One of the most important reasons to use Google+ is for the search engine optimization benefits. The most powerful SEO benefits revolve around authority, social proof, and indexing content. Taking a step back, though, there are a number of critics who are concerned that Google is, well, working in its own best interest by promoting Google+. My first thought is, of course! My second, is that there are good reasons because Google will trust their own data before third party sources.
When you use Google+ using your real identity, Google has a lot more confidence in you as an author and, by extension, your blog, website, or e-commerce site. Even if you are using other social networks, using Google’s internal social platform is sure fire way to instill confidence in the search engine that you are a real person, you are credible in your industry, and deserve to be ranked in their search engine accordingly.
As Google’s algorithm incorporates more and more signals including social to the mix, having a profile on all of the major social channels including Google+ is a must or you will leave search engine exposure on the table. Speaking of signals, when you put fresh content on Google+, you are making it easier for Google to index your content. Especially for timely content that needs exposure quickly whether it’s based upon current events or you are promoting an upcoming event, sharing a site on Google+ helps get that content indexed fast.
Leveraging Google+ Communities
One of the my favorite benefits of using Google+ communities and the social network more generally is that you get notifications of updates when you are in Gmail. When you consider the reduction in email open rates from the new tabbed layout in Gmail, anything that pings people in your online tribe is a win!
Google only started field testing Google+ on June 28th of 2011, so communities isn’t as mature as Facebook or LinkedIn pages or groups. This could very well mean that there isn’t a go-to community for your niche or that there is less competition more generally to build a community on Google+ than on other social networks.
The first step to build your own community in Google+ is to participate in other communities! Participating in other Google+ communities first will help you get a handle on the unspoken rules in Google+ compared to other social networks, familiarize you with the functionality on Google+ and in communities, and help you network with other people who are building communities and might be able to help you do the same.
Once you have participated in Google+ communities, it’s time to create one. There are a number of tutorials online already, so just Google it and go from there. With your Google+ community ready to go, create some commonsense categories, an about section for the community (I encourage you to include rules for posting and being a part of the community there so there is no confusion about what is isn’t appropriate behavior in your community), and, finally, share the community with the appropriate people in your network. Congrats, you’ll have people in your community in no time!
But don’t celebrate too long, because you’ll quickly find that you’ll reach a ceiling in your community and then growth will slow to a trickle. Push through that ceiling or prevent it in the first place by using Hangouts and building your circles!
Hangouts are a real time video conference on Google+. It’s a really neat tool that you can use an alternative to Skype on conference calls or conversations with friends and family in addition to being an awesome community building tool. For the most part, I’d be careful merely sharing a Hangout on another community’s wall. Instead, think about ways that you can mash up your community with another one and hold a mixer. Is your community about health and wellness? Well, why not host a hangout with a diabetes group or get even more creative and host a hangout with long haul truckers on Google+ to talk about specific health issues that affect them at work. There are endless, creative possibilities to connect with other people in other communities to effectively use hangouts to expand your reach.
One of the ways that Google+ really shines compared to some other social networks is with its rock solid search capabilities; it is, after all, owned by the largest search engine in the world. When you search for key terms in your industry, you’ll find a number of pages and profiles that are relevant to the search in addition to a wealth of posts centering on your search term. I suggest clicking the words “best of” and then choosing “most recent” on the drop own menu that appears. This way you can connect with potential community members in real time by commenting on their post, messaging, and other means. Finally, be sure to share your content on Google+. You can do it manually or use a social media management tool. At World Copywriters, we use Hootsuite because it’s affordable and does the job. We use the RSS feature in the Publisher section to share the World Copywriter’s RSS feed so that we don’t have to worry about forgetting to share new posts on Google+ or any other appropriate channel.
Google+ is a powerful tool for anyone looking to improve their search engine optimization and build a community of people online. Last but not least, unless you are trying your hand at Google+ Hangouts on Air, which streams a hangout on YouTube and takes a little getting used to, Google+ is really easy to use, so all of the processes that I’ve outlined in this article are intuitive. Best of luck improving your exposure on Google search and building a community online using Google+!