Google+ Guide for SMEs

Tim Hopma 6 years ago

A few days before penning this piece we held our first ever ‘Zazzle Live!’ event. It was during that conference and the resulting networking time afterwards that the idea for this post came to me as many of those in attendance kept asking the same question: “What is Google+ and why should I - a small/medium sized business owner - care about it?”

Over the course of this blog post, it’s hoped that not only can we answer this question - whilst shedding some light on this giant platform - but encourage you guys to embrace the Plus community.

Google+ is, in it’s most basic form, a social media platform. Described by Google, as their ‘social layer’ and with a, reported, 300 million active monthly users - second only to Facebook’s 1 billion monthly active users - it’s no minor entity. However Google+ is more than ‘just another social platform’; quite a bit more, in fact.

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(Image Source)

There are hundreds of blogs and articles passing their thoughts on Google+. we’ve read plenty of articles that seem insistent that we’ll be viewing the demise of the platform altogether, because it’s not performing as ‘well’ as Facebook. With this in mind, I’ve decided to dispel 3 common myths and misconceptions about Plus that I’ve come across, straight off-the-bat;

“Google+ is a ghost town”

WRONG. We're not sure that a platform with 300 million active users can ever really be classed as a ghost town. Quite frankly, if your home feed is quiet, to the point of ghostly stagnation, then it’s because you’re doing Plus wrong. You aren’t seeking enough Communities and individuals to connect with and, as a result, you won’t see anything of note in your home feed. It really is as simple as that. Imagine Facebook if you didn’t have any ‘Friends’ or didn’t ‘like’ any brands…

“Google+ is failing because Facebook is still the ‘go-to’ platform for peoples social media needs”

WRONG. Google never intended on using Plus as a ‘Facebook killer’. From their perspective, using Plus as a social skin, that will connect all of your Google affiliated accounts, is incredibly lucrative for them. They’re a business that thrive on data. The more data they can harvest, the better their advertising product will be for it’s customers. As you all - no doubt - know, targeted advertising is a big earner for Google.

“My target audience isn’t on Google+”

WRONG. You just haven’t found them yet. There are a huge array of Communities already established on Google+, it’s up to you too seek the relevant ones and join-in on the conversation. Once established among the Google+ world, your audience will begin to find you. If, incredibly, there isn’t already an established Community for your particular interest/specialty, then perhaps look into creating & managing a Community of your own. If you can’t find a relevant Community, chances are there are many others with the same issue, so become the authority instead.

Whilst there is a lot of disparity across the web, as to how Google chooses to rank posted content from Google+ among searches, we think you’d be a little foolish to believe anything other than it receiving favourable treatment from the search giant.

In fact, as Eric Schmidt (Executive Chairman of Google) wrote in his book, ‘The Digital Age’:

"Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results".

So, for all intents and purposes, Mr Schmidt may as well have written, “Within search results, information tied to a completed, popular and actively used Google+ account, will be ranked higher than content without…”. There is huge value in brands having a well established, and highly valued, Plus account for this sole reason. In addition, and as we all know, Facebook posts, tweets and other forms of content hosted on social sites, gather very little traction with regards to page ranking.

Yes, of course, when used effectively they can still drive traffic in their own way. However, what if that brilliant piece of content, with the link to your site, that you just posted on Facebook - obtaining a sum of likes in minutes - also passed PageRank? Well, if you had posted it to Google+, it would have had that opportunity. This is no small factor and isn’t to be underestimated, particularly given Google’s seemingly never-ending quest for high quality, content driven, search results (see Google Panda).

If there’s any chance at all that your content and brand is going to receive a welcome boost in the page rankings, in exchange for utilising the platform, you’d be naive not to take advantage, surely?

Okay, so you’ve read the above and reached the stark realization, that Google+ is essential for you business, you’ve followed the step-by-step guide on Google+ and setup an account for yourself and a Google company page, but now what? Well, the next step is to get posting, sharing and +1’ing! I’ve composed a few tips, below, to get you ahead of the game.

11 Top Tips for Making the Most of Google+

  • Complete your page fully. Like Facebook and Twitter, it’s important that your profile is complete. Professional looking pages, with relevant and interesting profile pictures and company information are an essential starting point
  • Seek out relevant business communities and actively engage in the discussion. An important element of this is not rest on your laurels. Google+ communities are always growing, evolving and establishing themselves, so never stop reaching out for communities to engage with
  • Make sure that your sharing option is selected as ‘Public’. This will assist in maximising your post reach and engagement levels
  • Ensure you’ve got a good spread of different ‘post types’. Include your own original content, shares of other interesting posts and links that you think may be of interest to your audience. Get a good mixture of pictures/graphics and written pieces to appeal to all of your audience
  • Experiment with different posting times, and frequency, to find the optimum levels of engagement for your brand
  • When you’re sharing content from others, be sure to describe why you’re sharing; ‘Plain’ links and shares often get less engagement than those with descriptions. Would you be as keen on clicking through a link, if you didn’t know what the link was too or why you should bother clicking it?
  • Make use of the differences between Plus and the other social platforms. Google+ posts permit formatting, so make the use of the tools available. Don’t be afraid of bold necessary quotes or italicising statements, where appropriate
  • There is no notable character limit for Plus posts, so make use of this benefit. Google+ posts can be treated like a smaller version of blog posts, if the content is interesting enough. There’s no point in writing a long-winded post when a shorter, snappier and more concise prose will suffice. Again, feel free to experiment, in order to get a feel for the prime post length
  • Use #hashtags. From experience, hashtags continue to work brilliantly for Twitter and Instagram, but we feel they fail somewhat on Facebook. People just don’t use them as much to tie together relevant content. The Google+ community not only embrace the use of hashtags, but Google themselves further develop on their use, associating the hashtag with other relevant terms.
  • Utilise the ‘Ripples’ tool on Google+. This allows you to see how far and wide your post has spread.
  • Make the most of the +1 tool. The ‘+1’ button within Plus, is the equivalent of the ‘Like’ button over on Facebook, but - depending on what you read - it carries a lot more weight, especially within Google search rankings. It’s your way of showing appreciation for a given piece of information or content that has been shared. Another area that Google’s +1 differentiates from Facebook’s ‘like’ function, is that it collates all of the content that you’ve +1’d into a handy list, accessible from your profile. If, for example, you find yourself consistently liking the shared content from any given source – don’t be afraid of reaching out and befriending them!

In conclusion, if you’re a small to medium sized business - and aren’t already making the most of Plus - then we can’t help but feel that you’re missing out on a potential market place. Google+ is all about Communities and establishing friendships/relationships. As far as we’re concerned, and whilst Plus is likely to undergo a sum of changes over the coming months with Vic Gundotra (one of the creators of Google+ and a senior vice president of Google) leaving the company earlier this year, one thing’s for sure; Google+ isn’t likely to be going anywhere, anytime soon.

 

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