Why? Because of this little line in Google’s official explanation of its social search function:
“The content you share and publish publicly online may appear in the search results of others. As a content creator online, you can add or remove links on your Google profile to make your public content more or less discoverable.”
In other words, links in your Google profile make it more likely that users logged in to Google who have made some association with you through Google will see your content in their search results. “See in their search results” is Google-speak for rankings boost. Of course, this is not a static, overall organic boost, but only a boost within your social circles. Even though the outdated Google help page linked above only lists things like Gmail contacts and Google reader friends as ways of making these associations, everything I’ve been reading and seeing these past few weeks leads me to believe that associations through Google+ (maybe even down to the “those in circles of people who have circled you” level) will be and almost certainly already are influencing logged-in search results.
What Does This Mean for Brands and Businesses?
I believe that all that we are seeing in recent months, from the introduction of the +1 button to the unveiling of Google+, strongly indicates that Google means to make social an increasingly stronger signal in its search results. Therefore, aside from the obvious step of getting +1 buttons on every content page on your site, brand managers and marketers should be active on Google+ today, even though brand profiles for that network may still be months away. Now is the time to learn to use the site, to get familiar with it’s tools and unique paradigm (though it has similarities to both Twitter and Facebook, it is in its profound differences that it is most powerful), and above all, learn to engage well there.
That last bit (learn to engage well) is so critical for Google+, and not just as a throw-away line for social media “best practices.” Google+’s powerful Circles feature makes it extremely easy for users to ignore whatever content they choose to ignore. So in Google+, you are going to have to earn your way into the Circles that your followers actually read, and that is as it should be. The best, most engaging content will rise to the top. As challenging as marketing on Google+ may prove to be, the rewards may be very rich. I’ve already seen that it is very easy for well-crafted posts to go viral on Google+ because it is so easy to share. And when fans’ friends see a post of yours shared, if they like it adding you to a circle is as easy as hovering a mouse.
I predict that every moment you spend now learning to earn a genuine following on Google+ will pay off later in doing the same for your brand. And as we started out discussing here, that will have a side bonus of added search rank boost for your content.