The “Invisible” Social Network: Why Google+ Matters
By Colin Ryan
Despite a recent uptick in visitors for Google+, one statistic has been the focus of many recent discussions about the service—namely, that Google+ users spend an average of about three minutes per month on the service, pitiful when compared to Facebook’s six to seven hours. But those who use this figure to dismiss Google+ misunderstand how the service works—and, by extension, how valuable it can be for web marketers.
More Than Meets the Eye
In a February article, The Wall Street Journal’s Amir Efrati went so far as to dub Google+ a “virtual ghost town.” But this conclusion rests on the assumption that Google+ is directly comparable with Facebook. This may be true if you isolate Google+ from the rest of the search giant’s products and applications, but the fact is that Google doesn’t treat its social network as a separate entity. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, and this has important implications for any discussion of its usefulness as a marketing platform.
Consider that Google search recently passed an unprecedented one billion unique monthly visitors, which dwarfs even Facebook’s figure of 845 million. Because Google+ has the world’s most dominant search engine for a parent, it has a special place in Google’s new “Search plus Your World” feature, which personalizes search results by incorporating social media content. Meanwhile, for all of Facebook’s clout, the inferior quality and use of its search feature mean it doesn’t enjoy the same boost. (For now.)
By integrating its social and search functionalities, Google has essentially created an “invisible” social network, a new way of engaging the web socially that isn’t limited to the borders of a particular domain or URL. The best thing about Google+ is that users don’t need to be particularly active on it in order to find you or your company. As long as users are logged into their Google accounts (and most of them automatically are), and provided they’re following you on Google+, you’ll appear higher in their search results for keywords related to your business. In fact, your Google+ page might even outrank your blog or website.
Seeing the Unseen
Of course, while the people searching Google don’t need to do anything special, you have a few important tasks before you can start reaping the benefits of Google+. To start, be sure you’ve completely filled out your Google+ profile. Provide a detailed introduction, employment details, educational background, and places.
Be sure to fill out all subheadings and sidebars as well. The text beneath your name, for instance, will serve as a meta description in searches, while the links in your Other Profiles section may be included as well. Without sacrificing the quality of the information, be sure to seed every section possible with your targeted keywords.
Next, take advantage of the +1 button, Google’s answer to Facebook’s “Like.” Be sure to include a +1 button on every page of your website, and encourage visitors to click it. The more +1’s you get, the more click-throughs you’ll get, and the better your search ranking will be. The best part is, the number of +1’s you receive is displayed to Google searchers even if they’re not logged into Google+.
Google+ also provides other ways to subtly connect people with content you’ve created. For instance, you can use Google+ to claim authorship of articles and blog posts on other websites. Once approved, the name that appears under the article title in search will become an active link to your Google+ profile.
To further increase your site’s visibility, you can also directly connect it with your Google+ profile. Simply add a piece of code or Google+ badge to your homepage, and you’ll incorporate your latest Google+ activity right below your place in Google search, as well as enable users to add you to their circles directly from search results.
This brings me to your most important task—namely, amassing followers. Since users you follow aren’t required to follow you, this is a bit trickier. The key is to let people know you’re out there. Follow as many people in your industry as you can. Add a link to your Google+ page to your email signature, business cards, personal and professional websites—anywhere and everywhere.
Build a strong network, and you’ll soon see that Google+ isn’t a “virtual ghost town” at all, but rather an invisible, bustling metropolis.
Published on April 2, 2011