Google has made two moves in their search results pages that will impact your ability to survive in your marketplace.
Unfortunately, many folks are getting those two moves confused with each other. Consider this post clarification.
Googles +1 Thumbnails In Search Results
Firstly, there’s the +1 button on all the Google search results. It looks like this:
I’m sure you’ve seen it and maybe even had a clicky-click.
With Google+, that +1 button gets more interesting. When someone you have in your Google+ Circles has +1′d an item that YOU then search for and see in the search results, you’ll see their little thumbnail picture (and a link to their Google profile) along with the search results. Here’s what that looks like:
Danny Sullivan +1′d the Google Adwords Keyword Tool (as did I) and when I search for it, I see his smiling face in my search results since he’s in my circle.
Karen Kramer +1′d Google Adwords, and Brett Stark +1′d the Traffic Estimator, and again, because they are in my Circles, I see them in my search engine result pages.
The way Google’s got it running right now I won’t see thumbnails from people that I don’t know – just those I’ve added to Circles.
Author Profiles in Search Results
The second thing we’re seeing are author profiles in the search results. Most sites haven’t implemented this yet, so they’re not out and about super often, but you will be seeing this more and more. They look like this:
The thumbnail you’re seeing here is Google’s attempt to start correlating content publishers and writers (that’s you and me) with their Google profile. Content publishers who are using the new “rel=me” tag get a big image next to the content they’ve published and, of course, a link to their Google profile.
So that Google can start to determine which authors have credibility in a niche. It’s called “Author Authority” and they’ve indicated it’s a ranking factor.
Which Do I Want? Why? Huh?!
Now that you know the difference between the two, you want to know what it means to you!
Implementing Google +1 Thumbnails For Your Site
Right now the +1 thumbnails are affecting search results your potential visitors are seeing if they are using Google+ and have a friend in their Circles who has +1′d the item your potential customer has now searched for (perhaps an article on your website).
This is a compelling reason to implement the +1 button on your website.
Someone is more likely to click the search result that their friend, someone in their Circles, has already +1′d. That friend has vetted it for them, they’ve said it’s good via their +1. The searcher trusts the people in his Circles and his eyeballs are going to fly over to the familiar face first! You want your listings in the search results pages to have familiar faces next to them, so you’ve got to add the +1 button to your site.
(You can see I’m giving the +1 button a whirl here, give it a click if you’d like to be a part of the experiment).
But what if your audience hasn’t adopted Google+ and the +1 button yet? Keep reading, I’ll tell you about the Google+ marketing team in a moment.
Implementing Author Profiles in Search Results
These show up regardless of whether the person is in your Circles or not (in fact, the searcher doesn’t even have to be signed in to or have a Google account to see them) and are immensely important because of that. Of course, the visibility of the listing, with the larger thumbnail image is massive. It’s a completely different kind of search result that people aren’t used to seeing and it’s going to draw a lot of eyes (and thus clicks to the associated article).
What’s more interesting: the article with a real person attached to it or the bland, faceless and anonymous-seeming results around it?
Those of you who add the “rel=me” tag and get your thumbnails in the search results will see higher click-thoughs as a result. Guaranteed.
Also, these thumbnails come with a link to your Google profile. I mentioned author authority earlier, and you’ve got to know that it’s not just about the number of followers you have (Google is hip to the “follow me and I’ll follow you game”), it’s about the quality of the content you produce. With the “rel=me” tag, Google will begin to get an idea of what niches you’re an expert in and if your work is respected in your marketplace (Is it +1′d? Is it shared via Google+? etc.) With the “rel=me” tag, Google will being tracking all of that and incorporating your author authority into the algorithm when they decide whether to serve up one of your pages in the search results or one of your competitors’. (So if you haven’t already, it’s really time to step up your content game and start producing quality stuff you can put your face next to, literally).
When people see you in the search results, like Christina Warren, they can click right through to your Google Profile and add you to one of their Circles.
So how do you get your author thumbnail and profile link into the search results (like Christina Warren’s)? Joost de Valk has a comprehensive “rel=me” tutorial for WordPress users. Perhaps a plugin is coming soon Joost?
Remember, these author profiles will show up in the search results regardless of whether the searcher is signed in to Google and whether or not they have a Google+ account. It’s imperative you start to use them because everybody will be seeing them!
The Google+ Marketing Team
I can imagine some of the readers here thinking, “Ok, I get why the author profiles are important, because everybody will see them. But I don’t see why the +1 thumbnails matter to me because none of my customers are on Google+ yet.”
But look at what Google has done here. First, they invited the digerati to Google+ and built scarcity. Then they opened the dorrs to invitations intermittently, so more tech savvy folks who asked their friends for invites could get in as well.
We’re the dorks. We’re the outliers. We’re the ones in the internet marketing, social media and search engine optimization space who own our own websites and are looking for attention in the marketplace. So we’ll implement the +1 button on our websites because we know that our own audience and friends are on Google+ and that they will see the +1 thumbnails from their friends in Circles.
And we’ll also implement the “rel=me” tag. And our pictures will start to show up in everyone’s search results. And searchers will start to click thos thumbnails and go to our Google+ profiles. But if they want to talk to us, want to be “friends,” they’ve got to join Google+ too.
We will give Google+ and our Google profiles enough visibility, as we start to add both the +1 button and the “rel=me” tag into our sites. We are Google’s marketing team for the entire Google+ project.
Sure, you could opt out and refuse the +1 button and the “rel=me” tag.
But it’s SEO suicide. You’ll suffer lower click-through ratings in the search results pages, which is a ranking factor. You’ll miss out on any author authority, which is a ranking factor. You’ll miss out on social proof via +1′s, which is both a ranking factor and a way content is spread amongst real users. Don’t do it.
You’re Playing Google’s Game Now
- Get the Google +1 button on your site
- Add the “rel=me” tag to your site
- Make sure your content is good enough that people will want to +1 it and share it