If you had any doubt that 2012 was going to be the year that social media takes over the world, those doubts should be expelled by the recent introduction of Google’s new “Google+ Your World” features that more heavily, and more prominently, feature “personalized” results.
For a little while now, Google has been tying your Google+ social graph info into the search results, and we’ve already seen Google+ profiles rise in prominence in the search results—generally outranking Facebook and Twitter profiles (even though Google+ has fewer users). Now Google gives users the option to narrow their results to only their Google+ connections.
Simply put, if a user only wants to see what their friends have said about your company, they can completely skip the general search results and simply search through their personal connections to find out who has +1’d your company, mentioned it, or written a review about it.
For many companies, knowing that people can go directly to their social connections to find out about their company is a bit scary. But if you’ve been playing your cards right, you should be just fine. If not, here are a few things you need to start doing right now.
1) Join Google+ (and make a page for your business)
If you’ve been avoiding Google’s new social network up till now, it’s time to join. And it’s time for you to create a page for your business. If you already have a Gmail account, simply create a Google+ profile and start creating circles, and don’t forget to +1 your business—every +1 counts. The more information Google has about you and your business, the better it will be able to show that information in the personalized search results, helping your online reputation.
2) Add +1 buttons to everything
The more people that +1 your company website and other websites that you need to rank well for a branded search, the better. So make sure you have prominent +1 buttons on your site to make it easier for people to click them. (Notice the Google+ button on this page.)
3) Encourage people to +1 your web properties
Lastly, encourage people to click +1 on your websites. If you have a large company, give incentives to your employees to +1 your sites, and offer specials or other incentives for customers to do the same. The more people that click your +1 button the more your site will gain a favorable light online and with other users around the web. And both of those outcomes are good for reputation management purposes.
Be a Good Company
Slowly, Google is trying to move toward a system where good websites naturally rise to the top of search results without any manipulation necessary. And part of the way they are doing that is by leveraging the power of social networking. If they can show you only the things that your friends have liked or are connected to, they’re more likely to give you the results you are looking for.
However, Google’s goal is in direct opposition to many companies tactics of simply brushing bad press under the rug and turning a blind eye to bad user reviews. But the inclusion of Google+ connections in the results make a strong case for why your online reputation management strategy needs to encompass more than linkbuilding efforts to mold the search engine results page you want. It should go further than basic SERPs, by engaging users through social networks and creating fantastic content for your websites that show users what an amazing, helpful, and friendly company you are.
Search engines will continue to move in the direction of relying more on social signals than algorithms, so now is the time to get on the bandwagon and enter the world of Google+, so you can strengthen your reputation management strategy and rise to the top of any search.