How to Rank for a Keyword in Google+ Search

UPDATE: The beginning of this post talks about a Google search feature which no longer exists: the “People and Pages on Google+” box. For a period of time Google displayed this box for certain search queries, showing the top-ranked people or brand Pages from Google+. Even though this no longer appears in search, I believe that what it demonstrated is still in play: that Google ranks users and Pages in Google+ search largely by keywords that appear in their Google+ profiles.

Take a look at the screen capture by Aleyda Solis below. She noticed that even though CNN had no Google+ page at the time, they got a Google+ spot in the search results for “CNN” through the “People and Pages” box. (Click image to enlarge and increase clarity)


CNN Google Plus Search


Why is Kristie Lu Stout showing in the Google+ People and Pages box for a search for CNN? Very simple.

First, remember that the P&P box simply shows the top people in a Google+ search for the term.
I’ve said this time and time again: the single most important factor for being able to rank in a Google+ P&P search is having the keyword on an influential profile page. Kristi has “CNN” on her profile three times: once in her byline, once in her intro, and once in her Employment section.
Kristie Lu Stout CNN Google+ Profile
After that, it’s a matter of whatever other factors G+ uses to rank the order of people with that key term, which could include posting relevancy, posting frequency, follower count, influence of followers, “reach,” +1s etc.

Want to rank for a term in Google+ search?

Have the term on the About tab of your Google+ profile. At least right now this is more important than post relevancy. I’ve ranked myself high in Google+ search for several terms that I never, ever mention in any of my public posts. The only place those terms appear associated with me is on my profile page.

I’ll go back to my classic example of how a keyword on a Google+ profile page plus an influential presence on G+ is all you need to rank for a term in G+ search.

David Beckham, England, own work (by ger1axg).

David Beckham, England, own work (by ger1axg). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About a month ago I did an incognito search for “google+” and was surprised to find that one of the top ranking people at that time was celebrity +David Beckham. I was a bit incensed to find that he outranked me for the term, and I post a lot about G+. I looked as far back in his posts as I could, and never once did I find a single mention of “google+”

But…his profile intro contained just one sentence: “The official Google+ profile of David Beckham.” There could be only one conclusion: Beckham was in the top 10 for Google+ solely because he had the keyword in a very popular profile.

(Due, I think, to the rapid growth and influence of my Google+ profile and the fact that I post and get engagement regularly about Google+, I’ve since outranked David Beckham for the term “google+” Now if Google could make me look as good in a Speedo as he does, I’d sell them my soul!)

Does This Affect Regular Google Search?

Over a year ago Google filed a patent for something they called “Agent Rank.” The patent describes agent rank as a method whereby Google can verify the identity of certain “entities” and then establish trust measures for topics in content by those entities. When shortly thereafter Google rolled out it author rich snippet results program, many in the SEO community were sure this was the first example of Agent Rank, and they dubbed this aspect Author Rank. The program allows web content creators to establish a verified link between their original content and their Google+ profiles. (Find out how to become a Google verified author.)

Back in July 2011 Google said that this author verification linking would be used “at some point” to influence search rankings. Ever since then experts in the SEO community have argued about whether the “juice” had been turned on yet. I’m among those who is convinced that it is at least being tested. And I think it is the final link that has made my Google+ profile so powerful, able to outrank many profiles with far more followers. For an example of why I think Author Rank is a contributing factor to ranking high for Google+ posts, see “How I Outranked Social Media Rockstar Mari Smith for Her Own Post.”

So the more AuthorRank comes into play as a Google ranking factor, the more important what your Google+ profile is able to rank for. These things will probably serve as a guide to Google for main topic areas for which you should have an Authorship score.

Action Steps

Is it important to you to be able to rank high in Google search for certain terms? Do the following without delay, if you haven’t already.

  1. Ignore all the “Google+ is a ghost town” news stories. They don’t know what they are talking about because they’ve failed to understand that Google didn’t create Google+ to be another Facebook. They made it to make the world’s most powerful search engine magnitudes more powerful.
  2. Create an optimized Google+ profile. Decide what keywords you want to rank for and include them in your profile’s “about” tab. Don’t keyword stuff; keep it natural. Remember that your profile not only has to emphasize your keywords, it has to sell you as being worth following. Use my Guide to Optimizing Your Google+ Brand Page for guidelines. Even though that’s about Pages, not personal profiles, many of the principles will apply.
  3. Post regularly and creatively about your keyword topics. Even though I’ve shown that it is not absolutely necessary to post about the keyword to rank for it, I would still be relevant in as many of your posts as you can. I suspect that as this thing grows, at some point Google will tighten their algorithms for internal Google+ search to make post relevancy a bigger factor. When that happens, you want to be ready with a good history of posting on topic.
  4. Build the influence of your Google+ profile. How to do that is beyond the scope of this post, but the usual social media influence principles apply. Don’t spam, follow other influencers, contribute to their comment threads, be helpful, be interesting, etc. Promote your profile everywhere with badges and links.
  5. Link your web content to your Google+ profile to begin to build Author Rank with Google.
I’ve already proven for myself that Google+ is the most powerful way to build an influential personal brand presence on Google search, the most powerful search engine in the world. Early adopters of these principles will reap the greatest benefits. Fortunately for you, the early adopter days are still here. While the social media pundit “experts” are telling everyone Google+ is “dead,” you and I will be harvesting the benefits.
(Thanks to +Thomas Morffew and +Paul Gailey whose observations on Google+ contributed to this post.)
Mark Traphagen on Google+


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  1. Hi Mark,
    Really enjoy your posts about Google+. My counseling website utilizing the SBI model was growing quite nicely until Panda clobbered me in Oct. 2011. Working on rebuilding my traffic and your posts teach me a lot. Also, thanks for turning me onto Colby Almond. Neat guy, neat e-book on Pinterest. Mike Logan


  2. Glad you’ve found my work helpful, Mike!

    And yes, Colby is a gem. Anyone out there reading this who is interested in getting real info on how to go viral on Pinterest (not just hearsay, these are tested results), please follow and read Colby Almond (and get his eBook!):


  3. Hi Mark,

    My site ranks well in the Google search when I started incorporating the google+.
    Thanks for the informative article.


  4. Jeff, glad to hear about your success!


  5. Hi Mark – I think prudence is called for to emphasise the distinction between ranking for a search result of within Google+ (a G+SERP?) as opposed to a classic Google TLD search.

    I say that because I think the blog headline here maybe misconstrued to the casual observer?


  6. Thanks for the comment Paul.

    Certainly it’s harder to rank in regular Google search than in Google+ search, but I’ve demonstrated elsewhere that I can and do regularly get Google+ posts showing up high in Google search, at least for low to medium search volume KWs. And the point at the beginning of this post was that CNN was getting more space on Google’s front page because of a personal Google+ profile. Don’t forget that the People and Pages box can show even in non-personalized Google search.


  7. Thanks for the post! I can’t wait until Google opens up the People & Pages box to more keywords and starts to use location as a factor in it as well. That will really help out the little guys like me (assuming I’m still one of them by that time). I’m having a hard time right now deciding what I want to rank for. If there was a low hanging fruit, I would just go after that one, but there doesn’t seem to be any in the marketing area.


  8. Good work Mark (as usual).

    For those that are new to the platform, I think my guide to G+ Etiquette would be useful.. just in being able to do #4 well in a practical way. If you don’t mind I’ll link to your re-posting of it here:


  9. Great post Mark, thanks for sharing your ideas. Google+ will be a Big City rather than a Ghost Twown for the coming years due to the P&P box. It’s just one way of advertising your site. If you can’t rank on the first page, there’s still P&P.


  10. Great post Mark. Do you know of any research in regards to the SEO benefits of sharing blog posts on Google Plus? Case studies?


  11. The most extensive testing I know about so far was done by Ian Lurie in his post Google Plus Box Ranking Factors. He was testing for factors that seem to contribute to ranking within Google+’s own search (and thus the “People and Pages” box that sometimes appears in google searches), but I think some of the factors probably cross over into regular search results.

    AJ Kohn has written what many consider to be the “bible” of the effect of Google+ on SEO (see Google+ SEO).

    Both of those posts are very interesting, but as they have no access to direct analytics, they are unable to establish to what extent posting on Google+ actually affects search rankings. But…I’ve been in touch with a large number of people who like me have seen a correlation between posting regularly and “on-topic” on Google+ with author verification correctly enabled, and a distinct rise in organic traffic.


  12. Thanks to you Mark, I’ve learned a lot about how Google+ works. Keep up the good work and May the Google Spiders be with you!


  13. Loved your comment about Speedo’s. Google plus is gaining steam, but to interact right it takes work. I think that is why most are scared of putting their “all” into G+. Those that will are going to benefit greatly – I agree…. Thanks for your write up… BTW, I shared on Google plus :)


  14. Thanks, Paris. Obviously, I agree!


  15. This is all great information but I would warn some to not spam. It seems quite obvious that some people want to overdo it a bit and they are only going to hurt their Google+ profile and their web presence.


  16. I have to agree with you on this topic Mark, Is been using G+ a lot lately and our organic results are reacting to it…


  17. Great to hear, Alex!


  18. Good caution, Jesse. Be natural, build a real following, be valuable to that following: the rest will follow.



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