Google has rolled out their new social network, Google+ by invitation only, and I am lucky enough to have received one (thanks Bill).
I am sure there will be plenty of hype in the near future as more people try out the new social network. Some will call it a Facebook killer, and of course others will say it is total crap. I have only been able to play around with it a little today, but it looks very cool. Simple, organized, and integrated with nearly all other Google things.
A big problem many people have with Facebook is that you can not easily separate different aspects of your life – work colleagues, friends, family, and people you wish would forget you are all lumped together so when you log in, it can be difficult to see status updates that you may really care about because of all the Farmville and Mafia Wars news. A feature of Google+ that should be very welcome to those who would like to compartmentalize their lives when it comes to social media is Circles.
Circles will allow you to sort your connections into several categories using a pretty slick drag and drop interface. There are many other interesting features too: nice integration with most other Google stuff like Google Profiles, easy access to other profiles like Twitter, Flickr, photos, videos, “Hangouts” that seem like they will be like chat rooms, Sparks… It is way too early to call it a “Facebook Killer” or anything like that, but it is very likely to draw more people to using Google for more than just a search engine. I have not seen the Android mobile app for Google Plus yet, but I hear it is also pretty cool.
If Google+ is a big hit, what will it mean to search engine marketing and optimization?
Social Search and Mobile are “the future”. And by future I mean, five seconds from now. Google has been including social media metrics in its calculations of a websites quality and trustability for some time. If Google Plus is widely accepted, it will give Google the ability to further tailor your search results to include things your connections have recommended, talked about, given a +1 to… Basically it will be like getting a reference or recommendation before you look at something. Of course there are probably people in the SEO business who think that is a terrible thing because it could topple marketing strategies that are based solely on getting thousands of links to prove credibility. There will undoubtedly be link-buying whiners. Sometimes it gets expensive for those who feel the need to buy their way to the top of Google search results (which is a good way to get banned from the search engine, by the way). That is exactly the plan. By making “real” opinions and reviews from people you know a significant factor in determining what is shown in search results, Google can do a better job of showing its users what they are searching for – and squeezing out the low quality, over-SEOed junk that clogs up your Google search results just like Farmville updates fill up your Facebook Wall.
So what does this mean in terms of internet marketing? How can you make sure you still get as much website traffic as possible when social signals are becoming the dominant metric? The answer is the same thing I have been preaching for a while. Be cool. The more people you have that can attest to your coolness, the more you will be seen. And I don’t think it is going to be as easy as buying a bunch of bogus friends to appear cool like some do on Facebook, but I am sure somebody somewhere is already trying to sell that as a “service”.