In just one month Google+ has continued its exponential growth reaching 20 million users this week. A few days ago, Google removed several business accounts from Google plus (such as Ford and Sesame Street), but left other brands such as Mashable (because it transferred the brand to a person – Pete Cashmore) to play in beta. Though there has been an announcement that Google+ will be open to the public shortly, many businesses are wondering when they can create their own proper business page. Let’s explore the importance of preparing your brand for that eventuality and some things you can do in the mean time to prepare.
The Importance of Google+ for Brands
So why should your brand really care about being on another social platform anyway? Is this just another channel for engagement? Well, if you care about your company’s online reputation and its search ranking, consider these things:
Google Plus VS. Facebook
Facebook faces a major challenge from Google. Check out TechnoBomb‘s infograph comparing the two giants.
Tremendous Impact on Social Search
Simply put, Google+ is a search engine integrated with real time cloud based communication for sharing all types of media. Whether you are posting about your brand or a customer is posting about your brand, there are significant search engine optimization (SEO) implications. Two primary implications involve getting better search engine rankings and faster, rael-time results in those rankings.
Friends on G+ = Better Rankings: Since 2009, Google’s Social Search results have had content from people you know to rank higher, when you’re logged into Google. Search Engine Land uses this article to explain how Ford begins to rank higher in search for those they are “friends” with. The connection allowed Ford to rank higher and have the competitive advantage.
G+ vs. Twitter and Real Time Data: For the past several years Google has used Twitter to power Real time results, as well as to index content faster. That was until Google + came along. Recently, there was an experiment performed as a result of Google losing access to its special Twitter data feed. They said that they would bring it back with the power of Google+ so it begged the question of whether Twitter could still influence rankings and what the impact of Google+ would be for users. A team ran an experiment around unindexed URL’s and from their results the key take ways were that aggregators and scrapers still play an SEO role, retweeting is very powerful, an individual’s social authority has impact on ranking and still the traditional SEO rules are still they way to go. You read more about the details of the experiment here.
Google+ Becoming Available for its Google’s Business Suite
Most you are familiar with Google for its search engine, gmail and Google Docs among its large group of product offerings. Also for the last few years they have offered most of those products to businesses in a platform called Google Apps for Business. This is a cloud-based platform of Google products and partner solutions that allow you to connect, collaborate and manage your business. Those offerings include:
- Gmail for Business
- Google Calendar
- Google Docs
- Google Cloud Connect
- Google Groups
- Google Sites
- Google Video
- Apps Marketplace
AND many more (http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/more.html)
These tools allow for an integrated solution for businesses of any size. With the Google+ launch there was a seamless integration of it with the Google products for consumers. So one can expect that when Google does bring Google+ for Business online that their suite of offerings will be even more useful.
This is compelling because you would have one central place to manage your business, promote your products, communicate with customers and really have everything you need in one platform. For instance, what if you ran your web site on Google Sites. Using Google+ could make engagement with your customers incredibly simple and productive. Another example is using Google Cloud Connect along with the Google+ “Huddle” feature – instant webinar or video conversation to get your presentation ready.
While Waiting, Prepare Your Brand for Google+
So, while your brands is anxiously waiting to be part of Google+, there are a few things that you can do now:
Utilize the Google +1 Button
Google +1 is an entirely different program that Google+ which allows for anyone, even if they are not in Google+ to indicate that they like a page directly to Google. It has interesting SEO implications because you are indicating in the same fashion to Facebook’s “Like” button that a piece of content should have more relevance. We know that “Liking” something (page, comment, wall post) on Facebook does impact the relevance in the Google algorithm in a positive way. Google has previously said that gaining +1s can help improve your ranking for those who have directly clicked the +1 button for your content, as well as for those they are connected to. In addition, it can show even those who aren’t connected or using +1 an overall count for your page, should it appear for them naturally.
Create a “Face of the Brand”
People need to feel a personal connection to a product or service and having someone that would be a face of the brand (like Mashable is doing with Pete Cashmore) is important to be a part of the conversation with customers. This might seem familiar to you if you were utilizing Facebook for your business in early days when it was just individual pages and groups. By having employees out there as brand representatives it allows you to be on Google+ now and get a lead on your competitors while Google gets the formal business offering ready.
Form “Google Circles”
Circles are extremely compelling because you add people dynamically it doesn’t require a two-part permission. There are default Circles for “Friends”, “Family” and “Following” but you can create any kind of circle. Circles on interests or likes, circles on specific interests or likes. This will allow you to segment out how you interact and what content you distribute to them. Why is this really powerful?
Add Value to the Conversation with Posts Inside of Google+
Google+ posts, equivalent to the Facebook wall is the feature likely to be used the most. Links found here are valuable links for SEO and this is also likely to be the place where the most dynamic links are found. Because of this, it is likely that Google may only assign short-term weight to these links. A caution to those who might think that this is a place to flood the world with content and not realize it – if you are noisy people will turn you off or just delete you as quickly from their circle as they added you.
Complete Your “About Me” Profile Page
You will want to make sure that your profile page is complete and robust. It will be the way people discover you and if you decide to follow them they will be able to learn more about you. The ‘About Me’ section of each user’s profile can include SEO beneficial links too. This may be of great advantage to users with their own blogs, and indeed brands and businesses who have subscribed for the opportunity to set up business pages on Google+ akin to brand pages on Facebook. Depending on the authority of the user or brand, these static links may be of more value than those in Google+ posts. This is especially important if you are representing your brand as is will essentially be your business brand page for now.
Utilize Google+ “Sparks” to Monitor Conversations
When you initially click on the “Sparks” conversation you are presented with very generalized topics to help you find relevant information you might have an interest in. However, the search box at the top is where the magic happens. Type in a search term like your company name or terms you have used in some social media monitoring and viola – you have not only instant feeds of information you just created a personalized social media monitoring channel.
Host some Google+ Hangouts
This is probably Google+ most talked about feature. With “Hangouts” you can do a video group chat with up to 10 people. The person talking gets the focus so the video picture automatically rotates – very simple yet incredibly powerful when you are having an online conversation. You can start a chat searching for person and also, you guessed it, your circles. So few things come to mind – you can quickly construct or delete groups to have targeted conversations do things like:
- Customer Service Chats
- Q & A sessions
- Video Meetings
And it is all for free. Like I mentioned previously, when Google+ becomes available for businesses and can leverage Google services like Cloud Connect it will truly take collaboration to whole other level.
So Is Your Brand Ready for Google+
While you are getting to ready for Google+ for Business to arrive, what have you been doing to prepare? Have you thought of a few good people to represent your brand? Is it you? We are ready to add you to our circle, so what are you waiting for?
About the Author: Ja-Naé Duane, Director of Social Media at Overdrive Interactive, is a marketing strategist and the author of “How to Start Your Business with $100.” She’s been featured in dozens of media outlets, including Associated Press, NPR and Business Week. Her next book, “How to Create Revolution: A Step-By-Step Guide from History’s Social Influencers” is due out in the fall. Connect with her on Twitter: @TheSunQueen