I admit, I’ve joined Google Plus pretty early on but haven’t really done anything much with it yet. Added a bunch of people to my circles, posted an occasional thought or link, and +1′d a bunch of stuff, but I haven’t really gotten down and dirty with it like I have with Twitter or Facebook. That’s about to change, though, because like it or not, G+ is poised to become Social Network 5.0 and become really important to website owners everywhere.
(IMHO The major milestones in social networking are represented by Compuserve, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.)
Google has put its considerable resources – both intellectual and monetary – behind G+ and so far has established a beachhead with the fan-boy/techie crowd. (Not a big surprise, as I expected those to bail on Facebook once people’s Moms and Grandmas started to overrun the membership.) The feature set is somewhat solid, no real standouts but you certainly aren’t hearing about major outages and privacy issues (hello Facebook and Twitter?) So how is G+ going to take over the world?
Google Plus: A Google Product
First, there’s the fact that G+ is a Google product, and Google looks out for their own. They consider G+ a Big Deal, and their other Big Deals in the past have managed to insinuate themselves into webmasters’ lives via the giant crowbar that is Search. Remember Gmail? Back when it first came out, it could take a Googlebot up to a couple of months to find your brand new site. Send a Gmail message with a link, though, and *bam* a bot would show up within the hour. (I used that for many a web development project.) It worked faster than any other method of getting your new website into Google.
How about Youtube? One of Google’s biggest assets, one of the largest search engines on the internet, Youtube was never much of a search signal until Google bought it. Now, as both an SEO boost and traffic source, Youtube has become a must for many webmasters looking to improve their traffic.
Blogger was another Big Deal for a while, and like Gmail could attract a bot to your new website with a single link. It was a decent Search signal for a while before spammers spoiled things for the rest of us.
Think about all those Android phones and tablets out there for a moment. Each one requires a Gmail address, which automatically gives you a G+ account. It’s this forced participation that greases the wheels and gets many people (like me) started on the Google Plus express.
For business owners, remember your Google Places page? Yeah, they folded that into G+ a while ago. You couldn’t do well on Local Search without a Places page then, and you can’t do well on Local Search without a G+ page now.
How about Analytics? You gotta have that for your website, right? Well, to get it you first have to sign up for a Google account… Bingo! You just got a Gmail address and G+ account.
Sneaky, yes. But with any social network, half the battle is getting a new member to fill out a profile. These ancillary Google products offer “subtle” reasons to do so, and once you’re in you’re in. (Yeah, subtle – as subtle as a hammer!)
Google Authorship is the latest thing to get you deeper into your G+ profile. Simply put, you include a link to your blog in your profile, then place code on your blog to connect the two, and *presto* when your posts show up in Search they’ll include your G+ photo and info about you. Preliminary studies have shown that the presence of a photo (a GOOD photo) will attract more clicks, and we all want more clicks, n’est pas?
In addition, Google Authorship contributes to a relatively new Search signal called Author Rank. More attributed posts of good quality on high-reputation sites (both as judged by Google, of course) mean more Author Rank and higher rankings for your pages.
So, what’s a poor webmaster to do about all this? Well, your first task is to get your G+ profile filled out completely – that includes your Authorship info. Next, get your blogs hooked in with your G+ profile to take advantage of Author Rank signals. Finally, start using G+ the way you’d use Twitter – some links of your own, some links from other people, some non-link posts and observations. Start slow but keep moving – those fanboys can’t be all wrong!