Google's announcement of Google+ integration into its main results has generated a lot of negative publicity from the search industry about its relevancy, and with suggestions of a likely anti-trust case in Europe, home of a significant amount of Google's marketshare, means it can be labelled a monopoly holder in search.
But what is the real world impact of this change on money-making search term drivers for businesses?
To get an idea, I've dug into one of the highest traffic segments of search: E-Commerce.
Overall Google+ Searcher Numbers
First up, it's important to note the total uptake of Google+, while in the tens of millions (estimated at 65.8million by Paul Allen at the turn of the year), is still a fraction of a single digit percentage of all Google searches.
We know this because when Google changed Google Analytics data for secure server search users (i.e. users who are logged in to Google - 99% of whom are logged in because they use Gmail), they stated it would affect less than a percent of searchers. Note: they refer to searchers, not searches. The implication being that people logged in to Google are more likely to use Google repeatedly then users who just happen to be using Google over Yahoo! or Bing.
Although Google doesn't disclose numbers, ComScore estimated Gmail usage to be merely 260 million users (Oct 3rd, 2011 via Microsoft), and given that Google hosted over a billion searches a day on March 5th last year indicates that the number of searches from logged in Gmail users is certainly well under a single percent of total searches.
While many sites reported higher than single digit impact, the vast majority were heavily skewed to tech or search optimisation sites which do not have a normal user demographic. For example, QueryClick itself has well over 20% of search drivers marked as 'not provided'.
Google+ in E-Commerce Search Numbers
On B2C sites in the UK, and we can confirm this with our own client sites, the impact from Google+ has indeed been single digit, in fact it's touching the lower end with 0.5% to 1% of total traffic share as an average over the sites.
So, ultimately, we are looking at around a quarter of a fraction of a single percent impact on B2C sites, in fact in the region of 0.14% for the numbers pulled off in doing this analysis.
Outcomes: What Action Should Site Owners Take?
Although, based on our analysis, the impact of Google+ on traffic driving search terms is likely to be very small in the grand scheme of all traffic driven to a website, it is still worthwhile looking at building in support for featuring Google+ buttons onsite and generating interesting content for the network since Google already very occasionally shows Google+ results to unsigned-in users as a form of promotion for Google+.
In addition, Google have stated that they do use signals from Google+ in their main algorithm for ranking pages, so improving the number of pages getting positive Google+ engagement on a domain will help them rank generally.
Content recommended by friends and acquaintances is often more relevant than content from strangers. For example, a movie review from an expert is useful, but a movie review from a friend who shares your tastes can be even better. Because of this, +1's from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality. For +1's, as with any new ranking signal, we are starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.
Stimulating Google+ engagement is about engaging with the community from a base of good quality on-site content, so standard practice applies in our content strategies: work hard to be unique, relevant, insightful and engaging and you'll see the rewards.