After slow initial take up, Google+ has become one of the most widely used global social media tools.
Following its June 2011 launch, where interest was low, the search engine giant’s social network has witnessed significant increases in user numbers over the past few months. According to a recent report by BusinessInsider.com, Google Plus’s growth is up 33 percent from 269 million users at the end of June 2012 to 359 million active users, suddenly outpacing Twitter, to be the second largest social network. Their continuing efforts to make the platform more appealing to users is ongoing, and as it so seems, has been paying off (more on that later).
This posts will provide not only some insights to Google+, but will also highlight some of the main features and functions of the platform, that you may or may not be familiar with. In addition, it also includes an important feature that many of you may have not yet implemented, which is to set up your Google authorship.
Once you have set up your Google+ account, you can then begin to arrange your profile adding details about yourself and your skill set. While this may sound basic to you, this part of your real estate is your chance to provide important information about you and/or your business, so make use of it. I have seen many profiles that are poor and far from being compelling.
Also this is where you can add a link to your blog, business websites, your social media platforms, etc. You can also add your friends and categorize them into your preferred Google+ ‘Circles’.
Streaming your content
Google+ stream is the equivalent of Facebook’s newsfeed and allows you to see what the friends in your circles are sharing, whether it be status updates, a new blog post or photo sharing.
Rather than liking a post or re-tweeting something you can +1 a piece of content (including comments) through Google+. There is also an option to share yours or someone else’s posts with your circles of friends.
You can filter your stream to see certain user’s posts or posts from selected circles.
As mentioned earlier, this is one of the changes that Google+ has made recently. The stream is now different and shows multiple columns to sort your way through. In addition, you can now “go deeper” on your interests buy looking at related hashtags to the stream, that are added automatically. At first glance, the new visual really looks good, but then again, there are those that are adverse to changes, so don’t take my word for it.
In any event, and if you already have access to the new UI (user interface), it would be nice to know what you think about it.
Meet the new Google+ Stream:
“Hangouts” are a combination of a Skype call, complete with visuals, a text chat and a host of other advanced features.
You can invite friends to a hangout and use web cams or text chat to communicate. The more advanced settings include a sketchpad feature and the ability to screen share.
Hangouts have been used by the Dalia Lama and Desmond Tutu, as well as President Obama.
Yet again, the new changes implemented by Google+ to this feature is overwhelming, the most important being, that it is now a “standalone” app, albeit still being integrated into Google+.
Here’s what they say about it:
… Today we’re launching a stand-alone version of Hangouts that combines text, photos and live video across Android, iOS and your computer. The app is fast, free, and includes a number of key benefits…
Google+ is also available in app format for smartphones and tablets. The app is detailed with a variety of functions available including the ability to upload photos, update your profile and manage your circles.
The two stand-out features of the app are the messaging system, which provides group testing, and the instant upload function, which allows you to take pictures and instantly sync them with your desktop. Therefore it is very easy to update your various social profiles with images.
Speaking of photos, Google+ is also making some new changes with this feature, and soon going to get a major facelift. Google is adding a number of photo editing features right into Google+. The best part is that you as a user won’t have to do anything, as features like Auto Highlight and Auto Enhance are automatically applied thanks to Google’s advanced algorithms.
The “communities” feature allows you to share similar interests with other users. You can explore communities by clicking on the sidebar on the homepage and join them to discover more about certain topics and areas of interest.
Author Rank (Google Authorship)
This is one of the most influential assets of Google+ in terms of content. Google author rankings boost the credibility and visibility of authors.
Setting up your Google+ authorship will differ slightly depending on what type of website you are using.
To create authorship on a WordPress site, DiTesco has a nice tutorial on how to easily get your authorship up and running in no time.
Note that It is also important to make sure that you have a clear headshot as your profile picture, as this will appear next to your content in the SERPs, and will increase your click through rates, as users will be naturally drawn to people’s faces.
Guest posting on other sites can be very simple to gain authorship ranking, especially if you are posting on a WordPress platform. However if you are posting on other types of sites, most webmasters will allow you to create an author bio, where you can include your Google plus author tag.To make sure your author benefits are working head back to your Google+ page and add the name of the website and URL to the ‘Contributor to’ section to your profile.
Google introduced author rank to make it easier for users to discover more of the works of a specific writer, so basically if you write for site with a high domain authority, you are likely to be rewarded in the SERPs.
Whenever you post a new URL on your Google+ page, you can write a descriptive intro. This is the perfect opportunity to get your relevant keywords featured.
Another SEO benefit is linking your URL, as opposed to a URL shortener. It sounds simple but this will make it easier for Google to access your post.
If you are referencing brands and companies, who have Google+ pages then start tagging them. You will be more likely to pick up authoritative mentions and in turn will also be likely to be added to more circles. More circles is also great in terms of SEO.
A final SEO technique is to make your posts public, rather than just tailoring them to specific circles.
Businesses can use Google+ Pages to promote themselves through +1s. There is a square icon on a business page to signify they are not just another sole user. Google picks up business pages through a search feature called Direct Connect. If you type + before your keyword, Google will recommend Google+ business pages in its results.
Shortcuts and Tips
Here are a few shortcuts to help you to improve navigation through Google+. Infographic courtesy of EricWelke.com from visual.ly.
Google+ is continuing to improve its social network with more people using it to publish their or their contact’s content. With a wide selection of diverse features including author rank and Google hangouts it looks odds on that the platform will continue to be influential in the world of social media.
Are you using Google+? What do you think about its new features and importance in the social and SEO landscape?