And getting that Google+ account is critical.
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But just having an account will not help you. You must optimize it to get the best results from Search Plus Your World. Let me show you how.
Google+: Why you can’t ignore it anymore
Search for “social media” on Google and you will get these results:
The results on the right…the sidebar “People and Pages on Google+”…that’s what’s really important. The question is: how did they get there?
Here is another set of results:
Same thing…but different. Note: These are all brands or people who’ve ranked for a very competitive term. What’s the common denominator? They are all on Google+. And “social media” is in included somewhere in their account.
See, Search Plus Your World is an intentional strategy for Google to lead people to join Google+. How do I know that? Google offers an opportunity to getting in those results:
That leads you to a button to sign up for a Google+ account:
But just signing up for the account won’t make you leap to the top of the sidebar results. You have to optimize your Google+ account in these 8 critical areas:
- Optimize your Google+ profile
- Optimizing your Circles
- Format your posts headlines
- Create compelling content
- Share compelling content
- Optimize the +1 button
- Confirm ownership of your site/account
- Confirm authorship
Let’s explore each in detail.
Optimizing your Google+ profile
There are two things that matter when it comes to showing up in searches with your Google+ account: where the keywords show up in your profile page and who you are connected to.
Concerning keywords, AJ Kohn points out the four places in your Google+ profile that keywords matter for ranking are:
In our search for “social media”, we see this to be true. All the bold “social” or “social media” words can be found in their Introductions:
Take away: thread relevant keywords through your Google+ profile…namely in the Introduction, Employment, Education and Places sections…and you may start ranking for some highly-competitive broad terms. After that, though, the size and quality of your Circle needs to be optimized.
Optimizing your Google+ Circles
This is pretty straightforward…the more high-quality people you have in your Circle that link back to you the better.
That’s Google+ Circle optimization 101.
So how do you get those high-quality people to Circle you? In the post 10 Productive Tasks You Should Be Doing On Google+ Right Now at Problogger, I shared some tips on how to engage these high-profile Google+ users to entice them to connect with you. Here are the tips in a nutshell:
- Comment like crazy on Google+ thought leader posts.
- Focus on a particular thought leader and promote his content. When you get that connection, repeat the process with another thought leader.
- Share your work in comments…but sparingly.
- Fill out your profile fully so people know you are for real when they check you out.
- Create posts with a particular thought leader in mind.
According to my own experiments with clients and what others have been saying, if you don’t have a lot of people in your Circles, the next factor that seems important is engagement. I share a handful of tips on how to engage with your Google+ audience in another Problogger post…The Blogger’s Guide to Meaningful Engagement on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter… but the take away for this section is this: Buckle down and focus on attracting high-quality Google+ users into your Circles.
Format your Google+ posts headlines
The title of your Google+ posts are the only “meta” that you can optimize when it comes to Google+ posts. Didn’t know you could title the posts?
This is how posts are usually published on Google+:
There is no headline. This is how AJ Kohn publishes posts:
That’s the headline tag you want to optimize. How do you do that? Simple…add asterisks to the front and back of your headline: *Your Headline Here*. And use keywords.
By the way, the asterisks will go away when you publish.
Create compelling Google+ content
Chris Brogan argues that Google+ is a great platform for storytelling. I couldn’t agree more. So you have to wonder why so many people are satisfied with simply posting: “This restaurant rocks!” with a photo of it below.
Instead, to create Google+ posts that attract attention, gain followers and rank in search, try these tips:
- Create a content schedule – You don’t have to write a full blown article each time you post…but you should schedule one in once a week.
- Share videos and photos – But explain in a paragraph or two why you are sharing the content. Don’t forget your headlines!
- Conduct surveys – Engage your audience with a little survey. Start the survey off with your question as the headline…then explain in a few short paragraphs why you are asking the question.
- Use it as a niche blog – Use your Google+ content to focus on a topic you’ve wanted to explore…but you could never find a good reason to do it on your blog.
Here are a couple of cool things: your Google+ content can rank with Google’s search personalization turned off. Furthermore, it’s truly amazing how quickly this content can rank…sometimes within minutes you can see your post in the results.
Finally, to keep track of how your content is spreading, use Ripple. Just click the nav arrow to the right of any post…
…and you can get historical data of where that posts has traveled:
Take away: Treat your Google+ posts with the same respect you would treat your own blog posts…because now your Google+ posts matter more.
Share compelling content on Google+
Because compelling content takes time to create, you probably don’t have time to write a substantial post every day. You have work to do, your own blog to take care of…but you still need to keep good content coming down your Google+ stream.
In order to do this, you simply have to find great content in your Google+ stream…and then share it. That’s an easy enough take away.
Optimize the +1 button
Well, you’re not really optimizing it except to say you are using it…which is critical.
For the moment, it seems that Google gives more weight to the +1s you get directly from the site versus the +1 you get from content on Google+. In other words, the 29 +1s I got for this article…
…do not include the 8 +1s I got on Google+ for the same article…
That’s too bad, because the more +1s you get the better the impact social proof can make on your readers.
Google does share some pointers on optimizing your +1s:
Take away: If you haven’t already, drop the +1 button on your blog. Google is paying attention to how many people are using it for your content…and it is impacting your search ranking.
Confirm ownership of your site/account
Google highly recommends that you link your Google+ account to your website/blog and vice versa. Your first step is to link your Google+ account to your blog/website.
Your next step is to get a Google+ badge for your website/blog…then submit a Google+ page verification request. Unfortunately, one of the stipulations for that verification is to get 1,000 people to link to you…not a small feat for some small businesses.
Take away: It’s not known how much, but confirming ownership of a site seems to influence search inside Google+…so take the time to do it.
To enhance your social identity, improve your search results and increase click through for those searches…you should officially claim you are the author of your content through authorship markup.
Here’s what that looks like from a search standpoint:
As an author claiming his content, Danny Sullivan is provided some outstanding advantages to the other SERs. For example:
- Profile picture appears in results lending credibility to him as an author.
- The “by Danny Sullivan” drives searches to his Google+ page.
- And then the “More by Danny Sullivan” leads to an entire Google search dedicated to Danny Sullivan content.
Pretend you didn’t know who Danny was…if you were looking for “SEO advice,” the term I used to search…which SER looks the most promising?
Almost doesn’t seem fair, does it?
However, implementing REL=AUTHOR is sort of complicated. That’s why I highly recommend AJ Kohn’s guide on how to implement REL=AUTHOR. He put that together with the help of three Google engineers, so read it and then bookmark it.
Take away: It’s worth the investment in time to confirm authorship for you or your clients since it influences your rankings, Google+ profile and click-through conversion.
At the end of the day, you have no excuse for not being on Google+. However, I have a feeling I am probably preaching to the choir, so instead of using this post to convince you…use it to help convince your clients of the immense value of setting up a Google+ account.
Sure, they probably hired you to do SEO “work,” but as is becoming clearer as time goes on, the lines between SEO, social media and internet strategy are getting blurred. It’s a great idea to know not only what to do…but how to explain it clearly to clients or partners.
What other influence is Google+ having on search that I forgot to mention?