Why You Should Care About Google+, SEO and Semantic Search

HAL 2001 Space Odyssey Semantic Web
2001: A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick

As Dylan says: You don’t need to be a weather man to know which way the wind blows.”

You don’t have to be an SEO expert to know that search ain’t what it used to be.

Everything Google is doing, from Google+ to semantic search serves its mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

I’m not planning to open my own SEO shop, but just as it was important to learn the basics of WordPress when I started blogging, it’s essential to have a general knowledge of how “search” works. We all want to be found, right?

Why should you care about semantics?

The semantic web is all about connections.

In order for Google to provide the most relevant search results, it looks beyond the keywords to find context of your query based on your connections and social signals, +1’s, shares, likes etc..

Your content needs to be:

  • Targeted – a specific market.
  • Useful – to encourage sharing and return engagement.
  • Contextual – examples, stories, answers. Write to your client, not Google.

You need to be:

  • Authentic:  Google authorship
  • Trusted: Valuable content that is shared
  • Authoritative: Be connected to power influencers in your field.

What is semantic search?

Semantic search reads between the keywords you’ve entered to give you results it believes are most relevant to you.

It does this by looking at the relationships between the words and their context within your “knowledge graph.”


Relevance and context.

The Knowledge Graph is the brains of semantic search.

It takes your queries, understands the words and delivers results that are increasingly closer to what a real person would give.

(As opposed to HAL 9000, the all too human computer in 2001 Space Odyssey.)

Google begat Google+ not as a social network to rival Facebook, but as a way of collecting the relationship data needed to further their work on semantic search.

They introduced Google authorship to make sure that data comes from a trusted and authentic source.

How much importance does Google place on this “source”?

According to Google’s former CEO, Eric Schmidt, Google+ is an identity engine.

“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.”

SEO Ranking Factors
SEO Ranking Factors, SearchMetrics.com

How does Google+ figure into all this?

Google Authorship ties you to your content no matter where you publish on the web where “rel=authorship” is installed.

“Google+ affects every Content Marketing strategy because it is seamlessly integrated with Google Search” ~ David Amerland

Google built Google+ like the rest of the web.  Like your own website, your Google+ Pages, Profiles and Communities have PageRank and authority.

How does Google+ and Semantic Search fit with SEO?

SEO is made up of three pillars:


This is where you show Google “the money”. Do you provide valuable content to a targeted audience?

As Brian Clark says:

“Building an audience on Google+ may be the smartest thing you do as a content marketer when it comes to improved search rankings. You still need to understand the language of your audience and reflect it back in your content, but Google will now have direct indications that you’re putting out quality stuff.”


Google places value on social signals. Thousands of +1’s followers don’t carry as much weight as a few +1’s from influential followers.

Tip: To increase your own authority, network and engage with influencers within Google + and off.  Communities are especially good places to build authority by networking with peers which encourage shares of links.

“A Moz study on the impact of social sharing activity of posts shared in Google+ found that amongst other direct SEO benefits posts that had been reshared in the social network were ranking higher in search than posts that hadn’t.” David Amerland


Links send signals to Google that people like and trust your content.

There was an excellent study by Dustin Stout showing conclusively that Google aggregates all interaction from its social network, including what happens on a website through the Google+ social media sharing button into its social signal metrics.

Repeat after me. Google+ is Google.

Unlike the walled garden environments of Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, Google’s garden is more a national park with permeable borders and a bustling “Googleopolis” at its centre.

Whatever you publish publicly on Google+ reverberates across the web. 

 Are you using Google+ as a content marketing platform?


Semantic Search: An Introduction (video)  

How The Semantic Web Changes Everything. Again! (article)

Google Plus Impact on SEO with Mark Traphagen (video)

If you’re interested in learning more about Google+, subscribe to my Weekly Google+ Tips Newsletter. You’ll also be invited to join our private subscriber community: Google+ Tips & Topics.

Ray Hiltz
Ray Hiltz is a Google Plus specialist and Social Media Strategist with management roots in restaurant, hotel and performing arts. Ray writes about social media, social business and Google Plus on his blog: rayhiltz.com. His clients include hotels, restaurants, consulting firms, entrepreneurs, writers and freelancers. Ray is a popular speaker on Social Media, Social Business and Google+.
Ray Hiltz
Ray Hiltz


  1. Rick Noel says

    Great post Ray. I could't agree more on all points, especially Google+ and critical role it plays and will continue to play in [Google] search, especially after Google Search, Plus Your World update. Love the featured photo as am a big fan of A Space Odyssey and have often liken Google to HAL :) Thank for sharing.
    My recent post Gartner Digital Marketing Transit Map

  2. Jesse Aaron says

    Nice post Ray, I'm glad you made the distinction between quality > quantity in regards to the importance of the "social" pillar for SEO. The benefits are much larger than reinforcing SEO efforts – that's just a nice bonus. The real gravy is when we remove the common lens, "I'm networking to meet a quota, to simply dip and dash" and it turns into, "I'm networking because I actually enjoy the topics and these people are actually interesting…and it's fun."
    My recent post Top 7 Scary Video Games Online

    • says

      The numbers of likes and +1's don't count for much in terms of improving your ranking, so it's a waste of time chasing them. they're totally vanity metrics.
      What's does carry weight are the number of shares and comments in additions to those likes.
      …especially if they come from recognized authorities in your niche.
      Appreciate your feedback, Jesse. Thanks.

      My recent post Google+ : Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!

  3. says

    This is terrific Ray. And thanks for shedding light on one of those truths which are hiding in plain sight.
    "Google begat Google+ not as a social network to rival Facebook, but as a way of collecting the relationship data needed to further their work on semantic search.
    So, while many of us are wondering why Google isn't doing X, Y, and Z to accomplish G²–it turns out that their vision is an entirely different outcome.

    Thanks for the fresh perspective.

    My recent post Google Local Carousel The Missing Piece

    • says

      Thanks, Chris.
      It's natural that we compare new things to what we already know.
      The point of reference for social platforms is Facebook, so Google got (gets) a lot of grief because we can't finds our friends, run contests or push automated links there.

      It's a content focussed platform which will give us huge dividends if we invest in it wisely.

      My recent post Google+ : Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!

  4. Dianne says

    This is an excellent post. Thank you for a to the point and concise overview of what a "Knowledge Graph" is and insight into what they means to the future of search.

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