If you asked most marketers this time last year about the value of Google+, they would have responded with enthusiastic nods of approval and quotes like ‘it’s the best social network to be on right now and will really boost your SEO’. As a result, brands were jumping on the bandwagon, building up their profiles, circles, and communities, and helping build Google+ as the social platform du jour for the tuned-in marketer. Fast forward to 2015 and things have got a lot more ambiguous. While Facebook and Twitter have progressed their offering, adding enhanced analytics and video amongst other things, the only thing to have been added to Google+ are questions of validity. Who’s really active on Google+? Is it all it’s cracked up to be? And should brands be investing time, effort, and money into it when assurances of success seem thin on the ground? Google took steps to answer some of these questions recently by announcing major changes to the platform. Google+ is now split into two separate parts: streams and photos. This sparked much debate as to the platform’s future, with some opinion makers arguing that the whole thing would eventually be scrapped, while others believed the changes were merely an enhancement that would make Google+ a much stronger channel be focus on. So what is it? Should brands still be trying to be active on Google+ or should they focus on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram instead? The answer is undoubtedly ‘Yes! Brands should still be active on Google+’ but marketers need to be informed about where it’s going. Let’s not forget that Google+ has an impressive 20 million unique monthly users, with 22% of online adults visiting at least once a month. That in itself should be reason enough to stay active, but below are some further benefits of this platform that still apply in 2015.
Search Results Integration
Google integrates Google+ posts into its search results. For example, if you type a brand name into Google, you’ll see that brand’s Google+ profile in the top right corner alongside some of its latest posts. Also, if you search for a query while logged in, you’ll see additional G+ posts from people you follow, as long as the query is part of the post they shared. So, in the example below, when I searched for ‘blog engagement’ I saw recent posts by people I follow on Google+. The bottom line of this is that regardless of any changes that G+ has gone through, it still continues to influence Google’s SERPs.
Google Collections Feature
This new feature allows you to create a page within a page and customise it with a name and a header image. Here you can post about specific topics and have these grouped under the same roof. As a business, this is a great way to segment content and target it at a specific audience, rather than having all your posts going out to your entire audience. Collections also allow you to save posts to read later which gives a unique social layer for sharing. There are a few options for this: some users choose to “/sub” in the comments on a post, some simply re-share to their stream or even create a private community with only themselves as a member and share posts to that community. However with Collections, all a Google+ user has to do is create a private Collection and share posts into that Collection. It’s much easier to access and you also have the option to create multiple private Collections, which you can then share to a main My Bookmarks-esque Collection for easier viewing. This is a fantastic tool for any content marketing strategy, and will only strengthen Google+’s value in the eyes of marketers.
This is still a very useful and popular part of G+, allowing brands to host and record webinars, and then share them to their YouTube account with ease. If webinars form part of your content strategy, Google+ should absolutely remain a core part of your online strategy. The functionality also helps businesses stand out and become thought leaders in their industry by announcing regular Hangouts and promoting them so your Google+ page effectively becomes your own personal TV network, as well as a social network. A great starting point is to invite other influencers for a guest appearance that will not only help you to reach new audiences, but will also enable you to build new relationships, which will assist your overall marketing and branding goals. Don’t forget that after the Hangout you can use the information from it to create a comprehensive report, eBook, or whitepaper on the subject. Repurposing content is an important part of maximising the effectiveness of your overall content marketing strategy.
Publishing content on Google+ is undoubtedly a great method of driving traffic to your website. Firstly, because G+ content shows up in search engine results, websites may be able to increase organic traffic. Secondly, of course, Google+ refers traffic to websites when URLs are included in posts. So Google+ is both a vital social network and an invaluable tool for boosting organic authority.
It’s pretty easy to gain a good Google+ following with an active YouTube channel. Posting consistent videos to YouTube will increase your visibility because videos can be automatically shared from YouTube over to Google+. Because Google owns both of these platforms, and they work in tandem, it’s extremely valuable for SEO. By posting regular and good quality YouTube videos and adding them to your Google+ account, you will increase viewership and interaction.
Google Local Reviews
Google+ Local Pages are an important marketing tool for local businesses because they are fully integrated into Google’s search listings, maps and mobile apps. By strengthening your Google+ profile, you once again boost your organic authority, which will only further assist organic visibility, traffic to your site, and hopefully, conversions. These are just some of the reasons why I believe Google+ is still relevant for marketers in 2015, regardless of what the rumours may be. But of course, creating engagement on this platform takes time and effort. It’s certainly not easy, but if done right it can result in some really positive ROI.