Google plus is one of the most unknown, under-utilized internet marketing tools available on the internet right now. It contains magical powers, like the ability to get your face to appear next to your search result listings in Google Search and the opportunity to network with thousands of like-minded individuals. Many whisper that Google Plus holds the secret to future Google Search organic rankings. At the very minimum, Google Plus is a vibrant community full of engaged users that are ready to become a part of your online audience. It also has so much potential to become intertwined with every aspect of Google’s multiple prominent platforms.
Plus is Google’s Social Spine. It’s a social layer that unifies all of Google’s properties. Following Google’s algorithm upgrade to Hummingbird and their move towards incorporating social signals and author rank into Google’s ranking algorithm, Plus is the key ingredient, the spine that adds a social component to all of Google’s services.
As the web becomes increasingly social, Google can’t be left behind, the only dinosaur without a social component, right? Google knows everyone is online chatting with friends, asking for endorsements, increasingly consuming information shared by people in their networks. If I need great information about meditation, why search on Google when I can ask my friends for a great good book on meditation? Plus matters because it’s the future. Google Search could rapidly become obsolete without a social component. Google is heavily invested in Google Plus’ successes, and so should you.
Google Plus is a fantastic platform for building a community and increasing visibility around your products and services. Like Twitter and Facebook, It is an active marketing channel that can generate traffic that results in leads or sales.
According to social media expert Jesse Wojdylo, in the next 3-5 years, every business in America will have a G+ page. The people on Plus now are the early adopters, but in the future, every business will be there to market their products and services. If you are one of those early adopters and you build up your profile’s authority, your competition will never catch up. Can you afford to ignore such vast potential?
Lets discuss one of the most obvious benefits: how Google Plus impacts Google search. We all love the free, bottom of the funnel, highly targeted traffic that Google Search delivers. As the value of links as ranking signals decreases, Google turns up the value of social signals as a way to measure true popularity. But it doesn’t end there. Google+ impacts SEO in a number of ways:
For this, and other reasons, Google Plus has to emerge to the forefront of your online marketing strategy.
To be on Plus you need to have a Google Account. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you most likely already have a Google Account, whether it’s for Gmail, Google Drive, YouTube, or any of Google’s other tools. Once you have your Google Account, go to plus.google.com
Go through the steps and fill out all of your information. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE NAME YOU USE. Google invites people for vanity URL’s based on the name used, so make sure you’re adding your name the way you would like to be known later on when you convert your profile into a vanity one. Next, you’ll get a list of people that are already in your contacts. Don’t just add everyone in the “following” circle. We’ll talk more about this later, but at this stage, you need to start your “Circle Management” strategy. Create detailed circles for the people you’re going to add. For example, you may want to create a circle called “Clients” and another called “Coworkers”. How you surf the Google stream will be determined by how you place people in circles, so do it right from the beginning. Google will also suggest that you follow interesting people and pages. If you do, new circles will be created, with all of the people in them, and added to your profile. This is a great way to “seed” your profile.
As they say, the devil’s in the details. Filling out your profile with all of your information is important. On Google Plus you get a HoverCard, which is Google’s digital version of a Business Card that follows you across Google+ and sometimes even outside of Plus.
Your hovercard appears on all of your posts, comments, from the home stream, and many other places. Stephan Hovnanian created a detailed post summarizing all of the places your hovercard appears and why it’s important to do this well. When setting up your profile, make sure you use an eye catching cover photo that conveys a message to people AT A GLANCE. If you are not in School, you may want to use the “School” section to refer to your company instead. And if you’re a local business, you may want to include the location for improved geolocation. Once you finish filling out the basics, continue on to your Profile to fill it out. Click on the drop down menu on the top left, and click on Profile. Then click on “About”.
Spend the time to fill this out in detail. People WILL visit this page to determine if they’re interested in following you. This is your opportunity to give Google and potential followers lots of great information about yourself, including keyword rich information about your products or services. Remember that the tagline will be part of your hovercard so choose something fun/witty/clever/informative. Your tagline is similar to your Twitter bio – you only get a few characters to convey what you’re all about and to convince people to follow you. Have fun with it! In the Links sections, you can cross-reference your other social media profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. And in the Contributor section is where you connect your Authorship, which we’ll discuss in more depth in the next section.
In a classic quote by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, the importance of Authorship became abundantly clear:
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.
Authorship is one of the key elements for the online visibility model of the future. It reflects the reality that Industry Leaders don’t just publish content on one platform, instead they contribute content across the web on their:
Authorship represents Google’s realization that limiting authority to a URL is limiting when in fact they can attribute authority to individuals as they move across platforms. If you measure true popularity based on authors, you can then use various measurements such as social signals, shares, likes comments, +1’s etc across publications. Understanding this, it’s obvious that Authorship is KEY for future visibility across Google Search and Google Plus.
There have been many tutorials written about this, so no need to go into great depth. Google describes how to set up authorship. And if you’re on WordPress, here’s a great tutorial from Craig Fifield.
Make sure you set up Authorship correctly, and that your authorship follows you across platforms, profiles, and contributions.
Next, connect your site to your Google+ Brand Page. Simply follow the instructions provided here by Virante.
Your Circles impact both how you SHARE and DISCOVER content. Circles is one of Google Plus’ unique selling proposition – they give you control over how you consume content and who gets to see what you share.
Let me give you an example. Say you are an amateur photographer who loves checking out beautiful images. You have family in another country, love to meditate, and enjoy learning about new gadgets.
Since you are a photography enthusiast, you could create a circle called Photography. If you wanted to get really granular, you could even create circles called Still-life Photography, Landscape Photography, Wedding Photography, Portrait Photography, etc. You would create another circle for Family, another one called Spiritual, and another one called Gadgets. If you find a lovely quote, you can share it with your Spiritual circle, so only those that you have identified as interested in spiritual topics will see that update. Trending news can be shared with the “Public” so anyone coming to your profile can see those.
Circles are a great way to RETAIN your engaged audience as you are able to filter and control the content they see so they don’t become disinterested when you share other types of content.
Using Facebook is like being invited to a private party for a group of friends – everyone knows everyone else and when you show up you have lots of people to talk to. Google Plus is like going to a conference for the first time. When you show up you may not know anybody, but you can search for people talking about specific topics and build new connections around common interests. One of the most astounding aspects of Google Plus is the limitless potential that it offers for networking and creating new connections.
Setting up a circle for Influencers is a fantastic method to start creating high quality connections . You may have thousands of people across different circles, but if you create a circle for Influencers for each topic you can filter out and only see the content created by them. Not only does this act as a form of “quality control”, it also helps you quickly and easily +1, share, and comment on their content.
Every time you share or comment on an influencers post, you create a connection that puts you on their radar. You can show up in their notifications listings, email, or in their stream. Over time they’ll see you commenting enough that they’ll start to recognize you, and if your comments are insightful, they’ll eventually add you to their circles and engage with your content.
This is a long-term relationship building strategy. It may take MONTHS before one of those connections matures into an actual friendship or business relationship. But if you do this routinely you WILL have the opportunity to get into the circles of these influencers, which in turn improves your profile authority and visibility.
And this, my friends, is the beauty of Plus. You can connect to influencers in a way that you simply cannot on other platforms. And these connections with influencers are what can help build authority for your profile and “supercharge” the growth of your Plus account when they reshare your content to their large audiences.
You can use circles in many other creative ways. For example, I have a series of circles that I use for bookmarks. If I find these while surfing the stream, I’ll ONLY click on the “bookmark” circle where I’d like it stored. In this way I have a repository of great articles for later reference and thus use Plus as a method for bookmarking content.
We also use internal circles in our office to share great content and fun updates.
The Google Plus newsfeed is possibly the greatest content discovery engine currently available online. Their “card-based” design allows you to digest lots of content quickly and at a glance. The ability to add large images creates visual enhancements which make surfing the stream more pleasant.
When you log in to plus.google.com, the feed will default to “All” which is basically information shared by people in ALL of your circles. You’ll get a mixture of content based on the people you follow.
The first thing to do when surfing your stream is to decide what content you’d like to consume. Personally, I usually start by surfing my “Influencers” stream as I know the content there will be worth reading. If I have extra time, I may then go to the “popular” circle to see what people are talking about. What circles I read depends on what kind of information I feel like consuming. Am I bored and looking for entertainment? Do I want to get industry news? Do I want to check out what family and friends are talking about? My intentions determine what circles I read and the content I consume.
Checking out What’s Hot is a great way to find new people to follow and great, popular content. On the right hand side, you will also see trending hashtags as well as keywords. Clicking on any of those hashtags shows you content related to that theme/topic.
For example, clicking on What’s Hot and #moodymonday brings me to these photos/content. I love the first image shared by Virgil Cowen, so I may then add him to my Landscape Photography circle. I’ve just discovered a new wonderful source for beautiful images and inspiration.
It’d be worth your while to spend a few minutes every day on What’s Hot. You can jump into popular posts with active conversations and lots of engagement. It’s a great way to find new people to add to your circles. By commenting and responding directly to people using the +mention, you can start building connections and friendships with other users.
Sharing content on Plus can be as simple as simply resharing other’s content, or as complex as using Plus as a content platform replacing, or in addition to, your blog.
Let’s start with the most basic of sharing. When you sign in to Plus you’ll be on your home feed. On the top left you’ll see the Sharing section, where you can add text, photos, links, videos, or events:
If you try sharing different types of content you’ll be a pro in a few minutes. I’ll mention a few nuances here to help you along:
To be successful on Plus you need to create and share some of your own content; you can’t just curate and share other people’s content all of the time. People on Plus are cognizant between curated and created content; they expect to see some of your own original ideas.
People want to identify you as the source of industry related news, case studies, etc. If all you’re doing is curating news, you won’t differentiate yourself from others or give influencers a reason to seek a personal relationship with you. Original content is key.
Google Plus has shortened the amount of lines that you can see before they expand. You have 4 lines to get people interested in the content you’re sharing, at least to click on the “more” link and continue reading the rest of the post. Grab their attention with catchy, creative, interesting headlines!
Every single social network has a different audience. Plus mostly attracts a techie crowd. You have to play to that. If you talk about Miley Cirus, your post may not have much traction. If you talk about a recent development in social media, your post is likely to get a ton of interest.
By surfing your stream, what’s hot, and communities (more on this later), you’ll be using Plus as a discovery, or curation, engine and sharing the great content you discover.
Of course you should also share your blog posts or other great pieces of content discovered on other social media channels, like popular Facebook pages or trending topics on Reddit or Buzzfeed. You can also set up Google Alerts for news items worthy of mentioning/sharing.
Did you know that Google Plus allows you to format content in your shares? You’d never know it by looking at that empty box.
This is a quick reference guide to formatting options on Plus.
Possibly the most important piece of advice is to USE IMAGES! Plus is a very image-heavy platform and people want to see beautiful, attractive, eye-catchy images.
Google Plus Mega Influencer Jesse Wojdylo talks about the balance between Niche Specific and Entertaining content as being critical to your success on Google Plus. If all of your content is drive and uninspiring, people will not be compelled to share. Regardless of your industry, people are people, and you need to push their emotional buttons for them to engage with and share your content.
When people start on Plus they think they need to share content specific to their industry. A lawyer, for example, will start posting about the law, case studies, etc. After a few months of posting this type of content and experiencing no growth or engagement, they may give up and blame the platform.
It’s not Google Plus’ fault. The problem is that you have to strike a balance between sharing industry-specific and entertaining content. People aren’t overly interested in reading about the law or case studies, but they love seeing beautiful photos, inspirational quotes and images, and funny gifs.
In the beginning, you may have to follow an 80/20 content ratio – 80% entertaining content, 20% promotional and industry specific. Over time, you can work your way down to 50/50.
For your account to grow, you have to give people a reason to +1, comment on, and share your content. To do so, you need to strike a chord with people, you need to share content that is easy for others to engage with. After some time and once you’ve built an engaged audience, you can slowly reduce the number of those types of posts and focus more on authoritative posts.
Be creative when choosing what content to share. You can create a posting strategy for _____ of the day, related to your industry. For example, if you have a meditation community, you can share the Meditation Tip of the day. Or peaceful photo of the day. Find a concept/theme that’s interesting and fun to share.
Most importantly – BE CONSISTENT. If you share content consistently, your account will grow over time. Just pick a theme and share content centered around that theme at least once a day, every day, week after week, month after month. This consistency alone will help grow your audience and profile authority.
Once you’re actively sharing content on Plus and communicating with other Plus users, it’s time for you to build up your Profile Authority. This will have an impact on how well your profile and posts rank in both Google Plus and Google Organic.
Build links from authoritative websites to your profile and posts. Yes, link building is still a part of the game, even on Plus. Get links from authoritative industry sites and this WILL help your profile’s visibility. Use Authorship and link to your profile whenever you contribute content to other sites. Also, make sure to include Plus into any social media profiles that you’re active in.
+1’s are not a strong ranking signal, as it’s so easy to game. Relationships between profiles, and the connectivity of your profile with trusted profiles, is far more important as a signal.
It’s all about WHO you know… not how many you know. It’s easy to build fake profiles that have no authority, but connecting with the real influencers is KEY. The more links/mentions/shares/comments you have from highly trusted profiles, the better your profile performs, regardless of follower count.
Being circled by influential profiles isn’t enough. It’s key for them to share, like, comment, and +mention your profile. This is what builds your profile’s pagerank, trust and authority.
In the past SEO’s used to chase links for Pagerank. In today’s socialverse we have to focus instead on quality interactions with authoritative individuals as a measure of trust, authority and popularity.
We’re all familiar with communities on so many levels. Perhaps you used to hang out in Google Groups, or joined industry forums, or perhaps you’re a member of a Facebook Group. Google Communities is Google Plus’ version of forums and groups.
Why should I join YET ANOTHER community, you may be wondering? I’m already a member of so many that I just don’t have time for anything else. Why should I bother? Can’t I just stick with the stream and the circles and be good?
Sorry to say that the answer is no. Communities are an integrative part of the Google Plus experience. Communities function in a variety of ways:
Grow your follower count: When you join Google communities and start sharing content, commenting, answering questions etc, you’ve got instant exposure to a group of people interested in the same topic. As Google becomes more advanced with semantic and contextual analysis, it’s likely they’ll create a connectivity map based on interests. If many of the people who have declared similar interests follow you, it helps establish your leadership in that knowledge graph. Within Ripples you can see that Google already relies on a similar technology:
Promote your content: With so many news outlets and social media channels, it’s hard to get people back to your content, whether it’s from your blog or your Plus profile. Why not tell people about the content you’re writing and promote it in the community? This can give you an instant audience. If you share blog content to communities, people can then share it to their own Google Plus audience thus creating links to your site from Plus as well as improved profile authority.
Network amidst a themed community: Forgetting about all of the benefits about communities, another great aspect is the opportunity to make new friends with the same interests! In Google Communities you’ll find people wanting to connect and network in new ways. It’s a great way to create friendships, meet new people, and learn new things about your interests that you wouldn’t have discovered elsewhere.
Spending time in the communities has other benefits:
A successful Google Plus strategy has to include both. Joining and posting in existing communities gives you access to an immediate audience that can help build your profile and gain new followers and friends. You can go to Plus and search for communities to find some you’d like to join. Look for the most active ones, with the largest number of members, with lots of active posts.
One way of benefitting from existing communities is to reshare content and images found from these communities. Once you find something you’d like to share, like a beautiful photograph, you can reach out to them directly and ask if they’re okay with you sharing their photo. 9 times out of 10 they’ll say yes, and they’ll be delighted that you’re sharing their content. In the post, you would want to give them attribution with a +mention. By adding this extra step to the share, you’re creating a connection with someone who will likely follow you in the future.
Another tip from Jesse Wojdylo: when you create a community, make sure you create it with your Business Page. When you join Plus you get a personal profile. Using that personal profile you then create your business page. Then you use that business page to create your communities.
What most people don’t know is that for any community that you create, if a new community member joins, that adds a +1 to their business page. If you create a community that becomes popular, over time you can rapidly grow your number of followers simply through the organic growth of your communities!
Don’t limit yourself to creating 1 community. Create communities for different niches. Look around for existing communities by limiting your keyword search to “communities” and create new ones that fulfill a void.
In the beginning it’ll take some time and effort to build and audience, but once your communities start growing you’ll see a viral effect where people often return to share and engage with other users. Once the community is large enough you can recruit community members to help you moderate.
Arguably the best feature of all is this one: Hangouts and Hangouts on Air. Remember how enthralled everyone was about Facetime? Well, Hangouts is Google’s version of Facetime…but so much better. You can have up to 10 people in a Hangout, you can record and share your Hangout on YouTube (HOA), you can share your screen, and install apps to do all sorts of cool stuff.
Let’s start with the basics. You can start your own Hangouts and invite people you know to join, or post a link for anyone who finds it to jump online and talk to you. Or you can jump into public hangouts if you have the link. In a hangout, you can have a video conversation with other people, either discussing things face to face, or going through a screen share.
So let’s say you’re surfing the stream and find a great article, but you happen to have a question about that article. You can start a Hangout with that user and ask your questions. Now they may not be available for a hangout, in which case the call won’t go through. If they ARE available you can invite them into a video chat and start the conversation. Do you see the magnificent power and potential of this feature? Think instant connectivity, instant friendship. And when you add in the face-to-face element, this goes so much deeper. It’s one thing to type away and stare at a screen, it’s another to meet and talk with someone face to face. The ability to connect goes much beyond anything else out there.
Sure, Hangouts isn’t the first video conferencing tool available on the market, so what’s the big deal? It’s the FIRST that integrates video conferencing into a social platform. Of course there’s Skype, who is probably the closest to this features, but what Skype lacks is the common theme of shared content.
With Hangouts on Air, you can record your Hangout and post it to your YouTube channel. What a phenomenal way to create authoritative content!
Now there’s so much to learn about Hangouts that some experts, like Ronnie Bincer, dedicate their careers to helping people create and run successful hangouts. I’m a big believer in the premise of learning by experimenting, so I encourage you to jump into it and start testing out Hangouts with friends, family or coworkers. The more you use them the more you’ll learn.
Here’s Google’s basic explanation of Hangouts:
And here’s Martin Shervington’s Ultimate Guide to Google Hangouts:
The potential of incorporating Hangouts into your strategy is truly amazing. Not only is it a great collaborative tool, it’s also an incredible way to build an audience. Here’s an article with examples of a few people using Google Hangouts to grow their businesses:
Let’s assume you become an avid fan of Google Hangouts, and decide to offer one to the public. How can you promote your Hangout? Create a Google Plus Event.
Events are Google’s version of Eventbrite, Evite and Meetup. They’re a great way to invite people, share information about an event, including photos, and to keep all invitees updated about details related to the event.
Are you promoting an industry conference? Create an Event and promote it to Google Plus communities! Want to aggregate all even images into one place? Post them on the Event page!
As with other aspects of Plus, Events is also a networking opportunity. If you’re invited to an event but you don’t know anyone there, why not introduce yourself on the Event page and start reaching out to other people?
Additionally, you can sync your events with Google Calendar, which many people have synced to their smart phone calendars. If yours is a virtual event, this helps ensure people are reminded about your upcoming event.
Hangouts, Events, and Communities are a marketer’s dream – a trinity of marketing tools that, when combined, represent incredible potential.
Did you know Google Plus has an app that you can download to your Smart Phone? One of my favorite features of the app is that it can automatically grab all of your pictures and you can share them in seconds. As much as I love Instagram, I have to say that having Google Plus grab ALL of my pictures at once and put them all online for me is just absolutely wonderful. As we all know from Instagram’s meteoric growth, image sharing is one of the most popular aspects of social media, and one that can really drive usage.
You can do everything else we’ve described on the app, with the added benefit of doing it on the go. The app is robust, comprehensive, and has all the same features as the desktop version, unlike other social media sites which limit usage on mobile devices.
Now that you have a list of features, let’s discuss a couple of scenarios where you can use all of these together.
Say you are an amateur photographer and you’d like to build an audience around your photos. Once you’ve created and updated your profile, you’re ready to roll. What next? Why not spend some time identifying and joining a few communities for photographers? Join the communities, start posting, answering questions, liking and sharing the posts you find interesting. As you find good content in these communities, add these people to your themed circles. Then spend some time searching for Photography circles that you can add so you can expand your content discovery engine.
Next, checkout relevant events that you can attend, whether they are local or online. Use the events for networking opportunities. As you check out events, comment on communities, and share other people’s posts, you’ll start to meet new people and make connections. If there’s anyone in particular that strikes you as interesting, why not invite that person to a Hangout to discuss a relevant topic? After the Hangout, write a post about the conversation and +mention the person that you talked to so they’ll get notified of your post.
This shows you a very brief outline of how these different aspects of Google Plus can be used in conjunction with each other, all like Legos building a beautiful construct of enhanced authority, visibility and connectivity.
Now that you are aware of how to use Google Plus and have an idea of all of the different features and tools available, let’s discuss what an actual Google Plus Strategy looks like:
Even though engagement is listed last, it really is fundamental on this platform. Unlike Twitter and Linkedin where your network can grow without you ever talking to people, you’d be missing the true essence of Plus if you don’t engage. Connectivity is Plus’ super power. And it’s this engagement that will lead to the Profile Authority that will improve your visibility and audience, both on Plus and on Search.
If you spend an hour every day posting content, sharing all sorts of content (text, images, videos), hangout, posting on communities, and generally engaging, by the time the rest of the world wakes up to this amazing social platform you’ll be well ahead of the game.
Set aside an afternoon to play with Plus and become familiar with all the features and how it works. Once you do, then set aside an hour a day for Plus. In a year’s time, you’ll be glad you did.
By: Marcela De Vivo
Originally published at www.gryffin.com