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As if you needed yet another reason to get involved with Google+. A leak on Twitter yesterday exposed that Big G is testing out a feature in which a “Share” button will appear on each listing in the SERPs.
In the Tweet, Berian Reed revealed that he stumbled upon the unusual new feature in his search results and snapped a quick screenshot of the curiosity. Here’s what he posted:
Screenshot credit: @BerianReed
This is where it starts to get really interesting. When Reed clicked on the new “Share” button, he was prompted to share the listing directly to his Google+ circles. Here’s how that feature looked when he clicked on it:
As you can see, users will have the ability to share listings from search results and add comments before they post the link on Google+. It seems as though this may be a vain attempt for G to push harder into the social scene. After all, sharing a link before you’ve even visited the site seems a bit counterintuitive, don’t you think?
It’s long-since been rumored that Google would eventually find a way to leverage its stronghold on search to edge into the social networking game. However, given this latest feature, the question becomes, “Why?”
For G+, It’s All About the Sign-Ups
When Google introduced G+, it was met with lackluster approval. People have been notoriously slow to get comfortable with the platform – but believe it or not, that doesn’t really matter to the search giant.
According to a February 2012 Bloomberg.com report, Google users in the United States only averaged around three minutes on Google+. This ComScore stat was dismal in comparison to on-site time spent by Facebook’s users, but this didn’t upset Google in the least.
Why? Simple – Google needs the data from Google+ to show you highly targeted ads. In order to get that data, Google only needs you to sign up for its social network. After that, you can use it if you want… or not. Either way, you’ve already given Google everything it needs to sell to you. Signups also give G the goods to charge advertisers higher prices to show you more highly-targeted ads based upon the info you voluntarily gave up. Think education, gender, age, location, and more.
Further, according to one TechCrunch article about G’s social endeavor:
All that speculation about Google’s true intentions in articles like this floating around the interwebs? Turns out it’s true – because it’s indirectly confirmed by the impending addition of the Share button in the SERPs.
Leveraging Search Dominance for Social Pull
For those in the search marketing game, Google’s true intentions are not relevant. What is important is how the new feature will impact sites in the SERPs and whether it’s possible to leverage the addition to increase exposure for your brand without ticking off Google in the process.
Shortly after the leak, a Google employee announced (on Google+, of course) the introduction of the new feature for search results:
What this means, essentially, is that you will no longer be able to passively share things by +1’ing them. When users did that in the past, the +1’ed items appeared as recommendations in other users’ personalized results. Now, users are forced to actively share search results by clicking the Share button and automatically posting to Google+.
The Share button is brand new, so information about Google’s motives is, at this point, scant at best. Some are guessing that it’s designed to increase engagement since the previous +1 button was ambiguous for non-G+ users. Others are of the opinion that Google simply wants more signups.
However, the one point we can all agree on is that the Share button will be incredibly important for ranking in the SERPs. Google keeps it’s algorithm under lock and key, so we’ll never know for sure how much weight Shares for your pages will carry. But in the grand scheme of search marketing, it may be wise to assume it’s a lot.
Get Over it and Get on Board
Yes, Google tries out lots of different features. Some work, some don’t. Google changes its algorithms. Some SEO tactics work, and then a month later they’re washed up. Google is pushing G+ onto users to keep up with Facebook in the data mining game, so over the next few years, you’ll likely see changes such as this Share button come and go quite frequently.
However, Google+ itself will be around for the long haul. That’s why any shrewd webmaster should have an account, learn how to use it, and start sharing content. Any time a change like this first rolls out, those who adopt the update as part of their overall marketing strategy will emerge triumphant.
Innovation and experimentation is what drives the Internet after all, and the first people to pounce on a trend or capitalize on a new change will stand to gain the most every time.
So, here’s the the SEO gameplan as it stand right now. Create great content. Stellar content. Don’t use blog networks, linking schemes, paid links, or any other blackhat tricks. Guest post on relevant sites with good stats. Make use of social networks such as Twitter and utilize social bookmarking sites.
Then, wait for it…
Get on Google+. Spend the majority of your social networking time there. The fact is, even if you don’t necessarily love the platform, it will likely help your site in the SERPs far more than will most other social signals. It’s the nature of the beast – it’s the Internet, and there are not any anti-trust laws or rules governing the formulation of Google’s ranking system. That’s why it’s safe – even necessary – to assume that Google will place preference on its own social network’s signals over and above those of its rivals.