In recent years we have seen a renewed focus on the best forms of content marketing such as case studies and white papers. These are useful and interesting discussions but a critical part of any strategy has to be a focus on Search, as if people don't find your content then it has little value.
Lee Odden has argued, correctly in my view, that nothing other than an integrated content marketing and SEO approach can win. Google+ will emerge as a core platform because it integrates content marketing and search strategies. You can argue the relative merits of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ as platforms for marketing and there are times when each has their merits but the way Google+ supports SEO means it has to be a core part of your strategy.
Not everyone agrees, Critical Mass, have recently produced a slide deck arguing the best strategy on Google+ is wait and see. They acknowledge that Google+ aids search but they focus on the lower number of active Google+ users and argue that for social engagement Facebook and Twitter should be preferred platforms. The focus on active user numbers though misses one of the key benefits of Google+ which is improved SEO. On Facebook or Twitter it is arguable that active user numbers matter because content is most likely to be found by someone on that platform, on Google+ the content is equally likely, if not more likely, to be found through a standard Google search.
Web Visit Channel Distribution[/caption] If we look at data on website traffic sources or customer acquisition the importance of search is crystal clear. The latest research from Conductor found that nearly half of all web site traffic comes from natural search. Visits from social sites account for just 2% of traffic on average, though up to 4% in some sectors.
The dominance of search is particularly marked when we look at B2B marketing. The 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report analysed 62 million visits, 215 million pageviews and 350,000 leads from more than 600 small and medium-sized B2B websites. Whilst there was an increase of social media traffic to B2B websites it still accounted for only 1.9% of total traffic.
Why Google+ supports your SEO strategy
Google+ is a content platform as much as a social platform. Google+ enables content to be effectively curated and shared in a visual way. See more on Google+ as a content curation platform. There are still questions about how and to what level Google+ drives SEO benefits. However, we already know enough to see how Google+ drives search traffic as well as social engagement. This integration of SEO, content marketing and social engagement is why Google+ should be part of any B2B marketing strategy in my view. With Google+ many people will find your content without actually being active on the Google+ platform as they will start with search. The specific SEO beneficial elements of Google+ that we know so far are as follows:
- Google+ content is treated just like any other web page, content is efficiently indexed by Google, it gains page rank and appears in search results. Twitter profiles are also indexed but Google's lack of access to Twitter's full stream and the fact that most Twitter links are "no-follow" means they don't get the same traction. Some may point to Bing and Facebook advances but Google still dominates search, with two thirds of searches in the US taking place on Google.
- The featured link in a Google+ post passes page rank to the pages to which they link. Note there is a no follow for links included in the body of a post, you must use the featured link.
- Google+ posts capture SERP real estate as they appear in Google search results, this is critical as they increasingly appear in standard search results.
- Links from regular websites to Google+ profiles, pages or communities can also pass page rank authority in the other direction.
- Google+ content has a longer shelf life. Google+ content stays around, gains page rank, it gives page rank and appears in search results. It appears Google+ posts can retain ranking indefinitely with some posts over a year old still top of search results.
- Hashtags connect every post to a search on the platform.
- Connecting a Google+ page to your website increases the relevancy of your website content to support search ranking.
- Google+ authorship provides more visual attention through the author's picture appearing alongside search results and a direct link to their profile. The authorship pictures attract visual attention and authority benefits in search results.
- Google+ authorship and the Google+ social layer have a wide range of social signals that can provide greater content authority, and Google is increasingly focused on content authority in delivering search results. There is growing evidence that Google+ authorship improves search performance. Mark Traphagen argues that "over a broad sample of bloggers with G+ profiles, those who use Google authorship tend to average a full PageRank higher than those who do not."
Google+ is not the golden bullet that many thought it would be. For example, receiving plus ones does not improve the ranking of your content though it may be a social signal. Equally, just being in lots of circles does not improve your rankings. There must be interaction with high authority people for any authority to be passed, such as them sharing your content or mentioning your profile or page. There are still questions over the impact of authorship and author rank, see this article by Bill Sebald. It is also true that Google+ does not have the same active user base of Facebook. However, the Google+ integration of content marketing, social engagement and SEO means Google+ should be a core platform for any integrated B2B content marketing and SEO strategy.