Thomas McMahon is a writer who focuses on inbound marketing and white hat SEO practices. To pay for his expensive shrimp addiction, he writes for Page One Power, a relevancy first link building company.
In late January of this year a surprising statistic for many people was announced by Global Web Index. In the report, GWI showed that Google Plus is the second largest social platform in the world. As you’ve probably joked about, or at least heard the punch line, Google+ has been hounded ever since its release in June of 2011 as a flop, embarrassment, and failure. People are quick to call it a “ghost town” where there is little interaction. Constantly compared to Facebook, one of the biggest complaints aimed towards the release of Google+ is that it doesn’t offer anything new and is simply another social media platform to keep track of. This obviously isn’t the case anymore as Google+ making leaps and strides as is the norm for the super company.
Google Found the Carrot
While it may have started slow and had to hang its head while it slogged through viscous mudslinging, Google Plus is here to stay with over 340 million active users and a 27% growth in 2012. The growing popularity didn’t happen by chance or by internet users all of a sudden changing their minds and deciding to give it go. Google placed strong, very strong, incentives into Google+ that draws quality members to the platform like twenty-somethings to a kebab stand after the pubs close.
Quick Indexing in the SERPs
It can take a new site or page months to get indexed by Google and to start showing up in its SERPs (search engine result pages), especially if the page is buried in a mess of subdomains that the crawlers have a hard time getting to. However, simplyposting a link in Google Plus is enough to get the page indexed almost immediately in some cases. This is a big incentive for webmasters who want to drive traffic from SERPs, plus you get to drive traffic from Google+ as well since the link is on the social platform.
• Integration: In a sense, Google has strong armed users into creating Google+ accounts. YouTube (which is now the third largest social media platform) requires you to have a Gmail account, which in turn requires you to have a Google+ account. Since Google is so prevalent on the web this makes a lot of sense if you’re using multiple features. This tactic helped to get Google+ over its initial slump, but it didn’t make for interactive users since the need to use Google+ still wasn’t there.
• Google Authorship and Upcoming Author Rank: In steps Google Authorship, which was announced without much fanfare and it has slowly been coming to a boil as more people have realized the positive influence it has in SERPs. Enabling authorship has your picture appear alongside your content within Google’s SERPs like this:
There are also some added benefits to Google Authorship that have made SEOs and digital marketers flock to Google+ since you need an active account for authorship to work correctly. Activemeaning regularly posting content that gets plusses and shares, commenting, and generally adding value.
• No Ads (yet): Just like everything Google does, Google+ looks plain, but clean. There is plenty of room for ads, but as of yet they haven’t been integrated into the layout. This makes for the cleanest and easiest to navigate social platform I’ve been a part of. Since the platform is still trying to grow, I imagine ads haven’t been integrated yet in hopes of competing with Facebook which features many advertisements.
• Customized Social Interaction with Communities: One of the newest additions to Google+ is the Communities feature which lets you create, join, and interact in private or public communities. These act almost like a forum, and while many are spammed with self-promoting links, most are useful, well moderated, and frequented by big names in the respective industry. People are still experimenting with Communities, which can be as small or as big as you’d like, and there is a lot of potential for this feature to be the platform’s biggest draw.
All of these characteristics have helped to create a community where content is valued the most over social spam like cat videos and pictures of babies that Facebook is inundated with. In my experience, it is more professional than Facebook and more interactive than Twitter. Of course, social media is what you make it so one users experience can be dramatically different based on who circles whom and what you’re involved with.
Google Plus as a Marketing Tool
Any chance to market yourself or your business in a growing community like Google+ is a chance to get more customers, followers, and to build up your brand. Google+ profiles offer a clean layout for the about page where you can feature a wealth of information about yourself or your business. Mark Traphagen, the Google+ Guru, has a great example of what an About page should look like in Google+. Other than just offering another social platform for people to find you there are other marketing benefits as well.
• Google+ Content Gets Priority in SERPs When Logged In: After I became involved in Google+ and started circling people and joining communities, I noticed the Google SERPs started showing a lot more Google+ content. I was logged into my Gmail / Google+ and it was pulling relevant posts and discussions from people in my network and influential members who had posted on items related to my search terms. For marketing, this means if you can build a large following on Google+ they will interact with your content more frequently if you’re an active poster on Google+. Granted, they have to be logged in to their Google account for this to work, but since it works so seamlessly most people are always logged in.
• Controlled Community Involvement: Facebook offers great interaction between a brand and the community with their pages, but Google+ has (in my opinion) improved interaction with the Communities feature. Like I said before, Communities act a lot like a forum for a specific topic. In this example, the “topic” could be based around your brand where you can make segments for specific criteria that are related to your brand. For example, FAQs, ask a question, general discussion, or specific products could all be discussion segments. This keeps you from spamming people that are simply following you because they’re interested in the brand, not directly involved with it yet, and focusing on customers who want to be involved with your brand on a deeper level.
• Events: This feature lets you highlight upcoming events and you can invite the public and your followers to attend. When someone signs up for your event it also syncs with Google Calendar which helps people to remember it. Whenever I host a prestigious dinner party (any excuse to wear my sports coat!) I make an event on Facebook and get a fair amount of people who to “join.” Well great! But then only a few of them show up and I’m stuck with ten extra pounds of shrimp and cocktail sauce that will just go to waste.
The great thing is that Google+ is still relatively new and it is growing and changing which means there are more and more creative ways to use Google+ for marketing your brand. For some great ideas and tips, check out this Google Plus Guide on Virante which covers brand pages.
Google Plus for Local SEO
One of the biggest benefits of Google+ communities (once again, in my opinion) is the benefit it gives to local businesses who are trying to establish an online presence and generate more traffic. Well Google+ also has a Local feature where businesses can claim and update their page.
People around the area can find them, rate and review them, and interact with them. A major plus to this is that the Local feature isn’t that big yet which means getting on there now will be a big competitive advantage. However, the best part is that the local listings in Google’s SERPs are largely based on directory’s ratings and reviews, especially ratings and reviews from Google+.
For example, these are the top four local listings for the search query “London dentists,” notice how they all have Google reviews. This is free, easy, and just requires the time to interact with the community which helps drive local traffic to your website and to your physical address.
Local also integrates with Google Maps so people know exactly where to find your business without just seeing the address as text, all in one location.
Google+ has quickly become a relevant and a game changing platform. Many people still think that it’s a bust but they’re simply losing ground to competitors who have already cultivated a strong and interactive following. If you’ve joined Google+, what has your experience been like and have you implemented any marketing strategies for it? If you haven’t joined yet, what are your reasons for not doing so?