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Google+: A Quick Start Guide

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Google+ is the future of search. Believe it.

If you aren’t on Google+, you're on the path to irrelevance. As Search Engine Watch recently reported, Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt writes the following in his upcoming book, "The Digital Age":

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

This is a big deal and a game changer. The verified online profile that Schmidt is referring to is Google+.

If you've been sitting on the sidelines expecting Google+ to fade away, forget it. No serious marketer can afford to ignore the implications of Google Plus and authorship.

In Guy Kawasaki’s book, "What the Plus", he asserts “…Google+ is to Facebook and Twitter what Macintosh is to Windows: better, but fewer people use it...” I guess that depends on how you define better.

Google+ does have a more robust set of features than Facebook or Twitter. On the flip side, there is nothing “Mac like” in its design or usability.

The following is a quick start guide to help you navigate the often confusing landscape that is Google+

Set up a Google+ Profile

It all starts here: https://plus.google.com.

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Your image is your brand – choose it wisely.

Cyrus Shepherd did some fascinating research on the effects of profile pictures on click-through rate (CTR). In the end, he determined there was no magic formula for the perfect picture, but after testing a series of images, he was able to improve CTR by 35 percent. That is impressive.

Ann Smarty took a different approach, by using heat map testing in her quest for the perfect profile picture. The thing that struck me about her research is “you look where they look”. Rich Brooks’ profile picture is a great example of applying this concept.

google-profile-pic-where-you-look-rich-brooks

Bottom line: test a series of images and track your CTR to determine the best one

Link to Your Content

Google lets you link to other profiles, public pages, and websites you contribute to. Find the Links section on your Google+ profile and click Edit:

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Link Your Content to Google

Google explains how to add author information in search results.

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You have three options for linking content to your Google+ profile. You can:

  • Use a verified email address.

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  • Create a link from your webpage.

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Guest blogger tip: When you guest blog, make sure that you give the host blog the proper HTML with a link to your Google+ profile and rel="author" in the link. If the blog doesn’t add the markup, you don’t get the credit. Remember to complete the circuit by adding a link to the guest blog post itself in your “Contributor to” links.

Tip for becoming irrelevant: If you don't want your authorship information to appear in search results, edit your profile. Under Setting, uncheck the profile discovery option “Help others discover my profile in search results”.

Once everything is linked up, use the Structured Data Testing Tool to verify that it's working.

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Benefits of authorship:

  • Personal branding: The key benefit for an author is visibility within the SERPs, which helps with branding. A specialist who writes frequently on a topic will appear in multiple searches related to that topic. This builds brand awareness, familiarity, credibility, and trust.

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  • Increased CTR on search results: Ranking number one isn’t what it used to be. Profile images now play a significant role in determining CTR

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A note on increased CTR: These higher CTRs come with a shelf life. The more sites and authors that implement authorship markup, the less distinguishing the authorship markup will become. Over time, this advantage will diminish and then disappear.

Can a Company Get Authorship?

No, but you can link your Google+ Page (Business Page) to your website using the rel=publisher markup. Again, you have three options for doing this:

  • Webmaster linking.

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  • Direct linking.

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  • Plugin: There are plugins to simplify the process. The latest version of the Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin features an option to add the URL of your Google+ business page.

Benefits of using rel="publisher"

  • Your Google+ page will be recognized as the "official" page for your brand and give it search preference over scrapers.
  • Searchers using Google+ Direct Connect can quickly navigate to your Google+ page when using Google search.
  • An increase in +1's. All +1s done on the site, on the Google+ page, in search results, and on AdWords ads will be aggregated.
  • Build relevance and trust for the brand. Your web content, Google+ activities and other social media activity will all be associated with your Google+ page.

Authorship: The First Step Toward Building Author Rank

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Authorship is the first step in establishing author rank.

In theory, Author Rank will provide a reliable signal for predicting the quality of new content. After all, past performance is the best predictor of future performance.

The ultimate goal is to have content written by authoritative authors’ rank better than content that is written by less authoritative authors.

Author Rank will likely be determined by metrics like the number of shares, pluses, comments, citations, and authority on Google+.

Benefits of building author rank:

  • Authors now get recognition and credit for being an authority. Whether you're a doctor, lawyer, dentist, or chef, you want to be known as the expert in your field. Author Rank builds this authority with every piece of content you create.
  • In the past, creating great content was a benefit for the website or blog that it was published on – that's where it ended. With authorship, not only will that website benefit, but you as an individual author will also benefit.
  • Authorship provides portability of your expertise. If you leave an employer, you take it with you!

Monitor Your Content’s Performance

When you login to Google Webmaster Tools with the account associated with your Google+ profile, you will find search stats for all of the pages for which you are the verified author.

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It’ll show you which pages are shown in the search results, how many times, how many clicks they received, which CTR the result has and the average position.

Identify Authors With Authority

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Interact with opinion leaders and give them a reason to follow you. This will boost your own authority.

Trace Your Posts With Ripples

Ripples shows you who is sharing and re-sharing your posts most often.

Ripples visualizes sharing interaction data for your posts over time. This makes it easy to follow key influencers and learn what content is most compelling to your audience.

trace-your-posts-with-ripples

Ripples provides a visual guide to who has publicly shared a post or URL and the comments they’ve made. Use it to spot trends and track the spread of posts over time, or see how a post was shared and in which languages. Try out Ripples.

Author Rank Takeaways

Once you’ve established authorship, you need to start working on your authority. That starts with publishing high quality, sharable content.

Other ways to increase authority include:

  • Getting published on authoritative websites
  • Stimulating conversation about your posts on Google+
  • Bringing your posts to the attention of other authoritative authors
  • Inviting authoritative authors to publish on your site
  • Increasing activity and connecting to authors on Google+
  • The key to building Author rank lies in usage of Google+ and interacting with other sites and authors.

At minimum, you need to establish authorship and start building author rank, now. Unlike many of the cryptic messages that come out of Google, this one is very clear and direct. There is no excuse for getting left behind.


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