There is no ignoring it. Google+ is here to stay in 2014.
In the last week, there’s a good chance you’ve seen at least one of the following:
Prior to last week, Google was a little ambiguous on how you can receive a custom (or vanity) URL. We explained some ways you could claim one for your company a couple months before this roll-out, when it was normally an option only reserved for ‘authenticated’ accounts. What are the qualifications now? The account must be at least 30 days old, have more than 10 followers and include a profile picture. Claiming a custom URL helps your company’s overall branding and it should help Google+ profiles show up in the SERPs more frequently.
A Google+ profile is required for nearly everything. YouTube, for example, now requires users to have a Google+ account to post comments. This is a clear indication that more and more users will be required to sign up for a Google+ account in order to use each Google product to its fullest extent. Google+ is now the backbone of every new feature Google has rolled out recently. For example, the idea of Connected Classrooms (or Virtual Field Trips) is focused on taking advantage of Google Hangout features. Google Hangout requires a Google+ account. This account integration shows Google has committed to pushing Plus to any and every one.
Is It The Better Social Network?
While Google+ may have struggled to find its footing in the beginning, it’s now starting to rethink its promotional strategy. Remember Google Games? Earlier this year, Google completely removed this feature that was expected to compete with Facebook’s social games. While most think the hunt is still on for Google+ to find an ‘it’ factor, I think the social network is setting itself up for success in 2014.
Here’s the difference: other social networks are trying to become more search and advertiser friendly (think Facebook Graph Search & the new Instagram ads) while Google+ is only trying to understand how to become more social. This change in popular social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. is only turning users off, especially those in their target demographic. We’ve all heard how Facebook is losing their original core audience of teens and college students. Google+ is stepping up and taking advantage of Facebook’s declining membership by integrating with YouTube, which has recently been reported overtaking Facebook as the most popular site for teens. Google+ has also aimed at younger users by implementing the hashtag and hashtag search, supporting visual Pinterest-like communities and jumping on the GIF/video bandwagon with features like Auto Awesome.
Having a good handle on your company’s Google+ profile is essential before even more features are launched. I think you can expect to see more tools like Google Helpouts in the near future as Google continues to integrate their social network with other services. Try to make the following a priority before the end of the year:
- Reclaim any rogue profiles. In the early days of Google+, there was a frequent use of personal profiles as business profiles. It’s important to understand the difference.
- Make sure you have consistent branding. This speaks for itself, but when other accounts are becoming interconnected with Google+, you should make sure people are seeing the same, consistent brand messaging.
- Claim your custom URL. We already mentioned this, but it’s important enough to reiterate. Consistent branding falls under this as well, the name you select should reflect your other Google profiles (YouTube, Local, etc.)
Developing Your Identity and Semantic Relevance
What SEO practitioners have called ‘AuthorRank’ continues to be a factor in SEO success. I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t everyone already predict this would be a big factor back in 2011 when Google announced its rel=author initiative? Yes! And with Matt Cutts recently discussing authorship at Pubcon, it seems as if it will continue to be a factor, but it is now more difficult. Cutts mentioned that Google will be cutting back on the number of Google Authorship and other rich snippet search results. They plan on tightening up the qualifications of earning such a result. The only (vague) qualification: Be a trusted authority. While Google is not yet using Authorship data in search results, Matt Cutts said they “want to be able to.” Continue to build your thought leaders and remember relevant and insightful content always wins. So keep posting & keep listening to what others on Google+ find helpful (and share-able).
Set Your “+1” & Circle Growth Strategy
These strategies should go hand-in-hand. You want to have a solid foundation and be ahead of the Google+ game.
- Encourage internal resources to “+1” any blogs, content & photos your company has on its site. To do this, you will need to make sure you have a +1 widget (see an example above this post) implemented on your content pages and blog posts.
- Realize it may take a while for users to catch on. Liking, tweeting and sharing are easily accepted and if you have valuable content, asking for these things doesn’t need to be said. End users still need to be educated on the purpose and benefits behind “+1”-ing any content. Create a contest or email campaign that educates customers before asking for +1s.
- Follow and interact with others. Belong to communities and participate in discussion. As with any other social network, don’t only share your content. Develop a list of relevant Google+ communities and thought leaders. Then have your own thought leaders/company participate in discussion and answer questions.
- Share your Google+ profile on other social networks. Already have a strong following on Twitter or Facebook? Utilize this following by creating a campaign to connect it to Google+. Some simple ideas could be sharing linked photos. Or because Google+ doesn’t limit characters, share a helpful, quick industry tip or two on Twitter that links to an entire list of related insight on Google+.
Other New Google+ Features
- Auto Awesome – This is a feature that automatically turns a series of related photos or videos into an animated GIF. It potentially could be a way to curate your best content.
- Photo editing / storage – Google+ is trying to become a place where people can store and edit photos. Companies should jump on this bandwagon early and experiment with photo sharing by posting company photos, infographics, etc.
- Helpouts – This is a live answering service for people who are searching for companies / answers and can’t find what they’re looking for in search engines. Again, users must have a Google+ account to use this service.
- Shared Endorsements – On November 11, Google will launch a new kind of advertisement that links to users’ Google+ activity. A user’s name, photo and snippet of a review they’ve given can show up when people search for a company.
As of October 30th, Google+ had 300 million users and that number continues to grow. We’ve all seen the impact Google+ has had on SEO since its launch in 2011 and with even more integration; we can expect to see an even larger impact in 2014.
If you’re just starting out on Google+, download our free Google+ best practices guide.