I bet you won't find an SEO professional who isn't using Google+ for one reason or the other these days. Some are convinced that Google +1's and Google+ shares help their website rank higher in the search results. Others believe that Google's proper social signals are bound to become something bigger with time - something that will work more like backlinks.
But whatever one's gut feeling may be, there are certain real-world uses of Google+ SEOs can benefit from right now - and this is what I'm going to talk about in this post.
1. An Impact on Rankings
Although Matt Cutts has said that Google +1's "do not really have a direct effect on rankings", Google’s +1 button does not equal the entire Google’s social network. And I would imagine Google probably takes a webpage’s Google+ shares into account when rankings it in the SERPs, at least to some degree.
Well, what we do know for sure is that there's Search plus Your World, which is personalized Google search results (available to logged-in users by default) that are custom-tailored to include "recommendations" from one's social connections:
What many SEOs have observed, however, is that more often than not Search plus Your World suggests webpages shared by your Google+ contacts. But I've discovered that it also depends on whether one's non-Google social accounts are synchronized with their Google profile.
For example, on this page, you can add your Twitter, Facebook and other accounts to your Google+ profile. This will effect whether your see personalized suggestions from your Twitter or Facebook, or other kind of contacts in your Google search results.
Hence, all you have to do to increase your site's visibility in the search results, is to (A) get relevant followers on Google+, (B) connect your G+ account with your other social profiles, (C) share stuff using your target keywords in the title and (D) get floods of additional visitors from Google's Search plus Your World.
2. Google+ Local
Perhaps you've heard that former Google Places listings are now Google+ Local pages and are part of the Google+ platform. Well, when it comes to displaying local search results, these still appear in the Google Places section. But when you click on a local result, it opens in the Local section of Google+.
There are many things you can do with it using your G+ account: you can write a review, +1 the page, share it with your G+ contacts, rate it, etc.
So, these days, if you seek exposure in the local niche, wooing targeted G+ audiences should be your priority. Positive reviews and ratings, as well as Google+ shares, are likely to improve your listing's rankings on Google, as well as increase the chances of it appearing in the search results as part of the Knowledge Graph, about which I'm going to talk in just a moment.
3. Google Knowledge Graph
Google's Knowledge Graph, Google Carousel as well as the use of structured markup are all part of Google moving towards the semantic Web, that is, towards returning information about real-world entities instead of webpages that are optimized for particular keywords.
So, if you are a progressively-minded type of an SEO, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to use Google's Knowledge Graph to your advantage. And, what does Google+ have to do with it?
Thing is, Google+ is one of the primary information sources used to construct the Knowledge Graph. So, having a strong Google+ (or Google+ Local) account increases your chances of showing up on the Knowledge Graph. I mean, who needs Wikipedia anymore? :)
Besides, to increase your chances of showing up on the Knowledge Graph, you could get a respective listing in Google's Freebase database. Some time ago, I did a case study on how to get listed in Freebase - there are a few tricks to it.
4. Google+ Communities
Try to picture a forum integrated with a social network... This is what a typical Google+ community is: an online community of Google+ users who can exchange ideas, share links to interesting content, flash their expertise, etc.
In a way, a Google+ community page resembles a Google+ page for a business, the difference being that, in a community group, you can also:
Google+ communities can be public or private, accessible upon invitation or free for everyone to join. Why use them? First of all, you can partake in a relevant Google community just the way you participate in any forum community - to get the word out about your brand.
The advantage of a Google+ community is that you don't have to fill out the registration info or to upload a picture each time you join a new community - this info is already in your Google+ profile. All you have to do is click "Join" or "Accept invitation".
Besides, by their very nature, Google+ communities foster just the right kind of social activity required to promote your Google+ profile/site on the Internet: posts are easily +1'd and shared on Google+. Not to mention that you get a perfect chance to connect to the right people the right way.
AuthorRank is another hot-new thing that, like many things Google, revolves around Google+. There are rumors on the Internet - actually spread by none other than Matt Cutts - that authorship may become the next big thing after backlinks in search in a long-term perspective. But the time to start building AuthorRank is now.
What's Google authorship? This is letting Google know that you're the original author of a particular piece of content, and you do it by pointing a link from your content to your Google+ profile, accompanying that link with the rel="author" attribute.
What this means for SEO is that, when you've authored enough good-quality content, your works are likely to get ranked higher on Google, because you have a high AuthorRank.
And, as far as analyzing how profound your AuthorRank is, we talked about it in the SEO Guidelines for 2013 that got released just recently. For the AuthorRank information, do check out section 3 of the guidelines.
To sum it up, Google + has become an integral part of so many SEO-related processes, that it's virtually not possible to avoid having a Google+ profile if you are serious about promoting your business on the Web.
So, from Google+ Local pages, to the Knowledge Graph, to AuthorRank, there are quite a few reasons to be active on Google+ these days and to explore the options it offers. And, who knows, you might even end up discovering a new way to use Google's multi-facet social network.