After much anticipation, Google finally opened up its Google+ social network to brands yesterday evening with the launch of Google+ Pages. With ever-growing pre-launch speculation as to features, functionality and the impact Google+ Pages for brands could have on search, many brands will surely be only too ready to hit the 'go' button and make their mark on the latest social media platform this week.
As we have seen with previous brand activities on Facebook, there is a lot to be said for those brands that are the first to do something unique and ground-breaking in the social media space. However, the key consideration for brands to take into account with the launch of Google+ relates as much to innovations in a brand's approach to search as it does to social media. In light of this, it will be essential that brands and social media agencies move as quickly as possible towards not only making the most of the functionalities and features available to add something new and fresh to their social media user experience, but to also place more emphasis on the way they integrate their approach to social media and SEO. In light of this, below are five key things to know about the new Google+ Pages for brands:
1. Google+'s Impact on social search - Something that is sure to have a huge impact on Google's search algorithm, is the tie-in between +1's and brand page content. For example, it is widely thought that content receiving +1's, whether this is inside the Google+ platform or indeed on a brand's own website, will appear considerably higher in organic searches. Additionally, when a user is logged-in to their Google+ account, Google also takes the +1's of both the user and their connections/circles into account when delivering the search results it serves to users. Essentially, Google is assigning weight to social recommendations through Google+ as a metric of content quality and relevence to the user, making search results more personalised in a way we have not seen before. Additionally, it is thought that Google will also assign more weight to Google+ pages and profiles that it deems to have high levels of social authority and social influence. In light of this, for users with a high social influence posting links on their Google+ pages, Google will assign more weight to the content posted, increasing the likelihood that such content will appear higher within google's organic search results.
2. Enhanced visuals & room for creativity - On first look, Google+ brand pages look remarkably similar to the layout we have come to know and love on Facebook. However, it is in the additional visual features available beneath the surface where things start to come to life on Google+. For example, something which jumped out immediately when looking at the new Burberry Google+ page was the fantastic animated scrapbook-style panoramic images within the profile image header. Additionally, clicking on the profile image now rotates the main image to reveal additional images - something that will surely present brand creatives and page designers with fantastic opportunity to run wild and add more and more visual personality to their pages.
3. 'Direct Connect' - Another key consideration with regards to the importance between the integration Google+ and Google's search service is the announcement of the new Direct Connect feature - a feature that will enable users to search for brand pages within the Google search page by simply adding '+' before their search. For example, entering '+Google' or '+Burberry' will now take users straight to the brand's Google+ page, making it easier than ever to connect with a brand's social media page instantly wherever you are. For a brand page to appear in this search feature, the page will first need to be 'claimed' and 'verified' by Google as being the 'official page' - something that many brands will surely be heading out to action as soon as possible.
4. Integration with YouTube - Google+ users can now instantly access YouTube from the new YouTube slider icon on the top right-hand-side of their Google+ page. Users simply search for the video they would like to play, with their results opening up a YouTube player widget, along with an instant drop-down list of related video search results. Essentially, this works as a YouTube widget on top of you Google+ page, making content instantly watchable and shareable without leaving your Google+ page. For brands utilising video content as part of their overall marketing campaigns, there is now even more reason to optimise videos in line with YouTube search algorithms as this is now tied-in directly with the way users will look for and watch video content via social media - a trend which continues to grow more and more each day.
5. Google+ Chrome Extensions - Through the addition of an updated Chrome browser, Google now enables users to add a Google +1 button to their Chrome browser, presenting users with the opportunity to instantly +1 any page or piece of content from anywhere on the web. Additionally, content can also be quickly and easily shared with friends and Google+ circles straight from the page users are browsing. The implications that such an easily accessible function will have towards the way brands and SEO agencies approach their search optimisation strategies is something that cannot be ignored.
With more and more brands utilising social media as part of their overall PR and marketing campaigns, it will certainly be interesting to see how many brands will shift their focus away from Facebook towards Google+. Of course, brands will always go where the the audience gathers. With more than 40 million users already signed-up to the service, the question as to how many consumers will make the switch over to Google+ within the coming months will be the one to watch. That said, regardless of early uptake, the impact that Google+ will have on both social media, social search and SEO is sure to be huge. For now, watch this space...
Brands can sign-up for their brand page now over at https://plus.google.com/pages/create