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Why Should SEOs Care about Google+?

It’s easy for a lot of Internet users to write off Google+: it’s another social platform for sharing in a world in which we already have plenty of ways to share. We have Facebook for pictures of our dogs; Twitter for news; LinkedIn for networking; Instagram for more pictures of our dogs and Vine, Pinterest, and other platforms making a play to gather more users.

With over 500 million registered users, why aren’t more people actually actively using Google+? It’s no secret that Google+ consistently falls short in terms of active usage, especially compared to its main competitor Facebook. According to Gigya blogger Victor White, Google+ only accounts to two percent of social sharing when compared to other major sharing platforms.

But, come on, it’s Google. Google makes the rules when it comes to all things Internet, so here’s the real question: should you play by its rules and get active on Google+, or continue to exclude yourself from the game by justifying your meaningful contributions on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn?

Google+, built for SEO

The popular Moz post “Amazing Correlation Between Google +1s and Higher Search Rankings” caused a major controversy with its revelation that, after Page Authority, Google +1s are more highly correlated with search rankings than any other factor. While correlation does not necessitate causation, can Google+ activity actually help increase page rank?

Google Webspam team head Matt Cutts was quick to deny that +1s are used directly in Google’s algorithm. While this may be true, mounting evidence does suggest that Google+ posts surpass other social platforms in terms of SEO benefits. Put simply, if someone who follows you on Google+ sees a post or a link to your website in Google search results, they can +1 that post and your search rankings can go up as a result.

So, if a link on Google+ could potentially be judged equivalent to any other type of editorial link, why aren’t we using it?

There are often rumblings of Google+ chasing our other favored social platforms for user attention. Ryan Holmes, HootSuite’s CEO says as much in his post “Why Google+ Is Sneaking up on Facebook,” he also admits that of Google+’s 500 million registered users, only 135 million of them are active users. As Google+ attempts to gain precedence as the source for all things content distribution, why aren’t individuals and brands leveraging their accounts?

Convince me to care about Google+

The most obvious reason to use Google+, if you don’t already, is that it’s integrated into every Google service. Just let thank sink in: Google+ is connected to Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, AdWords, Blogger, and Google Search. If that’s not enough evidence for you, according to BL Ochman of Social Media Today, Google co-founder Larry Page spelled it out for us when he said that “if you ignore Google+, Google Search will ignore you.”

So, how is the leader in user intelligence not the leader in user experience?

This is what continues to stump the Internet world. We chase Google day in and day out, creating content to maximize the most recent Google algorithm updates; yet, Google+ continues to stump us. In January of 2012, Google+ account registration became mandatory for new users to Google services such as Gmail or Blogger. This would account for the huge number of accounts, but the shockingly low amount of engagement. Furthermore, Google+ being compared to Facebook is an underdog competition for Google+.

But, ultimately, Cutts says:

“If you make compelling content, people will link to it, like it, share it on Facebook, +1 it, etc. But that doesn’t mean that Google is using those signals in our ranking. Rather than chasing +1s of content, your time is much better spent making great content.”

There’s no way to know how +1s affect search results; however, +1s are a vote of confidence for online content. Forget about causation or direct impact though. A vote of confidence on Google+ has got to mean something. All signs point to Google+ as beneficial; yet, I personally can’t pinpoint the practical use of it – what need does it feel that isn’t already filled by our other social media platforms and is there a concrete advantage to playing by Google’s rules even on Google+?

For the other side of the Google+ argument, look for our post next week about applications of Google+ and how to make the most of the platform.

Image credit: Wikimedia.org

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