Accessible Marketing

How Can Google+ Help My Business?

by Judith Hutchinson

I am increasingly being asked by small businesses about how Google+ can help in terms of marketing their organisation.  It was Liz Paton from Tarnished Studios who acted as catalyst for this article – Thanks Liz!  Here goes in hoping I can answer some general questions on G+ and that SEO superhero, Marcus Miller from Bowler Hat will provide some nuggets of wisdom with his kind contributions.

What is Google+?How Can Google Plus Help Your Business

Google describes G+ as ‘another social layer’.  In layman’s terms it’s a social networking site but one that happens to be owned by Google (did I mention they are the largest search engine in the World?).  There are over 300 million users of Google+ worldwide and according to GlobalWebIndex is growing faster than Facebook and Twitter (although I would be interested to know some stats on UK brand engagement on Google+).  In my recent experience it’s something that some businesses are aware of but are very unsure of in terms how best to use for their organisation.

For those using Facebook and/or LinkedIn on a personal level you will be familiar with ‘friends’ and ‘contacts’. The difference with Google+ is that you can categorise your contacts into ‘circles’ so this means you can communicate with different ‘sets’ of people differently. For example, with my G+ personal profile I may update something from a business point that I share with my ‘business contacts’ but not with my ‘friends’, for example.   Hangouts are another useful resource that G+ provides – businesses can use these as a way of directly communicating with a customer and indeed larger organisations use hangouts for internal communications.

Comment from Marcus:

Google+ is growing and is connecting with (and swallowing up) other important entities such as Google Places and Maps. This means businesses have to think beyond Google+ being just another (somewhat barren) social network and more as Google+ being the connective tissue that gets your business in front of people using Google Search, Google maps and Google+.

How Should I use G+ for My Business?

The answer to this question really depends on the type of business you have.  Before you launch into anything I would urge you to think about what you want to get out of it and look at how you can integrate G+ with your other marketing efforts.  In the first instance I would suggest setting up a personal account and start having a play to understand how it works from an individual’s perspective (and if you blog you should certainly set up Google Authorship).   Like with Facebook your business should have a page (not an individual’s profile). So your next step is to set up a G+ Business Page.

Comment from Marcus:

As Judith pointed out it really does depend what kind of business you have and who your audience are. Case in point would be local businesses including large national businesses with local offices. 97% of consumers search for local businesses online and Google+ local profiles are the tool that you leverage to get in front of these customers.

With careful consideration of Local SEO best practices and a well put together Google+ Local profile you can target users in Google Search, Google Maps and on Google+ across all devices from Desktop PC’s to Smart Phones.

Does G+ have the same marketing potential as Facebook and/or LinkedIn?

Comment from Marcus:

The fact is from a Facebook / Linked In / Twitter perspective your customers may not be on Google+ and it can be a bit of a wasteland but I would argue this is missing the point. Google+ is a way for your business to be found across Google and the many properties under the Google banner. Think beyond the closed walls of other social networks and ask yourself if you want to be found in Google Search?

Google+ for Business gives your customers the information they need about your business when they need it – be that directions, a phone number they can click to call on mobile phones or simply the hours you are open – Google+ is how you ensure this information is correct and up to date.

So, there may not be as many folks actively on Google+ but there are certainly a whole bunch of your prospective customers using Google so that is really the wrong way to look at it. Your customers are likely viewing Google+ profiles and content without even realising they are doing so and that is the real strength of Google+.

The SEO Perspective on Google+

Hey folks, Marcus from Bowler Hat chipping in here with some further clarifications on Google+ primarily from a search engine optimisation perspective. The questions below are what we get asked on a regular basis at Bowler Hat regarding Google+ and its usefulness for search engine optimisation.

Is Google+ Good for SEO?

The main question I get asked here is whether Google+ is good for SEO? Will being active on Google+ help your site rank better and be found in search?>so let me just cover off some of the established knowledge here.

Google +1’s and Rank

Getting +1’s on Google is the second most positive factor from correlation data with the rank and position of a given page (second only to page authority). Now one of our favourite sayings in data analysis side of the SEO world is correlation is not causation and this is certainly true here.

Here is a great way to illustrate this point.

Now clearly we are not saying here that sharks eat more people in the summer as they are all sweet and lovely as they have been tucking into buckets of Ben & Jerry’s so the relationship exists but is not causative. Simply, there are more people swimming as the weather is better so we have an additional factor that is likely the real cause.

This is the same as +1’s and Google’s own Matt Cutts has gone on the record and stated +1’s are not used in the ranking algorithm (yet) so whilst we seem to have a relationship it is likely another factor (or factors) that are truly causative.

Certainly though, something is going on so lets look at the real causes behind an increase in visibility on the back of more +1’s and shares on Google+.

Getting your SEO ducks in a row

If a business is using Google+ as part of their online marketing efforts then they are likely doing a lot of other things right as well and we may be seeing the shark effect here with other factors contributing.

Personalisation of Search Results

Search results are becoming ever more personalised and businesses you interact with, follow and +1 may well be more visible to you in your search results.

Localisation of Search Results

We also see a lot more localisation of search results now so having your local profiles configured and your Local SEO in place offers just about the quickest, easiest and smartest way to get in front of local businesses – your Google+ profile plays a large and important part in this.

And the prize goes to… Google+ Has Followed Links

Links are still important for SEO. Link building has been through the wringer over the last few years (and rightly so) but good, honest links from relevant and authoritative sources are still a huge and important part of online visibility and guess what – Google+ has followed links.

So, what does this mean? Well, by networking with Google+ users and using social sharing widgets you are helping to generate shares and +1’s on your content. Each of these shares places your content on another users social stream and creates a followed link back to your site.

So, by spending time working on +1’s we are likely bolstering several other factors that influence how visible your site is in search (links, local visibility, relationships).

A word to the wise

Now, just because shares on Google+ can be a good thing don’t look to go buying these on fiverr or odesk. We want shares but we want them from real, active and authoritative accounts. Try to game the system and you may see some initial flourish but long term you are damaging your business the trust that Google has for your business.

Summing up

Ultimately, Google+ is essential for local businesses and can be a great aid to all companies in building relationships and bolstering your link profile in a natural and effective way. Remember, you have to do things the right way: build relationships, create great content & tell people about it. Certainly though, this is another tool for your Internet Marketing arsenal.

If you have one takeaway from this post I hope it is that you view Google as the social network that Google+ serves rather than Google+ being it’s own little Facebook-esque walled garden.

Share the love

Are you are using G+? Have any questions or need any help? Let us know in the comments below and Marcus and Judith will help out with any queries you may have. Also, if you found this useful share it out to your social networks and give us some G+ love as we want those juicy followed links!

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