Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking at SMX Social Media in Las Vegas, and I am pleased to be returning to speak at SMX West in March 2013 (pro tip: sign up for our newsletter to get a 15% discount to the conference!). While the entirety of the conference focused on social media, SEO, and how to two worlds work together, some of the most talked about sessions were those surrounding Google+. In fact, my favorite part was listening to Vic Gundrota, the Sr. Vice President of Engineering, Google+, speak about the exciting changes that are coming to the platform. It was an item crossed off my geek bucket list, no doubt.
Google+ is one of my favorite places to be social online, but I don’t necessarily consider it a “social network” even though I have nearly 1,800 followers. I consider it to be Google socialized, which is to say that with everything online moving toward a more personal, local, and mobile-friendly experience, having the world’s most powerful search engine customize your digital experience has tremendous value. In this post, I’m scratching the surface on why Google+ should be a part of your 2013 social media marketing strategy.
In the words of Google itself, the Communities feature of Google+ is similar to a forum, in which people can gather and discuss topics of particular interest. Communities can be private or public, and you can easily +1 content from the web directly to a community. It might be instinctual to compare the Communities feature of Google+ to Facebook Groups or LinkedIn groups, which are similar, but there is one major advantage to utilizing the Google+ version: the audience.
The crowd on Google+ is incredibly tech-savvy, and as a result, many of them yield online influence. Influence can mean as little as writing a blog post and providing a genuine link back to your content, or it could be a tweet, a +1, or a share. It can be a variety of different actions, including compelling his or her audience to trust your brand. The Google+ crowd likes sharing information and understands the value they provide when they interact with your page.
Google+ Communities also allow you to host hangouts for the community (which can be uploaded to YouTube for a 2-in-1-shot of content), assign moderators, and plan community events.
Brands with Google+ Communities
Google+ and SEO
All search engine ranking signals revolve around content and if you don’t believe that social signals play a part in those rankings, you are blind. Social signals are increasingly important, and as such, it’s crucial that your social sharing snippets are optimized. One of the biggest missed opportunities on Google+ is optimizing your +Page. Remember, the digital sphere is transitioning to all things LOCAL, and Google+ is an excellent way to capitalize on that local traffic while getting ahead of your competitors. At the bare minimum, you should do the following:
First, make sure you’ve verified your official page with Google by linking your website to your profile. Then, make sure said profile is optimized with keywords, phrases, and links back to your website. Don’t force or “stuff” keywords, though, make sure it’s a logical description that makes sense for readers, first. Ensure that the photos you upload in your scrapbook (you can have five) are relevant to your business and the filenames of the photo contain your page name (businessname_front.jpg).
If your business has a YouTube channel, you need to connect it to your G+ page. The top videos from your YouTube channel will now automatically show up in the “Videos” tab of your Google+ page. You should also make sure that all employees who contribute to your company blog have enacted rel=author. The business site should have rel=publisher in place. This connects your G+ business page to your entire site. Rel=publisher also provides an enhanced page result when someone searches for your brand, such as the Sony example below. Searchers will see your logo, a link to immediately follow you, and all of the latest posts from your account.
Creating this obvious and tactical “web” between your business, your social networks, and your content is crucial to your SEO efforts.
Participate on Google+
As an avid user of G+, I am particularly perturbed when I hear people bemoan the site because “no one else is there.” False. There are millions – hundreds of millions – of Google+ users. Remember, Facebook fans only see about 20% of your content. Google+ followers, however, are far more involved with brands and a result, can have a higher impact on your bottom line. At the very least, you should be posting to Google+ four times per week, even if it’s the same as what you post on Facebook, and respond to all comments on your posts. Find communities that make sense for your brand and participate as appropriate. Don’t be obnoxious, but be helpful and establish your business as a thought leader NOT a spammy marketer.
Finally, don’t be a Wells Fargo. They launched in 2011 but haven’t been bothered to do what their inaugural post said they’d do. It’s better to not launch at all than to launch and look like an amateur. Even with over 5,000 people following them, they can’t be bothered to participate, and that’s just unprofessional.