Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How Google+ Can Help Your Business


*This is Part 4 of a 5 Part series on actionable ways to successfully use social media for business.

Many have called it Google's failed attempt at social media. So why am I writing about Google+? Not only because it is growing in the amount of users and usage time, but because it is now a necessary factor for ranking in Google's search results. Keep reading to learn more about how to increase visibility, sales, and rankings using Google+!



First, A Discussion About SEO
There has been a lot of talk regarding the death of traditional Search Engine Optimization in recent months (and even years). Although a lot of the information is true, the future of SEO is still important for informational searches if nothing else, and a large number of consumers still search for products in Google (although this is trending downward).

Consumers that know exactly which product they want to buy are increasingly going directly to digital marketplaces like Amazon and Buy.com. Does this signal the death of the website? Maybe somewhere in the future. Does it mean the death of SEO? Definitely not; it is merely an evolution that we all must adapt to.

Even though consumers are going directly to marketplaces for the large variety of products, the reviews, and the automatic recommendations, there is a lot more to the buying cycle for ANY product than the very last path. Consumers may not know exactly what they need, which products to purchase, which companies offer the best quality or value, or many other factors depending on your industry. In the future, when a prospect does a search to learn more about something, your page (whether that is a website, blog, Facebook Timeline, or Google+ page), your brand needs to be visible. For this, an evolved version of SEO, some are calling it “marketing” ;) , is still important.

So What does this have to do with Google+??
A lot, really.

If you haven't already noticed, Google released a big change to their search results recently: Search Plus Your World. When you are logged into any Google product (YouTube, Google+, even Analytics or AdWords) and you do a search in Google, the search results default to a personalized search experience. Based on your connections through Google products, you can see which of your friends has been talking about the term you searched for. It is somewhat difficult to see the impact right now, but this is one of the biggest changes Google has made. 

Here is an example: 
Let's say you have a friend that loves to ski and you follow this friend on Google+. If you do a search for anything regarding skiing, it is likely that results from your friend will come up- maybe an image they posted to their Google+ page of their last ski trip.


What does this mean to you?
This means you might not rank as well for keywords that you've been targeting for many years! As Google+ grows, more people will have individualized results based on their connections. To make sure that you are still visible to your customers, you need to follow a few "easy" steps:

Step 1: Focus on a More Specific Niche
You can't be everything to everyone. In fact, those businesses that try, end up not being able to fully please anyone. If you think about it, there has never been a product made for every single person on Earth.

Not even Coke.

This is especially true for Google+. It would be impossible to have everyone follow your brand. Because of this, the only way you will gain visibility with customers in search after personalized results take over will be to narrow your focus of customers down to a core, achievable number, where you can obtain 100% market share. This is not to say that other people outside of your focus won't buy, in fact they're likely to, it just means that all of your marketing efforts and dollars need to focus on the smallest, most profitable, natural customer base possible. This will help you decide who to target in Google+ and ask to be followed.

Step 2: Optimize Your G+ Page
Fill in every detail possible. This allows for three main “ilities”: visibility, usability, and credibility. Remember that people who add your brand to their “circles” will be able to see your Google+ page in their search results, so make sure it provides all relevant business information they may be looking for. This can also help your page come up in search results for your brand name for people that haven't even signed up for Google+!

Step 3: Choose Keywords
Just like website SEO, go for one or two very relevant, specific key terms that define your brand. Step 1 (knowing your super-niche) will help you decide which terms to target. These terms should be 3-4 words each so that you have more of a chance to become the leader in this term after the personalized-results (r)evolution.

Equipped with relevant keywords, use them in your brand info, post pictures of them (if applicable), make semi-frequent posts that include the terms, etc. Keep in mind that users can unfollow (or “uncircle” in Google+ terms) you, so make sure to always provide value to the user. When they see your post or image or Page come up in a Google search, you want them to click on it!! When they are there, the details and value that you provide on your Google+ page will help build the thee “ilities.”

Note: Don't “over-optimize.”
Remember, this is still Google and they can still detect spam in your Google+ account. Make the uses of your relevant keywords natural.


The 2 New Ranking Factors That Google+ Has Presented
  1. Circles. People can add you to their “circles” which is like an organized version of Facebook friends. If you add someone to your circles, that does not mean that they added you to theirs. In this way, Google+ is like Twitter. You have to provide value and incentive to add you to their circles. This is the only way you can show up in personalized search results.
  2. +1. This is similar to Facebook “Likes,” but they are a Google ranking factor and accumulate across the web! This +1 button is on your Google+ page, your search results (from any landing page: website, blog, even Facebook page!), your AdWords ads, etc. Those ones are automatic for signed-in users. You can also put the +1 button on product pages and your homepage, and almost anywhere else. If someone gives your AdWords ad a +1, and another person gives your Google+ page a +1, you have two +1s that add up to your brand being two points more relevant than a brand that doesn't have those. The more +1s you have, the higher you rank.


Some Other Things to Keep In Mind
  • The goal is making the user/customer happy. The happier they are, the more they will +1 you, the more likely your brand is to end up in other people's circles, and the more likely you are to come up in their Google search results.
  • Just like other social media sites, don't try to sell directly from your Google+ account. Follow all the steps as my Facebook for eCommerce Businesses post

Now What?
Now that I've motivated you to begin your Google+ campaign, go and learn how to set it up by the many available articles online. Setup is very easy. Go and play around with it to learn the interface. Have fun!


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