By now, just about everyone’s heard of social media. After all, even the Pope has a Twitter account. But what about social SEO? With the introduction of Google Plus, social SEO has become an industry buzz word—and for good reason.

As most people are aware, Google will soon launch its own social network platform called Google Plus, unarguably a smart move. With the booming popularity of Facebook and Twitter, Google needed to adapt. These sites were doing something that Google wasn’t. Through wall-to-wall sharing, likes, tweets, and re-tweets, these Internet powerhouses promoted websites through popular social interaction. And now Google hopes to do the same through Google Plus.

Google Plus is more than just another Google product, though. It’s an extension of the Google Service. While they look forward to providing a social media service, Google also hopes to fine-tune their search engine algorithm—hence social SEO. In addition to backlinks and other optimization tactics, Google admits that it has incorporated social engagement into its algorithm, including the new +1’s sites receive. These can now be tracked in Analytics and Web Master Tools. When a site is shared through Google Plus or +1’ed—similar to a “like”—that site’s SEO value will increase.

However, Google Plus isn’t the only part of the latest social overhaul. They’ll also be re-branding the popular picture editor Picasa as Google Photos and Blogger as Google Blogs. Undoubtedly, this is an attempt to get all their products and extensions under one Google umbrella, similar to when Writerly became Google Docs.

It’s not just Google who’s adapting, though. As Google makes moves, sites like Facebook must counter. In fact, many believe the launch of Google Plus triggered Facebook to move forward with their link-up with Skype, presumably to compete with “hangouts” available through the upcoming Google Plus platform.

When you think about it, the Internet is entering its third evolution. During the first stage, people used the Internet to locate news and entertainment. During the second stage, people wanted to share what they found with other users. Google won the first stage. Facebook won the second. During stage three, users will seek the best way to manage their connections. Who do you think will prevail?