Like Me? Follow Me.
From an online marketing perspective Google + seemed to be a marketer’s dream online platform. New features including the likes of Ripples and the Circles function looked so appealing, making targeting audiences a breeze. In a perfect world, everyone would be going mad about Goggle’s social experience.
However I personally can’t help feeling the search engine has a long way to go before it can entice the masses into abandoning their longstanding love affairs with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, or even the (relatively) new kids on the block which offer a refreshing alternative such as Pinterest and Tumblr.
If we only based it on the current statistical information available, it seems as though the only people that are truly involved in any sort of Google+ community are the people that stand to benefit from any widespread uptake of the platform.
At the moment Google+ is instead currently acting like a giant pool for SEO piranhas, patiently waiting to segment and sell to the ordinary folk that will dare to step into the water.
The infographic below illustrates the current state of the social network compared to its competitors!
So is there any point in using Google+?
The short answer is YES.
Despite how I feel regarding its current standings against other social platforms, Google+ has already proven to have some big advantages for businesses. However the success of a good business page will be determined by how you engage with the users who are using the social network, creating relevant content and using everything Google+ has to offer.
I’ve chosen two companies which have embraced the potential possibilities of Google+ and created a pretty successful campaign.
Online fashion brand ASOS is no stranger to the social world and defy my original argument with 674,371 people placing the company in their ‘circles’. The secret to ASOS’s success is actually very simple. After spending a little time on their page you can see the company constantly engages with their audience with a variety of updates and content including images and videos of their latest products, fashion tips as well as regular links to their site and competitions. ASOS has also created a separate page to promote their marketplace giving their followers the opportunity to interact and share vintage clothes with the ease of a social platform.
As the world’s most famous and successful soft drink, Coca Cola is hardly new to brand awareness and online social interaction. The brand's official Google page is followed by over 557,000 people across the world and is currently attracting attention to its Google+ page thanks to its heavy involvement with the London 2012 games including exclusive online documentaries, interviews and images.
What about the small guy?
Obviously the two examples I’ve used are established brands with huge followings on other social networks, and it is a relatively simple process to convert those Facebook fans and Twitter followers into Google+ fans. However Google+ is constantly updating and changing its services to encourage smaller online brands to use their social network:
This is one of the features from Google+ which I have been most impressed with and has already proved somewhat successful. The appeal of Hangouts is that they allow multiple people to speak face-to-face, something which Facebook doesn’t currently offer. Google has used a range of techniques to promote their ‘Hangout’ including celebrity promotions which offered users the chance to ‘hangout’ with the likes of David Beckham and Barack Obama.
Hangouts can also be steamed live on YouTube, allowing you to share a particular hangout with a potentially massive audience.
If you’re familiar with Google you’ll know that Google+ Local has replaced their old Places pages. For those of you who are unsure of either, Google+ Local is the new feature for the company’s location-based search service, and primarily combines local and social search, allowing users to find services nearby and see what their Google+ friends think of them.
This search tool is potentially important for businesses looking to take advantage of local search, especially as more and more users use smartphones and tablets to search for places on the go.
At the moment you cannot currently merge your business page with a Google+ Local page, however Google is working on a solution for this, allowing you to manage one listing – basic information, social features, etc. By combining a well maintained Google+ Local page with your company’s social page, you’ll significantly increase your chances of converting local search users.
For more information on how to set up a Google+ Local page and why it’s important for businesses I’d recommend reading ‘Why You Need to Get to Grips with Google+ Local’ by our own James Roome.
What does it mean for SEO?
Even though the site has been dubbed a virtual ghost town by the Wall Street Journal, I believe it can be used as an effective tool, at least for now. There are still plenty of opportunities for your business page to appear in regular SERPS, and if it’s at all possible, broadening you circles will increase your chances of appearing in followers’ searches.
Google has already given their plus button a big advantage when it comes to their own ranking factors by fast tracking Google+ doorway pages to the top of SERPs while excluding other social networks. Google even lists doorway links on broad queries when the user isn’t logged into a Google account.
This can have some impact on SEO, the only problem here is nobody is using it! However Google has now made the effect more prominent by bringing in relevant Google+ posts into the search results. This includes photos shared from Picasa or videos from YouTube.
Profile results will also show up as part of the auto complete predictions when people begin typing into the search box and we’re already seeing suggestions of profiles and businesses pages that frequently discuss the topic of your search with the introduction of their Search Plus Your World. The service was originally used by Google to personally tailor search results for members of its social network by integrating comments and images from their friend’s profiles into the search results. However after strong criticism from the likes of Facebook and Twitter it appears Google has settled on discreetly promoting their social network in the top right of search results.