Just because everyone says something is going to be huge in the New Year does not necessarily mean it will be. Still, when loads of social media experts and leading business publications are advising businesses, bloggers, personal branders and marketing pros to optimize Google+ in 2014, it may be time to give in to a little social media peer pressure.

Why is Google+ a game changer in social media for 2014?

  • When it comes to getting ranked on Google (GOOG), Google+ is a mandate for social media engagement. That’s right, posts on Google+ count toward search rankings. People, bloggers, businesses with the most active Google+ profiles will have the best online identities. Google+ can make you the prettiest princess at the ball!
  • An active Google+ account shows you are competitive. Launched during 2011, when everyone was all abuzz with Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR), Google+ seemed like that old college buddy that was always a day late and a dollar short. People largely dismissed Google+ at first. (Don’t tell Google you read that here!) Google+ seemed like an "extra" social media platform that "would be nice to get to" when the time existed but was not as important as Facebook, Twitter or even Pinterest. WRONG. With 500 million users and growing—plus Google as its parent—Google+ is a total communication social network designed to create connections, distinguish thought leaders and boost Google rankings in the process. In other words, your old buddy from college is now a superstar. Go figure!
  • With Google using the Google+ platform to collect personal information, Google+ is increasingly being revealed by Google as a vital part of its master plan for SEO. During 2014, businesses will realize Google+ packs more SEO power than they originally anticipated and more companies will expand their Google+ profiles to make the most of this opportunity.
  • According to a recent post on Business2Community by SEO expert and B2C contributor Emmet Smith, there have been public statements from Google’s engineer, Matt Cuts, that Google does not use the +1 as a ranking factor. However, a study by Moz.com shows that there is a great correlation between +1s and Google rankings. The +1 may not be a ranking factor, but it has many SEO benefits. In short, increasing your Google+ engagement will deliver SEO benefits to your site.
  • Throughout 2013, there was a rise in interest in what Google Authorship could—or could not—mean for solidifying an expert or company as a trusted thought leader—a true author—in the eyes of Google rankings. To put it in the words of Chuck Price, founder and president of Measurable SEO and a recognized contributor to Search Engine Watch, “If you aren’t on Google+, you're on the path to irrelevance.” While that may sound intimidating, it is nonetheless true. Google Authorship—being recognized by Google as a reputable content generator—is a big deal and will differentiate the leaders from the thought leaders in 2014.

For 2014, strongly consider what Google+ could mean for your company’s social engagement. It really is not just ‘another’ Facebook or Twitter. It stands alone. And it stands in the shadow of its devoted parent, Google! Make the most of Google Authorship. Google+ is not going away—it is growing away, and you do not want to get left behind while your competition is busily posting content that turns into SEO gold.

For more information about adding a Google+ profile to the content you create, visit https://plus.google.com/authorship.

Marie Alonso is an online marketing and media strategist at Miles Technologies, a leading IT company. The Miles Technologies team contributes business-driven content to The VAR Guy regularly.