Background on Google+ and Authorship
Econsultancy recently ran a post showing evidence that rel=”author” tags were being more integrated into organic SERPs. The author, Alex Moss, concludes:
“… Google+ profiles are becoming more relevant for exposure and, whether you like it or not, it will become more important to have a presence within Google+ in order to help expose your organic exposure.”
The Rel=”author” link, which Google uses to connect a page of content with the author’s Google+ profile, is a central part of the Google Authorship initiative, a program designed to do two things, as I see it:
- First, Authorship helps Google serve up users with more authoritative, reliable results. This is based on the assumption that users searching for an article on public relations prefer to read an established author like David Meerman Scott over a complete unknown.
- Second, Authorship encourages authors to sign up and be active on Google+. The more people who “circle” the author on Google+, the more visible that author’s content will be when those friends — and friends of friends — conduct personalized searches.
Why Authorship Makes Google+ Important
The reason I dwell on this is simple: considered purely as a social network, Google+ is next to worthless for the majority of entrepreneurs and small businesses. With some exceptions, such as marketing businesses, firms are not likely to find many prospects using it, and have far better social media options for connecting with prospects and gathering information.
However, when considered as a means of improving search visibility and establishing credibility, Google+ has tremendous potential indeed. As the Econsultancy article suggests, Google most likely intends to strengthen the connection between Google+ authors and search visibility. How the authority of authors is measured, and the precise formula for determining which authors will outrank others, are not entirely known. However, it would not be surprising if the following quality signals play a signficiant role:
- Quantity of published content
- Length of time an author has been publishing
- Quality of sites the author is published on
- Number of social signals: Google +1s, tweets, likes, etc.
- Number of people who have “circled” the author
Should My Business Be Active on Google+?
So, with all of this in mind, back to the original question: should you be making a concerted effort to use Google+? These are my thoughts:
- If you’re already writing a lot of blog posts, YES.
- If you’re not already writing a lot of blog posts, NO.
- If you’re planning to start a serious content marketing program, YES.
- If you’re not planning to start a serious content marketing program, NO.
The only way Google+ makes sense to me is as a plank in a content marketing program. Considered as such, Google+ cannot help but give a firm an edge over competitors that are not using it, in terms of search visibility and credibility. Since most small companies always need more of both, these are pretty serious benefits.
But on the other hand, if a firm is not doing a lot of writing, or is writing haphazardly, it needs to commit to an organized content marketing effort before Google+ will produce any of these benefits.
Unfortunately, content marketing is easier said than done. Who’s going to do the research? Who’s going to do the writing? Who’s going to find high quality publishers? Who’s going to market the content through social media and other channels? All of this stuff takes time, and lots of it. Making matters worse, in most companies, the thought of writing ranks up there with death and taxes — with the sole advantage of being avoidable.
Adding to the daunting task of undertaking true content marketing is the need to create content that is meaningful and sharable. With the Panda and Penguin updates, Google is clearly waging war on tricked-up content that does nothing more than take up space on a screen. What used to pass for content marketing no longer works. Article banks: gone. Mechanical press releases: gone. Over optimized, pointless blog posts and web pages: gone. Today, content marketing takes real writers writing real content.
If someone tries to sell you Google+ as an SEO technique, don’t listen. Google+ and Google Authorship are content-driven. If there are any shortcuts or tricks that bypass content to achieve search visibility, Google will hunt them down and kill them.
If someone tries to sell you Google+ as a brand awareness technique, don’t listen. Google is not widely used by the general public and you have better options … at least for now.
View Google+ as a vital part of your content marketing program — and the rest of your Google+ decisions will take care of themselves.