A few months ago, Fraser Cain graciously shared how he took his blog from 0 to 3 million monthly visitors. What’s just as amazing is that he also created an engaged audience of 10,000 people on Google+, which some claim is a wasteland (Cain's personal Google+ page has 145,000 followers as of this writing). In this article, we’ll learn how Fraser did it and what tips he has for people looking to take advantage of Google+.
Eric Siu: Please introduce yourself.
Fraser Cain: I'm Fraser Cain, the publisher of Universe Today: a space and astronomy news website read by more than 3 million people a month. I'm also the co-host of the Astronomy Cast podcast. Also, I'm the co-founder of Keyword Strategy, a keyword management software tool for SEO.
ES: You mentioned that Google+ was integral to your journey from 0 to 3 million monthly visitors, can you tell us how you utilize Google+?
FC: Universe Today had already reached an impressive amount of traffic before I started using Google+, but the service has done an enormous amount to help me build my personal brand and the brand for the website. It's really hard to quantify what it's doing for me, but when NASA mentions our coverage in a press conference, I think I'm on the right track.
ES: How did you make people aware of your Google+ channel?
FC: I've embedded the Universe Today Google+ badge on the site, and occasionally share articles from Universe Today into my own private stream. We repost every article on Universe Today into Google+. We honestly don't do a lot of marketing of the brand page itself.
ES: How long did it take you to build up to 10,000+ Google+ users and what tactics did you use?
FC: I joined Google+ on the first day it was offered, and have been growing my audience ever since.
I think my success in building a following on Google+ comes from two things I've been doing:
- Creating something unique that makes Google+ better. In this case, we've been running our Virtual Star Parties on Google+, where we hook up telescopes live into a Google+ Hangout so people can see objects in the night sky and even make requests. These star parties actually drive people to Google+, and this builds the team's reputation and following as a side benefit. I think that people neglect to consider this when they join a social network. They try to extract value out of the network - to drive traffic to their own website. But first you should consider how you can make the network itself better, by improving the content, organizing events and people, etc. Obviously, this is a risk, because you're investing your time and energy into something that you don't control, but it can really pay off.
- Introducing people to each other. With my Super Science Circle, I regularly share a circle of almost 500 people who post about science on Google+. This allows new Google+ users to instantly have an interesting stream of science content. When I share an updated edition of the circle each month, I get carried along for the ride. If the post goes to the "What's Hot" list, it can give members of the list thousands of new circlers in a day. This helps build my reputation in the network.
Also, getting on the "Suggested Users List" for a month helped too!
ES: Your method of utilizing Google+ is obviously unique, what are some tips you can provide to other businesses (such as e-commerce)?
FC: Companies always see new social networks as a way to extract new followers. "How can I get more visitors from Google+?" But their question should be, "What can I do to make Google+ better?" (or Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest). When you look at the question that way, you get lots of good ideas and goodwill from people who use the network in your niche. That builds an enormous amount of goodwill that transcends the specific network. But as I said, investing that kind of time into a network you don't control is a risk. Sometimes it's worth taking a risk, especially when the downsides are so minimal.
ES: How many people do you have updating your Google+ page?
FC: Only me and my Senior Editor, Nancy Atkinson, update the Universe Today Google+ page.
ES: How often do you update the page?
FC: We update the page several times a day. I usually try to make a few original and interesting posts every day on my personal page as well.
ES: When you do your hangouts, how many people are present and how many people do you have helping you on the hangout?
FC: Our hangouts typically get a few hundred viewers on Google+ and YouTube, and then a few thousand people who watch the archived version after the fact. We usually get 5+ astronomers sharing their view in our weekly hangout.
ES: Any other points you’d like to add?
FC: I know there's a perception out there that Google+ is a ghost town, but the reality couldn't be further from the truth. It's already had a transformational impact on my business and my personal life, and we're just getting started. And beyond the benefits of the network itself, there are potential benefits to search engine optimization with the concept of Author Rank.
Don't use G+ as a replacement for Facebook. It's a brand new place to engage with the things that interest you - like a comprehensive personalized discussion forum.
Fill out your profile, circle a few hundred people talking about topics that interest you. Participate in the conversation. Give it a few months and you'll be hooked.
- Make sure that your Google+ profile link can be found by your audience.
- Try to add value to the network by making it better with great content.
- Introduce relevant people to your audience to help build your reputation.
- Update your page several times a day with interesting content.