Google+ is a thriving social network with booming engagement and SEO benefits aplenty. Yet it is underutilized, especially as a platform for building links and outreach. Let’s explore why Google+ is an ideal place to begin for your link building efforts.
Organize Your Outreach
Circles are a defining feature of Google+ and work well for organizing your outreach efforts. Google+ Circles can be used to separate your link targets into several groups. I recommend creating a circle of prospects marked as Opportunities, one for people you have Contacted, a circle for those who have Responded to your messages, one for people to Follow-up with, and a circle of people with whom outreach was Successful. Personally, I segment my circles even further, having circles of journalist by publication. Google+ makes it easy to move people in and out of these circles with ease.
Conduct Your Outreach
In addition to being able to use Circles for organization, Google+ has features that enable outreach directly on the site. Depending on the user’s settings, there may be the option to email, hangout (chat or video), or send a message. Even if users don’t enable the email feature, you can always send private message directly to people. Alternatively, direct contact information can often be found in a user’s “about” section.
Find Prospects on Google+
The process of finding prospects on Google+ might seem tedious, but with a Chrome Extension and Excel skills, it can be made considerably easier. To get started you will need the Scraper Chrome extension and Niels Bosma’s excellent SeoTools for Excel plugin. There are several ways to stream line the process using these tools.
From a list of people you “follow”
Navigate to any Google+ view with a list of users that you follow, such as the home page view, and open up the Scraper extension. Scroll down as much as possible in order to maximize the number of people that are loaded on the page. Using the following settings in Scraper will capture the people you follow:
To capture the profile information of people who are commenting on the posts of people you follow, use these Scraper settings:
After collecting this user information, export it to Google Docs using the button in the lower right of the Scraper extension, and then transport it into Excel. You can change the URL format of the Google+ profiles from relative to absolute by removing the “./” and then use the “=CONCATENATE()” formula to append the “https://plus.google.com/”. Finally, use Niels Bosma’s SeoTools for Excel plugin to fill in any missing information, including PageRank, which I will explain the significance of later on.
Search for target using Google+’s Find People Search
The Find People functionality of Google+ was recently added and is extraordinarily useful by allowing you to locate people based on their employer, education, or location. These criteria are especially useful for targeted outreach efforts. For example, you could find all of the journalists who write for The New York Times that are active on Google+. Once you’ve located prospects using this methodology, use the same settings mentioned above with the Scraper extension for Chrome.
Find People Posting about a Subject
The standard search bar located at the top of most Google+ pages is also very useful, as it can be used to find prospects posting about a certain subject matter. You can then use the same settings to capture a list of users with the Scraper extension.
Search in Google Using Advanced Operators
Doing a Google search with advanced search operators is one of the best methods to find prospects; it makes it simple to find people who blog with authorship markup applied and for targeting people who contribute to a specific publication.
You can search Google using the following search operators or a derivation thereof:
site:plus.google.com inurl:about “contributor to”
The results to be scraped as usual, using the below settings:
Using a Directory Site like CircleCount
There are several websites that attempt to catalog Google+ users into a directory; CircleCount is one such directory that does a good job identifying top users. An advantage that CircleCount has over other Google+ directories is its URL structure, where the same string of characters identifies users as they are on Google+. As you might imagine, this allows for easier scraping.
You need only to right-click on a user’s name within CircleCount, choose “Scrape similar…” and the extension will automatically identify the correct XPath selector, enabling you to compile a nice list of profiles. Once you’ve exported the list created from CircleCount, you can do a manipulation in Excel or Google Docs, replacing “http://www.circlecount.com/p/” with “https://plus.google.com/”, yielding the absolute URL form of the associated Google+ profiles.
Examine Large Ripples
The last method for finding prospects on Google+ involves examining highly successful posts by viewing Ripples. If you ever come across a post with many shares, click the corner drop down to “view Ripples”. You can than scrape the list of shares using the “//h3/a” variation as the XPath selector. By examining Ripples, we are looking at users who tend to share and re-share content. These users’ shares tend to have a greater viral potential.
Useful Tip: You can use AJ Kohn’s Find Ripples Bookmarklet to view the Ripples of web content that you might want to examine, even if you aren’t in Google+.
It’s Not Author Rank, It’s PageRank
For years now there has been a discussion about Author Rank. This is the idea that Google determines a person’s authority on a particular topic and then ranks content they write higher. Recently, Mark Traphagen in a presentation at SMX Advanced, alerted the SEO community to an aspect of Google+ that we should have already realized. It is unlikely that Author Rank is currently a part of the Google search algorithm, but it has been confirmed that Google+ profiles, pages, and communities are all possess PageRank.
Excel Baby! Fetching Google+ PageRank
Once you have a large list of prospects and their associated Google+ profiles loaded into Excel, we can use the SeoTools for Excel plugin to pull in their PageRank values.
Simply navigate to the SeoTools Ribbon->Offpage->GooglePageRank and select a cell with a Google+ profile URL and the plugin will print a number. The plugin will return -1 for a profile if it doesn’t have toolbar PageRank. Drag down as you normally would to populate an entire column with PageRank values for your list.
Two Links, One Stone
When conducting outreach on social networks, it makes more sense to get a social share rather than a backlink. Authoritative users can catapult content into a viral glory, generating both traffic and latent backlinks. What is great about Google+ is that its social shares not only offer viral opportunity, but also contribute to a page’s backlink profile. Depending on how your conduct your outreach efforts, it is possible to acquire two links: A link on a user’s website and a PageRank passing share on Google+.
Useful Tip: When conducting outreach, remember that social media is social first. It best to work towards building a relationship rather than a link. Social media users do not respond well to people who look like spammers.
The Future of PageRank vs. Author Rank
Google+ profiles may not pass PageRank in the future and may be replaced with another ranking signal, perhaps Author Rank, once it has been deemed more reliable. Although it is possible that Google+ shares may maintain their ranking benefits, their future in the Google algorithm is relatively unknown. Therefore, it is important not to rely on Google+ links alone. Link building efforts conducted through Google+ are best utilized for traditional link acquisitions, with the added benefit of social shares that currently help boost rankings.