The Marketer’s Guide to Google Plus

Facebook and Twitter profiles are mandatory for most companies, but is Google+ worth it?

You may think to yourself: “Why should I get a Google+ account when Facebook can essentially do anything Google+ can do?” At this point in time that may be true, but when you realize all the SEO benefits of using Google+, then you’ll immediately see the importance.

Just setting up a Google+ page won’t get you any results. Seldom posting may look even worse than not posting at all. Companies need to go beyond just posting updates. They need to make use of all the features Google+ has to offer. In this post I’ll cover some of the techniques that businesses can use to get the most out of Google+.

Setting up a Google+ Page

If your business is going to get a Google+ profile, it’s best to get a business page. To do that, follow these steps:

1. Go to the Google+ for Business page to sign up and click on ‘Create your Google+ page’.

2. Login with your personal Google account if you haven’t already.

3. Pick a category.

4. Once one of the four categories are chosen, enter the info that Google asks for.

5. After you’ve entered the info, make a tagline and profile photo. Don’t skim past this part. For recommendations and good examples of taglines, follow the section below here.

6. You now have the option to tell your personal Google+ followers about your new page.

7. After that, you’ll be brought to this final page:

How to Get a Verified Name

By getting a verified name on Google+, people will know it’s your page. You’ll get this checkmark next to your name:

What’s the value of having a verified Google + name?

It shows that it’s your official page. Much like a Verified Name on Twitter, getting a verified name on Google+ means that users know that it’s your page and not a fake page created by an imposter.

Here’s how to get your page verified.

Go to edit your profile:

Once you click on Edit Profile, it will take you to your About tab. From there, scroll down to the bottom until you reach recommended links:

It will then bring you to this:

Click on Add custom link.

Enter the Label and URL. For this example, I’ll use KISSmetrics:

Hit Save, and this is what you’ll see:

Click ‘Done editing’.

Whatever link you use, your profile will then link to that respective website.

Add your profile number.

Go to link your Google+ page to your site. They will ask for your Google+ ID number. To find this, click on your profile. In the address bar, you’ll find the number:

Copy and paste your number:

Choose your badge style, then copy and paste the code into your site.

You’ll then have your verified name.

Tagline

Make use of your tagline in Google+.  A vague headline that doesn’t state what your page or company is about may lead to confused visitors. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Volkswagen encourages their users to explore their Google+ page:

Ford simply states that this is their official page, and inserts their new slogan:

The White House has a perfect tagline: they state what’s on the page and what you can do with the page, like engaging or viewing behind the scenes photos.

The first sentence would have been enough for Yahoo!, but adding in the “hand-picked” gives it a little personalized feel that they aren’t automated posts, thus signaling that you’ll get quality, meaningful stories.

Guy Kawasaki’s latest book is called Enchantment, so it’s fitting that he adds the word “enchanting” to describe the stories that he posts.

ESPN states their love for sports in a Google+ way:

Recommended Links

In the ‘About’ tab you’ll see Recommended Links near the bottom. You should add links to your blog and your company homepage. Also consider adding links to various offers you may have.

Photos

Photos are popular on Google+. Often the most popular posts on Google+ are pictures. To see this, go to the What’s Hot section (click on the ‘Explore’ tab on the left) and you’ll see pictures. Pinterest is proof that people prefer looking to reading.

While photos of you and your friends may work for your personal profile, it doesn’t work for businesses. Photos give businesses a chance to show the people inside your company. There are many different types of photos you can post. Most companies post product images. There’s nothing wrong with his, but along with product images try something different and show your company behind the scenes. Here’s an example from the Pablove Foundation:

By showing your employees in the photos, you’ll be more personable.

There is no limit to the amount of photos you can have on your Google+ page. So add company event photos, employee photos, behind the scenes pictures, product photos, community events and more.

On your profile, you are given the choice of having a cover photo or the scrapbook.

Scrapbook edit option:

Cover photo option:

If you choose the cover photo, make it unique. Try to not use Google’s default photo. Make it unique to Google+ and unique to your brand.

Takeaways:

  • Add lots of photos to your Google+ page.
  • Photos of employees at work and other behind the scenes photos are a good idea to promote the personal side of your brand.

Follow People Back or Not?

It can’t hurt. Brands like Huffington Post Politics routinely follow people back. It may be a nice gesture and give your brand more of a personal touch.

Status Updates

The goal here is to provide value and engage with users. They follow you because they are interested in your company and/or the space you’re in, but that doesn’t mean that you should always be promoting. Be there to provide value and insights about the industry. Be there to help the user who is following you. Constantly pushing product will likely not increase sales and only lead to resentment to your brand. After a while people will tune you out and/or unfollow you.

Engagement is about being there for the users and answering any questions they have. Here’s an example of engaging with the user and providing value:

The post is about the dangerous weather in the middle of the country. A user (me) simply asks if the weather is headed in the Minnesota area and they get back in a minute with the answer. They’re not giving a sales pitch or pushing product. They are indirectly improving their brand image with me by just answering a question in a timely matter. It’s unfortunate that many people don’t even get responses on social media. Just by responding to questions and engaging on Google+ (or any other social media platform) you could be getting a competitive advantage.

As previously mentioned, one of the things that separates Google+ from Facebook is that brands can appear at the top of Google search results. What you may not also know is that status updates can appear in search results. This means that it’s important to think about what you want to rank for and the keywords you want to use when you’re posting updates. Hubspot has a nice post on tools to identify the right keywords.

It may also be helpful to tag other Google+ pages in your post. Here’s an example:

By tagging, you are letting others know that they’ve been tagged. This can lead to them posting an update about you, which then reaches their audience and gets your brand exposed to them.

One of Google+’s most popular posts was when Android announced they hit their 10 billion app download milestone. They celebrated by offering some of the most popular apps for 10 cents. The post got over 400 comments, over 3200 +1′s and over 2400 shares.

Brands offering discounts in celebration of a milestone is nothing new. Try this yourself. Offer limited time discounts and see what kind of response you get. If done too often (like any sale), it will fall on deaf ears.

NASA’s Google+ page has strong engagement on almost every post. They post a few times a day and every one of them gets a considerable amount of +1′s and comments. NASA’s posts are usually behind the scenes videos and pictures & links about NASA’s latest endeavors.

Your company probably isn’t launching rockets or sending people to space, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have an exciting and informative Google+ page. People are following you because they are interested in what you do. So give relevant and valuable information.

It’s not a bad thing to ask for responses or questions on your status updates, but asking for shares may appear spammy. By doing this, it looks like you’re only using your followers to get more followers. Instead, focus on providing great content and the rest will naturally follow.

Takeaways:

  • Engage with your followers. Respond to their questions, ask questions, etc.
  • Avoid using Google+ as an advertising platform to push product. See it as a place to have a conversation and gather feedback about your product. Posting product info isn’t bad, but it can quickly wear thin.
  • Provide value in your posts. Post newsworthy & topical items about your industry.
  • Videos and pictures often get the strongest response. The “What’s Hot” category is almost always dominated by pictures.
  • Occasionally offer limited time discounts. See what response you get from this.
  • Tell users how the feedback you get from them is impacting your business and what your’re doing with the feedback. Few people will give suggestions or feedback if they know the company ignores it.
  • Posting 3-5 times a day seems to be optimal.
  • Asking for shares can appear spammy. Use this approach cautiously and don’t sound desperate.
  • Do not join Google+ (or any other social network) to simply post updates or push product. It is not an advertising platform. Engage with users and bring value to them.

Please note that Google does not allow brands to run contests in the Google+ platform itself.

Circles

The Circles feature lets Google+ members segment their followers and people they follow. This means that businesses can send out select messages to select people. You can organize your Circles into current customers, prospective customers, new customers, etc. Currently, the only way to do this is by manually entering people into a designated circle.

Here’s how to add or sort through your current circles:

Hover over the ‘More’ section and click on Circles

From there, you’ll be brought to a page that looks similar to this:

You can then drag and drop the people you’re following into certain circles.

You are also given the choice to add a circle:

To broadcast a message to a certain circle, simply go back to the Google+ homepage and go to the box to enter in your message:

You can add certain Circles, take away Circles, take away the Public, etc.

Of course, not all people who follow you will be current or even prospective customers. You can still make a Circle for them and post certain messages to it. One way to put people in certain circles is by simply asking them if they’re interested in your business or just following you because they like your content. If you have a customer database, it would probably be best not to ask people if they are your customers as it may seem a little insensitive considering that you can simply look them up.

Takeaways:

  • With Circles, businesses can segment their followers. They can sort by different customer types, new customers, old customers, prospective customers, etc.
  • Businesses can take advantage of Circles by sending coupons to just prospective customers (i.e. “Join now and get one month free”) or having specials for current customers.
  • It can only be done manually.

Hangouts

Hangouts can be useful for brands that have a presence on Google+. It gives users a chance to engage with the people in your company or experts in your field. If you have a lesser known presence on Google+, it may not be a good idea to use Hangouts because it’s likely not many people will join.

Hangouts are limited to 10 people right now. This limitation can make the Hangout more valuable because availability is scarce.

Depending on your industry, Hangouts can be used for Q&A about a product, having the CEO of the company answer customers questions, giving product demos, showing how to cook a recipe (if that’s your industry), bringing in experts to answer questions in your particular industry or whatever else your customers would like to engage about in a Hangout. Keep in mind that these videos are posted to YouTube, allowing many more people to watch it.

Google+ and Search Plus Your World

Search Plus Your World is controversial, but it’s made to be very beneficial and has given people in business a big reason to join Google+. It makes it possible for companies to appear on Google’s search engine results page without paying for placement. There are many companies who have already taken advantage of this.

Let’s say I just booked airline tickets and I need to get a hotel. If I go on Google and search for hotels, these are the results I see:

Here’s a closer image:

Hotels.com, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts or Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group did not pay for those placements. But it’s also not as easy as just signing up for a Google+ account. To learn how to do this, be sure to follow Neil Patel’s steps on how to create an effective Google+ SEO content strategy.

Do not forget to register for Direct Connect.

Direct Connect helps pages go directly from search to their Google+ page. For example:

google plus direct connect

You can register for Direct Connect here.

Also add your work email and your occupation in your personal Google+ profile. Your tagline, introduction, contact info and website on your Google+ business page should all be filled in.

The Google+ Author Tag

You can also add the Google+ author tag to search pages. The author tags are the little pictures you see beside Google results.

A picture next to your search result will help it stand out. Take a look at these three results from the search ‘facebook ipo’.

Previously someone may not of thought twice about it and immediately clicked on the Huffington Post article. But with a picture next to ‘All About the 2012 Facebook IPO’ it makes it a little more visually appealing and credible, making it more likely that they’ll click the link. More doesn’t always mean better, but with that link being one of the only pictures on the page, it helps it stand out.

Here are the steps on how to add the author tags to your search results. KISSmetrics also has a nice guide on adding a picture to your search results. You can test to see if you did it correctly by using this tool. Note that it may take up to a month for authorship to actually appear on search results.

Adding the Google +1 Button to your Website

It can also be beneficial to add to +1 button to your website. This may help your pages rank better and will make a nice companion to the Like and Tweet buttons on your site. Hubspot did a study that showed sites with a +1 button get 3.5x more Google+ visits than those without.

Moz has also observed a correlation between +1′s and a higher search ranking. Matt Cutts, Head of the webspam team at Google, notes that correlation does not equal causation and has reiterated that +1′s have no direct impact on rankings.

Outside of SEO benefits (whether or not there are any), it’s important for businesses to engage on Google+. Engage and use your Google+ page, otherwise there will be no search benefit. We’ll get more into the topic of engagement a later in this article.

Takeaways:

  • Make use of your Google+ business page. If you set up the page and then ignore it, it will garner no SEO.
  • Add the +1 button to your site
  • Add author tags to your site. This will show a picture next to your result on a Google search result page. It will help your link stand out from all the others that are on the page.

Getting Your Name Out

Reaching influencers can go a long way in getting your name out. Cadbury Chocolate sent Vic Gundotra (Senior VP of Social at Google and the man behind Google+, with over 6 million people following him) a personalized chocolate as a surprise. In return, Gundotra posted about it and got a flood of comments, +1′s and shares.

Reciprocity is an effective technique, but it must be thoughtful and personable. Sending an influencer a $20 gift card to Starbucks may be a nice gesture, but they likely won’t tell their followers about it. Do research on the influencers and think of something clever.

Gary Vaynerchuk frequently says, “What’s the ROI of your mom?” He brings this up a lot in talks and interviews. Maybe sending him a coffee mug with those words would impress Gary to where he’d share it with his Google+ or Twitter followers.

It’s not just limited to small companies. Netflix sent actor Eli Roth a cake on his birthday. In return he tweeted it to his 150,000 followers:

Reaching influencers won’t always lead to a post on Google+, but it could be the start of a relationship with that influencer.

The other key in social media is to listen. See what conversations are happening and what people are saying about your products and your industry. Is there a conversation that you can join? Google+ is still  a relatively small social network, so it’s possible there aren’t many conversations around a niche brand. Don’t force yourself into conversations that are irrelevant to your company. Save that for your personal profile.

When joining conversations, make your comments valuable. Try to become a thought leader in your industry. Comments like “good post”, “great point”, “I disagree” or “glad to hear it” are useless. Instead, add in your own opinion and analysis about the post or others comments. Take your time, a few thoughtful analysis comments is better than a dozen “great post” comments.

Takeaways:

  • Reach the influencers in a thoughtful, personable way.
  • Monitor conversations and join in if you have a place in it or can add something valuable.

Useful Resources

Google+ Developer Blog – Google’s official blog for Google+ developers.

What the Plus! – Guy Kawasaki’s book on Google+. Very reasonable price.

Zoomesphere – Charts and other data on Google+.

It doesn’t look like Google is going to give up it’s social efforts, so it’s best to get in and get your name signed up (before someone else takes it) and begin the efforts to establish a presence. In many ways, Facebook and Google+ should be treated similarly. You likely will not get as much engagement on Google+ as you will Facebook. However, you should not give up Google+ because of that. As mentioned, it has benefits that go beyond just social media. Best of luck in your efforts.

About the Author: Zach Bulygo is a guest blogger for KISSmetrics, you can find him on Twitter here. You can also follow him on Google+. You can also follow him on Google+.

  1. This is fantastic.

    I will be implementing this tactic for my business.

    • Awesome :)

      Hope it goes well. You won’t get as good engagement on Google+ as you do Facebook due to the smaller number of users, but it’s good to get your foot in the door on Google+.

  2. Hi Zach, you are a STAR! :) Love all these tips, thought it knew it all but seems that I wasn’t even close. Have a good weekend!

    • You’re far too kind. I appreciate the compliments, I’m here to help anyway I can!

  3. For some reason when I follow the steps to get my page verified, I am not getting the checkmark to show up – do you know if this happens instantly or if there is a delay?

  4. If you’re giving advice on G+ and you’re an expert marketer extolling the virtues of Google+, one would think you’d have a Google “+1″ button on your page. Just sayin’.

  5. Definitely a useful guide; Google+ is a great networking tool, but definitely under-utilized right now.

  6. I’m new to social media marketing and this is really valuable insight. I love how you emphasized to engaged and create relationships with users/followers instead of self promotion.

  7. Thank you, thank you! It is hard to find a guide that appreciates the use of images, I find them very helpful. Again, thanks for sharing the guide.

  8. Thanks for sharing this valuable information. It builds greater clarity on why I should consider G+ for business. As a solopreneur, I might include a few photos, but uncertain if it will help or hurt. Although your thorough tutorial on how to get started makes it a perfect starting point to consider in a social media strategy.

  9. Love it, I followed most of the advice and now have G+ part of our promotion strategy.

    I wish Google ads vanity URLs and that way we can share the links easier.

    Thanks and keep it coming.

  10. g+ is very essential when you have a website because there are more people into it compare to facebook and twitter.

  11. Thank you. The positioning of the picture took some work.

  12. This is the best post I have read on G+. I am completely converted. I had no idea it had so many functions. Thank you for the great explanations & links.

  13. Zach,
    Great article! Any advice on merging google places (now google+local) with existing business pages? Thanks!
    JT

  14. Krzysztof Kotlarski Aug 29, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Great post! You can make great unique covers at http://www.unicover.me

  15. Wow! What a power packed article! I thought I’d put in place everything required to make Google+ work for me. Your comprehensive material helped me tweak my profile and learn how to better use Google+ to benefit my business. I can’t thank you enough for making such imperative information available to those of us who are still coming up to speed.

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