As social sharing gained greater importance in Google's search algorithm updates throughout 2011, it makes perfect sense that Google would venture into the social space by creating Google+ and the +1 button to get in on the action. Since then, Google has slowly rolled out updates to how Google+ and +1 impacts search results, and these little changes are starting to add up. To stay ahead of the curve, let's take a look at the four most recent updates that Google has started testing to integrate their foray into social networking with the organic search world.
Google+ Content Appearing as Site Links in Search Queries
Google is slowly starting to return results in search engine results pages in the form of Google+ posts with 'Add To Circle' buttons for Direct Connect-approved brand accounts. This feature is available to all searchers, regardless of whether they are logged in to Gmail or are Google+ users.
How to leverage this change: If you're not approved for Direct Connect, apply for it so you are prepared when this functionality rolls out to all brands. This update makes it easier for Google+ business pages to attract new followers, so get ahead of your competitors and get excited about the fact that even people who aren't on Google+ can soon access the content you publish there via search engine results pages!
Google+ and Google Places Integration
This change snuck up on marketers during the Thanksgiving rush. As reported by Search Engine Land, Blumenthals.com performed a local search and noticed that the usual Google Places listings appeared but now with a newly incorporated icon (see the gray arrow) that clicks through to a Google+ only results page.
How to leverage this change: This is presumed to be a test, but if you're concerned with local search, ensure your Google+ business page is up and running and that it includes a picture and regularly published content that speaks to a local searcher. If searchers can easily find your Google+ page, it should look good, move them through to your site, and hopefully gain you another follower.
Google+ Profile Integrates With Search Results
Google+ photos and bylines are beginning to appear next to content in search results, and searchers who click through via the photo or byline are sent to a SERP that delivers only content authored by the owner of that Google+ account that's related to the original search query.
How to leverage this change: Encourage employees, especially your business' primary content creators, to promote content on social networks to extend your reach. Because a searcher can click through for more results on their query from you and only you, be sure to consistently create content around your most important keywords so a disappointingly short page isn't returned!
Google News is Spotlighting +1 Content
If content has received a +1 by a Gmail user or member of a Google+ Circle, that item is now eligible to show up in the spotlight section of Google News. This means that people signed in to Gmail can see the news articles their network likes (in the non-Facebook sense, of course!).
How to leverage this change: If you stay up-to-date on your industry and +1 great content, your Google+ profile picture will show up next to the content you publicly +1'ed. This brings more traffic to your Google+ profile, expanding your reach and getting more eyes on your content.
Have you noticed Google+ content creeping up in search results in unexpected ways? Has it convinced you to create your Google+ Business Page yet?
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