Over the last few months, you’ve probably heard quite a bit about Google’s latest attempt to break Facebook’s grip on our online social lives. Google’s previous social project, Google Buzz, never really got off the ground. This was partly due to the negative publicity the service received regarding poor user privacy and partly due to the fact that it didn’t really offer anything new. Google launched its new Google+ service to great fanfare at the end of June. The service currently only accepts new users on an invite-only basis, similar to Gmail when that service first started back in 2004. In an attempt to remedy the damage done by Google Buzz, the service includes more comprehensive privacy controls and allows users to share posts with much narrower groups of people, known as ‘Circles’. At this point you might be thinking ‘This is great, but how does this relate to my business?’ As yet, the ability to create a page for your business, like Facebook Pages, is unavailable. Google’s current stance is that the service is just for individuals. However, it is widely expected that Google will add the ability to create business listings in the near future – so keep your eyes peeled!
The ‘+1’ Button
Another area where Google+ could affect your business is in the field of Search Engine Optimisation. Just before Google+ launched, you might have noticed prominent ‘+1’ buttons appearing next to search engine results and on various websites when signed into a Google account. These are essentially Google’s equivalent of the ‘Like’ button on Facebook; a way of giving kudos to a product, service, or in this case a web site that you found useful. Whenever you ‘+1’ a page, it will appear under the ‘+1’s’ tab on your Google+ profile, and you’ll be given the opportunity to post a link to the site on your wall for all your connections to see. At this point in time, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest a link between the number of +1’s a site receives and its organic search position. However, it has been found in the past that web pages which have been extensively retweeted on Twitter get indexed by Google more quickly than less socially-inclined sites. It’s quite likely that +1’s will have a similar effect on search engine results in the future; after all it is still early days for the service, and Google will want to give people an incentive for using their service rather than Twitter. Google are also known for sudden changes in their search algorithm and leaving their products in the beta stage of development for extended periods of time (yes – we’re looking at you, Gmail), so anything is possible!