Since getting a lot of great feedback – and requests for more information – on my Google+ posts, I’ve decided to write a sort of overview on how to best optimize Google+ as a social media platform AND an SEO tool.
Google+ – and the opportunities it offers if you’re willing to put in the work – is like no other social media (SM) platform out there. We now have more control over our search rankings: Google’s spider spits out G+ posts over almost anything else when searching generic keywords. It also favors, heavily, businesses that take the time to implement their SEO and Business Page guidelines. Here’s what I’ve had my face in for the past three to four months; in the words of Matt Cutts, I was “completing the circle” (linking everything back to each other).
PART ONE: Create your profile and build a presence
When building your Business Page profile, match your bio, logo and graphics to your company website and other social media profiles. (You’re probably rolling your eyes, as this sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the lack of brand cohesion out there!)
Use the Browse feature to find users to add to your Circles. Be sure to put as many clean links to the various landing pages of your website as possible, as well as links to your other SM profiles.
3. Engaging with Individuals
A Business Page can’t add individuals to Circles until that individual adds the Business page, so for a few months it was tough growing our reach. Recently, the ability for Pages to interact with individuals (comment, +1, and share their public posts) was added, and that helps enormously.
4. Communities Feature
What changed everything for our DigitalPartner Google+ page was the new Communities feature. Recently added, anyone can create a Community (see SEO.com’s excellent How-to), and Communities can be searched by keyword or browsed by category. Join Communities pertinent to your industry and watch your +1s (equivalent to FB “Likes”) jump exponentially. Prior to the launch, our reach was just microscopic; people had to actively seek us out as opposed to running into our posts. Now I can comment, +1, and share posts from Communities whose members have the same goals as I do, and everyone benefits. In some instances, the moderators allow you to post links to your own content; in those cases the reach of your blog can grow exponentially as well. (Be sure to read the Guidelines for each Community, and respect them. This feature shouldn’t be used as a self-promotion machine, but rather a tool in your SM arsenal.)
PART TWO: Optimize. Optimize everything.
1. Verify and connect
Verifying your website domain is the easiest part of this process. Be sure to place the +1 share button on every page of your site, especially every blog post. As I mentioned previously, verified sites with share buttons are heavily favored in Google searches. In addition, verification makes your eligible for Direct Connect.
Most useful for big, established brands, you may not be big enough yet to qualify. With Direct Connect, users are able to navigate straight to your Google+ Business Page (and even add the Page to their circles) when searching. ‘+youtube’ or ‘+pepsi’ returns the YouTube G+ Business Page or the Pepsi G+ Business Page.
3. Verify yourself as a spokesperson for your company
Verify that you have an email address at the domain upon which your site is hosted. (For instance, I had to verify email@example.com.) Next, connect the personal profiles you have on other SM platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). You’re completing the circle.
4. Verify G+ Business Page
Google will give you a snippet of code to add to your site, linking it to your Google+ Business Page then ask you to verify it. As with Direct Connect, this feature is mainly for bigger, more established brands. It’s mainly to discourage users from hijacking, say, the user name “Coca-Cola,” or setting up a fake account in the name of the auto body shop they were ripped off by. It’s similar to Twitter’s verification of users, and honestly, it’s not necessary for smaller brands; most businesses don’t have it. It just adds that extra boost of confidence in a brand when a user sees the verification checkmark.
DigitalPartner was politely invited to reapply after we had more people add us to their circles. There’s no magic number; not even a ballpark number. I searched forums, and users couldn’t even guesstimate what it might be. I suggest trying again when you hit each new hundred mark (100, 200, 300, etc.).
Once verified, you’ll have the verification checkmark next to the business name in G+, and your pic and bio will display on the right of the screen when someone searches your brand.
5. Apply for – and receive – Google Authorship
Make sure your name is written exactly the same on everything, and choose a G+ personal profile picture that shows your face clearly and matches the exact size required by Google. You’ll need to insert a snippet of code with the “rel=author” tag, given to you by Google, on the author bio page of your site, as well as every page of the blog to which you contribute, as well add code under the SM G+ badge on your site to point to the About section of the G+ Business Page (duplicate this sitewide).
Once you update your own G+ page by verifying your domain email address (through Google), add your personal SM links to your business blog and author bio page page, and do not forget to add a link to personal G+ profile to the profiles of all of your additional personal SM accounts.
Finally, you’re asked to apply for Google Authorship through Google’s portal. It took a few weeks for me to be approved, so don’t worry if you don’t hear something immediately. Approval means that Google has verified that you are a trusted author online, and your photo will pop up next to your blog posts (and your G+ posts) on SERPs.
PART THREE: Stay current! Do not become complacent!
Things in our industry change so fast that if it happened last week, it may as well have happened last decade. Continue to optimize your presence on Google+ by researching and testing new features, implement changes, etc.
Actively seek out changes in, updates to, new features of, and marketing news about the platform. I dedicate probably 35-45% of my time reading, searching, learning, double-checking, referencing, and educating myself. I use Topsy, Twitter, and Google Reader, which is a gold mine. I have a cadre of sites I find consistently useful: Hubspot, Content Marketing Institute, Mashable (of course), Jeff Bullas, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, and more.
We’re lucky enough to have one of the coolest jobs in the world. Our continuing education consists of reading the kinds of things online that we’d probably be reading anyway, so there’s no excuse for missing the next big thing. Have fun out there!