Google made a lot of changes last year: The Hummingbird algorithm update landed. Personalized search results took shape. Keyword optimization shifted dramatically. And, as a result, Google+ gained importance in SEO rankings.
If Google+ wasn’t a part of your marketing strategy in 2013, here are some compelling reasons to prioritize it in 2014.
Rank Higher in Search Results
Your activity and your followers’ activity on Google+ boosts your ranking in search results. “We’re seeing search results that are much more personalized, influenced by the content created, shared, and engaged with by the searcher’s social contacts,” says Ken Lyons, co-founder of Measured SEM. “That means content a small business shares on Google+ has more visibility in personalized search for existing followers of the business on Google+.”
That’s because Google has created a network of properties that feed off one another. Anyone with a Gmail account has a default Google+ profile, unless they’ve intentionally disabled it. If they also use an Android smartphone, the photos they take with it are automatically backed up on Google+. Gmail users who aren’t active on Google+ often have connections and content that influence their personalized search results.
Get Even More Exposure
Lyons says that Google Authorship, which links an author’s Google+ profile to content he or she creates on any website, is a strategy that small businesses should use. Authorship essentially gives Google all of the information it needs to start feeding your content to your connections. “It’s a simple line of code you can insert into any website to attribute content to the proper author,” Lyons says. “The contributor simply adds a link to his Google+ profile to complete the process.”
When someone who has you in a Google+ Circle searches for a topic you’ve recently written about, he or she is more likely to see your article in the search results. Personalized search was extended to everyone back in 2009, meaning you don’t have to be a Gmail user and don’t have to be logged in to see personalized search results. Anyone who has ever signed up for a Google account — and there are many – is automatically enrolled in Google’s search history. Data from 2011 shows that about 30 percent of searches were conducted by users who were logged in to a Google account, so these connections are impacting a significant portion of searches.
“One of the bigger benefits here applies to guest blogging, and it’s actually benefiting the publisher in addition to the contributor,” Lyons explains. “A guest article contributed by a leading authority in your niche could potentially net your business a lot of exposure. That content will filter into personalized search for the author’s connections — and when you’re talking about an established industry leader, that’s a lot of eyeballs and a lot of opportunity to get your brand name in front of your target audience.”
Broadcast Your Message
Google+ has a lot of other features beyond the typical post-and-share format of social networks. Google+ Hangouts, for instance, are group video chats for up to 10 people that can be used to conduct webinars, face-to-face meetings, or training sessions. If you use Hangouts on Air, your broadcast is automatically recorded on YouTube and sent out to the world.
Using little more than your expertise, your presentation skills, webcam, and speakers, you’re basically creating a visual presentation and instantly feeding it to YouTube. It’s a lot cheaper than coordinating a webinar or paying a professional video editor.
“Hangouts — in their recorded YouTube format — are getting good placement in the search-engine results pages for relevant searches,” Lyons says. “Google has a tendency to promote itself, so anything you do that lives on a Google property is going to have a good chance of being more visible,” he adds.
Tap Into Additional Features
To take full advantage of the Google+ influence on search results in 2014, consider doing the following:
- Grow your connections. Add other users, such as your Gmail contacts, customers and prospects, and industry leaders, to your Google+ Circles and ask other users to add your business to their Circles. Google+ recommends people “You May Know” in the upper-right portion of your Google+ dashboard. Click “View More” for more suggestions, such as Google+ users recommended based on your interests and connections, your Gmail contacts, and other Google+ users who have recently added you. You can also search for people, pages, and posts using the search bar near the top of the screen.
- Encourage engagement. The same basic social media principles you use on Facebook and Twitter apply to Google+. Add Google+ icons and buttons to your company website and encourage readers to share or +1 your content. The more they do, the more exposure you’ll get in search results.
- Use SlideShare. With the SlideShare app, you can present and discuss slide decks posted on SlideShare in a Google+ Hangout on Air. “It’s yet another way you’re distributing your content across valuable websites,” Lyons explains. “Your slides are searchable on SlideShare, and your slide deck becomes a part of your recorded presentation on YouTube, in addition to your promotion efforts leading up to and after the event.”
- Snatch a custom URL. The default Google+ profile URL is a string of numbers. A custom URL, available to pages that are at least 30 days old, post publicly and regularly, and meet other requirements, can be closer to your brand name and more easily remembered or used in signage. If you’re eligible, you’ll see a notification at the top of your Google+ page. If not, make sure your page is linked to a website and start posting publicly more frequently.
- Promote your content. Sharing your website’s original content on Google+ should be standard practice.