The New Model: How Google+ “Gets” Content

This is a guest post by Joel Harrison.

The way content is shared today changes online marketing, putting content to the forefront of what users, companies, brands and products are about.

Google+ has just won the People’s Choice award for social media at The Webby Awards presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. This may come as a surprise, since Google+ isn’t as popular as was first expected. It’s trying to reverse that situation though and bind everything together into a huge social network, always faithful to its mission ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. A day may soon come where there is no getting away from its global presence.

This post will talk about the old model (links), the new model (Authored PageRank), authorship markup, rich snippets and their benefits, a possible Google+ commenting system, vanity URLs, and how Google+ all effects content marketing.

The Old Model

Prior to the latest Google updates, links were closely related to high rankings and more pronounced visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). Every link had the same capacity to influence search results (bad content didn’t matter as much back then) but the black and white hats combined made Google begin picking its cherries more carefully. Trustworthiness became more important than sheer numbers. Links are still important, as of now; they are still here to stay, but according to Tom Anthony of Distilled, “in the last 2 years 15% of the algorithm that was links has been replaced by other signals in relative importance”.

So What Are the New Signals?

Social signals – they don’t operate as links. They contain messages about other pages and websites, and a lot of other valuable information, but don’t really help with links. This is all about to change with the introduction of authorship markup that essentially verifies the author of a link. Since some links are visibly authored links, they may prove to be more trustworthy to users, plus AuthorRank adds more weight to the link according to the author’s online presence. Tom Anthony called this the AuthoredPageRank model (AuthorRank and PageRank combined). What it means for marketers looking to increase click-throughs is that they should be hiring authors with a high rank who post content at pages with a high rank.

How Authorship Markup Works

Who the link is from is more important today than where it is from.

Many of us have heard from doctors, “Don’t read online articles on health, they are just opinions.” Well, all this is about to change with authorship markup that verifies an author as a Google+ user with their Google account linking back to the verified page but also to other profiles, such as LinkedIn where the author’s qualifications can be checked, along with recommendations. Only ‘serious’ organizations (ministries, government bodies, global organizations) had the privilege of claiming absolute trustworthiness and high quality of content before. Now ‘regular’ users have a chance at establishing a more weighty reputation online.

SERP Facelift: Rich Snippets

Rich snippets are playing a huge part in making users decide: to click or not to click? Additional information next to the Google search result gives users a taste of what the page will contain and introduces the author, adding more weight to the link. Take a look at a Google+ profile snippet as it appears in the search results.

 

You can usually see the author’s name, Google+ profile page URL, number of users in Circles, job position, geographical location, introduction, etc. The profile image will definitely pop too, making authored links stand out from others. Even in Google News, profile-based links appear.

The Benefits of Rich Snippets

Rich snippets are great because they:

  1. Draw attention to the relevant result
  2. Provide instant information (decisions are made faster now – think 2 seconds vs. 5)
  3. Increase CTR (20-30%) and minimize bounces which occurred because users couldn’t find relevant content
  4. Increase visibility in SERPs
  5. Help break the monotony of search results lines.

Access to information is faster now – you don’t have to click on the link to find out the basics about an author. SEO efforts should aim to provide relevant engaging content within the SERP in this new pattern. Since users know what to expect when they click, they are more likely to stay a while and come back – it can mean that once you gain a user, it may be easier to make them a dedicated follower and possibly even ‘circle’ the author in Google+.

The Future of Rich Snippets

Rich snippets appear not only for authors but also for restaurants, music albums, people, business and organisations, recipes, video, products, and events. How do you know which movie review to read if you don’t want to drown in the bile (and industry jargon) of a professional critic but need something more middle-of-the-road and closer to heart (not 8th-grade level either, thank you)? With the rel=”Publisher” code you will be able to find just what you are looking for without wasting so much time.

The future of rich snippets seems to be bright since they bring so much good already. The most realistic prediction is that they will expand beyond Google and the internet will be restructured as a collaborative effort, with everyone involved changing their techniques to fit the new mould.

Google+ Commenting System

Since Google+ hasn’t been as successful as was initially hoped for, there are rumors that Google is about to introduce its own third-party commenting system, which will link the comment back to the author’s Google+ profile (with the comments probably posted into Google+ the way Facebook does at the moment). Google+ will also introduce vanity URLs soon. As the world’s information is never going to be located on the same website, Google+ is trying to connect it all together instead of trying to “own” it within its own walls.

Google+ Search Results and SEO

Learning to optimize Google+ profiles should be on the agenda of all marketing professionals today because the actual search results are a live stream of Google+ content. Important query terms should appear in the Introduction, Employment, Education, and Place Lived section of the Google+ Profile. Who you have in Circles and whether they match the query is also of great importance. Spammers will be abusing the new scheme, which is easy to over-optimize. Search+ results (Search plus Your World) will also play a vital role, as well as the wide availability of the +1 button. All this should be taken into consideration for successful SEO efforts.

Conclusion

The face of marketing is changing. The person behind the content is becoming more important today. A recent study in the UK has shown that most PRs are working closer with bloggers, and AuthorPageRank is bound to give these former underdogs of the Internet even more weight. The trust and authority that rich snippets create can make the author a new valuable resource. B2B content marketers should take note of that, and authors with high personal ranks who produce high-quality content on highly ranked pages should be hired as company representatives, bloggers or spokespeople.
No doubt these changes will be discussed at local industry events near you, and you should know what is happening to achieve all-round success.

This is a guest post by Joel Harrison, Editor at www.b2bmarketing.net, where like-minded marketers can join together for ideas, tips and best practice information.

6 Comments

  • May 17, 2012

    Wim Feijen

    Hi Joel,

    Great post! It is not entirely clear to me: is this already happening? I’m not seeing author snippets in my Google search results (yet). Does that mean authorship has not been rolled out in my region; or do I have to change a setting; or is the above still not reality or in test phase?

    Thanks for your reponse, Wim

  • May 25, 2012

    reeha@inkjet

    benefits of Rich Snippets are great and quite new for me. I think by adding content to Google+ we can easily get high quality links.

  • June 4, 2012

    matrus

    It is a good idea to convince people and leaving them a decision, which content is valuable or not. Maybe it will change the quality of SERPs.

    • June 4, 2012

      Tamar Weinberg

      sometimes I wonder if this stuff is spam…

  • June 6, 2012

    Joel Harrison

    Authorship mark up is showing greater prominence within the serps every day. It was initially only rolled out to .com but is now in .co.uk also. It was only having an impact when you were logged into a Google account but i have experimented with a few different names when not logged into account and the authorship mark up is still showing, so definitely changing the way we see serps. Page rank use to give you and indication of how strong a site was but it seems that in the future there may be something called authorship rank, where Google will place more emphasis on the actual person behind the site. This has not happened yet but it seems that it is going in that direction.

  • September 5, 2012

    John Battista

    Great article. Google needs to take a lead from Facebook and work on allowing vanity URLs for everyone. Having an address with a huge string of numbers in it is just a pain.