In today's social media world it doesn't matter, whether you’re the chief creative engineer of a Fortune 500 company blog or you run a personal blog that occupies all but a tiny isle within the massive ocean that is the blog-o-sphere, one thing is for certain: a blog is much better when it’s got an engaged group of passionate followers. You know, people who actually read and comment on all of that stuff you spend so much time producing. But while you probably know that tweeting and Facebooking links to your blogposts is crucial for achieving this goal, it’s important not to overlook Google+ as well. As one of the fastest growing social media sites, G+ has reach, not to mention a number of engagement tools that simply aren’t present on any other social media site.
However, these unique tools do make G+ somewhat of a different beast than its competitors. To really use G+ effectively to increase your traffic and social shares and benefit your SEO, it’s important to put some time into mastering the platform.
1. Make it Visual
Sure, Twitter has twitpic and we all post our fair share of photos to Facebook, but few social media sites are quite as visual as Google+. In fact, the only social site that’s remotely in G+’s visual league is Pinterest, which G+ designers seem to have drawn from anyway, given that each post looks very much akin to a pinned image. Generally, this is a good thing for user engagement, as users are much more likely to engage with images as opposed to dense blocks of written text. However, all of those visuals can work to your disadvantage if you post images that are too small or otherwise unprofessional looking. Here are a few ways to get it right.
Take good photos. I know, it sounds obvious, but it’s got to be said. Use a high resolution and edit out all of the distractions. Or, put up the cash for stock photos to keep things professional and interesting. Having high quality photos is always important, but never more so than in your profile’s cover photo, as it will blow up large when followers scroll to the top of your page and it needs to be extra compelling.
Use a full image. When you paste a link to be shared into your G+ status update, the site automatically generates a preview image. But that image will be small, and it can be easy for followers to overlook in their feeds. Click “x” on this option (I’m not just speaking metaphorically here, you really do want to click the “x” on the image) and instead upload your own screenshot of the post yourself using the photo button as pictured below. Doing so will greatly increase the chances your followers will click through to your blog.
Photos = content. Photos can be a way to mix things up within written posts on your blog. Or they can be the post itself. You might, for example, have a regular series on your G+ page where you show yourself producing the product you blog about, or you provide a glimpse into the office. This can exist as G+ content on its own to encourage more followers to engage with you there, or it can link back to longer posts on your blog. Either way, photos can make quick, easy and compelling content.
2. Become a Master of the Topic Sentence
I know, I know, you spent so much time writing your blogpost, it’d be so nice to simply copy and paste a link into your update and call it a day. But you’ll have far more people clicking on your links and a much easier time with the search engines if you put a little more energy into crafting a succinct yet relevant and compelling topic sentence to draw readers towards your blogpost.
And if you really want to get found, be sure to place asterisks around your keywords to bold them. Add in a few good hashtags as well so the search engines can better find you for relevant queries.
3. Use Circles Strategically
One of the best features on G+ is Circles, which allows you to easily categorize your followers so you can deliver them only the blogposts they’re most likely to read. You might, for example, have one circle devoted to people who love your blogged recipes and another devoted to those who are all about knitting. The more relevant the posts each member of these circles receive, the much more likely they are to actually click on the link provided and engage with your post. Even better, relevant posts make it much more likely for potential followers to become actual followers by adding you to their own circles, which means your posts are far more likely to come up high in relevant personalized searches on Google. Great stuff!
As you might have guessed, Circles is also a great way to network with your followers, as you can easily click on each circle and see what people within that category have been talking about lately. This makes it easier to jump into relevant conversations to offer your expertise, or even to find new topics to blog about as you spot what’s trending. (Pro Tip: The “What’s Hot” link on the G+ menu will also give you even wider insight into current hot topics).
There is, however, one caveat with Circles. Adding specific names to your post as pictured below will mean that person will get an email from you alerting them of that post.
That’s great when you’re 100% sure the post is relevant and that that particular follower wants to hear from you so consistently, but it also can be interpreted as, you know, spam. Save your direct mentions for only the most hyper-relevant stuff, or solely for when you want to draw a key influencer or expert in that topic area into a dynamic conversation.
4. Find Your Community
Of course, when you’re just starting out on the platform, it can be difficult to find any relevant followers to market to in the first place. Unless, of course, you make use of Google+ Communities. Something between a LinkedIn interest group and a trade show, Communities has a niche for just about everyone. With plenty of topics to engage in, it’s a great place to meet new potential followers and conduct real conversations. As long as you’ve got a compelling About page to go with your witty conversation, communities are a great way to drive people both into your G+ circles and to your site. It’s like in-person networking, with all the benefits of being online.
5. Jump into the Conversation
On a similar note, it’s important that, once you do start gaining followers on the platform, you stay as responsive as possible to comments both on your G+ posts and on your blog as well. People are much more likely to keep coming back if they feel like you respect what they’ve got to say and that you want to hear more. So, respond to all comments, even if it’s just to say, “Thank you!” You should also +1 comments you especially like, and mention commenters directly as you respond so they’re extra-motivated to reply again. (To do this, simply type +username). Tagging people is also a good idea when constructing your post, especially if you tag influencers from whom you’d like a comment.
Another great strategy is to converse through Hangouts. In part Google+’s answer to Skype, Hangouts is oh so much more than that, allowing you to video chat with anywhere from 10 to 15 followers at a time. Not only will this help you better connect with, understand and cater to your readers, but it’s also a form of video content that can later be archived onto YouTube and made forever searchable. You can keep these Hangouts to simple meet and greets, give participants a discussion theme that’s relevant to a recent post, or do a group activity, say, actually assembling that model airplane you blogged about last week. Why not? Hangouts have as much possibility as you can give it.
6. Claim Your Authorship
Quick questionnaire: When you’re searching for something on Google, are you more likely to click on the link to an anonymous article, or to one that features an author bio and profile photo? The answer, whether you know this consciously or not, is the latter. Author bios and photos just make the results seem more trustworthy, expert and reliable. But how to get your photo and bio up there?
Why, by claiming authorship, of course. Doing so is simple: Just go to the authorship page, add your Gmail address, verify your enrollment and you’re pretty much good to go. Make sure to fill out your G+ profile completely so Google has something to pull from for the bio. Doing this will make your posts much more clickable, and it’s great for SEO, too.