March 3, 2014, 11:47 AM

Get to know Google Plus

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Briggs & Stratton, for instance, this year plans to start educating consumers via Facebook and Twitter on the advantages they will gain—being able to find the retailer's how-to information quickly and easily—by joining Google Plus and adding the retailer to their circles, Cluka says. So far without that effort, about 800 consumers have added the retailer to their circles in the past year.

"Just spend a little time on it," Dotterer says. "Start to put [Google Plus] into your publish-and-promote strategy." Retailers shouldn't prioritize Google Plus over other social networks, he says, but they should dedicate around 5% of their social media efforts to it.

Additionally, whether a consumer is logged into a Google account or not, the presence of +1 information generally leads to higher click-through rates. Stephan Spencer, author of The Art of SEO, says any extra visual cues, including +1s, author headshots, thumbnail images from an article or video and retailers' star ratings, that appear with links or ads in search results can increase organic search results or ads' click-through rates up to 30%.

Gretchen Howard, director of global social solutions at Google, declines to comment on how such cues influence click-through rates for unpaid search results, but says that paid ads with +1s have a 5% to 10% higher click-through rate than ads that do not. "It's pretty basic psychology—if people you know, or lots of people, have +1ed a brand," you're more likely to find a link credible and click it, she says.

Google Plus has 300 million monthly active users, defined as users with profiles who have logged into the network at least once in the last 30 days, Howard says.

In 2012, 265 retailers in the Internet Retailer 2013 Top 500 Guide and 166 in the 2013 Second 500 Guide included +1 buttons on web pages. And some, like online shoe retailer, include the number of Google Plus users who've clicked +1 to signal that they like the brand in its Google paid search ads along with its average star rating from consumer reviews, says marketing director Austin Caldwell. "These two signals add credibility to our brand for first-time buyers," he says, adding that ads with these two cues also garner "significant gains" in click-through rates versus ads without them.

Auto accessories retailer hasn't directly measured returns from Google Plus activity, though it has added +1s to its paid search ads and tested using Google Plus authors to create content that displays their headshots and number of followers in links, says president Jeff Vanlaningham. "Obviously, we hope it helps and it's logical that it would," he says, noting that it can't control how Google shows RealTruck's Google Plus activity in organic search results like it can with paid ads. Like many retailers, is still figuring out the best Google Plus strategy to influence search results. So far, its efforts have helped it attract more than 1,600 followers on the social network.

That's a good first step, says Spencer. The brands that ultimately will benefit most in search based on their Google Plus strategies are the ones working to build large, engaged Google Plus followings. That way, when Google decides the time has come to factor Google Plus into its results, "the SEO benefits will flow."


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