In the past couple of years Search Engine Optimization may well have gone through a transformation. Since the launch of Google Plus people are talking more and more about Social SEO. As such, I would suggest this has as much to do with psychology as it does with hyperlinks…
This article will explore how you can best use Google Plus for perfectly natural, organic search engine results – including exploring the more technical considerations in interviews with Mark Traphagen and Joshua Berg.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a beer and wine blogger, a global business, a consultant or a hobbyist collector you cannot ignore ‘Google Search’. Since the launch of Google in 1998, our lives have been transformed with increasingly relevant information available at our fingertips. But in the past few years, things have been changing – now it is personalized.
Tailored results based upon our own personal search history, locations, and potentially the people to whom we relate. We are not, however, just information consumers – we are creators and curators of content; with Google Plus we increasingly have the opportunity to be influencers as well.
Google Search is often where this influence will be displayed and from a Google Plus perspective we see a new emerging form of (SEO), Social Search Engine Optimization.
What is this new form of Search Engine Optimization all about?
There is a great SEO industry joke from ‘The Next Web’ that goes: A SEO expert walks into a bar, bars, pub, public house, Irish pub, drinks, beer, wine, liquor, grey goose, cristal…
This kind of keyword stuffing is probably more a cliche than reality, but as you will read, there would appear increasingly to be new way – the social way – of search results appearing on Google.
Please note: the approach I take in this article does not mean in any way that ‘traditional’ SEO has gone; it just means the game may well have changed.
So how then, are people getting results in Search without using ‘traditional’ SEO techniques? Well, that is where the social bit comes in…
From this perspective, Social SEO is simply this:
You create content that people relate to, then engage with (e.g. ‘share’) and depending upon the nature of the connections, you may well find that the content appears in search results.
It would appear, however, the nature of the people (e.g. how much authority they have on the subject to which they engaged) will determine the results.
Could it really be that the more people know and rate your approach on a subject, the more they ‘sponsor’ that content into their network through ‘sharing’ the more engagement there is more generally (e.g. ’social signals’ – numbers of +1, comments, share etc.), the more ‘authority’ you already have in a particular area then the more likely your content will appear in search? Well, it would seem that the new form of SEO is actually back to the old form of social – if people in authority say you are an authority and your content is ‘good stuff’ then it gets more presence in Google Search than without that ‘sponsoring’, which makes sense.
But this is not how people have seen Search Engine Optimization – until now it was not about ‘people’ and ‘social skills’. How did this happen?
Introducing Google Plus – ‘Google+ is Google’
Vic Gundotra, Google’s Senior Vice President, Engineering in his fireside chat with Guy Kawasaki at SXSW in 2012 described Google+ as a ‘social layer’ over Google’s products and services. This phrase, ‘a social layer’ is a new concept – it means that everything Google does is not socialized i.e. ‘social’ will now apply to everything they do.
And social means you and me.
So, whether it is the who sees your content on Google+, the social destination, or whether it is your video setting on YouTube which determine who can see that content, or your contacts within GMail, Google+ goes throughout it all.
How does this relate to Google Search?
Have you noticed how many search results now have a ‘little face’ of a person next to them?
Well, if you haven’t yet you will. This can only happen if the person has a Google+ account (see authorship below) and as such, the social layer has really shown its presence within Google Search.
Search Plus Your World – these are personalised results, including being based on ‘who’ you have in your circles on Google+
Search Plus Your World switched off – these are not based on who you have in circles but are still personalised e.g. based upon historic searches
Incognito Window search – these are no longer personalised but can still show up based on e.g. the country of your IP address
Proxy server – these show results not based on anything to do with your own computer or searches (from my understanding)
Next let us look how that ‘little face’ appear alongside search results i.e. Google authorship.
What is Google Authorship and can you get it set up?
When I interviewed Mark Traphagen recently, we discussed the background to Google Authorship as well as the ways in which it can be set up.
So, to recap, you can see an image appear next to result in Google Search when:
1. a person has authored a post on Google Plus
2. a person has shared someone else’s post on Google Plus but they have got a search result for their share, or
3. a person has authored a post on from a website itself
So, why does this matter? Well, people’s image next to content would appear to be giving it a higher click through rate (CTR) than for content without (as mentioned in the video.) i.e. more people click on the link and see that content.
Here are some resources you will find useful: Authorship page on Google will tell you how to get ‘set up’ and then the Rich Snippets Testing Tool to check if your Authorship is working, and also Rich Snippets Testing Tool Bookmarklet by AJ Kohn gives you one click check any web page for Authorship
Also check your settings as well to ensure your profile can be found in Google Search by going to google.com/settings/plus, scroll down and ensure the tab is checked “Help others discover my profile in search results.” Mine happened to get unchecked recently and I am not sure how!
What then is the relationship between Google+ and SEO?
Now that we are starting to flow with the idea of SEO a little more, let us now consider the role of Google Plus…
What Google Plus content can appear in Google Search?
This is a key aspect to grasping Google Plus, especially when it comes to search engine optimization. The world has really changed and Google Search will increasingly reflect your own connections’ content. If for instance, you share content with a group of people in a circle e.g. 100, then for those people it would be possible for them to find that post in Google Search itself, not just Google+, i.e. when they are using ‘Search Plus Your World’.
In other words, it is worth noting how Google Plus posts themselves can appear in Google Search as results dependent upon who has the ‘rights’ of access (i.e. with whom that content has been shared.) This is because each post is a ‘page’ with its own URL. Also, worth noting that when these pages are shared i.e. the posts are shared, they are ‘flowing’ links from the original post/page.
So in this way, everything being shared has the potential of ending up in Google Search.
Google+ is Google.
Any post, when shared publicly, can appear for anyone in Google Search
If you don’t share publicly you are reducing your reach, but you may be optimizing your Google Search results for a small audience when they have ‘Search Plus Your World” switched on.
The more people ‘who have you in circles’, the more you will influence their personalized search results
Your search results will be influenced by ‘who you have in circles’ (when personalized search results)
Who you are connected with i.e. the nature and authority they may have, may well influence search results when they share people’s content.
Growing an appropriate network for you will make a huge difference.
Next let us consider one of the factors many believe is influencing (but only one of many factors) whose content is appearing in Google Search…
What is PageRank?
In the world of SEO many people put a lot of weight on the concept of PageRank.
When interviewing Mark Traphagen he gave a great introduction to PageRank and mentions how Joshua Berg re-discovered that it may well still apply…
This area takes a while to grasp so it may well be worth spending some time hearing it from difference people on Google Plus. As such, I thought you may enjoy the follow up interview I did with Joshua Berg.
Here is a tool for you to check out PageRank as well here.
I know that readers of the article could well be at many different levels, and as such, I want to try to cover as many bases as possible…
What are ‘Google Keywords’?
Just in case you didn’t know, you can easily find out ‘how many people’ searched for ‘what’ as well as ‘where’ in the world.
Using Google Keyword Tool we can quickly get an idea of the popularity of keywords and phrases that people are putting into Google.
As an individual with no traditional SEO experience, through applying the principles of Social SEO you may well find that you can rank for keywords which would have previously been out of reach. Do your keyword research, create create and share great content and have fun seeing what happens in ‘Search’.
What is the difference between sharing a Google Plus post with or without an ‘embedded link’?
When you share a post on Google Plus you have many options. One of the main ones to consider is whether you, Option B ‘embed’ the link into the post – and here you usually will see the ‘thumbnail’ appear with some text alongside it – or Option A you could drop in an image and not embed the link.
From an SEO perspective there may well be consequences to this decision. It is difficult as Option A could give you greater engagement there and then, but Option B may well give you more SEO ‘juice’ if you want it going back to your website.
Check out the video to understand the mechanism of the links themselves, inparticular in relation to Option B, the embedded links.
Tip: if people are sharing your posts with embedded links (i.e. with thumbnail images), great! If not, think about increasing your engagement with other people first, then use unembedded ‘attractive’ posts with large images and then return to embedded once people relate and engage more with your content.
How does everything flow about when people share content on Google Plus?
I thought that running some scenarios past Joshua Berg and Mark Traphagen would help to explain this a little further from a technical perspective.
For those wanting to get to grips with terminology, then here is the Wikipedia definition of ‘nofollow’…
“Nofollow is a value that can be assigned to the rel attribute of an HTML a element to instruct some search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index. It is intended to reduce the effectiveness of certain types of search engine spam, thereby improving the quality of search engine results and preventing spamdexing from occurring.”
￼I thought I would run a through scenarios with Joshua Berg to help clarify further…
Scenario 1: I initiate a post (sending it ‘public’), Alan shares it publicly – does that flow PageRank to me?
Scenario 2: I initiate a post, Alan shares it, and then Brian shares it (hat tipping Alan) – does that flow PageRank to me, Alan gets a little bit from the h/t and, as the Brian is the new author, anyone who shares after him will flow PR back to him?
Joshua: “There’s quite a few different types of links in a single post, I will break down a full shared post to give you an example of which ones do, or do not pass PageRank.
Also, we’re basing our assumptions of the PR passing links based on which ones are labelled as either follow, or nofollow, which is a pretty safe bet. Remember though, we’re kind of reverse engineering (or analyzing) all this, as we do not have access to G+’s algorithms. And that’s what most of the SEO industry is anyway. Though with most of the theories we’ve put together & tested, we feel pretty comfortable with our conclusions.
Let’s take this share that I made of your post on The Ultimate YouTube Channel Guide.
This particular shared post is a great example, because it contains all of the various types of links used in a G+ shared post.
To be honest with you, I had some trouble at first understanding how the shared post gave PR back to its original author, since the original author’s link becomes no follow in all the shared posts. I kind of assumed it worked, because it just seemed right. Then after you grilled me on this question during our live hangout (thanks!), I got to thinking and put some other pieces together that I was finally pleased with. So here’s the answer…
The PageRank we collect comes not only direct to our root profile (our canonical URL), but also back from our shared posts, which get their PR from other profiles by way of being shared around.
While the original authors link is nofollow (serving Google’s somewhat muddling principle of the “sharing user becomes the author”) the original post’s link is follow and does pass PR directly back to that post.
This means that each individual post (which is actually a page) collects its own PR based on how many times it is shared & also referenced outside of G+. Specific posts/pages could therefore have high PR and others low, or none.
Now, if we go back to that original post that has collected PR by being shared, we see the original
author’s link there, which is receiving PR (not all of it) back from that post. This is much the same way most websites distribute PR within themselves, or blogs with popular guest bloggers. The root blogging site may actually receive most of its PR back from the guest blogs, that receive their citations directly from other websites, or blogs referring to them.
In conclusion the answers to both scenario 1 and 2 would be, yes, you do receive some additional PR from every share.”
I thought I would ask a few more questions to Joshua Berg as the running scenarios really seems to help work through all the possibilities!
QUESTION “In the last scenario, does the PR of onwards shares always flow back to the initiator (when shared publicly) whether embedded link or not?”
The answer to this question again is, it always flows back to that post & by doing so, also back to the original author.
QUESTION “If I am sharing website’s embedded links that I don’t author (i.e. don’t have authorship on but may initiate as a post), does PR therefore accumulate (flow) back to me when I choose ‘good stuff’ on an area i.e. as a curator can I get good PR?”
The answer to this question is, yes. The shared post actually becomes an entirely new page with its own links and link structure, therefore that new post passes PR back to others based on what is in that post. By looking at the link structure in each individual post as a page, we can see then that PR is distributed to most of the links within it.
QUESTION “If I am sharing my own links from website content I author (embedded of course) then what is the optimal scenario for me? Is it for people to simply share that content? Or is there something else?”
“Yes, the optimal scenario for you, would be for other people (profiles, pages, communities) to share that content. Your embedded links receive good PR from every share, but not only that….The more exposure your posts get, the more likely other people will not only share that post, but also other posts directly from your blog. Your citations (mentions) will also increase, both in G+ and external to it.
Having said all that, now I can quickly explain rest of the links in that post example: All of the tag mentions within that post (to profiles, or pages), as well as the embedded link and the original author’s post will share in the PR from that post. So in each one of these shared posts we can see that there is PR being passed around to just about everyone involved by way of it being a new page.”
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