Yesterday Google announced a change to the way in which search results are presented. “not another one” would be my best guess at the common reaction to this news, if people even noticed at all. After all, Google have been tweaking lots of things recently, mainly related to integrating the diverse (but shrinking) range of products into a coherent whole. Actually, coherent may be too strong a word here, but it’s definitely heading in the right direction.

But to dismiss this particular change as mere window dressing would be wrong. Actually, ‘wrong’ is not nearly strong enough! Let me re-state it, in big, bold letters.

The latest Google search change could make or break your business!

There, that’s about right.

Big statement, are you sure?

Absolutely! Lets look at the change. Rather than try to describe the detail here, you should read Google’s announcement in the link above. The video (below) illustrates the change very well, so watch that below even if you don’t read the announcement. Although given the enormity of the change, why wouldn’t you?

OK, so you should now know a bit about what’s changing. Let’s explore the implications.

Being ‘top of Google’

If I had a pound for every customer that asked me what they had to do to be top of Google search rankings….

The fact is, for some time now, Google have been personalising results. Therefore, two people both searching for, say, ‘italian restaurant’ would get different results depending on what Google knows about them (location, previous searches, etc). This has made it difficult to definitively be ‘on the first page’.

Now that will be completely blown out of the water!

Social Search+

Why? Well the essence of the latest change is the integration of Google+. Therefore, if you’re logged in (and somewhere in the region of 50m+ people already have Google+ accounts) then you can view search results that are tailored by what your Google+ contacts have done.

Consider our example search term ‘Italian Restaurants’. What are you most likely to use, the one that comes top of search results based on the way they have optimised their website, or the one that comes top because it is local, and your contacts have been there (using Google checkin), and have rated it highly (using Google Places), and have posted on Google+ about their experience, and have uploaded photos of the food and decor?

No contest really, you’ll trust your contacts’ real-life experiences over some SEO jiggery-pokey. Every time!

Not everyone uses G+

True, not everyone does. You can also argue that not everyone uses Facebook, so why should you have a Facebook page. That kind of misses the point, though. More than enough people use Facebook to make it a potentially valuable source of traffic and enquiries. Not some many use G+ yet, and maybe never will, but it’s growing rapidly and you can be sure Google will be doing everything it can to persuade people to sign up.

But even if they don’t succeed in becoming as big as Facebook, it’s already a niche waiting to be targetted. Just think, 50m users getting personalised search results. If your business has an active Google+ presence, chances are you’ll have stolen a march on your rivals. If G+ grows, then even better.

Personally, I believe Google has invested too much effort reorganising the rest of their business around G+ to give up on it. It’s here to stay. After all, Facebook are expected to introduce a search component to their platform. A development that once had the capability to render Google search irrelevant at a stroke, although not now.

Plan of action

So what do you need to do?

  1. Get yourself a Google+ profile (if you haven’t already done so).
  2. Immerse yourself in G+ to familiarise yourself with it – its capabilities, its protocols, etc.
  3. Create a G+ page for your business, and use G+ as your business when appropriate:
    1. Contribute to discussions, add photos
    2. Use the +1 button – lots
    3. Engage!
  4. Stay signed in to G+ when using other Google products
  5. Add the +1 button to your blog posts
  6. Add your G+ profile badge to your website

If you already have a Facebook page for your business, then the activities you carry out there are pretty much equivalent. But right now, G+ is more important for most as it will directly affect your business presence in Google’s search results far more than any Facebook activity. For most businesses, Google still provides more traffic than Facebook.

Do it now!

If, as I expect, G+ continues to grow and challenges Facebook’s popularity, your business stands to benefit hugely from this work. If you wait, others will jump in first and you’ll end up playing catch-up.

I hear from many people that they just don’t like social media and can’t get on with it. If you want to stay in business, I’m afraid that’s just not good enough. Many company owners said the same thing about websites 10 or so years ago, and how many of them have survived to today with a web presence? How many have thrived?

Do it now, or you’ll regret it.

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