If social media is not currently part of your online marketing strategy, you better hurry and get on the ball. Google recently announced that is does take certain cues from social media, with the most transparent being the use of twitter and facebook posts as part of their real time search strategy. Recent research also shows that web pages and posts that are tweeted and published to facebook receive better rankings.
This is only the beginning. More recently, Google introduced +1 to its search results along with a widget that you can place on your own website to allow users to “+1” your content ala Facebook’s “like” feature. The difference is Google has said that by +1’ing a page or article, it will effect search results from users that are part of your social network. What this means is that if I am searching for a good restaurant in Palm Beach, my results will be somewhat customized based on what my friends think. Now imagine if you have a business and you get a significant number of people to +1 your business in search results, effecting their friends who then +1 your page, effecting their friends and so on. Doing this essentially “games” the search engine rankings. The current downfall of this model is that it will be hard to get people to +1 your business just by asking them to but this will quickly change.
Google has quietly released Google Plus which is essentially their version of facebook and it looks impressive. If Google can integrate their social network well enough into their existing products and users stick to it like facebook then people will be sharing information with the ease that it is spread through facebook as well. People constantly “like” a friends or colleagues link without a blink of an eye which will be the same for Google+, except +1’ing (I think I will start using one-upping instead) will have a more dramatic effect on search engine rankings.
While it is too early to tell how or if Google+ will have a large impact on rankings, its a good idea to get your company out there socially regardless. Furthermore, I have a feeling, Google+ will have a large impact on the social side of the web and the earlier you adopt it, the better off you will be.