Just when we thought Google was bound to sit on the side of the social pool for the rest of the summer, the search engine giant jumped in shouting “cannon ball” and created a splash that not only reached us, but quickly reached 10 million in an incredible16 days.
There have been plenty of introductions, initial impressions, and thoughts about Google+ (G+), so I wanted to talk about what it means for web publishers interested in search engine optimization.
The Plus One Button
Before G+ announced their social network, they released what’s called the plus one button to web publishers. This simulated the “like” feature found on Facebook, and thus represented a vote from users when used. However, as it stood alone, the button presented no real value to users because it wasn’t attached to a social network of people. Unless you happened to see a few results that had been voted “plus one,” you wouldn’t see the results of voting — it just depended on what you searched for.
Google sees the benefit, because every “plus one” vote informs the search engine what content users like. And as a result, that content will be favored for future users.
Until the social network was announced, this change didn’t seem like it would take off, however, now that users have immediate benefit from voting content up, you can be sure users will begin voting for content and therefore help Google decide what content should be prominent.
Killing Off Meta Keywords and Moving Away From SEO 1.0
Google has a tough gig, as they need to keep the community of publishers up to date with the best practices in terms of search engine optimization without giving away too much information — too much information would lead to some abusing the way their algorithm works, and thus create a stilted user experience with content that cheated its way through the system. However, every now and then Matt Cutts will let the community in on a little piece of information, which usually helps move the community and practice of search engine optimization (at least for Google) forward.
One such announcement included the non-use of the meta keywords tag. Meta keywords are keywords a web publisher can include beneath the surface as a way to help the search engine figure out what the content is all about. Because web publishers tended to spam this area, and because the crawler could figure out the content through keyword detection in the body of the text, there was little use for this tag — axed.
This is an example of the community moving away from search engine optimization 1.0 … in essence, Google is relying less on what the web publisher is saying about their own content and instead looking for the proof in the pudding.
Social SEO … Search Engine Optimization 2.0
Google is interested in hearing what you think about the content they position prominently, which is exactly why they really wanted to work out a deal with Facebook just as they had with Twitter (the deal would enable them to see what was being shared within the walls of Facebook.
That deal didn’t come to fruition however, but fortunately Google had an Ace of their sleeve and introduced their own social network.
This is where you come in.
Your social activity — what you share, what you vote plus one, and what you publish within G+ — will help Google to determine what’s popular in the social world and what isn’t. With nearly 25 million users already, we can look forward to a better web experience soon, because if we work together, we’ll be able to trump those web publishers that have cheated the system with black hat search engine optimization tactics in order to pollute the prominent results with poor quality pages.
How will this work?
Social activity counts as a vote, which is reflective of the most important aspects of search engine optimization: links. Sharing a piece of content is just as informative as a blogger including a link to someone’s website, so search engines take this information and factor it in the ranking process.
Thus, you are now a part of the Google algorithm.
Create A Solid Foundation of Search Engine Optimization
Though it seems we’re moving into a new era of search engine optimization and web publishing, it’s crucial we continue practicing solid search engine optimization — even around some of those areas that search engines told us they don’t use.
Covering the bases the first time around is always easier and more effective than returning later, which might happen if the search engines decide they’d like to poke around those meta keywords again.
The areas you need to focus on optimizing:
- Title Tags
- Opening paragraph
- Bold or Strong content
- Anchor Text
- Alt Attributes
- Meta Description
- Meta Keywords
Once you’ve created this solid foundation, you can focus on the next two steps, which will ultimately mean success of failure for your page.
Create Excellent Content
We all know and understand that content is what the web is all about, but too many of us still attempt shortcuts here and there in order to produce more and satisfy the notion that “content is king.”
Taking short cuts and producing mediocre content that doesn’t really help anyone or push the conversation forward in any way won’t stand a chance, no matter how solid your search engine optimization, because Google will be looking for the social reaction to it.
How many people like this piece of content? How many have shared it with their circles?
In order to connect with readers, web publishers need to create excellent content that helps the reader with a problem, informs them of the latest news, provides a laugh, shares an insight, or provides another type of value we look for in the content we consume online.
Why Social Search Is Here to Stay
The social web isn’t about the web publisher or even the content for that matter — it’s about you.
Sharing in a social environment enables us to communicate, learn from one another, and move forward as a group. Though there are certainly those out there interested in manipulating the system on a social level, that sort of activity is easily detectable and hard to build momentum.
Voting socially matters because unlike linking, it requires us to publicly vouch for something — whether it’s an article, a video, infographic, or new blog, we are conservative in what we share, because we’re sharing it with our entire group of friends in most cases … and we have respect for our friends, so we’re not about to start spamming each other.
Let’s Help Google Create A Better Web
If you haven’t yet, jump on Google+ and give it a spin — it’s a lot of fun and offers a great user experience. Connect with me if you haven’t already and let’s explore it together.
What do you think about Google+ and it’s integration with Google Search? I’d love to hear your thoughts about anything — as broad as how it affects the search engine results pages or as specific as what local business owners can do to take advantage of this new type of search engine optimization.
Christopher is the editor of the Searchable blog — a blog helping brands become searchable with super-powerful search engine optimization and social marketing strategy tips.
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