I hate it when people make predictions about the outcomes of events with an air of certainty.
Stock market. Super Bowls. Weather.
Because when it comes to making predictions, our rate of success usually stinks.
This is why I was rolling my eyes when Brian Clark announced back in January that Google+ will become a tool in every content marketers’ toolbox.
I have to confess: I wanted to see his prediction fall flat (I’m sadistic like that), because I just did NOT want to contend with another social media platform.
Well, after months of extensive research with clients I officially cry, “Uncle.” Google+, and Brian Clark by default, wins.
So, more than ever getting that Google+ account is critical for the content marketer–especially when it comes to driving traffic, subscribers and sales. But like most social media, having the account is not enough.
You have to optimize it if you want to kill it. Are you ready?
Optimize Your Google+ Profile
Your profile needs to be optimized with keywords just like a typical web page. And even though keywords don’t matter as much as who you are connected to, if you don’t have the right keywords, then your connections are meaningless.
You won’t show up on internal or external searches.
AJ Kohn, who did a wee bit of experimenting, pointed out that keywords only matter in four sections in your Google+ profile:
Weave keywords into these sections. After that, though, you need to focus on the size and quality of your Circles.
Let’s look at that now.
Optimize Your Circles
This is pretty cut and dry: build a solid audience of people into your Circles. Focus on people with influence. At this point in the game, it’s still early enough to attract their attention since the space isn’t crowded.
Here’s a simple step-by-step:
- Identify influencers
- Comment like crazy with these influencers
- Share his or her content like crazy
- Share your work strategically with that influencer
- Create posts targeted to that particular social media influencer
By the way, don’t put a lot of effort into creating distinct Circles. You’ll wear your self out. Just go with the default–and share with all.
Share Compelling Content
Much like Facebook, Google+ is an excellent platform to share content on. However, it has a few distinct advantages over Facebook including no ads, images look beautiful and you can edit comments and posts.
But what kind of content should you share? Here’s a hit list of ideas:
- Add some creative and smart people into your Google+ stream, and start sharing their content with your audience. Building up rapport with other users will eventually expose you to their audiences.
- Use discover tools like StumbleUpon, Delicious or Pinterest.
- Schedule a day where you focus on just one topic. This could be on or off topic. Whatever the case, dedicating an entire day devoted to one topic will drive traffic and subscribers to your account as they come to anticipate what you are going to share next. The content could be posts you write, links you share, images or videos (original or not).
- Post images and videos. The Google+ design is perfect for images and watching videos. It even rocks on the app version (which I’ll explain below).
In addition, you’ll want to pay attention to what content is getting the most response (I’ll show you how to do that below).
Create Google+ Headlines
I don’t know if you realize this, but content you share on Google+ can show up as a search listing within minutes of your posting it. And often it can rank pretty high for that term–reaching the first page in some circumstances.
This is why it’s important to use headlines for your Google+ posts. See, if you don’t use a headline, Google will just grab the 70 characters of the first line. That won’t be very compelling when it shows up on the search page.
How do you optimize the headline? Just add asterisks around your headline like this: *Headline* (the asterisks will disappear when you post). And don’t forget your keywords.
What about the the listing description? Can you tweak that, too?
Yes, you can.
Google is simply going to pull the first 160 characters, which means you need to pay close attention to your first sentence after the headline. Seducing readers is the name of the click through game.
Create compelling Google+ content
What about original content? What should you create for Google+?
Here are some ideas:
- Photos and videos – Find and share beautiful photographs or funny videos with your audience. Don’t forget your headline and add about two or three paragraphs of keyword-rich content to help steer organic traffic your way. Remember, people can search Google+, so the more content you include in your posts, the wider your net will be.
- Surveys – One of the best ways to engage your audience is to ask them a compelling question. Format the post so the headline is the question, and then the content of the post is a description or expansion of what you are asking.
- Niche blog – Let’s say you have an interest that is not quite focused enough on your industry to write about it on your blog. Why not treat your Google+ account as a little blog on that topic? It could be a hobby or passion? It’s your choice.
All good things grow when you measure. This is also true for your Google+ content. Counting comments and +1’s is one way to measure it. But you also want to measure the reach of individual posts.
Ripple is a tool on Google+ that will show you how far a particular post has spread. You’ll see the original post (in the red box) and the number of public shares:
Hovering over a bubble will allow you to get granular information about someone who shared that content. In essence, Ripple can help you discover which posts and ideas are having an impact, and which aren’t.
Optimize the +1 button
Killing it with Google+ obviously includes using the +1 button on your blog. It’s a simple code embed:
Or you can use a plugin like Scrolling Social Sidebar. Either way, you want to encourage people to +1 your content since it is obviously influencing search rankings.
The thing to know about +1’s is that it seems that Google gives more weight to those that you get directly off of your site than you do on Google+ itself. For example, the 100 +1’s clicked on your site is going to factor into search rankings more than 100 +1’s you got for the same post on Google+.
Most of the tactics above are easy to understand and implement. Now we are stepping out into difficult terrain. But it’s essential terrain.
Let me explain.
You may have noticed that when you search on Google certain search listings appear with a picture to the left:
That’s not magic.
That’s someone who has claimed they are an author of web content. And that someone who has claimed authorship now has the opportunity to increase the clickthroughs he gets on search results page by 150%.
This is exactly what Catalyst did with their experiment. And I’ve seen an uptick in clickthroughs on my content since I secured my authorship.
Why? Not only does the profile picture standout, but the “by Demian Farnworth” drives traffic to my Google+ page, as does the “More by Demian Farnworth” link (which is a page devoted to my online content).
Those are good advantages to have. So how do you actually confirm authorship?
Try AJ Kohn’s guide.
Let me be honest: it’s a tricky proposition. But AJ worked with some engineers from Google, making it some what less daunting than it would be if you had to tackle it on your own.
Link Your Blog to Google+
Your next step is to link your blog/website to your Google+ account.
This is another complex step to take, and the jury is actually out on how effective it actually is, but the consensus says that having the link will actually influence searches inside Google+.
If you have any more information about this, please share. I’d love to know.
Mobile Version Rocks Facebook’s
One of the reasons I’m bullish on Google+ is the fact that Facebook’s mobile app sucks. It’s hard to use, is a drag to open and load, loses content, misplaces messages and the design is horrible.
Facebook knows this. It’s why they bought Instagram. They needed that team of designers to fix their app problems.
In this respect they are behind Google+.
The Google+ app is beautiful, elegant to use and hard to put down. It’s just a matter of time before Facebook fades and Google+ becomes the world’s number one social media platform.
Just thinking about being on another social media platform is probably giving you a headache. I understand. I resisted for a long time. Until I was convinced over time by the growing body of evidence that suggest Google may one day sit on the throne of the social media king.
Besides, even if Facebook finds some way to hold off Google+, the personal advantages optimizing your Google+ account gives to content marketers like you and me outweighs any thing that Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr or Reddit could offer you.
So, you on Google+? What has worked and not worked for you? Do you think I’m full of it? Please share. Brutal and all.