Is Google+ right for your brand?
Unfortunately, there is no simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer here... As with any other social network, before you start working on Google+, you will need to review and understand your business objectives. Don’t expect quick, easy results - this network demands a lot of time and effort, so during the evaluation phase, you’ll want to be as realistic as possible about the resources available to you.
Familiarise yourself with Google+’s features and consider how these can be used as social tactics. Remember to always keep customer experience in mind. The best way to drive engagement is to generate interest and add value; make sure that your content meets your audience’s needs, is brand appropriate and regularly updated. Most importantly, don’t forget to measure and review your results / social strategy as often as possible.
There are a number of great features that can be used to increase your chance of success on the network, but before you get too carried away, it’s important to keep the network’s limitation in mind: not everyone is actively using it.
Take time to think about your target audience and where they currently are. If they’re not already using the network, then you need to ask why. The easiest and most effective way to reach your audience is to go to them; if they’re not on Google+ and you want your brand to be active on the network, you will need to find a way to make logging in worthwhile for them. For some companies, this may mean creating content and incentives that both educate and encourage higher usage.
Why should I care about Google+ for my brand?
Google+ shares a lot of features with other social networks: hashtags, circles for personal profiles (can be likened to Facebook lists), communities (a similar idea to LinkedIn groups). However, its role within the social sphere is unique because of its strong connection to Google and its ability to increase visibility in SERPs. Its integration with some of Google’s other products (i.e. YouTube, Gmail, Hangouts) and circles for business pages make it an excellent awareness ‘tool’.
What’s more, Google+’s features make the social network very important if you’re aiming to boost your brand’s SEO efforts.
Search results for content can be enhanced by the inclusion of rich snippets in SERPs via authorship and publisher markup. This can increase click through rates, build credibility and familiarity as well as trust and positive associations between brands, authors and search results. Marketers shouldn’t be deterred by Google’s recent decision to remove author images from rich snippets. The display of bylines may still increase visibility and, just as importantly, authorship verification allows content contributors to create and maintain an online identity, potentially increasing the perceived quality of content and impacting rankings.
Public posts within Google+ are indexed for search by Google, allowing posts to rank for specific key terms. This also raises the value of, and need for, quality engagement on the page.
Google Knowledge Graph
The Google Knowledge Graph aims to ensure that only the most relevant and high-quality results are retrieved for users, with search engines processing queries more like humans. Information from Google+ is included within Knowledge Graph results and displayed prominently on the righthand side of SERPs, increasing visibility and encouraging click through.
Quality activity and reviews on the social network can impact local search visibility.
Google supports hashtag searches. When results are returned for a specific term, the right hand side of SERPs is reserved for a link to the hashtag search stream on Google+ with posts featuring the keyword displayed directly beneath it.
Other features of Google+ can be used by to build better relationships with customers and further enhance your social presence (which may also positively impact SEO efforts).
Circles: you can use circles to create segments, where appropriate. This allows for better targeting via the distribution of relevant social content to a specific audience.
Hangouts on Air (HoA): Google+’s integration with YouTube makes HoA an invaluable tool if you’re looking for creative ways to build awareness, encourage customer involvement and gather useful product / service related feedback. A live HD videocast, HoA allows people to interact in real-time all while streaming via YouTube and recording. To make the most of this easy to create video content, HoA based directory sites are available online, displaying timetables for various broadcasts.
Post-based features: Hashtags and mentions are great ways to increase reach and push social content in front of the right audience. The ‘embed post’ feature can be used to display existing updates within a blog, further increasing its visibility and encouraging higher levels of engagement/social exposure. Any +1s, shares or actions that it receives will positively affect the Google+ page by updating the post, regardless of how old it is.
+Post ads: if your business has an AdWords account and a ‘significant’ number of followers, +Post ads are available. This type of advertising allows you to use content from your Google+ page as a display ad. Viewers can follow, +1, join hangouts and engage with the post from wherever it is displayed on the web.
Google product integration: Integration with other Google products means that building a following for your brand can be leveraged by existing connections on other networks or platforms. For example, via YouTube or even internally in Gmail.
Google+ stories: announced in May, stories will automatically be created from a personal profile’s photo uploads. Although initially set to private, cities and businesses displayed prominently in photos will be tagged by the tool without requiring any additional input from the user. New developments such as these should be monitored closely as it’s always important to know if and how your brand (or your related author profiles) can benefit.
The road to Google+ goodness: 5 steps to get you started
Google+ pages need to be optimised. This can be done by:
Linking your Google+ page to your website via webmaster linking or direct linking.
Ensuring that the information within the tagline and first two lines of your ‘about’ section are well written and enticing. The information contained within this section of your account is essentially the page’s meta description.
2. Make content shareable
Personal and business pages must be updated regularly with good quality, relevant content. As posts are indexed by Google, it’s important to make each and every one as engaging as possible.
3. Engage, engage, engage
If you’re including authorship within your Google+ strategy, make sure that the business and author page/s are engaging with one another. They should be sharing relevant posts, mentioning account names, commenting and so forth to associate the pages and build greater credibility.
4. Become a good community member
Don’t overlook the importance of engaging in communities, on relevant hangouts and with others in general. Being active on the network not only helps to build mutually beneficial relationships, it also invites others to engage with your content. This then organically boosts your reach and authority and can positively influence visibility in SERPs.
5. Be insightful
The release of Google’s own analytics, Insights, allows you to regularly monitor on-page engagement, with metrics categorised as visibility (page views), engagement (actions on posts) and audience (follower growth and demographics). It’s very important to regularly review results and compare with internal or external benchmarks to improve your brand’s chance of success.