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We’ve all heard that Google Plus can “help your SEO” but do you really know what that means? There are studies and statements from Google saying that social activity does not directly impact search results, even from Google Plus, so how on earth can anybody claim that our search marketing efforts are enhanced by getting active on Google Plus? Especially when you do a little research and realize that there isn’t enough of a target audience on Google Plus to justify the time to learn a new platform, or focus on personalized search results.
The truth comes out when you think about how creating an active and engaging Google Plus presence benefits you outside the social network itself. Below, we are going to explore three areas where you can be rewarded for your efforts on this “social layer.”
Perhaps one of the most direct methods to take your social activity on Google Plus to the search marketing arena is with +Post Ads, an interactive ad format for AdWords advertisers that is shown on the Google Display Network.
Google Plus users and pages who have an established, engaging presence can essentially “boost” their Google Plus posts outside the social network proper, and display them in a highly targeted fashion on sites that run AdSense.
By “established, engaging presence” I am referring to Google’s minimum requirement of 1,000 followers which, unless you are a major brand, does not happen very easily. Expect to spend 3-4 months on your Google Plus presence, and to be active on posts other than your own. After all, the more visible you can make yourself on the platform, especially on users’ posts that have an established audience, the easier it will be to find people interested in your point of view and your posts, which leads them to add you to their own circles (follow you).
The by-product of building your follower base this way is that you will create real relationships with a targeted audience, and your audience will want to interact on your own posts. When this happens, and you decide to take one of your posts and “boost” it by creating a +Post ad with it, people on the websites that display the ad will see existing engagement, and may decide to follow you as well. The highly targeted nature of all of this is what makes +Post Ads a powerful way to enhance your search marketing campaigns.
TIP: Foster conversation on your Google Plus posts by replying to as many commenters as possible, asking follow up questions, and genuinely being social. Very few brands do this, so you will stand out.
Every post on Google Plus is a unique URL that gets indexed by Google, in many cases within hours of being posted. Where that post is displayed in search results is, of course, up to a variety of factors. But Google Plus posts do rank in search, and herein lies a big opportunity for businesses to create microcontent around their key blog articles and landing pages.
For example, if you have a landing page for a new whitepaper, you could create the following Google Plus posts that point back to it, create social signals for it, and build a footprint for it in search:
1. a link to the landing page itself
2. an eye-catching image that has a link to the landing page in the introduction
3. the YouTube video that you embedded on the landing page, which has a link back to the landing page in the introduction (and the YouTube video description would be optimized, of course)
The introduction to each of those post types (the link, photo, and video) can be re-posted with fresh content, such as a recap of a testimonial from one of your customers, or a checklist of what to expect in the landing page. And each of these posts could also be shared to a community (or communities) where the content is relevant and the audience is targeted.
That’s literally dozens of instances of indexed Google Plus posts that can be created for a single piece of content, and does not take into account the shares of these posts across Google Plus, or the shares of the landing page itself by others on Google Plus. All you need to do is get creative, and continue to make the posts valuable to your audience by themselves (read: no click bait, the Google Plus culture does not respond well to click bait).
And don’t forget, you can take one or more of these posts and turn them into +Post Ads.
The search landscape is moving away from tactical checklists that can be gamed and toward a semantic web, where entities, intent, and relationships are harder to fake and build the type of reputation for a site that mimics real life networking and business. Furthermore, your entire web presence needs to be completely integrated in the semantic web, and feed search engines like Google the right type of data about your business so it can recommend you at the most appropriate times to its customers (the people using its search engine).
So, your web team now has to work hand in hand with your search team, your marketing agency, your social media managers, content writers, and anybody else who is involved in your online presence. All your properties should be as connected as possible. When this happens, everything you do online (that gets indexed) is sending signals about the type of business you run, even down to the people and pages you interact with.
How does Google Plus play a part in helping your business and your website get recommended more often than those of your competitors? Let’s say, for example, you are a local home builder in New Jersey. Your website tells everyone you build homes in New Jersey. Your social content (YouTube videos, Google Plus posts, Pinterest boards, etc.) center around the concepts of home building and New Jersey. And on Google Plus, the conversations in which you are a part are largely centered around home building and New Jersey (perhaps together, perhaps independently). You are networking with Realtors on real estate related posts, and getting people and pages in the real estate industry to add you to their circles. In other words, if you took a snapshot of all the conversations and people that interact with your Google Plus profile (or page), there would be a concentration and focus of topics related to your business of home building and New Jersey.
In marketing, we call this “top of mind awareness”, which is essentially being extended into your online presence by teaching search engines like Google who you are and what you are about, all by the type of content and relationships you interact with. The good news is, this is a lot like real life networking, and online, you can only get this from Google Plus.