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The Online Visibility Pluses of Google+

More and more often, the roughly 100 billion searches per month on Google are popping up with results that include a picture and author name under the title. How did that person get such a stand-out billing for their blog posts? It’s just one of the many pluses to using Google+ to promote business.

How Setting Up a Google+ Page Adds to Your Business

While setting up business pages on social media sites such as Facebook helps businesses connect with clients who are friends of the page, Google+ pages have the added advantage of showing up in search results, which allows them to reach potential as well as current followers. For example, Google+ has taken a page from the popularity of hash tags and created a search function called Direct Connect. By typing in the name of a business or brand page with a + preceding it, such as “+Ford,” the searcher not only receives the top Google search results, but the right hand column automatically pops up with a map of the closest Ford dealerships as well as the brand image and link to the Ford Google+ page.

Google+ Local takes it another step beyond search results with information that appeals directly to the searcher. Whether or not the person searching has a Google+ profile, businesses with a Google+ page appear in search results with their brand image as well as their ratings, their number of plus 1’s and a link to their user reviews. If the searcher is a Google+ member, reviews of the business from friends will be highlighted in the search results. Additionally, Google+ Local provides recommendations on local businesses to Google+ members based on their circles and past reviews.

The “circles” aspect of Google+ is another useful tool that allows businesses to reach out to specific demographics. Google describes the circles function of Google+ as a way for users to “…group people together based on how you think of them in real life.” For example, if you run a pet supply store, you could have one circle for dog owners and another circle for cats, as well as a circle for those that overlap. You could then send out targeted messages to each specific circle or to all. It’s an innovative function that combines the outreach of Facebook and the follower aspect of Twitter, as well as the relationship-type networking of LinkedIn.

Before businesses can set up a Google+ brand page, however, they need to create a Google+ profile. The profile creation process is quick and fairly intuitive, asking the new member simple questions such as name, location, profession, etc. The new member can then click on the “Create a Page” option and fill out their business’ profile including category (local business or place for location-specific businesses such as hotels, restaurants or one-location stores; product or brand for brand-specific items like car models and apparel; company, institution or organization; arts, entertainment or sports; or other), tagline and profile photo. Once done, the user can edit their page information, add up to five images to their photo strip and then start posting, sharing and spreading the word about the new page.

While fairly easy to create, some of the noted down sides of a Google+ business page are that the brand page cannot be transferred once created, making it permanently linked to the creator’s profile, and it cannot be deleted. Additionally, there is currently no verification process for smaller business brand pages, making it possible for someone else to create a page with your business’ brand name.

Friends with Benefits

As mentioned earlier, Google+ has the added bonus of being integrated into one of the world’s largest and most popular search engines. Public business pages are 100 percent indexed and the more +1’s a page receives, the better it ranks in search results. Businesses can encourage members of their circle to +1 their page, and badges are available that allow +1’s to be made on your business website, as well as to direct visitors to your Google+ page.

Along with encouraging your friends and followers to help boost your rank results in searches with +1’s, you can take steps to improve your ranking by including important key words about your business in your page’s “About” section, as well as include links to your website to promote click-throughs — another way in which pages increase their search engine optimization.

How to Stand Out and Be Recognized

Google Authorship is probably one of the most unique and desirable innovations of Google+. Not only are people more likely to notice and click on a link with a picture, they’re more likely to read an article that they associate with a “real person.” Additionally, the more authors post and the more individuals read those posts, the more that articles by that author move up in search results.

Individuals with a Google+ profile can request authorship (http://plus.google.com/authorship) from Google and once approved, their profile image will appear in search results along with links to content they have written. And while the instructions page for setting up your Google authorship states that you should have an email address listed that comes from the same domain as where your content is posted, authors who contribute to other sites can get around it by including a rel=author tag (http://www.clickminded.com/get-on-google-plus-why-authorship-markup-now-matters) in the content code that links back to their author page.

While Google+ is still falling short of social media giants such as Facebook and Pinterest, it’s quickly gaining popularity; and the appeal of its many unique functions and ability to promote websites within the massive Google search engine are driving new users in daily.

What are some of the benefits or negatives you’ve found to using Google+ to promote your business? What are some changes you hope Google will make to the Google+ platform? What features have you used the most?

Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), a leading provider of custom stylus pens and other promotional products such as imprinted clothing, mugs and customized calendars. Christopher regularly contributes to Promo & Marketing Wall blog.

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