Google Plus Gets It For Business

There are many more than three advantages for getting your business on Google+, but I thought I’d list a few that weren’t directly related to SEO.

We all know that social media puts a huge stress on a company’s time and financial resources.
Myths to the contrary, Social Media is not free nor easy.

Consultants tell brands to go where their clients are. It’s marketing 101.

So if their clients are on the internet, if they use Google Search, have a Gmail account, watch YouTube videos, read RSS feeds on their Google Reader or use Google Docs then yes, brands should be on Google Plus.

Google Plus pagesGoogle Brand Pages are similar to Google+ Profiles; all of the functions such as commenting, sharing, Hanging Out etc. are the same.

The differences are:

  • Pages can’t add people to circles until the page is added first or mentioned.
  • Pages can be made for a variety of different entities whereas profiles can only be made for people.
  • Pages can have multiple administrators. It has only one owner but up to 50 managers.
  • The default privacy setting for elements on your page profile is public.
  • Pages have the +1 button. Appearing under your profile, this is a way for people to endorse you. The other is to include you in their circles, of course.
  • Pages can’t +1 other pages, nor can they +1 stuff on the Web. (But like profiles, they can +1 inside Google+.)
  • Pages don’t have the option to share to ‘Extended circles’. (friends of friends)
  • Pages can’t hangout on a mobile device.

 

Why should you want to stake a claim on Google Plus Pages?

1. You can follow your fans back.

You can place them in “circles”. This is a great management tool for segmenting your clients.

For example, you can have a circle for prospects, one for geographical area, one for past sales. It actually makes for a decent CRM system as you can move them through different circles as the sales cycle progresses.

Having your brand in their circles allows you the ability to interact with them as you would on your personal Google+ profile page.

You can then follow their updates, comments on their posts and +1 them as your Page.

 

Create a Google Plus Page 

2. You don’t have to spend big bucks to get your content seen


As Google Vice President of Product Bradley Horowitz says in this video interview for Business Insider, Google’s not worried about meeting the next payroll, so there aren’t any ads now will there be sponsored posts in our streams for awhile.

As a brand, your reach is dependant on the quality of your content and promotion.

If someone likes what you have to say then circles you, everything you post will appear in their stream with these provisos:

   - That your post is shared to “public” (It’s the default)

   - That your follower hasn’t buried you in a seldom viewed circle or “muted” them.


The main difference with Facebook is that there is no algorithm that dictates who will see your content. The control is totally in the hands of the people following you.

 

3. You can do business on Business Pages

In case you haven’t heard, Google+ is Google.

All of the apps that you use for business are available on the Google+ platform, Google Drive, (docs), YouTube, Gmail (totally synced with G+) and the most heralded feature, Google+ Hangouts and Hangouts On Air.

With Hangouts, you can collaborate with clients in video conferencing of up to 10 people at a time. For educational institutions that have Google Apps for Education, that increases to 15pp.

These are virtual meetings where you can watch videos, share and edit Google documents, present a product or hold a focus group.

With Hangouts On Air, you can host your own TV style show on your business page. This is a great way to drive people to your Page. It’s a live broadcast that is publically viewable but participants must be invited.

Once completed, it’s immediately available for viewing on your Page or YouTube channel.

 

Google Plus HangoutThere are no third party apps needed to access these features or  have access to your personal information.

Your Google sign in is your key to all Google products.

Do you have a strategy for your Google+ Page?

 

Search: Fishing in the Clickstream

VISIBILITY: Part 3 – Search

Ever heard of that old cliché, ‘you’re fishing in a bowl’? Getting that kind of predictable result would be fantastic, wouldn’t it? If I could guarantee that to my client, I would be golden and sitting on a beach somewhere preferably reading some obscure science material. But it is obviously not so easy to gain that kind of predictable traffic for your customer. It takes knowledge of the search criteria, how your audience is looking for that information and even behavior science to really map out a close target. And I mean just a close location where the ‘fish’ really are!

In my last SteamFeed post, I touched the tip of Engagement in visibility [Part 2] which is developing your 5 main channels that connects you with your audience, [5 Touch Points of Engagement: Not in ‘Likeness’ But in Diversity]. In this last step of creating visibility [Part 3], I will just graze the surface of ‘Search’ in all its conducive power but you will be surprised at the final analysis on how truly simple the perspective on search is!

Search – Where the Fish Are:

1. SEO – Search Engine Optimization has been an ongoing chess game since the beginning but much has changed leveling the field by the search engines themselves (Google being the heaviest hitter). Before Penguin (Google’s newest search algorithm) and Panda (Google’s newest content updater) came on the scene there were many more ‘tricks’ not penalized to grab that coveted top ranking spot. Now the tables have turned and even a few big reputable companies got caught in the landslide and had fallen off the rankings and hard! The new algorithms didn’t account for many reputable links and cut everyone down off the ladder. Google quickly released new updates in the wake of the backlash.

But how can you legitimately get the ranking you deserve? It’s all on generating the best, relevant content. I know that seems so simple but it is what Google is striving for. Genuine, quality site content and shareable! The engines like shareable information most but make sure it is in alignment with your content as a whole not just thrown in there for ‘shareablity’. Next is links! No longer will any site profit from link schemes by grabbing low quality links on non-relevant sites. Create links by finding strategic partners that make sense in your info arena. These backlinks can be as a contributing author on their site or by adding a resource link. Just make sure it is relevant to the site and WHERE it is linking to. If you are new to the scene check out your Page Titles and Descriptions. Optimizing them can make a big difference for a newbie on the scene (they should be optimized regardless). If you have local markets then gear your descriptions and content toward that geo-targeted area.

{That’s just a few …}

2. SMO – Social Media Optimization is the sister to SEO. These work in tandem, did you know that? Google wants them to be your team in Search. So you need to consider this as well, since Google still owns almost 70% of the market share (as of 11/30/12). How can you up the ante with your social? First take each profile for each of your social networks and optimize them based on word selection and description but keep the consistency across each network (for brand, message and voice). You can keep them segmented in how you’re engaging but for search purposes remember those consistent key ‘modifiers’ (meaningful and descriptive text in your data) across the board. As always keep them ‘relevant’ … sorry to keep throwing in that word but it is critical in search and has to be adhered to!

Then add proper tags to your blog posts for user ease. Add audio clips, video and PDFs into your posts. The engines love these especially because they are considered such shareable media. Use them where it makes sense don’t just fire out a slew of this media for search results, your audience will possibly find it a turn off. Variety is the spice of life, so without a doubt keep the variety just decide thoughtfully with search in mind. When deciding on modifiers in your posts compete where you can with long tail keywords (Type of keyword phrase that has at least three and some times as many as five words in the phrase. Long tail keywords are used when the website wants to refine search terms to the web page, as well as when the searcher is looking for something rather specific.). Sometimes selecting just a slightly different word that has the same meaning and audience usage can provide you more visibility then being the smallest fish in a very popular search word pool.

3. URLs and Hashtags – Your domain name grabs points in search so while you want it to reflect your brand and company name, you also want it to gain some search weight. So discern during this selection of URL options. The .com’s extension still rank but by adding the .co’s and some other extensions you can amplify your rankings. But again, add them with consideration to your audience in relevancy. These domains need to generate a real page with content/information that supports that URL not end up on some unsupported blind page.

Hashtags add draw in many ways and can increase your friends/followers on social network s. Instagram does a really nice job of this, as well as the originator themselves, Twitter. So take it one step further, promote these hashtags on all your other media (ex: social networks – LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. and on your blogs, websites and print). Again be thoughtful on selecting these hashtags. What would my audience be searching for? What terms would they be using and please use their terms not your own! Not sure how your audience is searching then you need to do a bit of research before just firing one out there.

4. Unstructured Content (images, video and audio) – Here you can use Alt Tags for your unstructured content media. The bots can’t read the content so it queries it differently than the text data. Don’t just put a list of keywords in even though it may seem like relevant words rather define the media with a sentence using very clear descriptive words on what the image, video or audio is about. Keywords will penalize you even though you intended it to be a genuine explanation for your audience. Keep all this material ‘shareable’ by adding plugins and already built-in options to share it on other channels. You can also make sure you ‘watermark’ (mark showing contact info of some sort) your images with your logo mark, Twitter handle, or URL. Keep this contained somewhere in the main section of the material not on the edge where it can easily be cropped out. The more viral share you get on this, the more your searchability stays intact!

5. Search Measurement Analytics – With all this research, thoughtful selection of modifiers, and relevant content work you have supplied would it make sense to not measure your results? And then what? How can you now reapply this found insight into your continued strategy? It is a must and don’t think that this part is easy. It is the hardest part but the most worthwhile. Search is an ongoing process that must constantly be refined. Also, it can become more and more specific based on the criteria you are measuring.

There is the top level view of clickstream analytics in reporting the results of how much traffic is coming in on which pages, how long they stay there and how many pages they have traveled to. Then you can move into specific IP addresses and follow purchase patterns and how the user navigated the site, where they linked to, what they were interested in and for how long. Sessionization will show you when they departed the site and when then returned. You have the ability to mine users for behaviors and social network effectiveness. Create scalable data queries that look into strictly behavior analytics. Customer patterns galore! Google Analytics does a nice job of generating decent reports and it’s free. If you are looking for more in depth analysis with some customized solutions then there are other analytics software out there from which you can choose.

In the end with the introduction of Penguin and Panda we no longer are trying to ‘beat the system’, though in effect I suppose we are always looking to get the best results. What becomes the driver is the relevancy of your content throughout every element you place on your site, your blog posts and your social networks.

Genuine content that makes complete and perfect sense to your audience is where it is at. I would love to fill this whole page up with nifty ‘tricks’ on how to circumvent that but it would help you not. Don’t we all want to provide the information that best educates, enlightens and motivates our readers to actually do something? So stop the keyword embedding you will be penalized. Write short relevant copy that describes concisely and overall use your BEST content and not manipulate the system!
… so now what? You’re ‘good-to-go’ right? Not so fast rabbit.

Continued Online Growth is next because it just “never stops” and neither should YOU!

Will Social Scores Take The Place of Fan Counts?

What’s Your Twitter Score?

Didn’t know you had one? The truth is, you don’t… at least not yet, but I have a hunch that eventually you will. And not just a Twitter score. I believe you’ll probably have a Facebook score, a Google score, a LinkedIn score and more…

Social Score

photo credit: AMERICANVIRUS via photopin cc

Why?

The number of fans and followers you have on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms is in some ways becoming irrelevant. While a large fan count may give you bragging rights among your friends, co-workers and peers, it’s beginning to mean a lot less in the real world. The real social value of fans and followers is in your relationship with them. Do they trust and engage with you? Do they take action by sharing, liking, or commenting on your content? Do they feel connected to you? These are the items that create real social currency.

A large fan count means nothing if fans are fake, bought or don’t engage. A large fan base does not equate to social success.

This is where so many people get it wrong in attempting to increase their Klout score. They add a ton of new people but they don’t engage with them or provide content that is valued and shared. The result? Their Klout score actually drops.

Klout and other social scoring platforms measure influence, relationships and engagement – not just the number of fans you have. So get ready, because if I’m right, like it or not, Klout-like scoring on many social sites (think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc) is coming in the not-too-distant future.

In fact, social scoring by individual network is already taking place on many platforms like Klout and Empire Avenue, and although it may not be obvious, or public-facing on the actual social networking sites themselves, you can be certain its being explored and tested.

Twitter Reputation Score

According to Twitter founder Evan Williams, Twitter already uses an internal “reputation” score to determine which users they suggest in the “Who To Follow” section of each users Twitter page. While none of the specifics are known, below is a list of some of the criteria Twitter could use to calculate a social score.

• Retweets
• Mentions
• List Memberships
• Followers
• @Replies
• Retweets Ratios: Percentage of retweets against actual tweets
• Favorites: Ratio of favorited tweets to overall posts
• Frequency: How often does someone post or tweet and what is the response/engagement ration to those posts

While its not known if a Twitter “reputation score” will ever become public-facing, its easy to see how the value of this information and an aggregated score derived from it, would be much more valued than the number of followers or fans a person has.

AuthorRank

Google understands the importance of this and the anticipated launch of AuthorRank is probably a good indicator of where social scoring is headed.

Mike Arnesen (SEOMOZ Blog) posted one of the best articles to date on Google AuthorRank, its implications and how to prepare for it.

He points out in the article that in February of this year, the term “AuthorRank” first started to surface in the search industry and that AJ Kohn had speculated that the development could change the search game as we know it. AJ Kohn also stated that it would be “bigger than Panda and Penguin combined”.

That is BIG, and I agree with him.

He went on to say that AuthorRank wouldn’t be a replacement for PageRank, but would be used to inform PageRank, thereby enabling Google to rank high-quality content more appropriately. In other words – the higher your individual AuthorRank score – the more weight it would give to your PageRank and potentially, the higher your page will appear in the search results.

In the post, Arnesen goes on to say that Google considers over 200 ranking factors when determining where your sites rank in organic search, so it’s safe to say that they’ll also be using plenty of signals to calculate AuthorRank.

Here’s a shortlist he compiled of factors that Google is likely to use in their calculation:

• The average PageRank of an author’s content.
• The average number of +1s and Google+ shares the author’s content receives.
• The number of Google+ circles an author is in.
• Reciprocal connections to other high AuthorRank authors.
• The number and authority of sites an author’s content has been published to.
• The engagement level of an author’s native Google+ content (i.e., posts to Google+).
• The level of on-site engagement for an author’s content (i.e., comments and author’s responses to comments)
• Outside authority indicators (e.g., the presence of a Wikipedia page).
• YouTube subscribers and/or engagement on authored videos (speculation: multiple-attribution author markup for YouTube videos coming soon).
• Any number of importance/authority metrics on social networks that Google deems trustworthy enough (Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn, SlideShare, etc.).
• Real world authority indicators like published works on Google Books or Google Scholar.

The point once again is the importance of an individual network/platform score that incorporates relevant social signals.

Universal or Combined Social Score

While a combined, universal score can be fun and interesting, a single score from each network based on the unique data from that platform makes the most sense. A high score on one platform does not necessarily translate to a high score across others. I may be a “Rockstar” on YouTube (I’m not) but have little to no influence anywhere else. A universal or combined score may, or may not pick that up.

A combined score is good however in the sense that it provides a single snapshot of the overall influence a person has across their social sphere.

Unqiue Platform Data

The most valued data and scoring will come from the unique characteristics of each platform.

For example, what if LinkedIn adopted social scoring in some manner. Imagine being a local business owner or job recruiter and having the ability to quickly search for potential candidates and filter them using a trusted, aggregated score based in part on the criteria below.

• Recommendations
• Endorsements
• Length(s) of employment
• Previous Positions/Titles
• Career path
• Weight of Connections (Position, Industry, Engagement)
• Member of Relevant Groups
• Active in Relevant Groups
• Achievements and Awards
• Community Service

The benefit and value of a more granular social score on each platform is obvious.

One Final thought.

Social scoring by network is part of the natural evolution of influence measurement, however; it must be relevant and highly accurate before it will gain wide acceptance in the mainstream. Its inevitable that the social networks will one day need to adopt a method of social scoring that offers a quick visual representation of a person, or company’s influence and social currency other than a “fan count”. My guess is that it will happen sooner, rather than later.

Social scores are coming.

Think I’m wrong? Bookmark this post and lets see if we’re not comparing our Facebook, Twitter and Google scores sometime in the near future.

Please leave your thoughts and comments below!

3 Reasons Google Plus Can’t Be Ignored

Are you still deciding whether it’s worth investing in Google Plus?

If you work in social media, chances are you’re already on it because …well, that’s your job. If you’re a small business owner, you’re likely one of the millions who signed on during the hype, got dizzy going around in “circles” then abandoned it, leaving your page to lie there like a dead leaf on wet pavement.

GooglePlus

The number one Google+ question I get is not:

“How do I get started on Google+?”

Nope. It’s… “Do we really need another social media platform”?

Do we really need another type of tablet, smartphone, or toothpaste?

Ok, maybe not so much toothpaste.

Many say they don’t spend time on Google Plus because their clients aren’t there.

I say…”yet”.

How many of your clients were on Twitter a year after it started?

And unless your clients were university students, they probably weren’t on Facebook either.

Google Plus isn’t a small start-up with it’s beginnings in a student dorm or SXSW hallway.

It was developed by a company that owns 2 of the biggest search engines in the world; Google and YouTube and who have very deep pockets.

A year and a half after its debut, nearly 450 million people are now signed on to Google+.

Unlike its precursors, Buzz or Wave, Google Plus is not a social platform.

Google Plus is GOOGLE.

“Google+ is just an upgrade to Google,” says Vic Gundotra, senior Vice President Engineering for Google. “People have a hard time understanding that. I think they like to compare us  with other social competitors, and they see us through that lens instead of really seeing what’s happening: Google is taking its amazing products, and by bringing them together, they just become more awesome.”

As Mike Elgan puts it, Google took its various products and turned them into features of Google+, rather than treating Google+ as a standalone social network.

Why You Need to Pay Attention to Google+ 

1. Social Networking

Networking on Google+ is more like Twitter than Facebook. You can stalk, uh, follow anyone you want without their permission. The advantage over Twitter is that the platform allows limitless text and integrates with rest of Google.
Tip: Find and follow people who share interests (not necessarily DNA or school colours). A good source is Google+ Shared Circles. You can also circle your Gmail contacts who will receive a notification and then can decide to circle you back or not. Regardless, you can still share content with them from G+. They’ll just receive it in their mailbox instead

Video: Find People You Know

PDF: Getting Started with Google+ for Business

G+ Post: How to Interact Well on Google+

Google Plus

2. Content Marketing

Creating valuable and sharable content improves your Google search ranking as well as your brand recognition and influence.

Because of it’s reach and palette of features, some writers have chosen to use Google+ as their blogging platform. Although I always advocate having your own piece of internet real estate, they  make a good case.

Tip: Take advantage of all the content creation tools that Google+ offers including images, video and Hangouts. A major advantage of Google+ is that you can do this all on the same platform.

Video: Formatting your posts with bold, italic and strikeout text

Blog Post:Why I blog on Google+ (And how)

G+ Post: How to Participate in Hangouts and Hangouts On Air

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The top reason businesses stake a claim on Google+ is because of the perceived SEO benefits of being on Google property. The assumption is true – to a point.

You can’t just set up a Google+ Page then walk away expecting to rank #1 in search for your keywords.

Google has made it relatively easy though for you to optimize your chances of doing just that with G+ badges for your website and AuthorRank (rel=author) to improve.

Tip: One of the best ways to optimize your Google+ presence for SEO is to make sure your Profile Page is complete and filled with “keyword” rich texts.

Video: How to Create a Google Plus Business Page in Under 3 Minutes

Blog post: 10 Dead Simple Tips to Take Advantage of Google+ for SEO

G+ post: Why Is There a Search Boost for Businesses on G+?

Google Plus

In closing, I’d like to share this video just released from a Google+ friend of mine, Martin Shervington who was the first to invite me to a public Hangout and who has since helped many “newbies” get “plussed”.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FOGc8E0gMY&w=560&h=315]

Everything you need to know about Google Plus but were afraid to ask!

What’s your biggest Google+ challenge? Please leave a comment below!

Google Plus: The Just In Case Network

Google Plus. Some love it, some hate it, and quite a few are still trying to figure out what it is. Google’s much beleaguered social network has been overwhelmingly unimpressive. What is impressive: The strong opinions many have espoused.

Launched in June of 2011, Google+ now boasts an impressive 400 million users, 100 million of which are active every day. Granted, it still lags behind Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but 400 million users is nothing to sneeze at. I’m pretty sure we’d all be doing backflips if we had that kind of monthly traffic. However, there does seem to be a strange disconnect between the sheer volume of users and vocal few who seek to malign it.

Why are so many people, especially social media aficionados, using a social network that they spend so much time complaining about? Or worse, that they find irrelevant and predict will ultimately fail? Why bother to cultivate a presence if you believe it is a waste of time? I have a theory. That theory has its own acronym: JIC. Just In Case. Just in case Google can pull off this social media experiment. Just in case Google was right and social signals translate to more meaningful search results.

Google has a track history of doing the improbable, the unthinkable. Case in point, the very word “Google”. It has evolved from a noun to a verb. We don’t search, we google. Google is synonymous with search. It is part of our vocabulary. Google is a search powerhouse. We are tantalized by the SEO possibilities. Do you really want to ignore what could mean the difference between life and death for your online presence? Neither do I…….just in case.

Recognizing that it would be foolhardy to ignore Google, I have a suggestion for Google. Give us something that will make Google+ indispensable. Something so inherently useful that we wouldn’t dream of looking for the next great thing in social media. Something that would make us circle with glee. Give us Venn Diagrams. Yep, I said it. Math geeks rejoice. Venn-Diagram functionality in our circles. The ability to automatically create new circles based on the intersection of existing circles. For example, I could take my “Believers” circle, my “Women of G+” cirlce and my “Social Media” circle, see where they overlap and create a new circle, “Social Media Women Who Are Believers”! Genius.

Such a simple concept, yet so incredibly useful that its hard to believe they have not done it yet. In that I’m a “cup half full” kind of gal, I have faith that they will eventually give us what we need. In the meantime, I’ll do it manually….just in case.

How You Build a Social Media Community Matters

Social Media “white hat” and “black hat” techniques continue to embroil controversy. I am still amazed at the conversations that I have had on various Social Media platforms surrounding building a business social media community. Many of you may know the terms “black hat” and “white hat” within the social media world. For those that don’t, let me explain. “Black hat” can best be described as a practice executed by a social media professional that “games” the system. More directly, it is being dishonest in your social media techniques. Black hat techniques are often employed to get results faster, and have far less actual social engagement (aka “work”).  ”White hat” techniques are exactly the opposite. Another term often substituted with “white hat” is “organic”. Using organic practices is really the optimal way to acquire results. It is also a much safer way to build a social media community. Employing black hat techniques can have undesired consequences, such as what happened to JC Penny a few years ago, earning them a “time out” from Google.

Black Hat Social MediaThink about this scenario, especially if you are building a community for a business. You build this nice community, paying no attention to how you do it, and all of a sudden you’re caught and your client’s account is suspended from Google, Twitter or Facebook. How are you going to explain that the phenomenal results you have been reporting to your client each month were gotten by questionable and inorganic practices? You may have been smart enough to figure out how to game the system, but now you will most likely lose that client.

Here are a few examples of black hat practices:

Don’t Spam!

Let’s start with the biggest offender of all, SPAM. Spam can best be described as a constant barrage of links, hundreds throughout a day, with no conversation in the feed, no engagement, and no interaction.  This is especially annoying on Twitter where the feed rolls through like a freight train. Those that employ this technique clearly are not paying attention to the “social” part of social media.

Buying friends and followers is not OK!

The latest and greatest black hat technique to come along is buying friends/followers. Many times, throughout the day, I see feeds or DM’s inviting me to “get 10,000 followers in a day” Or elaborate plans to build your Facebook “likes” for just $29.95. These accounts of course are not real people, and are only sought after to boost ones follower number. This (more than any other practice) “pisses me off”. I recently was introduced to a system called “twitter seeds”, which as it was explained to me was okay because these accounts supposedly are real people. The seed accounts are used to manipulate a twitter accounts friend to follower ratio. I have to say that I was equally flawed by both the idea and the notion of the practitioner that it was a white hat technique. Buying accounts, whether real or otherwise is not organic, and not an accepted social media practice…period.  Both this and the aforementioned practice are completely and without question Black Hat.

If you are keen on spending money to acquire new followers, invest in social advertising (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn ads). You will be spending a lot more than buying fake followers, but you’ll be getting real people that are actually interested in your offering in return – a much more worthy investment, in my opinion.

What about automation?

The one place that there is some acceptance of grey area, would be automation. Many social media managers who maintain multiple accounts make use of automation tools. It is whether those same managers take it to next step and engage that matters. It gets fuzzy when a person, who is using keywords to engage a particular audience and choosing content himself or herself, as opposed to complete bot content, is choosing the outbound content. The use of bots (computer-generated content) is highly frowned upon – a bot would never be considered organic. However, utilizing an automation tool to organize content that has been chosen by a person is a whole other story.

In the end, other than clear black hat techniques such as mentioned above, many techniques and practices come down to intentions, and application. It really does come down to this:  if you have to talk yourself into believing the practice is acceptable, it most certainly isn’t. The best and most reliable results come from white hat/organic techniques. Don’t fall into a black hat trap.

If you’re interested in this topic, you might find these articles from other websites interesting: