Google’s been getting personal in your search for a while, but SPYW brings in a few new elements: personal results, straight from your Google+ network onto your results page; profiles in search, which pulls up Google+ profiles right from the search box; and “People and Pages”, which takes up some pretty valuable space suggesting Google+ accounts you might want to circle based on your search.
Whether you’ve fully worked Google Plus into your social media strategy, are still experimenting or have put off building out a G+ page until now, Search Plus Your World is a big, flashing sign from Google warning you to get on board – or suffer the consequences in oblivion. Consider:
- Creating a new account for YouTube, Gmail, or any other Google product now requires creating a Google Plus account. There’s also a pre-filled checkbox allowing Google to use account information for personalization.
- Google+ “People and Pages” recommendations cannot be disabled and show up within searches even when completely logged out of Google.
- Search Plus Your World is the default for logged-in users.
Yes, Google really, really wants you on Google Plus – so much so that it’s returning search results that sometimes aren’t even all that relevant just to show off its shiny social network.
Whether it’s shutting out Facebook and Twitter isn’t what we’re concerned with right now (I’m assuming you’ve got strategies in place there, so keep on going with those) – all we need to know is that Google is telling us in no uncertain terms that it’s time to put Google Plus in the same realm as your heaviest-hitting social networks.
Here’s how your social media strategy should change as a result.
Get There Now
Unlike a network like LinkedIn or Pinterest where you can decide whether enough of your audience is active to warrant active participation, Google Plus is ratcheting up the pressure in ways that don’t involve audience mass –- instead, they involve being found (or missing your chance to be).
Don’t wait. Create a company page and build it out thoroughly, particularly focusing on relevant links in the “About” section. Don’t forget the “Recommended Links” sidebar – load that baby up with resources and all your social media identities! Start building up trust, authority and all the good stuff Google likes by getting there early.
Balance Shareable And Relevant Content
Google would like you to focus on engaging, shareable content (and who doesn’t want as much of that as possible?) but it’s just as important that you post content that focuses squarely on the topic areas and even keywords your business is known for.
Why? Most people are going to use Google as it’s handed to them. Unless you’re working in a particularly tech-savvy niche, the “personal results” toggle switch will probably stay “on” for most searchers. If that’s the case for your audience, your Google Plus strategy should be just as focused on being prominent in the search realm as being engaging in the social realm.
That means developing a core list of keywords (or talking over an existing list with your SEOs) and sharing content around them. If you can create content that’s both relevant and shareable (think resource guides and how-tos within your niche) you’re off to a great start.
Get Creative To Grow Your Circles
Google has put company pages at a distinct disadvantage in a few key ways:
- Launching brand pages (save for a chosen few test subjects) long after the initial furor over the new social network had died down.
- Banning the traditional marketing of contests and giveaways.
- Preventing businesses from circling or even interacting with users unless those users circle your page first (pretty smart for the future Google Plus ads that are surely on the way).
But it’s crucial to grow the number of users who have circled you. Each of these connections leads to a better chance for your content to be seen not only within Google Plus but also on search engine results pages.
So social media marketers must get especially creative in growing their fan base. Some things to try:
1) Add a +1 button to your blog and, if it’s at all relevant, consider creating content focusing on Google Plus.
2) Involve your whole organization, or at least those who are game. Individual users can add to circles and interact with anyone on the network, so find your brand’s version of Danny Sullivan or Pete Cashmore and make sure that person is up and running with a Google Plus profile.
3) Experiment. Google recently made the kind of strange move of creating an easy way to meme-ify photos:
Considering how many important features of this still-in-beta network could use a polish, this is a pretty decent clue that Google is desperate for a little sharing and fun. Take a cue from Google and use tools like this to embrace the sillier side of social media marketing.
4) Spy shamelessly. Brands can circle other brands, so it’s easy to check out what others in your niche are doing on the network. If you see something that’s working well for others, adopt or adapt it for your brand.
5) If you’re a bigger brand with a big following, why not shoot for the moon and angle to be one of Google’s suggested pages? The blog State of Search has a nice resource that goes beyond Google’s somewhat obvious suggestions for how to start working on achieving that lofty spot.
Target Influencers While You Still Can
Up until now, Google Plus has been a small get-together of mostly tech-minded types. That means if you’ve played your cards right, you’ve had a pretty exclusive audience with some of the biggest names in the industry while we all figured out the new network together. But with everyone from Lady Gaga to The White House firing up accounts, this cocktail party is about to get really crowded. Take advantage of these last few moments to engage with influencers while you can.
How are Google’s changes affecting your social media strategy?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.