A new update to Google Search and Google Plus is going to have a tremendous impact on the world of SEO and online marketing in general. Google+ is quickly permeating Google’s Search platform, showing signs that Google’s social networking site is here for the long-run. On Thursday, a new feature was spotted on Google Search Results page that all businesses should be aware of when creating content for a balanced digital marketing strategy! Here’s the details…
“Actively Discussed on Google+”
Google’s Search Engine Results Page (a.k.a. the SERP) now provides a new line on select page results. This new feature, which reads, “Actively Discussed on Google+” appears beneath the meta description (the black text area under the URL).
Page results that have this new connotation MUST have been shared on Google+. Once the page or article has been shared on Google+, users can begin commenting on that particular article.
When someone clicks on the “-Show” button that appears to the right of this new line, a list of comments expands beneath that particular page result. This allows people to read comments others have made on this article, and see a discussion surrounding the article/page. Naturally, these comments are from Google+ users.
At the moment, the “Actively Discussed on Google+” was only being applied to Organic search results, and thus, not showing up on Paid search listings. In addition, we did not see this feature on Local search results, though the possibility remains that Google has a way of integrating this into Local results down the road.
Google+ Advancing into Google Search- Opportunity for Businesses
The good news for pages with an “Actively Discussed on Google+” is that lower ranking pages will be pushed further down the SERP when people ‘show’ the comments. This is attributed to the fact that expanded comments show up in the same window as the search engine page results. Clicking on the “-Show” button does not seem to push lower ranking search results to subsequent pages. Rather, the search results page expands vertically.
For businesses, this is a strong signal to start developing content that is worthy of discussion. Think about it- which articles are people more likely to click-through to read: one with an active discussion around it, or one with no active discussion? Creating conversation-worthy content is definitely the motive behind this new feature!
So what determines how pages rank as a results of their ‘popularity’ on Google+? Initially, I thought that the results were simply attributed to the following 3 factors: +1′s, Shares, and Comments. However, an “Actively Discussed on Google+” page with 10 +1′s/Shares/Comments is not guaranteed to rank higher on the SERP than an “Actively Discussed” page with 4 +1′s/Share/Comments.
Typical Google algorithm at play here- we see that the rankings are attributed to a combination of multiple factors, each with varying degrees of importance.
Ranking Algorithm for User Comments?
Additionally, there seems to be an algorithm at play within the Google+ user comments stream:
Potential factors impacting these specific rankings may include: +1′s, Shares, Comments on a particular user’s post, as well as the number of people who have that user in their Circles (though there is the possibility that quality versus quantity comes into play here, similar to Klout scores).
Ranking user’s posts can also have major implications for marketers, as Google hands more power to their Google Plus users. Essentially, there may be a ranking system in which a user whose post receives the most +1′s/Shares/Comments (and other social metrics) appears at the top of the expanded comments list.
Impact on Mobile Search Results
With the rise of the smartphone and tablet market, we thought it would be interesting to see if these results were showing up on mobile searches as well. Indeed, there’s been a huge trend in companies developing mobile versions of their website in an effort to reach the ‘on-the-go’ consumer.
Based on our findings (see screenshot below), the “Actively Discussed on Google+” feature is not appearing on mobile (nor tablet) based searches:
In the End, Content that Leads to Conversations Will Be Rewarded
The major take-away from this new release on the Google front is that simply creating content for content’s sake is no longer sufficient for optimal Search Engine Optimization. Google’s push for businesses to develop high quality content needs to have a qualitative metric in place that can judge the quality of digital content. While shares and +1′s are great, this quantitative approach was too similar to Facebook’s ‘Like’ methodology for determining a post’s popularity.
Therefore, content that actually starts a conversation (and thus, receives comments on Google+) will be rewarded on Google’s Search platform. The ability to provide unique and engaging content resides on businesses whose content is worthy of actual engagement. If you can ignite a discussion around the articles, posts, and content, then you’re company is on the right track towards conversational, relationship-based marketing.
One thing is certain: Businesses must have a Google+ page, with an active account where thought-provoking, comment-inducing and well-written content is posted on a regular basis! If your company does not have an optimized Google+ account, then contact us today to learn how we help you Get Found on the Web.
Update: As of 12 pm EDT, the “Actively Discussed on Google+” was not showing up on Google’s Search Platform. While it was suggested that this feature had been in test mode, there’s not doubt that Google is further experimenting with new ways to integrate social metrics into their Search platform.