I'm a fan of Google+. There are so many great things about it and the more time I spend there, the more handy things I find.
This post is long because I hope it's a one-stop shop for all things Google+. It's sort of an addendum to the What is Author Rank? series and provides tips to make the most of Google+ and Author Rank. The best way to use it is to use it as a reference. Digest a little at a time, lest you get overwhelmed.
Still not convinced Google+ is a big deal?
Here's what Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt has said (emphasis mine):
Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.
I hope the example I shared in part 1 of What is Author Rank? was enough to convince you of the benefit of Author Rank. If not, here are even more…
Why spend time on Google+?
- Participation on G+ may help build your Author Rank (click the link to see what I mean).
- You'll be ahead. Social media sites come and go, but given Google's internet presence, Google+ is very likely to stick around for a while.
- Your G+ posts are indexed and often show up in search results. In fact, AJ Kohn says "the speed in which Google+ posts are indexed is incredible, sometimes showing up within minutes of being published."
- A lot of people think there isn't much happening on Google+, but that's not really the case. It's the 2nd most actively used platform. Yep, more active than Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Pinterest and even YouTube.
- Google+ is different than other social media networks. I love this explanation from Google+ Helper: "Facebook helps you to keep in touch with the people you already know, Google+ helps you to get in touch with the people you want to know." And I love Mike Elgan's take.
- Be a (sort of) early adopter (it's been around a little while). I hear from a lot of people who feel discouraged that they are jumping on the blogging bandwagon so late. It's harder and harder to stand out in the blogosphere when there are millions of blogs. Get active on Google+ now. It has been ignored by many bloggers. THIS IS YOUR CHANCE to jump into something before the masses do.
- It might result in even more search results. "If a user returns to the search results after reading an author-tagged search result for a certain period of time, Google will add three additional links to similar articles from the same author below the originally clicked link." More on this in Google Confirms Hidden Benefit Of Authorship: Bonus Links After A Back-Button Click and here too.
Update: If you are totally new to Google+ and just want some basic info and tutorials about getting setup, I recommend the Google+ Help section. It's got a lot of great info plus videos to help get you started.
If you still need help tackling the basics of setting up your account, I highly recommend What the Plus by Guy Kawasaki, the G+ master. It's only $1 on Kindle and a good primer. Now let's go. Remember, read just a few tips at a time.
First, the same social media rules apply to Google+ as to other social media platforms:
- Be engaging and helpful.
- Promote others. Share and +1 their stuff.
- Comment on posts.
- Experiment to find what days and times are best to post for you. Think of when your target audience (your ideal readers) are online and post then.
- Don't put all your social media eggs in the G+ basket. Your blog should be your online home (preferably self-hosted so you have control of it). Google+, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms should only be places you visit.
I've heard a lot of people say Google+ confuses them. I'd like to propose that it's not so different from Facebook. On Facebook, you "Friend" someone. On Google+ you "Circle" them. Then you check your news feed (indicated by the "Home" icon) and jump in.
I'll repeat that quote from above because it's great: "Facebook helps you to keep in touch with the people you already know, Google+ helps you to get in touch with the people you want to know." In other words, Google+ will help you extend your reach–a great thing if you're a blogger.
Circles allow you to organize the people you follow. I recommend you create circles according to interests ("photography," "blogging," parenting," etc.). You do not have to be circled by someone to circle them yourself. You can learn more about circles here.
Wanna start by circling me? Just hover over "Add to Circles" and choose a circle (or create a new one):
You can get this badge for your site here.
Don't be afraid if you don't know anyone
If you circled me above, you're already ahead!
I love what Jaana Nystrom says,
Add people to your circles and start interacting. "My friends are not here…" So what? Make new ones, based on mutual interests. Use the G+ search to find out about your passions and also people who share those same interests. Start commenting, sharing posts, giving +1′s on posts and comments: It’ll happen.
Type your interests in the search bar within G+ to find people, pages, conversations and Communities about this topic. Comment on other posts and participate in the conversation.
Fill out your profile completely and post stuff regularly
People want to circle people who appear alive and active.
Use the same name across all your sites
Pick a name to use on Google+ and use that same name across all social media platforms. Also consider using the same email address (the one linked to your G+ profile).
Include keywords in your About section
Make sure you include your main keywords in your Introduction and Employment. According to AJ Kohn in Google+ SEO, this will help you show up in search results for that keyword. And make sure your Employment section creates an easy-to-access mini profile like I described here.
Change your profile image ASAP
I'm talking about the large cover photo. Change it to something the represents you. Here's a cheat sheet with the dimensions you'll need.
Post something short. Post something long. It's up to you. Added bonus: you can hit Enter between paragraphs without accidentally publishing your post too soon (anyone do this on Facebook like me?). Yay!
Use Google+ as a mini blog
Unlike other social media platforms we know, you are not constrained by character limits on Google+ (you've got 100K). So, it's a perfect place to post content that might not fit well on your blog. Remember, this content will be linked to you, you'll get credit for it in the form of Author Rank and it'll be indexed in the search engines. Score.
Fine tune your notifications
Whenever you're logged into G+ or Gmail, you can quickly see your notifications at the top of your screen in the little red box (it's gray with "0" if you have none). Control when you get notified (via email or SMS) here.
Use Gmail to integrate with Google+
If you post on G+ or comment on someone else's post, you can respond right in Gmail (assuming your notifications are set up appropriately). Sweet.
Claim your G+ name on YouTube
This is a great idea if you are on YouTube. Mark Traphagen wrote a great post on this subject.
Put a G+ sharing button on your site
This will make it easy for others to share your content on Google+. If you're using Social Sharing Toolkit (one of my favorite plugins), it's built right in! Learn How to Optimize the Google +1 Button.
Share while you browse the web
Drag the bookmarklet (scroll down to find it) to your bookmarks bar so you can share to Google+ from anywhere on the web.
Schedule your posts for the future
If you use Chrome, use the Do Share extension which let's you schedule your G+ posts. (Note that your browser has to be open in order for scheduled posts to publish.)
Share via drag and drop
When you're ready to share stuff on G+, you can drag and drop content right into the share box, like photos, videos and links. Handy.
Choose the best thumbnail image when sharing links
When you share a link, G+ will grab the images from that post. You can hover over the image box and click the left & right arrows to choose the image that best represents the content. (Much better than Facebook's situation.)
Edit your photos with a Picnik-like tool right within G+
If you were a die-hard Picnik fan or if you use other online image editing tools like the ones I wrote about here, here, here and here, you'll be glad to know you can edit your photos easily right within G+. From your G+ Profile, go to Photos. Click on any of your photos. Once open, click "Edit photo" in the top left corner of the screen.
Share other people's stuff
If you find something worth sharing, share it! Guy Kawasaki does this extensively (and has been circled millions of times). He walked through his process for posting in this Hangout with Sarah from Sarah's Faves.
If you share something about someone else, tag that person by using the "+" or the "@" sign (both work the same).
Don't post and run
I've heard this referred to as "link litter" (love that). Google+ is different than other social media networks. Participants here interact and engage more than other social media platforms. If you're sharing something, add your commentary to it first. Tell people why you're sharing it.
Link your profile to all your profiles online and wherever you write regularly
I covered this is earlier posts about Author Rank, but make sure you connect your G+ profile with your profiles on FB (profile or page), Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Klout, Blogger, Flickr, StumbleUpon, etc.
Format your posts for more emphasis
I love that Google allows flexibility when it comes to posting unlike another social media site I know ::coughFacebookcough::.
- Use asterisks around text to bold. For example, *this is your text * becomes this is your text
- Use underscores around text to italicize. For example, _this is your text_ becomes this is your text
- Use hyphens around text to strike through. For example, -this is your text- becomes
this is your text
Edit your post after it's written
I LOVE this. I often hit the enter key prematurely only to realize I made a typo or said something dorky in a tweet or Facebook update. This is not an issue on Google+. If you need to edit an already-published post, simply hover over the post, click the down arrow in the top right corner and edit. Yay!
Search for a post (tip added 3/25/13)
While I was putting this post together, I was trying to find a post I had written in Google+. Of course, as with most of the social media platforms, it's tricky to find a post once it passes through the stream. Ronnie Bincer has a great tutorial on this here.
Now that you are writing great content (or sharing good stuff on G+), cross promote it by linking to specific posts. Click the down arrow in the top right corner of any post. You'll see an option to "Link to this post." Alternatively, simply click on the post's timestamp and grab the URL from your browser's address bar. By the way, you can do this same thing in Facebook and Twitter too. Of course, you can embed tweets from Twitter as well.
Just like Twitter (and now Facebook), Google+ utilizes hashtags. It's a great way to organize posts and follow posts of others who are creating content around the same topic. Two or three are good. Too many, and it looks spammy. Here's a great explanation of hashtags by Ronnie Bincer.
Optimize your blog post snippets
The snippet of a post is the bit of text that shows up under the link in a search result (see an example and read more about snippets in Step 6 here). Use Yoast's plugin to write your own snippet so it stands out. Simply fill in the "Meta Description" box underneath the box where you type your post in WordPress. See what I mean in this video. Also, check out this excellent infographic (seomoz.com) with even more ways to optimize your rich snippets.
Get involved in Communities
G+ Communities are similar to Facebook Groups. They are a perfect way to connect with others that share your interests. (G+ official info about Communities.)
- Communities can be public or private and can be started by anyone, even a brand page.
- As Mark Traphagen points out, Google indexes these for search.
- Not all Communities are alike. I've found that the value of a Community depends on how well it's moderated. Many just end up being people posting their own stuff and leaving. The great ones have really interactive and useful conversation. Find some Communities that interest you. You can leave at any time. Also, if you start a Community of your own, make sure you are willing to moderate it.
- Many Communities post guidelines in the left sidebar so make sure you read those.
- The nice thing about Communities is that there aren't a whole lot of them at the moment (relatively speaking), so if you're the type that loves networking and connecting people, this is a great time to get in ahead of the game and build your own Community before others jump in. This is especially true for mom-type niches. If you do start your own Community, make sure you tell others about it. Also, tell them how to take part.
- Some Communities I like are Mom Blog, Google+ Discuss, Google Authorship & Author Rank and Social Media Strategy but you can find all kinds here. And here is a list of the top ranked communities.
Get involved in Google Hangouts & Hangouts on Air
Hangouts are like live video meetings. They are tons of fun and very useful. You can hangout privately with people you choose or you can make it public with a Hangout on Air (HOA).
If you collaborate with a team of people, use Google Hangouts to meet privately (I do this every week with our team from The Seed Company). Hold office hours, consult with clients and more.
Conduct interviews or host a webinars with Hangouts on Air. Google+ will automagically turn your HOA into a YouTube video. You can track the stats of that video and embed into your blog too. In case you missed it, here's a Google Hangout on Air Holly Homer and I did recently.
Here's one of the most helpful video tutorials I've found about starting your own Hangout on Air by Eduardo Perez:
Content created on G+ is favored, so work G+ into your social media schedule. If the thought of diving into one more social media platform is overwhelming, just take it slow. Set a timer or use the 30/30 app to keep control of your time. Here are the main things I'd suggest you do:
- Check your notifications. These are indicated in the little red box next to your name when logged in. Respond where appropriate.
- Share stuff.
- Check what's happening in your Communities. Leave a comment or two.
How to make the most of Author Rank for blog contributors and blog owners
If you contribute to other blogs, link your G+ profile to your posts
Be sure to add a link to your G+ profile on any of your guest posts. If you've kept up with the series, you'll understand why. If you're a contributor on other blogs, ask that blog owner to allow you to add your Google+ profile URL to all your posts. They can easily allow this by installing a plugin like Yoast's or use Genesis which will add a G+ field to all user profiles (see Step 5 here for more on both of those options). (You might consider sending them to this post so they can read why it's important.)
If the site doesn't have that capability yet, here's a workaround: link your name to your Google+ profile URL in the short bio you're allowed at the end of the post (Step 4 explains how to grab your profile URL). You can also add rel="author" to the HTML in your bio.
So for example, if I write a guest post and my bio at the end of the post is, "Amy Lynn Andrews shares blogging tips, tools & tutorials at Blogging with Amy." I would make sure the HTML would look like this (if you're unfamiliar with HTML, see this post):
<a href="https://plus.google.com/118120703275040844737" rel="author">Amy Lynn Andrews</a> shares blogging tips, tools…
If you're worried about things you've written that are not linked, don't waste too much time on it. It looks like it might work without it. Some have found that Google+ is attributing some content to an author if it's listed in their Contributor list, even if it's not linked on the content itself.
If you're a blog owner, allow contributors to add their G+ profile link to their posts
Allow your contributors to link their G+ profile to their posts. You'll both benefit.Encourage your contributors to add their profile URLs to their posts. If you use Genesis, you are in luck. It couldn't be easier. Here's how to do it. For multiple-author blogs, create an author page for each author, or, use Yoast's SEO plugin to allow your contributors to add their Google+ profile links to their user account on your blog.
If you do have contributors on your blog, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Make sure any guest posts you accept are written by great authors. If you allow authors on your blog that have a lousy reputation, it could bring you down too.
Also, read Why Blogs that Allow Guest Posts Will Be Penalized in 2013 on Problogger for the right and wrong ways to allow guest posts.
Author Rank is for individual authors. But what if you have a brand? Well, there is an brand equivalent. Here's more:
- Rel='Publisher' for Brand-Savvy Marketers (stateofsearch.com)
- Google+ for Business Infographic (ChrisBrogan.com)
- 6 Ways Brands Can Leverage Google Plus Communities (socialfresh.com) by Mark Traphagen
- The Marketer's Guide to Google Plus by Zach Bulygo on KISSmetrics.
Build your personal brand
It's a great time to build your personal brand. This is why I highly recommend you register your name as a domain.
Start a blog
You really should have a blog. Blogging is an excellent way to build a brand, among other things. If you don't already have a blog, start one! Follow my how to blog guide. It's not difficult and the nature of blogging, with frequently updated content, is the quickest way to get noticed and stay noticed by the search engines. Plus blogs open doors for other opportunities down the road like book deals, speaking, interviews, etc.
- The Official Google Plus Translation Guide by Rand Wilson - a glossary of G+ lingo
- Our Guides to Google Plus for Business and Personal Use by Mark Traphagen on Virante Orange Juice - Mark is very helpful and active on G+. This is a list of tutorials he's written.
- Author Rank: A Step-by-Step Guide to Dominating Search with Content Marketing by Neil Patel on QuickSprout.
- Guy Kawasaki and 10 Experts Chime in on the Value of Google Plus – and How You Can Start to Leverage It by Neal Schaffer on WindMill Networking.
- The Ultimate list of Google Authorship Resources by Jeremy Rivera on Raven.
- 64 Google+ Content Strategies [Infographic] by Maria Peagler on Copyblogger.
- Plus-One This: Proof That Google Plus Will Prevail by Dave Llorens on Fast Company.
If you like this list, you might also like my other one, The Ultimate List of Pinterest Tips.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.