Google Plus should be an essential part of any small business' social media or online marketing strategy.
There are irrefutable benefits to be had with regards to search engine optimisation as interaction on the Google Plus social media platform has a direct influence on how a business is ranked in Google searches.
I'll wager you that, by the time you finish reading this article, your no. 1 priority for the coming week will be to create a Google Plus profile.
So What's the Big Deal?
Google Plus is a social media platform, yes, but with a difference.
"Google Plus is Google ... It is the social layer of Google!" [Martin Shervington]
Martin Shervington knows a thing or three about Google Plus; he's one of the most knowledgeable writers on the platform and has a huge following of over 90,000 people and, at the time of writing, his Google Plus page has attracted nearly 65 million viewers!
Far from being dead in the water, as some would have you believe, Google+ is growing rapidly as people realise the benefits available for business.
"The number of people who interact socially with any Google products on a monthly basis now reportedly exceeds 500 million." [Moz]
1. Google Plus is the Social Layer of Google
What Martin means by Google Plus being the "social layer" of Google is that, although Google Plus is a social media platform, anything that is posted on Google Plus is indexed by Google.
There are huge SEO benefits to be had from posting regular content onto your Google Plus profile or page, and engaging with others. Content is indexed incredibly quickly by Google. The more content you post the more likely your brand's page ranking will increase and you will stand a better chance of being found by prospective customers who use Google's search engine.
According to a Google Plus influencer, Google Plus influences 'logged in search', i.e. any of your followers who have 'Circled' you (see 3. below) are more likely to see your content in their search results while logged in to Google.
➽ Actionable Tips
1. Engage: Google Plus is a vibrant social media platform and, to get the most out of it, you need to spend time engaging with others. Don't expect to achieve much by simply posting articles and leaving. Take time to get to know other people in the same way as you would do at a networking meeting. Show an interest in their articles, make helpful comments, join in a discussion, share their content with your followers.
2. Quality content: ensure you always provide valuable and quality content for your target audience. Include keywords in your content at strategic places as part of your SEO strategy to increase the likelihood of your articles being found in searches. For tips about how to use keywords just click back a few weeks to my article, "How to Create an Effective Business Blog".
2. Google Plus Communities
I mentioned last week how crucial it is to have a loyal group of followers who will regularly engage with and share your content. As Rand Fishkin pointed out, good content doesn't get shared simply because it's good - it needs a community who will share it.
Google Plus has a huge range of 'Communities' or groups which you can join, depending on the nature of your business or what your interests are.
If you click on the green Communities icon from side menu you'll be able to search for communities and locate ones you've already joined. As you become known on Google Plus you might be invited to join Communities (1).
Take a moment to consider whether your 'ideal customer' is likely to join a particular Community and join it yourself. Engage with them, build relationships as you would do in person and set yourself up as their go-to expert who regularly provides useful information and content to solve their business problems.
Don't forget the "80/20" golden rule of social media, however; share other people's content 80% of the time and your own for the rest of the time. Nobody likes an egocentric marketer who is constantly posting spammy messages.
➽ Actionable Tip
When you become comfortable with Google Plus, consider creating your own Community (3), invite people to join and start building that loyal group of followers!
3. Google Plus Circles
Just as you divide your buying personas into segmented email lists, use Google Plus Circles to organise your followers according to their business specialism or interests so that you can share targeted information with them.
You can have as many Circles as you like.
Add people by clicking over to their profile or page and selecting a Circle that is relevant to them. If none are relevant, simply create a new Circle and add them. They will receive a 'notification' to say you've added them to a Circle, although they won't know which one.
Notifications appear in the top right hand corner of your screen where you will find a little bell within a grey circle. A red circle with a number at the centre indicates that you have 'x' number of notifications waiting to be read. Someone may have mentioned you in a post, for example, or added you to a Circle.
Benefits of Google Plus Circles
➣ They filter out 'noise' from the Google Plus stream. If you're familiar with Twitter, use them as you would a Twitter list so that you can easily locate a particular person or information.
➣ Create & share targeted information with your Circles according to what their interests are in a similar way as you would with segmented email lists. Make sure the information you provide is relevant to potential customers, otherwise you'll end up alienating potential business leads.
➣ If you post regular articles on Google Plus from your business blog, consider creating a Circle and inviting people who regularly engage with your articles to join or 'opt in', much in the same way as you would an email List.
I came across this powerful tip only recently (see extract below) from Thomas E. Hanna, a blogging expert on Google Plus and founder of BlogPhoto.tv. Thomas suggested sending out a short 'teaser' post a couple of days before sharing a new article, inviting people to 'opt in' if they'd like to be sent the article when it goes live. This tip isn't dissimilar from lead generation opt-in forms on business websites and blogs.
This is great way of starting and growing a Circle of highly engaged followers who will hopefully support you by sharing content and being positive brand advocates. The more social signals Google receives from articles you post, the higher your page ranking and the more likely your article will appear in further searches.
It's a win / win situation!
➣ Circles are for Sharing. A unique feature of Circles is that they can be shared with your followers. Let's say you've created a Circle of top 50 social media specialists and everyone wants to know who's in it so that they can follow and interact with them.
Use the Circle as a kind of 'lead magnet'!
4. Google Plus loves Visual Content
Google Plus is a highly visual platform where eye-catching images, videos and gifs are always popular.
As with all visual content, use it to:-
- Capture the attention of prospective customers
- Generate interest & engagement
- Encourage social sharing
There is no specific image size to use on Google Plus but, according to experts, a large, high-resolution image with dimensions 1280 x 720 pixels will span the entire screen.
If you'd prefer to use an image which is taller than it is wide, use a dimension like 279 x 497 pixels (via Rebekah Radice).
Bearing in mind content is very often viewed on mobile devices, large files take time to load. A great tip, again from Thomas E. Hanna, is to shrink your image before uploading it onto your website or blog by running it through an app like Compressor.io or JPEGmini.
Optimise images for SEO by writing an Alt Tag for each one. Google cannot 'read' images or index them so ensure you include a good description, which is relevant to your image, and include a keyword in the Alt Tag. Refer back to my blog for more information about keywords and Alt Tags.
➽ Actionable Tip
"Pin it for Later!"
Encourage people to share your content, particularly on Pinterest, by making it incredibly easy for them to do so.
(1) First upload a Pinterest-friendly image [735 x 1102 pixels] onto your chosen Pinterest board, add some text by way of a teaser and a link back to your blog or website. As soon as your pin is live, select it by clicking on it once and note the pin's URL.
(2) Copy and paste the URL, go back to your Google Plus post and add in the first comment box below, "Pin it for later" https://www.pinterest.com/pin/282037995390617502/"
5. FIND AND BE FOUND WITH Hashtags
When posting to Google Plus, use the power of hashtags so that your content can be found by others.
Search on hashtags yourself as you would on other social media platforms to find specific people and content. Google Plus will go one step further, however, and deliver a list of similar hashtags and related topics. Do your homework before posting articles and select whichever hashtags you consider your target audience is likely to use in searches.
For a deep dive into Google Plus Hashtags I'd suggest you read "How to Use Google Plus Hashtags for More Exposure", by Social Media Examiner.
6. GOOGLE PLUS 'LIBRARY'
As a new business owner in September 2013, I had no idea about social media, marketing strategies, content creation or blogging.
I have learnt all that I know about the above just by getting to know and building relationships and 'influencers' on Google Plus. I've read as many of their articles as possible over the past year and a half.
Not only is Google Plus like digital 'library' of resources it also provides opportunities to learn and build relationships using different formats, such as online webinars or 'Hangouts on Air'. Join in with the chat by posting comments, meet new people who have similar interests to your own, build relationships and grow that network of loyal followers.
Connect your Google Plus page or profile with your YouTube channel and use video tutorials to further engage your followers and extend your reach.
I could go on for some time describing all the benefits Google Plus has over and above other social media platforms - the possibilities are endless.
I hope I've managed to persuade you to make creating a profile on Google Plus your no. 1 priority for the coming week. To help you get started download my free guide which sets out in 5 easy steps how to set up a profile on Google Plus.
Google Plus is a colourful and vibrant community, where discussions are easy, sharing valuable content is unbelievably generous and where real business friendships can be grown and used as solid foundations on which to build a business.
If you'd like to know more about Google Plus and how your business can benefit, why not book an obligation-free, one-to-one chat with me via Google Hangout (like Skype only better!).
To book your chat simply click the link below and send me your contact details so we can arrange a mutually convenient time to talk.
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