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March 22, 2012

How the Google Plus Box Really Works

By Richard Nosek, Director of Marketing

If you use Google.com, you’ve probably noticed a little something called Google Search Plus Your World. While you are signed into your Google+ account, Google not only searches the world wide web, but also your Google+ universe. The results are incredibly personalized, with profiles, pages, posts and photos from people you know and follow. You may even be presented with the elusive “Google Plus Box,” which shows people and pages related to your search—a mega traffic builder if you can land yourself in one of those coveted spots.

But how does Google decide which pages and profiles show up? And how does Google decide which search queries get the plus box, and which ones don’t?

Ian Lurie, an internet marketing blogger, decided to find out. He put together what he called his “Plan For Google Search Plus Your World Research and Domination (PFGSPYWRD, for short),” which consisted of polling SEO folks and collecting data on top Google Search Plus Your World results.

After 5 weeks of research, here’s what Ian found out:

Profiles with no new posts in the last 72 hours have no shot at a plus box ranking.

Adam Sandler has the 2nd highest circle membership, yet he never appears. Why? He has hasn’t posted since January 24th. You don’t have to post all original content—re-shares and links to interesting stuff will do the trick—but make sure you post at least a few times a day.

Pages get preference.

Pages with membership between 3000 to 6000 circles appear in the plus box, beating out profiles with circle membership as high as 1.5 million.

Higher engagement leads to plus box ranking.

Not surprisingly, the more +1’s, posts, reshares, replies and membership circles you have, the more likely Google is to reward you with plus box placement. Google’s really looking out for big (and great) content generators, so the more +1’s you get, the more thumbs up Google will give you and the higher you’ll rank. It also helps to circle influential people with big circle membership.

It’s easier to rank for a concept than a commodity.

A search for ‘computers’ doesn’t return a plus box, while a search for ‘internet marketing’ does. Try to rank for a the non-commodity term that fits your industry, like ‘design,’ not ‘designer.’ Ian believes this is because the plus box shoves PPC ads down the page and hurts Google’s revenue. Why would Google want to place a plus box on results pages for searches with high commercial intent?

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