This article was updated on Feb. 11, 2013 to reflect a change Google made to the links in The Story section of personal profiles. Links no longer pass PageRank.
If search engine marketing is part of your professional or business marketing plan, Google’s social network, Google Plus will be an essential tool for your success. The social platform’s unique structure influences what appears in personalized search engine results. This provides opportunities to expand your career and business that aren’t available in other social networks.
I’ll explain strategies that will help you use Google’s social network to gain exposure. These strategies can be applied in many of your activities on Google Plus. Then you’ll see how to use them when creating your profile—the About page. I’ve included resources that expand on these topics, and further education that will kick-start your networking.
The Power Behind Google’s Social Network
Google provides two features that can boost your online presence:
- The algorithm will match you with people in the network who have similar interests. To see this in action, check out the Find People section of your People tab. You’ll see a list of people you may know, and you’ll appear on people’s suggested lists as well.
- Your posts can be listed in personalized search engine results. You’ve probably already experienced Google’s Search plus Your World, which is one form of personalized search. Here’s how it works. When you use Google search while you’re logged into a Google account and the personal icon is selected (see photo), your search results are influenced by your activity with all Google products, including Google Plus. You may see posts from people in your Google Plus network, and your posts could appear in other people’s search results. You
What can this do for you? Connect you with your preferred audience. What’s even better, the larger and more influential network you build, the more search results you’ll appear in.
How to Make Google’s Social Network Work for You
You leverage this power by becoming an authority on a subject. Subject experts are rewarded by getting more exposure within Google’s social network and by having their posts appear higher in search results. People in Google Plus vote on your authority by sharing, commenting and giving your posts a +1. If you want more exposure, you have to build authority by creating good content that gets shared and creates engagement.
These strategies can help you use Google Plus to expand your presence within the network and in search engine results:
- Determine what your expertise is and create activity around the topic through articles, conversations and sharing.
- Optimize your content with search terms so people can find it. Be sure keyword placement enhances your content and doesn’t detract from it.
- Produce valuable content by publishing solutions to problems, news about emerging trends and advice that helps people succeed. These types of articles get shared more frequently.
- Sharing is caring, so share good content generated by others.
Now that I’ve explained some strategies, let’s apply them to your profile.
Setting Up Your Google Plus Profile
Your profile is an expanded business card that tells people who you are, what’s important to you and where you’re located. Be sure to fill it out entirely. Let’s review some key areas.
Craft this section with content and search terms that support your expertise. Be careful not to reduce the quality of your content by using too many terms. These resources can assist with your search term research:
- Google’s Keyword Planner
- Using Google Keyword Planner and Other Tools for Keyword Volume – Ruth Burr
This is a great section in which to add your unique value proposition.
Mention topics you like to discuss, including those you want to build authority in. This way, people will know how to engage with you. Doing so also provides signals that enable Google to connect you with others who have similar interests.
Adding links to your profile is extremely important for building your authority. They tell your community what websites you are associated with, which you contribute content to and display profiles from your other social networks. Some of these links use to pass PageRank but they no longer do.
This tool created by Google identifies the author of content that appears in search engine results. It displays an author’s photo and name next to a summary of the content. Authorship can be associated with content created on external websites and Google Plus.
There are two reasons why you should use this tool:
- It builds authority by passing PageRank from external websites to your Google Plus profile.
- Search engine listings with photos have been found to improve click-through rates.
If you’re a blogger or have a website, learn more about Authorship by reading how Authorship and Author Rank can increase website traffic. Resources that show you how to set up and test Authorship are listed at the end of the article.
If you do all of your content creation on Google Plus, Authorship should already be set up, provided you’ve met a few of Google’s requirements:
- You’re using your real name in your Google Plus account.
- You’re using a headshot for your profile photo.
- You’ve tagged your profile photo. You can tell if your photo is tagged by viewing it on your hovercard (below). If your name appears when you place your mouse on your photo, it’s tagged.
You can test Authorship by signing into your Google account and going to the Labs section of Webmaster Tools. Click on Author stats. If it’s set up properly, you’ll see your Google Plus posts.
When you place your mouse over someone’s name near a post, you’ll see a hovercard. It’s a snapshot of the person with a brief message. Design your hovercard as an introduction so people can learn about you and your interests without viewing your profile. Content for your hovercard comes from the About page. These hovercard tips can help you create a positive first impression:
- The information you put in the Tagline area will appear on the first line of your hovercard. You can put your services, skills or a brief message here.
- The first listing under Employment in the Work section appears next.
- The last line of the card comes from the Currently field in the Places section.
Upload a professional headshot for your profile photo. Keep in mind your profile will be small on smartphones and when it appears next to your comments. To maximize these small areas, crop your photo so your headshot fills most of the image area.
By using a creative message and image, your cover photo can communicate your personal brand and your value. It’s a little tricky because the cover photo displays differently on desktop computers, tablets and smartphones. Using free cover photo templates created by Stephan Hovnanian, I was able to position and size my message so it’s readable on many devices. Short messages will display better.
Being an Authority Will Help You Grow
Becoming an authority in a subject is an essential strategy to gain exposure within Google’s social network and in search results. Use this strategy when creating your profile, writing content and engaging with others. The journey toward this goal keeps me learning and growing in my profession.
I encourage you to continue learning. Here are resources from respected Google Plus curators that will enable you to build a successful network:
- Search Engine Optimization Using Google Plus – Martin Shervington, Mark Traphagen and Joshua Berg
- How to optimize your cover photo for search – Stephan Hovnanian
- Google+’s Quickstarter Guide – Martin Shervington; lean how to manage your contacts, write good posts and engage with others
- Google Plus Your Business – everything you need to know about Google Plus
Good luck and let’s start engaging on Google Plus. Circle me if you haven’t already and reach out if you have any questions or need assistance. If you found this article helpful, please share it with other newcomers.
Google+ lettering compliments of The Lamp. Image created by Mary Iannotti.