Eric Schmidt, Verification, Google+ & a Storm in a Teacup
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has been in the news a lot recently. Firstly he has a new book coming out, “The Digital Age”, from which The Wall Street Journal “leaked” the following quote:
“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.”
Secondly, he’s announced that he is about to sell 42% of his Google stock (worth more than $2.5 billion).
As with any story about Google, the conspiracy theorists have come out in force to guess at what these two moves mean.
Marketing blog The Drum claimed that Schmidt’s verification quote is ‘confirmation’ that Google+ is to become a ‘search priority’ in future and that this is part of Google’s on-going battle with other social networks.
They've made the assumption that what Schmidt calls verification is the same as Google verification. With Google products you can verify yourself as an author, a publisher, a business, a place.
It didn't take long for certain SEO blog commenters to connect this to Schmidt’s stock sale, believing that the move towards ‘Google verification’ will force businesses to buy more ads, increasing the value of said stock.
Of course, as SEOs it is always important to listen to Google employees, especially those at the top. As one of the top dogs at Google, Schmidt’s personal views are always going to trickle down to those below him. The first piece of advice on our SEO courses is to go and read everything that Google has published about SEO!
But does Schmidt mean Google+ when he uses the term ‘verified’?
Are You Verified?
Let’s have a think about what a ‘verified’ brand would look like:
- A well designed website with clear products, clear about us and contact pages
- Real customer testimonials
- Real location
- Interaction with customers on social media
- A presence at events in their local area or niche
- Trust signals such as payment protection schemes
Essentially, all the factors that would make a potential customer decide whether or not to part with their cash.
That’s what Google are looking for – those important trust signals.
If somebody clicks on the top result in search and gets conned, their trust in Google drops and Google loses a potential user. Remember that it’s in Google’s best interest to provide good search results or risk losing revenue!
Currently, the easiest way for Google to establish those trust signals (and so decide what ‘verified’ constitutes) is to use their own products. They've said before that they want to use data from outside networks in their algorithm but nobody will let them! Therefore they have to rely on their own data (especially Google+) to make a best guess, look at the signals that certain trustworthy brands give out and use them to make a best guess as which brands are ‘verified’ and which are get rich quick scams.
So to sum up, although I don’t think that ‘verified’ means ‘Google+ verification’, the signals are going to be very similar.
If you've just read all the above and you’re thinking ‘hang on, I don’t even have a Google+ account’ then here are some quick actions to consider:
- Set up a Google+ business page and link it to your Google Places account – these two platforms have now merged to become Google+ Local.
- Ask your employees to create Google+ profiles and implement authorship on your blog.
- Create a Google+ Community in your niche and become an active moderator.
- If you run a small business and want to be visible as such, consider setting yourself as the author for your home page and business pages. This is especially worthwhile if you already have a following in your niche and on other networks.
- Encourage your clients to leave reviews on your Google+ Local page.
- Do all the above on all major social networks! Claim your business on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and get engaging with your clients and with influencers in your niche.
- Implement rich snippets on your website to tell search engines exactly what it is your business does – there are options for almost any niche.
- Make sure that your site and blog are interesting enough that people want to share and comment, increasing those engagement metrics.
There’s a lot more to it than that, but just by following all those steps you will be giving Google a pretty good idea that you are a ‘verified’ business and worth ranking over your competitors who are five steps behind.
Some of these steps are still open to abuse (rich snippet spam anyone?) but Google is only getting better at identifying tactics as they appear. Only a few months ago there were a number of blog posts advising link builders to use 'generic anchor text' such as 'click here' and now we have Cyrus Shephard telling us to stop using generic terms.
Our advice at Silicon Beach? Quit wasting time moaning about Google and trying to trick the system and instead invest in other forms of brand building such as content marketing, social media & email marketing.
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