Clients often ask us, “What should we be doing with Google+?” Usually it’s already understood that it’s a social offshoot of Google that fits somewhere into the scheme of online marketing, but the details of how to get started can often get confusing.
- Changes are happening fast — check for timestamps on articles online (this one, too).
- As Google continues to integrate Google+ with existing assets, bloggers from a variety of industry segments are racing to declare the latest implications. The most dramatic pronouncements tend to gain inflated visibility because of their share/click appeal.
ISM set out to take a closer look at Google’s latest offering, crossed that with some quality investigative blog posts, and boiled the results down to a roadmap for businesses. Many thanks to gurus Danny Sullivan, A.J. Kohn, and many others whose research efforts were included this article.
Google Plus Background
Google+ is a social network created by Google, integrated with existing Google user accounts, the “+1” sharing system, and other existing Google assets. Google+ users can “follow” or “friend” other Google+ users or pages by adding them to their “Circles”. Google+ Circles provide a way for users to organize their contacts and interests.
Google+ Business/Local Pages
Google+ Pages are social profile pages that users create on Google. Recently Google started allowing business pages.
As in other forms of social media, increasing the number of users who include you in their Circles is the key to expanding your visibility and influence on the network.
How Google Plus Affects SEO
Recent History (2012)
Google has started including Google+ content on regular search results. These results are usually contextual to logged-in users, showing content from people and pages in their Circles. Content published publicly via the Google+ platform may also appear as part of normal search results (non-logged in users will see it). This is one area where Google+ differentiates itself from Facebook.
Both scenarios – logged in and non-logged in – should be considered when building a strategy to increase organic visibility using Google+ business pages.
Benefit 1: Boost Brand Visibility
The most immediate influence of Google+ pages for business is allowing business to claim more SERP real estate for branded searches.
For example, a search for “at&t”:
Not every business can expect this kind of result, but it demonstrates how Google+ profiles are becoming another asset for controlling SERP visibility for your brand term. In this example, Google has pulled in posts from AT&T’s Google+ page (comparable to tweets or Facebook status updates).
Results like the example above are much more likely to be generated if the logged-in user has the Google+ page in their circle. Expanding the number of followers on Google+ is a critical ingredient to any Google+ marketing strategy.
Benefit 2: Increase Non-Brand Visibility
Content posted via Google+ represents a new medium that is governed by a separate ranking algorithm, opening up new avenues for content visibility.
Creating Google Plus Pages for Business
Signing Up for Google Plus
Start by logging into a Google account and going to https://plus.google.com. We recommend the creation of a corporate Google+ page as well as local pages for each franchise.
Create a Product or Brand Page
On https://plus.google.com, look for “Create a Google+ page” in the right column. Choose “Product or Brand” as the category:
Provide the company name, website, and the most relevant category to complete the initial setup.
Creating Local Business Google+ Pages
To extend the benefits of Google+ into geo keyword verticals, we recommend creating (or coördinating the creation of) Google+ pages for each franchise. Use the same instructions as above, except choose “Local Business or Place” instead of “Product or Brand”
Increasing Traffic via Google+ Pages
1. Optimize Google+ Page
Like other content on the web, SEO strategies can help influence the visibility of Google+ Pages in organic search results. Early industry studies have led to the following SEO best practices for Google+ pages.
Include target keywords within the “Introduction” section of the “About” page:
Keywords That Surface Google Plus Pages (on Google)
Google looks for the following qualities in keywords when deciding whether to pull in Google+ pages on regular SERPs:
- Is typically used in social contexts (e.g. topical keywords related to recent events)
- Is a close match to a Google+ page in the user’s Circle (if they are logged in)
- Is a close match to a Google+ page that has received a high volume of +1’s
Link To Your Business’s Google+ Page
Help both new and existing customers find your Google+ pages by adding links to them on the web site. Eye-catching widgets are available to help attract clicks: https://developers.google.com/+/plugins/badge/config
Verifying Your Business On Google Plus
Google looks to form links between Google+ pages and websites as a measure to improve search results. To help accomplish this, Google provides steps to get a Google+ page verified as an official business page. Follow these steps to get verified:
1. Link to Your Website From Google
2. Link to Google+ From Your Website
Link to your Google+ page and include a rel=”publisher” directive in the HTML that specifies the correct URL for your Google+ page. This will take the format https://plus.google.com/(10+ numbers here)
3. Submit verification requests
Websites can request a “manual” verification from Google if the Google+ page exceeds 1,000 followers (in addition to the interlinking described above):
Publishing Strategy for Businesses on Google+
The following strategies are recommended as part of an active social media campaign. The benefit with Google+ is that each post—especially public posts—double as possible entry points via new keyword searches on Google.
Post to Public
Make sure posts are public so that Google may include them in regular results. This also makes your content to visible to other users within the Google+ network that aren’t in your Circles (or vice versa).
Signal freshness and attract followers by regularly posting
Lure +1’s (up-votes)
User up-votes (+1’s) are a powerful signal in Google’s real-time system, so posting items users are more likely to share will help get your content—and your brand—onto more search result pages and in front of more users.
Flag Other Users with “@”
Use the @name function to create visibility for posts on other pages and also engage new groups of users (just like Twitter and Facebook).
Respond to Engagement
When users +1 content, circle them or otherwise engage them. Use the @name function in replies when applicable.
Add team members, business partners and industry experts. Search Google+ users who match terms that suggest interest in your business’s product and services and circle them, too.
Monitor real-time searches
From within Google+’s search (not public search), keep an eye on brand results and keyword results related to recent posts. This will help your business become actively engaged with the most influential Google+ users and pages in your space.