With the release of Google+ in September 2011, businesses have been looking to see how the platform can assist in their digital marketing efforts.

In particular, companies have been keen to see how Google+ can impact on search engine marketing.

Previously Google has highlighted the +1 button and Search plus Your World as key ways in which Plus can enhance the search experience, both for companies and the end user.

But until now, the top right area of the search engine results page has displayed a mixture of recommended Google+ results rather than one single brand page, as shown with the search for Rackspace below.

Now, for some brand related search terms, a single Google+ page is now being displayed in this area. Brands that we have noticed this in are listed below.

ASOS

John Lewis

Financial Times

Cadbury

Google and YouTube also feature in the same manner:

Google

YouTube

Interestingly, while these results appear similar to Google’s new Knowledge Graph product, these searches have all been done on Google.co.uk where Knowledge Graph has not yet been rolled out.

Also, the same results have occurred whether signed in to Google+ or not, meaning that these results are not the result of personalisation.

Likewise, many major brands are missing despite having significant Google+ presences. Indeed, out of the top 50 brands listed on socialbakers.com, none but the above displayed the same enhanced Google+ listing, despite having regularly updated content and high levels of engagement from fans.

Two examples are H&M and Coca-Cola:

H&M

Coca-Cola

What are the factors at work here?

As Google is constantly tweaking both search and Google+, it is difficult to predict the factors which have been at play with these brands being displayed.

One point of note is that all invest significant sums in paid search, all have Google+ pages, and all use their Google+ page as a direct sales channel as well as for brand awareness (with the exception of Cadbury and Google-owned pages).

I spoke briefly to Mike Fantis at search agency Make It Rain to see what his opinion was.

Mike said,

Some of our brands have previously had their Google+ page listed in search, such as Best Western Hotels. It is strange that now it is only these brands seem to be appearing in this way.

For comparison, these screenshots were taken around 2.30pm UK time on the 21st May 2012. Looking at current Google Plus user numbers, it can be seen that since then there have been significant increases in the number of people adding these businesses to their circles, a fact likely due to their new listing as seen above.

For example, ASOS and John Lewis have seen almost 2% growth in the number of people in their circles within less than 24 hours.

What are your views?

What factors are causing these brand pages to feature on the results page in this fashion? Is there a connection between paid ads and these listings? How do you feel Google+ pages will be featured in search in the future?

Please share your thoughts below.