Late last week the SEO and social media communities were all abuzz about the new Google+. Personally, I found myself wasting away the day on Friday playing with all of its features and inviting all of my friends to join. But this post isn't about all of the cool bells and whistles of Google +, or a review of whether it can or will be a Facebook killer. Let's take some time instead to focus on what's most important to us as search engine marketers: What are the SEO implications of Google+?
While we're still in the early days of release and the Google+ team is making changes to the platform daily, there are a few things we can evaluate regarding SEO as the platform exists today.
Online Reputation Management SEO
One of the top reasons I recommend that clients create social media profiles is because they typically rank well organically for brand-related searches. For instance, if you do a search on my name on Google, you'll see that five of the top ten results are my social media profiles, like Twitter and LinkedIn. However, my Google+ profile (while public) doesn't appear until position 19 -- page 2, being beaten out by several blogs from students from a class I spoke at in the spring.
But the fact of the matter is that Google likely will rank these profiles higher in the future, and, given time, the profiles will likely garnish more inbound links, which will likely also boost their rankings.
One major challenge right now, however, is that Google has explicitly said that Google+ profiles are not currently supposed to be used for corporate brands. In other words, Google+ doesn't currently have a setup similar to Facebook pages for brands. Sean Percival quoted Google's VP of Products, Bradley Horowitz, who said, "Let me be clear - and I'm sorry if this wasn't obvious - we are not currently supporting brands, organizations, and non-human entities in the Google+ field trial. Supporting these non-human entities is an obviously great feature - we have no allergy to it at all! It's just not part of the system we are currently testing."
But that hasn't stopped me, or anyone else for that matter, from setting up Google+ pages for our corporate brands. For Google to truly compete with Facebook, they'll need to add the corporate page option, so look for this to come in the future, and fully expect the profiles to rank well organically.
Additionally, you can't currently "claim" your URL, as you do with Facebook. While it's debatable how important a keyword is as a ranking factor when contained in the URL itself, clearly keywords in the URL have some impact on rankings, whatever the degree. I expect that at some point Google may also introduce this feature, especially when corporate brands have page options. In the meantime, be sure to set up your personal brand profiles!
Inside of Google+ is a section called "Sparks," which features news stories and blogs about a particular topic. You can essentially follow a topic based on a keyword that you enter. So how prepared do SEOs need to be to optimize pages for Sparks?
Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable released a nice post today regarding SEO for Google+ Sparks. Like Barry, I find that Sparks is very limited right now in the quantity of content sources it uses. While it incorporates blogs and publications, I couldn't find my own blog or Search Insider in Sparks when searching for their respective blog names. However, I do expect that Sparks will evolve over time, and Barry may have confirmed this with a quote from DeWitt Clinton at Google: "New algorithms over a new corpus. Still very much in flux and being further expanded and tuned. I'm sure we'll give a tech talk eventually about the technology behind Sparks, but this is very early days still."
Post Content and Links
Public posts from Google+ are being indexed by Google and are available in search results both when you are logged in and logged out of Google+. Private posts do not currently show in Google search, even when you are logged in to Google+. Here's my Google+ page of public posts, and here's the result for a search for one of those posts on Google web search. Google indexed all of my public posts, too, regardless of whether they had been promoted by +1 votes or had comments on them. It also, surprisingly, indexes the comments themselves. For instance, here's a comment I made on a post by Danny Sullivan on Google+ regarding entering birthdays on Google profiles. I can likely see that in Google Web search (logged in or out of Google+) because his original post is public.
Last Friday, I didn't see any posts in Google Web search, so I'm not sure yet if that was recently added. As a marketer, however, I'm glad to see there's a way I can monitor my reputation (for now) in Google+. For now you can simply use "site:plus.google.com" followed by the keyword you're looking for in quotes. Here's an example with searches for "4th of July." Today I'll be checking to see if these posts and comments will also begin appearing in Google Alerts.
So if posts are indexed, what about the links in those posts -- or in the comments, for that matter? Unlike in Facebook, you don't seem to be able to change the display text (which also serves as the anchor text) for links shared in posts on Google+. However, almost all of the links in Google+ appear to be "dofollow" - only comments on posts are "nofollow."
But in doing a test, so far, I haven't seen that posting a link on a post or comment within Google+ speeds up any indexing of that particular link. I expect it may eventually help lead Google to the page, but the indexing doesn't seem to be as fast as with a registered XML Sitemap this far.
Clearly Google isn't done developing Google+ just yet. As new development arise, I'll do my best to keep everyone posted on new SEO opportunities using Google+.