Target audience: Small businesses owners, marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.
By Megan Totka
Google Plus can be a powerful tool for promoting your small business online, in more ways than one. In addition to being an active social network with 250 million users, the features and tools of Google+ can help you improve search engine ranking, strengthen your industry authority, and make influential connections to grow your business network.
Here are 10 tips for using Google+ to power your small business marketing.
Set up your business’s Google+ page
1Similar to most social networks, Google+ allows you to set up both personal and business pages. If you’re not already using Google+, or if you only have a personal page, the first step to promoting your business on this network is to create a Google+ business page.
You’ll need a Google or Gmail account to link to. The process of setting up a business page is simple: head to Google My Business to choose the best business category, and follow the prompts to create your page.
Make the most of your About page
2Your Google+ About page is the place to give an informative overview of your business. It’s also the page that’s most prominently indexed by Google’s search engine, so you have an opportunity to boost your search engine ranking while you draw in new customers.
Create an SEO-friendly description with keywords and relevant links. One unique aspect of Google+ is that it allows bullet points on the About page, so you can create a prominent list of your products or services that increases SEO and lets visitors know what your company does at a glance.
Use a professional profile image
3When you’re on Google+, your profile is automatically connected to a lot of popular services across the Internet, including the Google search engine and YouTube. Your profile picture will appear next to comments on Google+ and YouTube, and will also be displayed on Google itself if you’re using Google Authorship (more on that below).
This means you need to project a professional image, with either a quality headshot or your business logo. While a logo can work, it’s generally better to use a photo of yourself — this allows viewers to see you as a person, rather than a faceless business. And personal connections are the core of social networks.
Take advantage of Google authorship
4Google Authorship is an SEO tool that boosts Google+ users in Google search. The results of using Google Authorship can be dramatic — your posts and content automatically stand out from the page of text results and deliver increased click-throughs.
To set up Google Authorship, simply add a link to your small business blog or any website that you contribute content to, and then include a link to your Google+ profile at the end of each piece of content you publish.
Post often with optimized content
5One of the primary advantages of using Google+ is that it’s strongly linked to the most popular search engine in the world. Google’s search algorithm gives more weight to search results found on Google+, so the more you post, the more often your business will show up in relevant searches.
Whether you’re posting a status update, an article, or an image or link to your Google+ page, be sure to include SEO keywords that will get your posts indexed and promoted by Google.
Make strategic use of hashtags
6Twitter started them, Facebook picked them up, and Google+ uses them too. Hashtags are a great way to link your content on Google+ to relevant subjects, trending topics, and active conversations. What’s more, any hashtags you use on Google+ will also show up in Google searches, which further boosts organic discovery.
However, it’s important to not just throw in hashtags at every opportunity. The best way to use them on Google+ is to place one or two relevant hashtags at the bottom of your posts, where they won’t be included in the teaser text but will be picked up by search engines.
Dress up your content with multimedia
7A great image is still the best way to generate traffic on most social media networks, and Google+ is no exception. Posts with images consistently perform better in terms of views, clicks, and comments, so don’t limit yourself to text posts.
You may also consider posting GIFs (which are particularly popular on Google+) or videos to add value to your business page.
Warning: Make sure you’re using images you have permission to use; you don’t want to end up with a nasty lawsuit.
Don’t limit your posts to original content
8Social networking is all about sharing, and that means providing content for your audience that is relevant, entertaining, interesting, or meaningful — even if it doesn’t come directly from you. Think of your Google+ business page as a magazine. You’re curating content that will interest your audience, and providing valuable resources that will engage them and keep them coming back for more.
Participate with relevant users and conversations
9In order to make Google+ work effectively for your business, you need to grow your network of connections. Friends on Google+ are organized in “circles,” and a business page can’t circle another Google+ user unless they circle you first.
Interacting with customers, prospects, industry contacts, and other relevant users is the best way to expand your circles. Look for and participate in conversations where you can bring a valuable contribution, and show your own interest in what others have to say by clicking +1 or leaving short comments.
Interact with Google events and Google+ hangouts
10As a community-oriented network, Google+ allows you to create and conduct virtual events that let you connect with your whole audience at once. The Events feature lets you send out custom invitations to anyone, whether or not they have a Google+ account, for things like work functions, webinars, or live events. And with Party Mode, you can let all your guests instantly upload photos to create a real-time group photo album of the event.
You can also use Events to invite people to Google+ Hangouts, a multi-person live chat feature that lets you interact through text, images, voice call, and video chat. Many businesses use Hangouts to set up conferences or presentations, hold Q & A or meet-and-greet sessions, or simply connect with their prospects on a regular basis.