We’ve all heard the old aphorism “give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for life.” I like to go it one better: “give a man a fish pond and you can forget about the fishing.” With G+ brand pages, Google is practically giving you the search engine fish pond.
Why do I say this?
Unlike some of Google’s previous toe-dippings into social media (Buzz, Wave), G+ is not a bolt-on. It is designed to be fully-integrated into all thing Google. Since Google is known primarily as a search engine, it’s probably not surprising that the first and most complete integration we’ve seen to date has been the inclusion of G+ in Google search.
G+ and Google Search Results
If there were any doubts that Google planned to integrate G+ into its search, they should have been wiped away on January 10, 2012, when Google introduced “Search Plus Your World.” SPYW (as the tech journalists quickly dubbed it) brought personalized search results front and center for logged-in Google users, and it was quickly apparent that G+ was all over it. Web pages recommended by your network on Google+ were raised to the valuable front page of Google search results.
But that was really just the tip of the iceberg.
While my business card says “social media marketing,” I have a good background in search engine optimization (SEO). When I first got involved with G+ it made my SEO “spidey sense” tingle. That’s why I made it the center piece of my social networking activity, at a time when other “experts” were dismissing it as “just a Facebook copy” or “a ghost town.” My gamble paid off royally as I began to see first my own, then clients’ search rankings and Google search traffic rise in proportion to their use of G+.
A G+ Small Business Success Story
I have many stories I could share with you, but the one that makes me happiest is that of Eleanor Thorne of NC Mortgage Experts. Eleanor and her husband Steve run this small business here in Raleigh, NC. Although Eleanor has maintained an active social media presence for some time now, it was bringing only a trickle of traffic into the business. All that changed starting in December of last year. From December to May their site experienced a 500% increase in daily organic search traffic. Eleanor couldn’t figure out why this was happening, so she asked me to look into it.
Along with my Virante Search Marketing SEO colleagues, we looked at all Eleanor’s metrics and activities over the past year. She hadn’t done any SEO tricks like link building. The only significant change we could find is that in December 2012 Eleanor created a G+ brand page, properly verified its link to her site, and began sharing content there. It appears that her use of G+, with regular, fresh, quality content, has significantly raised her visibility in Google search. Though their business is tiny, they now consistently get on the first page of Google worldwide for their most important keywords. And more important for them, leads started coming in so fast they had to hire more staff to handle them!
This isn’t an isolated example. I’m collecting more and more stories like this, especially for small businesses who are first in their niche to take advantage of G+.
Why Is There a Search Boost for Businesses on G+?
I want to be clear before we go further: search ranking boosts like my friend Eleanor experienced are not automatic. It is not a matter of setting up a G+ page and then sitting back waiting to reap the rewards. But having a well optimized page properly linked to your site and web content is definitely the important first step. Before we get into the “how to’s” of creating such a page, let’s talk about why Google gives a boost to businesses who use Google+ correctly.
Though it certainly looks like it on the surface, the G+ project was not created to be just another social network. Google had much grander designs for it. To maintain their position as the world’s leading search engine, they knew they needed to continually improve the quality of the signals that help them determine search rankings. Social media seemed like a likely place to get useful signal, but Google was limited into how much it could get from major networks like Facebook and Twitter. So they created their own network.
But with their usual genius, Google devised a way to go beyond just being able to measure what people shared and +1ed. By providing a way for individual authors to link their content to their identity, and for brands to link their web sites to their social activity, Google could begin to track and assess the quality and trustworthiness of content from those sources. This is going beyond just page links as ranking “votes” (the heralded Google PageRank system) to crediting the actual sources of content for what they produce that other people like and share with their friends.
So in summary, linking your site to a G+ brand page opens the door for Google to begin to build a trust/confidence “file” on your content that it can then use as a multiplier to boost the other traditional signals it already uses to rank you in search results.
How to Connect to G+ Search Ranking Power
Now let’s get down to the practical. How can your business take advantage of the power of Google Plus to elevate your visibility in search, bringing you more customers, more leads, and more sales? I recommend following these steps:
- Create an SEO-optimized G+ Page for your brand, and properly verify it with Google. For instructions and tips, see my post “The First 5 Things You Should Do with Your Google+ Business Page” on this blog.
- On the About tab of your Page’s profile, add links to everywhere on the web where you post content and/or engage with others about your business topics, especially your various social media accounts.
- Post regularly on your G+ Page, even before you have much of a following. You want to build a history of fresh content consistently on-topic. Not only is this important for Google’s tracking of you as a topic authority, it encourages people looking at your page for the first time to circle you if they see they are going to get good content served up regularly. Because G+ does not yet allow posting from third-party tools, you will have to build these posts “by hand.” Remind yourself of the search engine rewards your efforts will bring! Varying original content with re-shares of other G+ posts or web content can help ease this task.
- Engage with your followers. Regularly monitor your Page for notifications of new comments or shares of your posts. Google’s own business team recommends that wherever possible you “sign” your brand page posts with a personal G+ ID, and then respond to comments as that person, rather than as the brand. People feel more connected to a brand when they feel like they know an “insider.”
- Keep up with your blogging and other content posting outside of G+. Since you’ve linked to it all through your verified Page, Google can use it to build your search ranking profile.
So take my Google+ for Business Challenge: Follow the steps I outlined above consistently and regularly. Track visits to your site from organic search in your analytics as you do. Watch for a pronounced rise in your “hits.” Depending on your vertical, it may take a few weeks or a few months, but if you keep at it, based on all I’ve seen and tested, I’m betting you will begin to see a dramatic rise in your traffic.