I can name a dozen Google products I use everyday. In fact, I probably use more Google products in a day than all non-Google tools combined. So, did it make sense for Google to integrate the plus functionality with all their products? I’d say yes.

I recently read Paul Goldston‘s phenomenal post on The Ultimate Guide to Google Plus for Business. Paul not only gives an overview of what Google+ is, he also gets into strategic and tactical elements that you can make use of right away. Like any new tool you add to your toolbox, you really need to give it a test run before you know whether or not it’s right for you.

Why Should You Be On Google Plus?

Here are eight reasons why you, as an individual and as a business, should be on Google+. Creating that linkage will only help you build greater trust with users and with Google.

(1) Authorship / AuthorRank

Google Authorship gives you the ability to link your written content on a domain to your Google+ profile. This allows Google to understand who you are, what you’ve published online, and to create a linkage between you and all your activities. Authorship also provides a more visually appealing result in the SERPs if you’ve configured everything properly. For instance, I’ve blogged on my own personal website, Cardinal Path and Online Behavior. This is what I see in the results when I search for any of my articles:

Google Authorship in Effect for Jackson Lo

As you can see, when done properly, your results will stand out over others. If any of you want to get really creative, you can test the background color, or even facial expressions, to see which may perform better. With all that said, the benefits you get are:

  • An image of the author appearing in the search results.
  • A link to the author’s Google+ profile page.
  • Demonstrates the authority of the person if he/she is in a lot of circles.

AuthorRank is another topic to discuss here, as it applies directly to authorship and Google+. I’ll use this snippet to provide a bit of context:

“The idea of ‘AuthorRank’ is this – if Google is able to identify and verify reputable authors in certain fields, they will then be able to weed out spammers and only serve up legitimate, relevant content by content creators that have proven themselves to be influential and relevant in their industry vertical or niche topic area.”

AuthorRank can be perceived as a positive thing, in most scenarios. If you read the article that Bill Slawski wrote back in 2007, you’ll get a feel of what AuthorRank (Agent Rank) is all about. I can only see more people and businesses jumping on and getting themselves involved with Google+. Until more of that happens, and until the Google+ community involvement matures, we’ll probably only see a small percentage of folks taking advantage of Authorship and AuthorRank in the short term. So, take advantage now! I do see authorship as a big opportunity, especially for entrepreneurs, marketers and professionals in a particular niche.

Here are just a few phenomenal posts by my fellow industry experts that I follow, definitely worth the read through:

(2) Everyone Uses Google Products, Soon Google+

The vast amount of people using Google products is unimaginable. If I were to count the number of products that Google owns, I would probably get lost. With that said, Google+ brings a whole slew of opportunities whereby content and files can be shared much more easily with friends, family and peers. Google announced recently that they now have over 100 million active users on Google+, achieving this in just a bit over a year since the platform launched.

Is there a reason why you are not on Google+ yet? The future for Google+ integration with more of Google’s products is only going to get brighter over time.

(3) Better Control of Your Messaging

Organizing a list of friends and peers must be one of the most time-consuming tasks that we do on the web these days. Google+ allows you to group people by adding them to Circles. These are essentially groups that you can name and sort anyway you like. After you’ve finished your grouping, you can now channel your messaging to specific groups, notifying them of updates whenever you have something to share.  For instance, a message only the HR team should receive can be sent only to those working in HR departments. Likewise, if I discover an amazing article on SEO, I would likely only want my SEO friends to read it, and not everyone in my network. Google+ Circles allows you to do that.

There is definitely a learning curve to Google+. It took me a while to get on board and begin using it.

(4) Understand Your Own Stats Across the Web; Analytics Will Only Get Better!

Since the dawn of Google+, we’ve seen Google’s attempts to provide us some rich data around the platform:

  • Ripples
  • Authorstats in Google Webmaster Tools
  • +1’s for domains in Google Analytics

Just last week, Gren Finn posted a blog on Marketing Land mentioning a new analytics tool coming for Google+ pages. It sounds like Google wants us all to understand how effectively we are using our time online, and help us use it better – we can now write content available across multiple properties and tie that all back to a single individual. I’m excited (and anxious) to learn more about what is to come on the analytics side of Google+.

On the same note, you can get access to some amazing statistics about yourself or your competitors by using CircleCount. Circle Count can track your followers over time, showing you a history of how many people circle you or your brand. You can also get statistics like comments per post, re-shares per post, +1’s per post, and the number of characters per post. Here is what it says about Cardinal Path:

Circlecounter for Cardinal Path

Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit stale on Google+ until I took it on more at the start of the month. As you can see, my graph does not look as pretty:

Circlecount for Jackson

When you decide to plug yourself into a social network, it’s best to stick with it for the long haul. I’ve noticed since the beginning of this month, I’ve gained +20 additional followers simply by engaging with my fellow Circlers and sharing more content.

(5) Google Plus + SEO

Who said being on Google+ will bring no benefits to SEO? Fire that person. (I’m joking).

Google+ is still fairly new to many of us, so we’re still learning the capabilities this platform brings to the table. One of the SEO benefits that Google+ Profile and Google+ Business Pages bring is pages which can be indexed in search results. This means that these Google+ pages will show up in the results, if optimized correctly, for your brand keyword and, possibly, for non-brand keywords.

Last week, I read an exceptional post by Mike Proctor and he led me to this snippet inside Google Webmaster Guidelines:

“+1′s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality.”

Additionally, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz conducted a test back in June 2011 on +1s and whether it appeared to have direct effect on rankings. His conclusion is they do have a direct effect.

You can optimize yourself and your business on Google+. These are separate entities and should not be confused as being just one. Head over here to get the guide for optimizing a Google+ business page and here to get information to optimize your personal Google+ profile.

(6) Google+ Local

Earlier this year, the Google Places team announced that Google+ Local is now the new Google Places. This allows Google to direct traffic from Google Maps to the Google+ community. Now people can get directions, recommendations from friends and even host events from a Google+ Local page.

I’ve begun to notice that a lot of my friends have uploaded an image of themselves to their Google account. As a result, their photos get displayed in their reviews and the experience is more genuine than before. Photos provide more trust that a review is by a legitimate human being, rather than someone attempting to spam the reviews sections of business pages.

Reviews from Friends on Google+ Local

(7) Hangouts / Hangouts on Air

Everyone enjoys the luxury of using free tools. One of the key benefits that you get with Google+ Hangout is the ability to video conference up to 9 additional people plus yourself. While conferencing, you may also switch back and forth between your desktop monitors to do real-time collaboration. It only took me a couple of tries to say, “This thing can work.” Scheduling a Hangout in Google Calendar is super simple, with no need to copy and paste call information! (yay!)

I do believe, as this product develops further, that these tools integrated into Google+ will be a huge driver to getting even more people on Plus.

(8) Google+ and the Outside World

In order to effectively build a community on Google+, a person and their business must engage with their audience. Similar to how Facebook and Twitter operates, Google+ pages can receive +1’s and be circled in person’s Circles. There are other considerations that need to be looked at outside of Google+ (i.e. your website). As a brand that wants to engage with its audience on Google+, it is important that the message be marketed in as many places as possible. Linking from your domain to your Google+ Business Page will drive more people to your page, and likely to lead to you getting Circled more.

You’ve reached the end of this post, but this is only the the start of what Google+ will bring to the table. Have you fully taken on Google+? How about your business? Please share your thoughts and comments below.