Networking with Google Plus
Written by Jennifer Anderson
The business strategy driving Google Plus comes straight from looking at Facebook’s numbers. With something like 800 million users on Facebook, the notion of having one’s own version of it has to be irresistible. But even with the good name of Google behind it, launching a successful platform turned out to be a difficult proposition. Google Plus, or G+, is Google’s fourth try at it.
Google Friend Connect was the first and is still around, although it will be phased out early in 2012. Two other attempts, Google Buzz and “orkut” have already come and gone. It looks like G+ has legs, though. With an estimated 62 million users, the problem of critical mass seems to have been solved.
Setting up a G+ page
A company's or organization's page is set up as an extension of a personal page. The first step, then, is to sign up with G+ as an individual. The only prerequisite is having an email address at Gmail. The same user name and password will then be used to create a G+ profile.
The profile can be as full or as anemic as you like – you can even pick “other” for sex if you like. There are opportunities to put in a personal picture, connect with others you may know, and link to celebrities in various categories. From there, after the profile is complete, you can create a page for your organization.
If the page is used to establish a "corporate face,” you have the choice of connecting with others and messaging as either the page or as an individual.
Part of the process will generate a direct link to your public page. This URL can be used elsewhere on the Internet as a link to your page. It will also show up in Google searches on G+.
Like other social media platforms, an active page allows you to post comments, pictures, and videos, as well as links to other pages in the network. Your network on Google Plus is referred to as your circle, and you can set various permissions for different circles you are a member of.
You can also interweave other social media (Twitter, Facebook) and your address book or customer email list for others on Google Plus. Giving Google your email addresses and permission will allow them to match up your address book to their database of current Google Plus users.
The currency on G+ is the “plus one.” This is a clickable icon (shown above much larger than actual size) that visitors to a website, blog, or elsewhere on the net can use to indicate their approval of whatever they are viewing at the time. The larger picture will have Google managing data collected from users of G+ and their browsing habits (along with the +1 clicks) to target advertising and content.
Meanwhile, a G+ page offers businesses a chance to reach customers directly and in real time. It has the advantages of building brand recognition without the traditional costs of offline advertising. To jumpstart this, many businesses will encourage connections (or fans) by putting up offers or running contests directly off their G+ page.
Will Google Plus help my SERP?
Yes and no. Users of the Google search engine have the ability to +1 search results. This is used in two ways. If your link is “plussed,” it moves up in ranking, both generally and also for that user.
This is important as more users of the Internet start getting personalized search results. By allowing Google to use the data in their own profiles, the searches they see are crafted to meet what Google shows. The most obvious use is tailoring to location – a search would then rank something local higher. But the algorithms are getting better with keywords extracted on the fly from user profiles. A Canadian who owns a dog might see different results than a Texan who owns a cat – even if they both search for “pet products” on Google’s main engine.
Other than this, Google search engine optimization is considered important by many SEO specialists. If your company page on G+ is popular, the hits it receives will translate into higher rankings. The cross-connectivity with other sites on the Internet will help as well. As usual, Google is being closed-mouthed about just how rankings are done, but they have indicated they intend to make G+ a social networking Mecca, for both personal and business use.