Since the full launch of Google+ last September, there has understandably been much speculation as to the impact it will have on search rankings. 

Many SEOs have predicted that search engines will use social signals more and more, and the introduction of Google+ made that even more likely. 

So what effect has Google’s social network had on the job of the search marketer? 

We asked more than 500 agency and client-side respondents for our UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report 2012, produced in association with NetBooster …

Google+ and search marketing

Of the companies we surveyed, 68% did not know the impact that Google+ was having on their search marketing campaigns.

Very few thought that Google+ was already having either a positive impact (3%) or a negative impact (1%), while 29% stated that it had been neutral.

What impact is Google+ having on your search campaigns? 

More agency respondents (7%) stated that G+ was having a positive impact on search campaigns, and just 1% thought it was negative. 47% though the impact was neutral, while the remaining 45% were don’t knows.

The responses suggest that it’s very early to tell, and perhaps that Google has yet to fully integrate social signals from Google+ into search results.

There are some signs of this though, such as enhanced search listings for brands with Google+ pages, though it’s still unclear exactly what criteria Google uses here. 

A study by Econsultancy guest blogger Kevin Gibbons found that search results with +1s actually achieved lower CTR, though this could be because some +1 results are over-inflated and therefore less relevant to some queries. 

Kevin did find that sites with a Google+ presence and a strong social footprint were doing much better in terms of organic traffic, and a social footprint does have the advantage of “making your rankings more defensible and future proof to algorithm updates”. 

Tactics for Google+

We also asked companies and agencies about what they had done since Google+ was launched. Over half of companies (56%) and over a third of agency clients (39%) said they had done nothing about this. 

33% of companies and 56% of agency clients had created Google+ brand pages, which is the first step, but just 6% of companies and 10% of agencies said they had measured referrals and conversions from these pages. 

What have your clients done since the launch of Google+?

Other highlights from the study

Search and social media marketing spending continues to grow, with only a small minority of responding companies planning to decrease their budgets. 

  • 62% of companies plan to increase social media spending in the next 12 months. 
  • 57% will increase their SEO spending and 49% will invest more in paid search.

Many companies are lacking an integrated approach to digital marketing because they are continuing to treat different channels in isolation. 

  • 57% are still treating social media and search marketing separately.
  • Only 19% use the same agency to manage search and display campaigns. 

Another significant trend shown in the report is that in just 12 months, there has been a near doubling in the proportion of paid search budget going to mobile.

  • In 2011, only 2% of company and 5% of agency paid search budgets were allocated to mobile.
  • in 2012, these figures rose to 4% and 9% respectively