So you’ve followed the sage advice of savvy social media experts like Neal Schaffer, telling you why you need to have your business on Google+, and you’ve created a business page for your brand.
Obviously (I hope it’s obvious!) the worst thing you could do is just let your page sit idle. So let’s set some priorities and get to work making your page effective. The recent announcement by Google that G+ is now heavily integrated into Google search makes it all the more important that you optimize your page and start your involvement on Google+. G+ is still young, but it’s growing rapidly. Early adopters of any new social media outlet gain significant advantages over the competition, and it’s not too late to claim that space in Google+.
Where to Start on Your Page? Set Priorities
Google+ Business Pages offer unprecedented search ranking advantages, so make optimizing your profile for both regular Google search and G+’s internal search your first priority. Next you’ll want to make sure your profile “sells the follow.” Does it capture attention and say, “You’ll want me in your circles!” in those few seconds when someone takes their first look? Once your profile page is in good order, you’ll be ready to start posting great content and engaging to build your following.
Those priorities in mind, let’s get started with the five first things you should do with your Google+ business page:
1. Optimize Your Page for SEO
As I said above, one of the most powerful features of G+ is Google search. You’ll want to take advantage of that to make sure your business page is likely to be found, both in Google+’s internal search and in Google’s regular search engine. Perform the steps below to make your page attractive to Google’s search bots. (Hint: to edit your page, select the profile view and click the “Edit Profile” button, then click in the area you want to edit.)
- Verify your page with Google. Unlike your Twitter handle, there can be any number of pages with the same name as yours. The good news is that Google has provided a way of verifying your page as the “official” page for your brand. Verified pages will get priority in search ranking over non-verified pages, so this is the best way to protect your brand. Follow these instructions to set up page verification.
- Add a carefully crafted subtitle. Unless you’ve set up a local business page, Google+ allows you to place a subtitle or tag line under your brand name. Only the first 10 words you enter are visible in the page header, and only the first 21 characters are shown in the pop up that people see when they roll their mouse over your page name. Make it descriptive and use your most important search keywords (e.g. “Premier Lower Manhattan Luxury Hotel”).
- Write a complete introduction. Not only is your introduction important to sell your brand and Google+ page to visitors, it’s the prime spot on your profile page to build your page’s SEO power. Use keywords that you want to be found for in search, but use them sparingly and naturally. The introduction section has a rich text editor, so include links to your site using good anchor text.
- Add Recommended Links. Use the “Recommended Links” sidebar to link to the major sections of your web site. Also link to your other social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). If you’re a sophisticated analytics user, you might want to tag these links (and those you put in the introduction) so you can accurately track traffic from your page.
For more tips on optimizing your business page profile, see my “Complete Guide to Optimizing Your Google+ Brand Page.”
2. Upgrade Your Page’s Visual Appeal
90% or more of the “job description” of your brand page falls under “first impressions.” Most people will only come to your page once, to evaluate whether you are worth circling (the Google+ term for “following”). And on average they will only spend a brief time there, so you want to do as much as possible to grab their attention get them to click that “Add to Your Circles” button.
- Make creative use of the top-of-profile “Scrapbook” photos. The most eye-catching examples use the five photos as a single banner. Here are some great examples, and here is a guide to how you can create that effect.
- Take advantage of the rich text editor. When in edit mode on the Introduction section of your page’s profile, you’ll see a bar with several formatting tools. You can format text in bold, italic, and underline, create bullet and numbered lists, and anchor-text links. If your introduction is long, use bold subheadings to break it up. My agency’s Google+ page is a good example of using these formatting tools.
3. Fill Your Post Stream with Quality Content
Even before you get your first follower, I recommend getting at least three or four posts up. By default visitors land on your posts tab first. So your posting stream is the real first impression-maker, seen before your About tab. Seeing “XYZ Brand hasn’t shared any posts yet” isn’t exactly a good “circle us” call to action. Your first posts should be superstars, showing off the kind of great, interesting content people will get if they follow you. This article isn’t about good content creation, but at least do the following in your posts:
- Use Google+’s formatting options. Even though you won’t see the rich text editing bar that appeared when editing your profile’s introduction, you can still do a certain amount of formatting using special codes while creating a post. To bold text, *put asterisks around it.* To italicize, put _underscores around it_. For strikeout, -use dashes around the text.- These are pretty rudimentary, but they are way above anything available on almost any other social media platform. Use them to create posts that look like blog posts.
- Use photos and videos. Try not to post anything without at least a photo. Google+ won kudos from its early adopters (and loyalty from many of the world’s top photographers) for the beautiful way it displays photos. A photo or embedded video appropriate to your posts topic catches the viewer’s eye and makes you post more likely to be read.
4. Begin to Attract Followers
Now that you’ve got your page optimized for search, you’ve made it visually appealing, and you’ve begun to post quality content, you’re ready to open the doors and do business. But as in any social media outlet, there is no “build it and they will come.” You have to attract early adopters of your page and then utilize them to build a following. Getting that snowball rolling takes a little more work on Google+. For one thing, to prevent spam following, Google+ restricts brand pages from adding anyone to their circles until that person either has added the page or link-mentioned it in a post. In addition, unlike Facebook, Google+ doesn’t (yet) have ads that you can use to bring new people to your page. So how can you begin a following?
- Promote your page on your other social media channels. More and more of your followers on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere are trying out Google+. Post in those places to let them know you have an outpost on Google+. Where possible, put links to your G+ page on your other social media profile pages.
- Promote your page on your own website. Put a Google+ badge on your site. Google has provided a tool to create a custom badge linked to your profile.
- Leverage personal profiles to promote your page. If you have willing and able people in your organization, have them create personal profiles on Google+ with which they regularly link to posts from your brand. Notice I said link to posts, not directly to your brand page. It’s not that they should never just post a recommendation link to your page. But the most effective “selling” of your brand page will be making visible the interesting and useful content you’re posting. In order to expand your reach, these personal profiles should take advantage of Google+ search to find and follow people interested in what your brand is about. Unlike brand pages, personal profiles can follow anyone. If your personal profile is properly filled out and your posts stream has good content, many of the people you follow will follow you back, and you’ve begun to build an audience to whom you can market your page. Of course, don’t spam! Be real, vary your posts, don’t make every post about your company and its posts. The goal is for your personal profile to become respected as an authority in your field, so followers will gladly want to follow your company as well.
Once you’ve got a base following, establish a good cycle of posting and engagement.
- Post new content regularly. On Google+ my experience has been that you almost can’t post too much. The early adoption crowd on this network appears to be very ready to engage and hungry for content. Just make sure you’re adding value.
- Follow back those who circle you. When you add followers to your brand page’s circles, they get a notification that you did so. This is an instant signal that there are real people behind your brand page who will listen and interact. That’s a strong reinforcement to someone who already took the time to follow you.
- Create Engagers & VIP circles. When you notice someone who consistently engages with and promotes your content, put them in a special circle. These are people you want to “stroke” from time to time. Engage and reshare their content, which will encourage them to continue to do the same for yours. Also keep a circle for any “VIP’s” who happen to follow you (celebrities or others who are very influential on G+). You’ll want to cultivate relationships with them.
- Regularly monitor your stream and comment, +1, and reshare follower’s posts. Such engagement seems to be more valued on G+ than on other networks, and will induce your followers to do the same for you.
Just as engagement is key to good EdgeRank on Facebook, so it seems it will be a strong force in the amount of influence your page has in Google and G+ search. Just having a profile and posts centered around good keyword strategies is not enough. If two pages are otherwise equal in a keyword area, Google will give the boost to the one that has more G+ reach and engagement.
Especially with the advent of Google Search plus Your World, G+ business pages offer an exciting opportunity for even small brands who have never had much of a voice on social media. We are still very much on the “ground floor” of this fast-growing network, especially for marketing. Those who build their pages and content carefully and invest now in posting and engagement should reap big rewards down the road.
If your brand already has a Google+ page, share with us what has worked for you.