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Google Plus Page

Google has stuck with its story that the various components of Google+ and the +1 button don’t have an effect on search rankings. They have to. Once they admit that it does (as countless studies and tests have indicated), the flood of spam and blackhat SEO techniques will grow larger than it already has. This is important to understand for anyone doing research on the topic. Google isn’t trying to deceive people for the sake of being deceptive. They’re trying to protect the sanctity of what will become their greatest advantage in the ongoing search engine wars. They will not sit back and do what Yahoo did a decade ago, relying on mass adoption to carry them through. Just because Google is on top today doesn’t mean that they have no fears for the future.

Thus, Google+.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the three primary components of Google+ and the various +1 buttons (they look the same but they have different uses) that have an effect on your search rankings.


The Google+ Business Page

There’s a good chance that if you’ve been following the advice of internet marketing experts out there for the past couple of years, that you have a Google+ business profile. If you don’t, get one now.

The page serves two purposes from a search perspective. If you’re posting content from your website onto your page, it counts as a +1 for that particular piece of content. +1s are weighted differently and the ones from your page have more weight than spammers but less weight than most users, but it’s still a good thing to have. It doesn’t hurt, so why not?

The other component is a relative scale. Your page itself has +1s, demonstrated in the image above in the bottom right by “+346″. There have been a couple of studies that have looked at this and shown that it’s the most important aspect of overall search rankings that Google+ affects. I disagree based upon my own research, but it definitely has an affect. By being a “relative scale”, it isn’t a matter of gathering hundreds, even thousands of these. It’s a matter of having higher quality ones relative to your competitors for search rankings. As with everything in this article (and pretty much in search and social altogether), quality trumps quantity. You only see the number. Google sees the quality of the accounts within the number.

Domain Content +1s

The rise of content marketing from a search perspective has been most positively affected by the +1 buttons on your site. Inbound links are still extremely important, but they have remained at a steady value ever since the Penguin update. The +1s accumulated on content within a domain have risen in overall power.

This is why true content marketing on your website is so important from a search perspective. We can no longer rely on strong HTML content and organic links to rank higher than competitors. Sure, they work, but the real differentiator that so few are willing to explore is the fact that social signals to a piece of content affect the overall rankings of a domain. If a piece of content is strong enough to get some viral love on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook, the rankings of many keywords are affected.


Individual Content +1s

This is a two-headed beast. Google has not seen the +1 abundance of data that they had hoped when they first started putting the +1 button everywhere. They’ve gone through many changes over the last year, including changing the way that the search results interact depending on browser and device. Now, you can “share” pages from results into Google+, but it’s unlikely that this is being done very often.

What Google IS seeing is an increase in the number of shares directly from content. It isn’t just a rise from the clicks on the page itself, but also an increase in the +1s happening on the Google+ network within users’ feeds. This is translating into very strong improvements in overall search rankings and traffic for those who are able to get activity on Google+ with their content. The catch-22 is that many businesses are finding it much easier to get +1s to “fun” content. This helps with the second component above, but if we’re not able to get +1s to the “money” content, we’re missing a large part of the strategy.

To achieve this, websites have to start being built with “fun” and “money” on the same pages. It’s a challenge – the entertainment or educational value of content often makes it hard to use as a conversion piece, but that’s the golden ticket at the end of the day. If you can turn your fun content into something that also has the ability to generate leads and sales, you’re definitely a mile ahead of your competitors.

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Using Google+ as a Lite Business Blogging Platform

Facebook has the market cornered on true social networking. Twitter is the news source. YouTube owns videos. Google+, the network that's growing huge but still having challenges communicating its identity, has one major advantage over all of the other social networks: size of posts.

It's possible to format and utilize Google+ as a lite blogging platform. This is not necessarily a good replacement for those who already have a valid and active business blog, but those who are getting started or who never been able to generate real traction to their blog can take advantage of some of the things that Google+ does well.

Here are some of the advantages:

* Formatting - While it's not nearly the type of formatting that is available on true blogging platforms like Wordpress or Tumblr there's enough formatting options on Google+ to make it work. Again, this is only good as a lite version.

* Length - The constraints present on other social networks are looser on Google+. Sure, you can use hacks to plug in a blog on Facebook and there are tools available to fake a blog through Twitter, but posting directly to the feed is only possible from a length perspective on Google+.

* Instant Rankings - While I haven't tested beyond my own accounts, I know that Google+ posts tend to rank extremely quickly and very high for good keywords, particularly for those who follow me. Even unauthenticated web searches present Google+ posts.

* Tie-In to Google Local - The local components of Google through search and directed from other locations are generating more and more traffic. Reviews, maps, information - all of these give people reasons to visit a Google account for a business. Once there, people are often unable to find anything interesting on the pages because of how infrequently most post to their Google+ page accounts. By making it a lite blog, this can change.

The disadvantages are numerous, of course. Links, images, videos - pick one. Unfortunately, you cannot mix and match different media types. You also can't put them in-line the way you can on real blogging platforms. Unless you are one of the lucky ones with a vanity URL, it's not easy to get people to your G+ page without using a custom short link.

At this point, anything that can get businesses communicating more robustly with their customers and potential customers is a good thing. It's not that I would prefer that people use Google+ for blogging over Wordpress, Blogger, or any of the true blogging platforms, but if it's convenient enough to make businesses act, then it's worth describing in a blog post.

I guess that's what I just did.

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Don't Let Your Google+ Page Die on the Vine

I vividly remember a conversation I had with Wikimotive's Tim Martell back in 2008. Even four and a half years later, the conversation has remained in my mind. We were discussing the rise of social media. We both agreed that Facebook would be the big thing, but he told me something that surprised me.

"I actually get more traffic from my MySpace page than Facebook," he said.

We knew it wouldn't last, but it was hard to let go completely. His team maintained the strongest MySpace page in automotive for a long time until the social network stopped really being a social network. He then started focusing on the world of Facebook and the rest is history.

Today, Google+ is a "player" in the automotive social media field, but very few are sure how to use it properly. Some would say that at this stage it's a ghost town and isn't a valid part of the social media strategy. My argument to the contrary is similar to my argument against abandoning Twitter: it just doesn't take a lot of time to keep it ready.

Even if you don't believe it will materialize into anything, get these words stuck in your head: "Just in case."

There are reports of it helping from an organic search ranking perspective. These reports are confirmed, then unconfirmed, then refuted, then reconfirmed. Google has said that it is important. Then they've said it doesn't have an affect. What people often don't realize is that they're masterful at spin, particularly when it comes to their search algorithm.

In mid-2010 they vehemently denied that social signals had any effect on search rankings before stating for the record later the same year that they definitely had an effect on search rankings and had been having an effect for nearly two years. It's no coincidence that they made the latter statement six months before launching Google+.

With Google Local having a direct impact on business and being tied in with Google+, you can't afford to think that it will fail. Assume it won't. Assume it will be a thing. Here are three things to do to make sure it doesn't die on the vine.

  1. Post on it Like Facebook - Whatever you're posting to Facebook, post it to Google+ as well. It's an extra step that takes about 2 minutes if you're slow and requires nothing more than copying and pasting.
  2. Use Hootsuite - This shouldn't be your only method of posting as everything comes across as links (even images) but it's a good way to keep the page scheduled and going strong.
  3. Manage Your Page Weekly - Posting is quick. Managing takes a little more time. You don't have to do it daily like you do with Facebook, but once a week check out your new followers, follow the appropriate ones back, and go through your feed (logged in as your page) giving +1s to good content. Total time: 10 minutes.

Nobody worth their salary has a ton of time to waste in the automotive industry, but it's important to keep this high-potential network from dying on the vine.

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