Google is best known for its internet search engine which now dominates the global stage with … market share. One might have thought this would be enough but if Google's growing 'product' base is anything to go by the company has its sights set on being a completely integrated online platform that ties users in so they never need to go anywhere else. Last year Google launched Google+ – a social network to take Facebook head on.
Since going live in June 2011 the network has already attracted more than 90 million users*, though the data suggests they are not yet engaging with Google+ spending very little time networking there in comparison to Facebook. This aside, Google+ is already influencing the way Google delivers results in its search engines, and any company who relies on website traffic from Google needs to adapt or risks dropping down the rankings in time.
It's simple really. When a person sees an article or a website they like, they can share it with their friends and circles on Google+ by clicking the +1 icon which usually sits alongside the sharing symbols for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social media networks. Google's search engine algorithm notes this and treats it as an endorsement, much in the same way that links from other websites also act as an endorsement. The algorithm assumes that the website must be good or at least better than others if someone has voluntary +1ed it, and it boosts it up the rankings.
Google says that by integrating its social network with its search engine in this way, it can make search results more personalised and deliver results that are more relevant to the individual based on what people in their circles think. There is much debate over whether this actually improves search or not; Google obviously thinks it does, while others question how much importance people place on their contacts' opinions, not to mention the privacy debate which rages in the background.
One thing is clear however, and that is by personalising results, Google can offer its advertisers a greater level of targeting and ultimately charge them more.
For companies who rely on a strong presence in the search engines, and especially in Google, establishing an active presence in Google+ could help to boost your search rankings. The importance of this strategy depends on your sector and whether your competitors are also active in Google+, however given that it is free to set up an account and use Google+, there is nothing to be lost and potentially much to be gained from joining the experiment.
Head of Online