Experts continue to extol the benefits of companies joining Google+ even if customers aren’t. Here’s why.
After nearly three years in the marketplace, Google+ is still lagging in membership behind social media giants Facebook and Twitter, yet more and more companies are carving out a spot for Google+ in their digital marketing strategies. According to experts, it’s not about the social; it’s about the search.
Google is the reigning search king in the U.S., with more than a 67% share of U.S.-based search queries as of December 2013, according to comScore. While the role that Google+ might play in influencing search rankings remains unclear and the company has yet to disclose that information, many experts say that the chance of SEO benefits is reason enough to get involved.
“When Google releases something, it does it to help inform search,” says Rhea Drysdale, CEO of Troy, N.Y.-based marketing and SEO consultancy Outspoken Media, where she has worked with brands including PetMed Express Inc. on SEO strategies. “We’re still trying to test it and understand it, and in many instances, there’s not that much of a return for investing too much in it. But Google is, by far, the largest search engine and if they’ve built it, they’re definitely building it into their algorithms over time … which means that [marketers] need to pay attention.”
Here are five tips on how to leverage Google+ in your own digital strategy.
1. Be thorough. “If there’s a field, fill it. If there’s a feature, use it,” Drysdale says. If you fill out your Google+ page thoroughly, your company is more likely to come up in the “knowledge graph,” or the box of information that comes up on the right-hand side next to paid search listings when certain terms are searched.
For example, Drysdale worked with PetMed Express on its Google+ presence to boost SEO for the search terms “pet meds” and “petmeds.” Now, when those terms are searched, the company appears in the knowledge graph spot.
2. Repurpose content. If your company has a blog, share those posts on Google+, maybe with a different angle or hook, says Cyrus Shepard, senior content “astronaut” at Seattle-based SEO consultancy Moz. “The biggest mistake people make when publishing on Google+ is they just post a link and a title and a brief description without telling people why it’s interesting,” he says. “That’s not enough context to make people click through. If you can find an interesting photo from your post or find something witty to say, or publish a few stats in the Google+ post, that will give people a reason to share, to click and keep it in their stream. Then it gets re-shared.”
In addition to your own content, share industry-relevant content that you’ve sourced from other sources or organizations, Shepard says. “Far too many companies just post their own blogs or self-promotional materials,” he says. “For every piece of content that you share from your company, share four or five pieces of content that don’t originate on your site. That can be interesting statistics, industry-related content and even your competitors’ content. The idea is to increase your reach and influence, and then when you do share your own stuff, you already have a built-in audience to talk to.”
3. Give your company a “face.” Google introduced author photos in search results in 2011, the same year that Google+ launched, Shepard says. These author photos lend authority to articles and blog posts, so make sure that each of your brand’s content creators has his own Google+ profile that includes a headshot, a brand-related e-mail address and a link to an author page on your brand’s site, where visitors can find the author’s biography and other details to give credence to his writing. “Anyone who creates content, from outside writers to your CEO, should have his own individual page on your website that you link to your own Google+ profile page,” Shepard says. “That’s just standard practice.”
Drysdale agrees. “Define your authors and really build up authority around a certain subject matter. Authorship is becoming more and more of a factor in SEO, so it’s really important to … provide best practices [for profile creation] and hand them out to your content authors,” she says.
4. Go local. Even if your organization isn’t a retail or hospitality outlet, having your location show up on Google Maps lends credibility to your brand, Shepard says, and your Google+ presence can play a role in that. To help boost your search rankings, get your customers to leave Google+ reviews by offering future discounts or other incentives, since reviews play a large part in local Google search results, he says.
“There are two huge components to local rankings,” he says. “One of them is citations, or how often you’re listed in [directory sites like] Yellowbook.com or Yext.com. The other half of the ranking equation for Google Maps is the quality and quantity of your reviews. Google takes reviews from all over the Web, but Google+ reviews are hugely important for that equation.”
5. Seek out followers. All of the above tactics can not only help your general SEO on Google, but also make your brand more visible to social media influencers, Shepard says. When those influencers follow your brand or authors and eventually share your content, your reach will expand to those influencers’ networks, building brand awareness from inside Google+.
Establish your authors as subject matter experts, he says. “The more you publish on one topic, the more you’re seen as an authority on that topic.”
And use Google+ as the social medium that it is, he says. “The more people you’re connected to and the more circles you’re in—and this is incredibly important for brands and the people who work for you—the more people they’re connected to and the more people are going to see them in those top three results when they do related searches on Google+. Setting up your Google+ profile is a good first step, but connecting with people on Google+ is hugely important for expanding your reach.”
Above all, be patient, Shepard says. “There’s a timeliness factor that’s often frustrating for brands. It can take three to six months for [these tactics] to take effect, but it does play a huge role in SEO.”