In “SEO Revelations for 2013 “, I wrote this about rel=author: “This will be the big new ranking signal for 2013”. A mere 19 days later, a very interesting excerpt from “The New Digital Age” , the upcoming book authored by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, made some headlines:
“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”
Irrelevance? Wow! That’s a strong statement.
Here is the message: If you want your content to rank in Google, build your author authority (“Author Rank”) now. Google hasn’t taken this position solely to create a binary signal (got a profile, you’re good; no profile, you aren’t). How much authority you have as an author is going to be a big deal.
In fact, I think of rel=author as the markup/signal that Google created for the purpose of finding a meaningful way to extract useful ranking data out of social signals. I don’t believe that +1s, shares, Likes, or tweets are treated like links.
I am not going to dig into that the entirety of that argument today, other than to note that in my recent interview with Bing’s Stefan Weitz that Weitz pretty resoundingly shut down the notion that Bing uses Facebook Likes and shares as a web ranking signal, other than as a way to discover news content.
Bear in mind now, Bing has direct feed access to the entire Facebook database of connections, Likes, and shares. This is a far deeper dataset than Google is getting from Google+. In fact, Weitz had this to say about why they separated social results into their Social Sidebar:
They’re really, fundamentally, two different ranking models. One is ranking using a static rank, or page rank; the left-hand side of the results. On the right side is a whole new notion of social rank.
Imagine how much crawling of Facebook that Google would have to do to get the Facebook data in any reasonable type of timeframe. Even if Google could do it (not realistic to collect every Facebook update in real time!), I believe that Facebook would block this level of crawling.
Now let’s talk about something really measurable, Author Rank. Let’s talk a look at an example post:
The data I have circled is easily collected by Google. They don’t need to accumulate it in real time forever for it to work. They can simply scrape the data whenever they load the article page for some period of time after the article first posts. This certainly gives a sense of the popularity, and perhaps the importance, of a given post.
Now, let’s talk about some other data that Google can potentially obtain and use that supports the notion of Author Rank, using social signals:
The above list is just a partial list of the types of signals that Google could use. Let me know in the comments below what variants you think they could use.
Bear in mind what I said about lean content marketing teams in October 2012:
You must have a key internal person who leads the effort.
This person needs to be a subject matter expert (SME) on whatever your topic matter is – passionate about it, and personable. Your content won’t sell without this.
When I wrote it, I was focused on emphasizing that people don’t want to interact with nameless behemoths, or “anonymous.” Seems that Google doesn’t want to either.
As i continue to kick the tires and try to juggle, distinguish and appropriate categorize Google+, I found Melissa Parrish’s blog post insightful. Pricepoints comments follow hers.
Forrester Blogs » Marketing & Strategy » Interactive Marketing Professionals » Melissa Parrish
How I’m Using Google+ (Hint: It’s About Relevance)
Posted by Melissa Parrish on August 8, 2011
If you were to glance at my Google+ profile, you’d probably think I’m practically inactive. But what you’re seeing is the public view of a very targeted set of actions, based on relevance.
I like to have different kinds of conversations with different people, so when I share content it’s with circles that designate not only relationship but topics too, and Google+ makes it really easy for me to be highly relevant in this way. Take, for example, politics. I like to talk about it, but I’m rarely interested in fighting, so when I share a politically focused news article, it’s not enough to be in my Friends circle. To see it, you have to be in my Friends-Politics circle, where I’ve included people who I know I’ll have an interesting conversation with that won’t result in insults and multiple exclamation points.
There is one thing missing if relevance is an aim of the platform. As of today, my relevance-based circles only apply to what I share with others. What would be especially helpful would be a way to limit the content I see from others in that circle to the topic I’ve assigned it. For example, I’m following Christian Oestlien, one of the Google+ product managers, specifically for updates about Google+. So while the YouTube music videos and Onion articles he posts are probably funny, I can’t say I’m particularly interested in seeing them from him. Now, if one of the people in my Friends-Hilarious circle posted them, that’s another story . . ..
So what are the implications for brands?
Once business pages become available, brands may get the most from Google+ by prioritizing relevance over scale, regardless of how quickly the user base grows. If your audience uses the service like I do, it’s going to be in your best interest to get your brand in our Brands-Deals I’ll Use or our Brands-Great Links or our Brands-Things I Want For My Birthday circles. You’re not going want to end up in Brands-General.
Since business pages haven’t been revealed yet, I can only offer ideas on how brands might be able to accomplish this, but 2 possibilities come to mind:
1) Brands can launch their Google+ presences with a single, focused content theme first (deals, links, new products, etc.). This would mean that users who add you to their circles are interested in that specific content. Then your interaction with customers will be around that particular content theme so engagement expectations will be set on both sides.
2) Consumers could tell the brand what type of content they want, and the brand would create circles and share content accordingly. If business pages work mostly like consumer pages do today, then this would be a manual process involving something like comments from users, spreadsheets, and manual circle creation — probably not something a lot of brands will have the time and energy to do. But this could be a really compelling strategy if Google were to build an easy way for marketers to collect content-theme “opt-ins” and auto-populate circles based on that info. That would allow marketers to diversify the content they’re sharing to maximize the size of their Google+ audience, while still respecting relevance needs.
What business pages will do remains to be seen, and it’ll be some time before true user trends emerge that will show whether I’m alone on the relevance thing or not. In the meantime, what do you think? Is Google+ all about relevance for you? How are you using the platform?
First, I believe the significance initiative will command the appropriate “marketing” resources and commitment to establish it’s value. My experience and take on Google, like many, extremely bright and clever….but like some of my friend’s children’s get bored and move to quickly to another cool thing.
It can be boring to understand the user experience nuance that really makes the service or feature “can’t live without it popular”. Most recently Unless you’ve been asleep the battle over internet (overly dramatic I admit), due to the ability of Facebook to limit data access has finally gotten Google’s attention. It will impact their revenue source, search, and therefore will maintain their attention.
Having played around with Google+ for a few weeks now, here are my raw thoughts on the social platform and its role in the real-time marketing world. Some of these thoughts made it into this Ad Agestory for which I was interviewed last week.
1. Finally a Google social-networking bet that has a chance of surviving.
There’s no question, this is Google’s best bet ever in the social-networking space. There have been so many false starts and halfhearted efforts that I had begun to wonder whether Google could every crack this space. The reason why things are different this time — rather than incubating the product in isolation in Google Labs, from the get-go Google+ is integrated into the rest of the Google ecosystem through single sign on, the navigation bar and the ability to add in contacts and friends. There’s a lot more integration to do but it works effectively as a real-time stream of content being shared to you and from you based on social context.
2. Google’s challenge is that we simply do not know how Google+ fits into our lives.
Maybe Google+ has been intentionally silent on that for a good reason. Facebook has become part of our digital habit — I sit down for a cup of coffee in the morning and I go on Facebook to scan my news feed. I find some really compelling content while surfing the web and I tweet about it to the world. It’s not clear if Google wants Google+ to be an add-on to my digital habits or a replacement. A lot of people — the 20 million people who are playing around on Google+ are asking themselves that question. The funny thing is that Google+ has the best of Facebook and the best of Twitter — you have the ability to broadcast and select closed groups who should receive that broadcast. So is it meant to be a bridge between the two but do we really need that? Targeting for brands in a real-time fashion this way is extremely powerful.
3. Google+ misses a true radical innovation opportunity but all is not lost.
Google’s historic strength has been its search-engine algorithms and its blistering-fast technology backbone. Simply speaking, it has the best scientists and its algorithms are unmatched. That’s why its the undisputed leader in search. But in Google+ I have to manually find my friends and add them to circles manually. It is time consuming and can quickly get overwhelming managing all of these friends and circles.
If I could log in and have Google+ make recommendations based on how I have interacted with people in the past that would be valuable. The home run would be if they could add a “Suggested Circles” functionality that helps me manage my networks. They do something similar in Gmail today with “Important first” and the “Priority Inbox” functionality, so this wouldn’t be a big step for them. After all, who wants to go about adding friends and categorizing them yet again. To take that thought a step further, Google+ could also suggest brands and products in a similar fashion.
4. Google+ can really work for brand marketers if we’re given the right tools.
From a brand perspective, two things matter most — knowing where, when and how we can engage meaningfully with our consumers and in turn being mindful of how they’d like us to engage with them. As marketers, we absolutely want to find ways to engage with our consumers on Google+ that are organic to the Google+ philosophy and in ways that consumers are using the platform. But to be effective we need very strong analytics. We have to be smart in how we engage — we can’t be everywhere or do everything, so we need analytics that help us make decisions on how and where to best reach our consumers at moments in time when we matter. Google has said that when they do launch brand pages they will have strong analytics. Google understands brands because they have worked closely with us on search and they know what analytics we need, so I am happy to wait for that.
Keeping in mind the importance of people’s privacy, we’d also want to know psychographic information about who we’re engaging. This is not an anonymous platform, so we always have to respect that. If Pepsi could reach out on Google+ and engage a Pepsi fan and then also be able to engage with their friend circle or their work circle that would be a win. In the end we want to participate in a way that makes sense for the platform, consumers and the brand.
5. Google+ functions effectively as a real-time sharing engine.
There’s no question in my mind that Google+ is strongest as a real-time content-sharing engine for me to push out specific pieces of content to specific people circles. Google+ integrates more seamlessly with YouTube, Google Photos and Google Music as Ian Schafer emphasized in an Ad Age piece. That is its greatest strength. It’s something that I can’t do with Twitter (lists are for viewing tweets from select people, not for sharing out tweets to groups), and while I could do it with Facebook, the people-management feature has gotten cumbersome. It’s also symmetrical limiting me from controlling distribution the way I may want to.
6. Google+ streams are very different to the Facebook newsfeed.
That’s an advantage. If someone gave me one wish in the world, I’d probably use it to understand how Facebook’s edge-rank system actually worked. Like the Google-search algorithm, it’s a black box and I’m not exactly sure how many users (and which users) may see a specific post from one of my brands. From a marketing standpoint, that’s a bit of a problem.
However, in the case of Google+ everything published appears in the stream in chronological fashion. I have a much better sense of what a user will see. Now, this can certainly get overwhelming but there’s absolute clarity in terms of what will make it into a user’s feed. You could argue that the Google model is simplistic and not scalable but what’s certain is that it forces you to take those circles seriously. And for Google that’s a good thing, and for marketers it makes Google+ more valuable.
It’s going to be fascinating watching the evolution of Google+. To get 20 million people to play with it in a manner of weeks is no joke. The social network is definitely off to a good start but there’s obviously a lot more to do to create true stickiness of the Facebook variety. One thing is for sure, if Google were to integrate the Google+ stream and comments into its search-engine algorithm, that alone may provide enough incentive for a lot more people to take it even more seriously. Only time will tell whether Google decides to go in that direction or not.