Case Study: Google+ Effect on Search for Brands

Here at 451 Marketing, we believe that 2013 will be the year of the social signals, particularly for SEO. Social signals are any action taken on major social networking sites, mainly Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Google+, such as likes, shares, comments, etc. Why do we believe they will be so important this year? Because we are already seeing strong effects on page rankings based on social signals from that page.

While Google+ is certainly not the most popular platform, it is a Google product (obviously), which means that social signals and being connected to friends and brands on the platform will drastically affect your search results. We will be talking a lot over the next few months about how to use social signals to your advantage for page rankings as well as for social influence, and we wanted to start by demonstrating the power of Google+ for brands once users have Circled your page:

Brand Page: Williams-Sonoma

Experiment: After having circled the Williams-Sonoma Google+ brand page, I conducted a search around keywords used in a post to see if and where Google+ posts appear in the search.

I also decided to test the longevity of the results by not only searching a few days after the initial post, but by searching again before writing this post (approximately two months after initially conducting the search).

I selected a post around Thanksgiving that mentioned a specific type of turkey that could be ordered from Williams-Sonoma called Willie Bird Turkeys. I then proceeded to search for “Willie Bird Turkeys” on a regular Google Web search as well as a Google Image search to see if and where the post ranked.

Results: Not only did the Williams-Sonoma Google+ post rank in my Google Web search, it was the fourth overall, as well as the first after Willie Bird Turkeys own domain results. Another important fact is that just below the link to the post was the link featured in the post, pushing me directly to where I could buy the turkeys from Williams-Sonoma.com. (Note: The small grey mark next to the post is there to signify that the post came from your Google+ network)

While this is certainly great for brands looking to leverage search to drive traffic or sales on the short term, many may wonder how long Google will keep these results this high, seeing how much they value relevancy and fresh content. But after about 2 months, this is what the search page looks like for “Willie Bird Turkeys”:

The actual Google+ post is no longer on the first page, the link they shared (at least 3 times it appears) show up 3 times on the first page.

Now let’s look at the Google Image search results from 2 months ago:

And the results from today:

What is most interesting here is that in neither search did the coupon image Williams-Sonoma used appear in the search results, but Google instead pulled images from Williams-Sonoma.com and put them as the first results.

Takeaways: Once a Google+ user connects with your brand on the network, Google will immediately begin pushing your results up into the top of the user’s searches. So when posting important messaging, make sure that you have optimized your keywords to help users find your posts, and you are linking to strong landing pages on your Web site.

Another piece of information to takeaway with you is that while Google+ may not drive a lot of interaction on the platform, building a user base on the site can have a huge effect on search results for fans.

(Note: come back later this week to learn about developing a keyword strategy for social)

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