One of Google’s most notable attributes as a company is that it is not afraid to fail. They have had their fair share of flops1 yet Google Plus (the company’s most successful social endeavor to date) is not quite2 the flop people thought it would be. In fact, there are numerous studies and evidence3 that being active on the platform translates to better rankings in search.
If you already have a handle on steps in the process or strategies for using G+ to rank well4, feel free to click on the area where you would like to get started.
For those new to the platform, it can be challenging to understand Google’s account relationships, how to get started and how to be effective using Google Plus. This write-up is all about how to go through the process of getting started on Google Plus as well as how to use it to effectively promote your business.
In order to have a Google Plus profile, you must have a Google account. Google’s account relationships are unique compared to other web-based services. There is a one-to-many relationship meaning that if you sign up for one Google service (i.e. any Google service), you automatically have basic access to other services.
To illustrate, lets say you create a Gmail account. By doing that, you automatically have a Google Plus account, AdWords account, Analytics account, and all of the other services Google offers. These accounts may not be populated or active but they exist.
If you already have a Google account that you would like to associate your new G+ account with, then you can skip to the next section. If not, read on.
In order to start a Google account, simply visit Google’s main page. Since we are starting off creating a Google Plus account, we will focus our efforts on that Google service. Click the little +You up in the top right hand corner of the Google home page.
You will be taken to a login screen that looks like the screenshot below.
Since we do not have an account, click the “create an account” link below the main login box. You will then be taken to the beginning of the account creation process where you enter basic personal information.
Since you are creating a Google Plus account, the next stage will prompt you to add a photo. You can opt to skip the step but be sure you go back and add one before you are finished. A clear photo will help you get more engagement and people will take you more seriously on G+.
It will also help for Google Authorship (Please note that as of 2014 Google authorship has been deprecated).
Next you will be given some basic information about your account. Notice that a Gmail address has automatically been created for you even though you did not perform that task directly. Google uses the user name that you typed in for the account.
Your account has now been created and you can continue on to Google Plus. In the next step you will be prompted to search for people you know. If you already had a Google account before, Google may suggest people in your contacts list (from Gmail). Since we used a fictional person in our scenario, Google is prompting us to check for Yahoo or Hotmail contacts. If you already have a Gmail account, Google will suggest these people automatically for you to add to circles. You can even use circles from within Gmail.
You can also search for people on Google Plus that you would like to follow. After clicking continue you will be prompted to look through the list of interesting people and companies that are hot on Google Plus. You can skip adding accounts here as well.
A good strategy is to start finding attorneys in similar practice areas to add to your circles. You could also add attorneys in other practice areas as well. To start, hover over the button in the top right corner of the screen. It will be labeled based on the current screen you are viewing. If you are on the home page of your account for example the button will read “home”.
You will then see a drop down menu. Click “people”. You will then be brought to the screen where you can either add suggested people or you can search for attorneys that you can follow. For instance you can type “personal injury attorneys” and a list of relevant profiles will be generated.
By joining communities of like-minded people on Google Plus, you can network, get feeback from others in your practice area, and learn about trends in your industry. Searching for communities is as simple as searching for people.
Go back up to the nav menu button and select communities from the list. You will then be brought to the communities page. Note that there will be popular and/or relevant communities suggested for you. You can use the search bar in the top right hand corner to look for attorney related communities.
By typing in a search phrase (I used personal injury attorney again), you will be able to see all the communities that have that as their title or content relevant to your search phrase. Click on any community to learn more about it. If you want to join the community, simply click Join Community in the top right-hand corner and you are in.
One of the final steps is to add your photo if you have net already along with some other basic information about yourself. Why add this information?
If you are using Google Plus to catch up with family or friends that you do not see that much, maybe it is not as important to fill in these fields. If you plan on promoting a personal or professional brand though, you should fill out your profile as much as possible. Attorneys are often promoting themselves as the brand so having a face on there along with as much relevant information as possible can only help you.
Filling out your about file is important on a number of levels. Not only are you able to insert keywords that could help your profile show up in search but you can also insert links. This is good for a backlink to your website and also good for people who may want to learn more about you by visiting your website.
You also have the opportunity to put links into other social networks and properties that you may be active on. You can upload important things people may want to know about you like where you went to college, places you lived or worked and contact information.
Once you are finished filling out your profile, click finish. You will then be taken to your main feed. This is the area where content of the people you follow will show up when it is posted. Since we haven’t followed anyone with our fictional profile, Google fills our feed with popular posts (i.e. posts that have gotten a lot of engagement on the platform).
If you’ve followed attorneys relevant to you as outlined earlier, you will see their posts show up in your feed. If you’ve joined any communities, you will also see content from those in your feed.
This is the point where you can succeed or fail at using Google Plus as a marketing tool for your business. If you set up a profile and walk away from it, you will gain nothing. If you continue on and invest the time to engage with your network, you can fully leverage the platform as a networking tool.
You can do this by interacting with content that the people you follow are posting. You don’t have to go crazy with this. Spend 10-15 minutes every day or every couple of days interacting with other’s posts. Plus one their content, follow new people, share other’s content and make thoughtful comments on posts.
The whole point of social media sites is to be social and interact with other people. Don’t just post things about your practice or about your brand. You can do that of course but your activity on Google Plus should also encompass interacting with others.
By interacting with others in this way, they will reciprocate and plus one, share and comment on your content getting it more exposure.
Another way to encourage engagement is to mention others in your posts. Anytime someone shares your content, you share theirs, or any other time it is appropriate, mentioned them by putting a plus in front of their name. Google will then notify them that they have been mentioned by name on the platform.
Typically people will reciprocate this by commenting, plus oneing or sharing your post that you mentioned them in.
Hashtags on Google Plus help organize similar content no matter who is posting it or where it is being posted on the network. Hashtags weave together similar content so that users can find posts similar to the ones they like.
You can use this to your advantage and gain more exposure for a post by using hashtags. Find practice area-specific content to share and use hashtags when sharing it. Not only will your posts show up for people in your network, they will show up alongside similar posts that are shown to people who may not be connected to you yet.
Google’s presence spans a lot of areas on the web including search. By having a profile on Google Plus, you can link that profile to content that you generate on a blog. By doing so you can associate an image with your content in search results. If you consistently produce good content, Google is more likely to show your content for relevant searches. Authorship is a great way to build your personal brand as an attorney both on and off Google Plus. You can learn how to start using Google Plus here.
In the summer of 2014, Google formally announced5 that authorship in search results was discontinued.
Being active on Google Plus has other benefits besides exposure on the platform. For years Google has sought to make more relevant content show up for user’s queries. For a long time the tactics they used were easily gamed.
Now Google is leveraging its social network in its search algorithm. When you search for something on Google, they will show you relevant content of people who you are connected to in Google Plus or content that you have interacted with before on the platform.
Google Plus has grown to be one of the leading social platforms on the web. There are numerous ways you can leverage it as a business or personal brand. Unlike other social networks, Google is able to expand the positives of their service to other areas of the web.