Google's new social networking site, Google+, launched to much fanfare last week. The new service, currently in invite-only stage, has created a buzz with its novel sharing and group video chat features.
The social network is Google's attempt to change the quasi-monopoly Facebook has enjoyed in the social media space for the past five years. But Google+ will also have far-reaching implications for search. And while some of the details of how Google+ will ultimately affect search remain unclear, here are the key areas to watch below.
Google suspended its Realtime Search on July 4. The search feature, which displayed Twitter feeds in real time, was turned off by Google because its contract with Twitter had expired. It is clear however, that the contract was not renewed because Google plans on including their own Google+ live feed into their searches, rather than Twitter's. So while the details remain murky, you should anticipate some iteration of Google+'s live feed displayed alongside search results in the near future.
Google has said that their social network is not ready to support brand pages or profiles yet. Obviously, if it wants a chance to compete with the likes of Facebook, the company will have to offer brands a compelling profile or page to communicate with their followers. What kind of platform Google+ intends to offer brands is yet to seen.
Unlike Facebook, you can't yet claim your URL within Google+. This may be connected to the fact that the company hasn't rolled out brand pages yet, but either way, you'll have to wait until you can start printing your Google+ URL on your business cards.
Sparks is Google+'s personalized content aggregator. Users can pick themes (such as cooking or cycle-cross, for example), and have content streamed to their profiles.
The SEO community is abuzz trying to decipher how, exactly, one would increase their chances of getting their content into Sparks. Some have speculated that the process is akin to getting on top of Google News pages. Barry Schwartz of seroundtable.com posted a reply from a Google exec saying that Sparks is "still very much in flux and being further expanded and tuned." Therefore, the SEO community continues to wait.
Google indexes public posts from Google+, maknig them available in search results, both when you are logged in and logged out of Google+. Private posts do not currently show up in Google search. Google+ also indexes all comments made on public posts, which will undeniably hold substantial SEO weight.
Overall, Google+ has a lot of sharing to do about how, exactly, it intends to rank content.
If there is one main takeaway of the implications Google+ has on SEO however, it is that real users, not keyword-and-link-seeking robots, will increasingly rank and share content. A recent study highlighted the fact that Facebook usage is actually usurping time spent on the search-based internet. Without a doubt, Google+, with its built-in content aggregators through Sparks, will take us one step further to understanding the Internet not as centered around content, but around relationships.