Since Google quietly did away with Authorship, many people have questioned its worth as a marketing tool. Whilst Google maintain that the program wasn’t providing enough value and that the removal of Authorship didn’t reduce traffic to sites, this has been questioned by some marketers. For example, in a Marketing Profs article, Will Mitchell claims that the Authorship markup improved a search result’s CTR by 150%.
It’s true that G+ isn’t right for every niche as it’s mostly niches such as digital marketing and technology that seem to be active on the site. However, there’s little doubt that G+ improves SEO, as ranking factor studies have shown +1s to have a correlation with better rankings. For this reason alone, it’s a good idea to have a G+ presence, but it’s also a good channel for distributing content, especially if it gets shares and +1s.
With that in mind, today we’ll be looking at how to set up and use Google’s social network for your business.
Set Up Your Business Page
You will of course need a Google account and personal profile (make sure you use your real, full name) to get started and once this is in place you can go ahead and create your business page. This will bear the name of your company and you will need to select the type of page that you’re creating, choosing from:
- Shop front – choose if you have a retail business
- Service area – for the service industry including professional/business services such as marketing
- Brand – products, bands, charities and so on
Once you’ve done this, search for your business by inputting the postcode into the maps page and choosing ‘none of these’ if your business doesn’t appear in the list. Once you’ve done this you’ll see a box appear where you can enter the name and address details of your business.
Important: this is your Google business page so if you have a website and directory listings then enter the address and phone details in the exact same format as it appears elsewhere on the web to optimise for local SEO.
Once you’ve entered your business address and telephone number, you’ll also have to put in the kind of business that you’re in and then you’re ready to go. Enter your business website too and remember that your listing will have to be verified either by phone or postcard, the latter of which can take a little while to come through. Once it’s been verified though, you can start to add more information.
Filling in About Section
In the about section you’re going to want to enter a brief overview of what you do. Keep this snappy, don’t bore your readers, as they’ll want to be able to see what your business is about at a glance. Keep sentences and paragraphs short and factual, don’t pretty it up with a lot of flowery language but do use keywords that are relevant to your business.
You have space for your tagline which should be a short sentence describing your business or your company strapline. You then have the story space where you can expand on your tagline and give more information. Make sure that in the links section, you link to your website and all of your social profiles.
You’ll also want to choose a high res image for your header and a smaller image (such as your logo) for your profile picture.
- Header image: minimum 480 x 270 px to maximum 2120 x 1192 px – Google recommends an image size of 1080 x 608 px.
- Profile image: minimum 250 x 250 px – larger images work better.
Getting Followers on G+
G+ is one of the most difficult networks to gain followers on so you should set up a strategy to target followers in your niche and that are active on the site. There are a lot of inactive accounts on G+ (remember when everyone decided it was going to be great and defected from Facebook only to rethink a couple of weeks later?) so look for people who engage regularly.
Just like Twitter, you can follow anyone on G+ and they will be notified and have the option to follow you back. Not everyone does of course so ensure that you pop your G+ business profile on the other social networks and include a link on your website. Don’t just follow people at random, first get yourself together a list of:
- Influential people in your niche
- Potential customers
- Other businesses in your industry
Once you’ve done this, it’s time to get looking for people to follow. You can use the search box at the top of the page to search and the ‘find people’ page. On the latter, you’ll be able to see who has added you as well and note that you can search for interests too in the general search box.
When you follow others you can organise them into different circles so that you can later send targeted content. You can create whatever circles you like, but it’s sensible to order into sections such as general, influencers, potential customers and so on. Later on when you share your content, you can then send special offers just to potential customers or content to influencers that you think they may share. When you create a new update, it’s not shared automatically with everyone and who it is shared with will appear in green in the sharing box. Make sure here that it’s initially set to public and remember when you change it, it will stay that way until you change it back again. This feature has caused many a person to inadvertently share content with themselves alone for months as it’s been set to private so do make sure you check.
Make sure that you have a good look around at other business pages and for those that you’ve ever done business with, leave a review. There’s never any guarantee that you’ll get any reviews back though so don’t be shy and ask. You can send out an email campaign asking for reviews too and ask any existing customers.
Just like LinkedIn discussion groups, G+ communities give you the opportunity to get involved in discussion in order to get noticed. Just search for topics in your niche and request to join likely looking communities. Make sure that the communities you join enjoy plenty of activity though, it’s no use joining one that only sees weekly, rather than daily, interaction.
You may have to be approved by a moderator or manager for some communities but once you’re a member then you’ll be able to post and comment just like you can on your own profile. Be careful when sharing links, these may hold your updates up as they may be queued so that they can be moderated.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from starting your own G+ community if you think that there’s a gap in the market and you have an idea for discussion that you think nobody else is handling. To do this simply click on the ‘Create Community’ button on the communities home page. However, do your research, make sure it’s not already being done and bear in mind that there’s a little work involved in moderation. To begin with, I would recommend becoming a member in an active community for a while before starting your own though.
Hangouts is one of the most popular G+ features and is used for live video chats with up to ten people. It can be used in a business capacity to hold meetings or it can be used as a way to invite people to discuss something that interests them. For example, say you run a copywriting agency and you’ve recently begun selling courses as a part of your business. You can use a Google Hangout to conduct an online seminar with up to 9 students, giving feedback and allowing them to critique each other’s work as a way to further augment the course.
You can also use Hangouts on Air to stream live video to YouTube and this can be used in a similar way to a webinar, as an informational and/or educational video to further engage your followers.
So now we’ve looked at the basics, let’s have a look at some more advanced ways of using the search giant’s social network. Firstly, it’s worth noting that if you’re more of a keyboard user and you like to use shortcuts, there are plenty available on G+. To access them, simply go the G+ and press the shift and question mark keys on your keyboard.
As you can see this brings up a list of all of the available shortcuts, you can print these off to keep next to your keyboard for a handy reference.
Tagging other users
To tag another user in a post or comment type a + sign before you begin typing their name and a dropdown box of users will appear. Simply choose the person you’d like to tag from the list and they will be notified that they’ve been mentioned. You can do this to alert people who you think will enjoy relevant content or to share tips and special offers – be imaginative!
Check out Ripples
You can check how widely a post is being shared by using the Ripple feature. To do this hover on any post and in the top right hand corner of the box you will see an arrow appear. Click on this and a dropdown box will appear and at the bottom you’ll see there’s an option to view Ripples.
(Image: Think Traffic)
This one is of course a post that has done very well and it’s unlikely that yours will appear the same unless a post happens to go viral. Generally a post will show a few circles that have shared and some further information at the bottom. Once you really get going on G+ and start to build your audience and reputation, then you’ll begin to see more ripples as your shares increase.
Note that to show up in Ripples a post must have been shared publically, posts that you share with specific circles or privately won’t show up.
You can also check out external posts and links that you haven’t shared yourself on G+ by typing http://plus.google.com/ripple/details?url= into the address bar and adding the link you want to check to the end. This will then bring up a page like the one above where you can see Ripples as well as the top influencers sharing the post, how many times it’s being shared per hour, the average chain length and the languages of the people sharing it. This makes your strategy going forward a little easier as you can see the kind of content that your followers like to share the most and adjust accordingly.
If you’re a Chrome user, you can add a bookmark to create a Ripples button to use to check how widely shared posts are as you’re surfing. Simply right-click on the bookmarks bar and select Add Page and change the name of the new page to Ripples.
Now you’ll have a Ripples button on your address bar that you can simply click when you hit a post that is in your niche and you feel your audience will like. This is great for research and post planning and it can also help you to identify influencers as you’ll be able to click on the circles to see information on who’s sharing.
Google Plus has lots to offer the marketer and it’s used more widely than many people seem to think. Businesses that are not familiar with social media marketing tend to assume that networks are used for business in a similar way that they are for personal use. This isn’t the case, especially for G+; whilst Facebook remains the world’s most used social network for personal users, businesses are becoming increasingly disillusioned with it and it is difficult to achieve reach. G+ has an active business community though and shouldn’t be dismissed. Images and infographics do especially well on G+ and it’s worth remembering that the site also automatically creates GIFS that you can use too (search for motion in the photos section to find them) as well as automatic image enhancement.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that unless you spend time on G+ interating with others, commenting and sharing, then it’s unlikely you’ll be successful. Social media does depend rather heavily on you being social, so ensure that you get yourself out there and get noticed!