Do we really need yet another social network in our lives? No, we don’t. But because this one is run by Google – who use it to help rank websites – we need to be active on it.
So here it is.
The Google+ guide for people who hate Google+.
Why Google+ is more important than Facebook & Twitter
Google wants to use social signals – likes, tweets, shared links and so on – as an indicator of which content and websites users find most useful. The logic is simple – the more something is shared, the higher quality that content must be.
The problem for Google is that it’s had a pretty rocky, on-off relationship with Facebook and Twitter. That means it can’t always index social media content or get access to the kind of useful data and analytics it needs for its ranking algorithm.
That’s where Google+ comes in.
Now that it has its own social network, it’s much easier for Google to track how users rate web content. This means, like it or not, Google Plus is playing an increasingly important role in Google’s ranking algorithm.
That’s why it’s a smart idea to make a big deal of it in your social media marketing plans.
Meet your new best friend – the Almighty +1 Button
This is probably the most important aspect of the network, at least for traffic generation. It’s also easy to add to your site.
The +1 button works just as Facebook’s Like button does. The big difference is the +1 button is directly connected to Google search results.
When you do a Google search and one of the pages in the results has already been +1′d by one of your contacts, that page will be shown higher in your search results than would otherwise be the case.
Boffins at Google HQ have given this feature the catchy name of Search, plus Your World but on search results pages it’s called personal results. You can see from the screenshot below there were 90 personal results for one of my searches.
That’s 90 pages that are in a higher position because they were either created or +1′d by someone in my network.
Even better, once a page has been +1′d by a large enough number of people it’ll receive an overall boost in search results, even for users who aren’t connected to each other.
If ever there was a magic button to access better search engine rankings, this is it.
What you need to do
Make sure you have a +1 button on your site and that it’s prominent enough to be seen and earn you clicks. Good placements for sharing buttons are at the top and bottom of your content.
Even if you do nothing else suggested in this article, add the 1+ button.
Don’t forget the Share Button
Like Facebook’s send button, the share button sends a link directly to Google+ where it can be discovered and shared.
The easier you make it for users to share content, the more likely it is they will.
Getting to grips with Circles
Google+ Circles are groups of people. You can create as many as you like, add as many people as you want to each one and put someone in more than one circle. There’s even a whizzy drag-and-drop interface for managing your circles.
Circles are an easy way of keeping the different types of people and interests separate, so you might create circles called Friends, Clients, Marketing, and so on.
But here’s the clever part
When you come to share something on Google Plus, you can decide to share it with everyone or only with one or more of your circles. There’s no need to share work-related things with your family and there’s no need for your business contacts to hear about the wife’s splendid new hairdo.
From a marketing point of view, you can do some nifty targeting with clever circling.
Here’s an example.
Suppose you have an online store selling fun gifts and supplies for pets. You could add customers to circles themed by the type of pet they buy gifts for – Cat Owners, Dog Owners, you get the idea.
Now you’re all set to share content with them that’s relevant to the type of pet they own.
Got a funny video of a dog loving a new dog treat you’re selling? With circles, you can share it with your dog owning customers without bothering the ones who only have hamsters.
Getting more people in your Circles
It’s easy to add people to your circles. Whenever you see a Follow or Add button just click it and you’re done. The user will get an email letting them know you’ve added them.
While users often add you to one of their circles in return, I’ve noticed this doesn’t happen nearly as quickly or as often as with following someone on Twitter.
I think that will change as the network gets busier.
How to make your updates and profile pages stand out
Google+ is surprisingly visual and users share a lot of images and videos, so make use of good visuals.
Good is subjective, of course, but as with other social networks the quirky, funny or extraordinarily beautiful stand a much better chance of being viewed and shared.
Profile pages have three places you can use images – the main profile pic (of your beautiful self), a cover photo (a rectangular image that runs to the left of your profile picture, and a photo album.
Let people find your content with #hashtags and +usernames
Just like on Twitter, #hashtags are used to tag posts of the same subject together and make them easier to find in search. Easy.
It’s a convention to use +username when mentioning another user if the post references them, something they’ve published or you just think they’d be interested. It’s like using @username on Twitter – it can be a good conversation starter and often leads to being added to someone’s circle.
Here I am having a cozy chat with the world-famous Chris Brogan:
There’s a lot more to Google+ but I’ve deliberately concentrated on the sharing aspects because of the benefit you’ll see in getting more visitors.
If you need a good, practical tutorial on how to set up circles and profile pages, as well as a look at other features like Hangouts, take a look at this mammoth post of 101 tips by Ana Hoffman of Traffic Generation Cafe.