Google Plus Manifesto: How to Use Google Plus for Yourself & Your Business

Since the birth of search engines, marketers have tried just about every tactic imaginable to
boost their pages to the top of the results pages.

The search engines, in turn, constantly tweak their algorithms to weed out undesirable results
(duplicate content entries, keyword-stuffed pages, off-topic backlinks, and other tactics that
boost an otherwise irrelevant or weak content page).

Panda
2011 was the year of the Panda updates from Google. With Panda, Google made significant strides to devalue content farms, thin affiliate sites, and duplicate content. It is estimated that 11.8% to 14.5% of all search queries were affected by the various Panda updates.

At the heart of Panda was a push for high quality, value content, and trust.

In fact, Google’s chief engineer, Amit Singhal, published this list of questions for SEO marketers to ask themselves:
• Would you trust the information presented in this article?
• Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it
more shallow in nature?
• Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar
topics with slightly different keyword variations?
• Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
• Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
• Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site
generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
• Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original
research, or original analysis?
• Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?

• How much quality control is done on content?
• Does the article describe both sides of a story?
• Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
• Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or
spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as
much attention or care?
• Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
• For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
• Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
• Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
• Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond
obvious?
• Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
• Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with
the main content?
• Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
• Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
• Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to
detail?
• Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Amit prefaced these questions with this statement:

“Our advice for publishers continues to be to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your websites and not to focus too much on what they think are Google’s current ranking algorithms or signals…. Search is a complicated and evolving art and science, so rather than focusing on specific algorithmic tweaks, we encourage you to focus on delivery the best possible experience for users.”

Source: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html

Below, I have reordered and grouped Amit’s questions to prove the point Google is making:
High Quality
• Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more
shallow in nature?
• Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar
topics with slightly different keyword variations?
• Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?

• Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original
research, or original analysis?
• How much quality control is done on content?
• Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or
spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as
much attention or care?
• Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
• Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond
obvious?
• Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
• Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to
detail?

Value
• Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site
generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
• Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search
results?
• Does the article describe both sides of a story?
• Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
• Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with
the main content?
• Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
• Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Trust
• Would you trust the information presented in this article?
• Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
• Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
• For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
• Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
• Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
In other words, if you’re spending more time on your SEO than on the quality of your content while ignoring your end-user’s experience, Google’s Panda will treat your site like so much bamboo and chew you up and poop you out (a panda’s diet consists of almost 99% bamboo, fyi).

And this is likely the case. After all, internet marketers are conditioned and (dare I say “brainwashed”) into thinking we can throw just about anything online and get it ranked at the top of Google in an hour.

Those days, it appears, are over. And good riddance, I say. I prefer quality over quantity any
day of the week! But that’s just me.

WELCOME TO THE FUTURE
(IT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW !)

“We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships.”
– Amit Singhal, Chief Engineer, Google

Google started 2012 with a bang! On January 10, Google announced the release of what may be the most significant shake-up in the history of search engines. I know that sounds hyperbolic, but once you understand what’s happening, I think you’ll agree.

Called “Search Plus Your World,” Google is now placing huge significance on three features:
1. Personal Results: which shows you information just for you, such as photos and
posts, that are yours or that have been shared specifically with you. These are private
results that only you will be able to see on your results page;
2. Profiles in Search: both in autocomplete (aka, Google Instant) and results, which
shows you people you’re close to or might be interested in following;
3. People and Pages: which shows people profiles and Google+ pages related to a
specific topic or area of interest, and allows for easy following with just a few clicks.

Source: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/search-plus-your-world.html

These new search results are tied directly into Google+, Google’s social network and their
alternative to both Twitter and Facebook. The profiles, people, and pages that are shown are
Google+ users and brand pages.

This pushes Google+ results over an overall keyword relevancy, it appears, and Twitter and
Facebook are already up in arms. And this only fans the flames of the anti-trust allegations
Google is embroiled in.

But we are not here to discuss the legal ramifications of Google’s decisions (let’s assume they
have some pretty smart lawyers figuring all this out). We’re here to maximize our
exposure to searchers.

“Because behind most every query is a community.”

This one sentence in Amit Singhal’s Search plus Your World post says everything to me about what Google’s mindset is.

They value connections and the community surrounding a particular topic over the well-designed SEO strategy. They will focus on TRUST—and how trust is developed and nurtured—over a perfectly keyword-optimized blog post.

Sure, SEO will continue to play a role in the SERPs (how else will Google populate the remaining results?), but the results Google will highlight—and therefore encourage interaction with—will be our friends, family, and brands that we’re already connected to, or that Google recommends we connect with.

GOOGLE+ IS NOW MANDATORY

“Is there anyone out there who still wants to say that being on Google+ doesn’t matter? Anyone? Because when being on Google+ means that you potentially can have your Google+ page leap to the top in those sidebar results, Google+ matters. It matters more than ever before.”
– Danny Sullivan, top SEO guru

Since its launch last summer, marketers have been trying to figure out how best to use Google’s social network. The biggest challenge was that Google plainly discouraged the creation of brand/business profiles. (Google went so far as to delete the profiles of several prominent brands.)

That changed in November 2011, and with Search Plus, it’s clear that Google now wants brands to create Google+ business pages (and to actively participate in the Google+ community).

So there’s only one way to go if you want to stay in Google’s good graces—and appear at the top of the SERPs. To win, we’ll all have to play Google’s game.

STILL NOT CONVINCED?

Look, I get it. Things change and change can be painful. But change provides massive opportunities for those ready and agile enough to do take action.

We may look back on this and say it was a fad; that traditional SEO tactics still work; that business as usual generates acceptable results. But what if that isn’t the case?

Here are some things to consider:

Shared Content Benefits in the SERPs: In an experiment earlier this year, SEOmoz consistently saw results affected by the tweets and Google+ shares. This is because both Bing and Google have incorporated real-time results into their search results.

Being “Friends” on Google+ Produces Higher Rankings: Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan witnessed higher rankings for brands he had “friended” in Google+.

People Trust Recommendations from People They Know: Neilsen found that 90% of people trust recommendations compared to 41% trusting search engine results. (Search Plus is a fine mixture of those two ingredients.)

You Can Rank for Anything Within Your Social Circles: In an unscientific yet quite interesting experiment, Miranda Miller and her colleagues proved you can get top rankings for just about any term you want on Search Plus.

Now the linch pin is this: To benefit from Search Plus, you (your personal Google+ profile, your Google+ Business Pages) must be be connected to searchers.

In fact, we may find over time that certain niches where a community or ongoing conversation isn’t happening (or even relevant) may just keep ranking through traditional SEO tactics, immune to the new socially relevant results of Search Plus Your World.

And perhaps you’re in those niches…and don’t plan on changing.

But if you’re in niches where conversations and communities do exist—and up to this point you’ve skated by on hard-earned SEO—it’s Google+ or die.

And growing your reach through great content, improved user experience, with an emphasis on sharing that content isn’t all that bad, is it?

In fact, we may look back on all this and consider it a real Plus. 😉

GOOGLE+ RESOURCES

I will be relying on trusted resources (all free) to illustrate things like how to set up particular accounts. What follows is a mixture of carefully curated collection of resources that will get you moving in the right direction, especially if you’re brand new to Google+, along with further analysis and commentary from me that I consider relevant to our community of marketers.

Pen Names
Since we’re all marketers here, let’s discuss the issue of using pen names within Google+.

A pen name is a fake name that’s used to mask or hide someone’s real identity. Marketers might use them to lend credibility to a particular market (for example, a male marketer may use the name “Karen Phillips” when marketing in the scrapbooking niche, rather than use his own name).

A pen name can also be similar to the “handles” that folks create for Twitter. So @all_in may be the Twitter handle of an avid poker player whose real name is John Jones. The pen name, in this case, lends personality to John’s Twitter profile, and those close to John, especially those who are aware of his love affair with poker, may enjoy the handle.

So far, Google is discouraging the use of pen names within Google+, in the same way that Facebook’s Terms of Service specify that you must use your real name. But it appears that Google’s future outlook on pen names is more lax than Facebook’s.

Here’s my take on it: Using a pen name that is a normal name, such as Karen Phillips, is fine. It’s the ridiculous pen names or “handles” that Google will still shut down. But using a pen name can have it’s limitations as well (if you don’t already have a built-in audience that knows you by your pen name, your initial connections may be a bit limited).

If you’re using a pen name, just make sure it’s part of your Gmail profile before signing up with Google+.

Google+ Set Up
Before you can set up a Google+ Business Page, you must first set up a personal Google+ page. This will connect through your Gmail account.

From within Gmail, click the “+You” button in the top left. This takes you to the screen above. It should import your name, but change it if necessary. Mark your gender, and pick a profile photo.

Use this excellent guide from Kristi Hines of Social Media Examiner to set up your first Google+ profile: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-get-started-with-google-plusyour-
complete-guide/

Some Things to Keep in Mind – Your Profile:
• Don’t Keyword Stuff your Profile. As marketers, we’re conditioned to to maximize the use of keywords in just about everything we do. That shouldn’t be the case here. Yes, use appropriate keyword-based descriptions to let people know who you are, what you do, and what you’re all about, but don’t stuff keywords in to satisfy the robots. Everything we do here is for the benefit of actual human visitors!
• Bring some personality into your profile, if you can. Don’t be silly, unless that’s what you’re going for. Be smart, succinct, and get your point across.
• The “Introduction” section of your profile is where you should put the most time, effort, and consideration. Notice that you can add hyperlinks. This is a great place to hyperlink to an appropriate website, and do consider linking through a highly relevant keyword as well. This isn’t like Twitter where you’re radically limited to characters. Google’s fine with you spreading your wings and writing a bit here, if you like. Just be natural, and don’t worry about SEO-optimization for a change.
• You can add custom links, for example a website or an RSS feed; and you can also choose the “Manage connected accounts” options, will will bring up a number of additional sites including Facebook, Yahoo, Flickr, Linkedin, Twitter, and others. It’s up to you whether you connect these sites. If you’re in pen name land, it’s going to be difficult without crossing the various streams of reality. I encourage you to bring as much in as you can though.

• Recommended links are simply that. Think “blog roll.” Share the love. Or you can also recommend your own site links. But don’t duplicate your links.
• Always keep in mind how your About page will help your profile visitors understand you better! The more they “get you” the easier their decision to follow and connect with you.

Some Things to Keep in Mind – Your Connections:
• Google+ is based on the logic that we’re connected to people in certain ways. They took the liberty of starting you off with circles of Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Following. Hover over the circles and an explanation for each will pop up.
• You can also create custom circles. In marketing terms, this is a way of segmenting your list. You could create geographic circles, circles for coworkers, people in a mastermind group…anything you want. Just drag someone into the empty circle, and when prompted, fill out a description so you can tell what it is in the future.
• Your circles belong to you, and are for YOUR use. No one will see which circle you place them in or how many other people are in that circle. For example, you may place someone in your Acquaintance circle, but they may place you in their own Friends circle. Neither of you will know which circle you’re actually in. All that is known is that you’ve placed someone in a circle. So don’t sweat it about how you group people. It’s for your purposes only. Here’s Google’s own video to describe Circles, if there’s still any confusion: http://youtu.be/ocPeAdpe_A8
• People of Interest: Much like Twitter recommended list, Google+ has a growing list of what they call “interesting and famous people.” These lists are broken into the following categories: Picks, Entertainment, Fun & Interesting, Music, News, Photography & Art, Politics, Sports, and Technology.
• Try following a few people. But just a few. The last thing you want is 50 Kim Kardashian posts coming your way each day!

Some Things to Keep in Mind – Your Settings:
Before you get too far ahead, it’s a good time to review the default settings. Click on the gear in the upper right hand side, and you’ll find the page below.
• There’s no right or wrong here, just whatever you’re comfortable with. Extended circles are people in the circles of people in your circles (think “friends of friends,” as in Facebook).
• Set your notifications how you like them. If you prefer to receive text notifications rather than by email, add your mobile number. You should start off with everything checked at this point. As things pick up, you may decide to come back and tweak your notifications again, to reduce incoming emails/texts.
• Regarding photos, decide whether you want geo location of new photos turned on or off. It’s not for me to tell you. Some folks are nervous about geo location. Personally, I think it’s awesome, but may not be relevant for marketing purposes. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with. No right answer.

Google+ Business/Brand Page Set Up
I found this set-up guide from Mashable to be the most complete how-to blueprint for setting
up Google+ brand pages: http://mashable.com/2011/11/08/how-to-google-plus-brand-page/

Some Things to Keep in Mind:
Many of the same best practices mentioned in the personal Google+ profile will apply here.
• Think about your profile visitors’ experience. Give them information to help them make a decision about the relevancy of your brand to their overall experience in Google+. In other words, we want our visitors to know right away that following our brand pages will be of value to them.
• Tagline: It says “10 words that describe your page best”…that equates to 21 visible characters. Make them count.
• Introduction: The first 56 characters will be visible in a query. So make those first few words pull folks in!
• Use relevant keywords in your introduction but still write naturally! The keywords will help Google fully understand what your brand page is about, and rank your page on relevant search terms.

How to Get People Connecting to YOU
As marketers, we’re all quite egocentric, wouldn’t you say? We want people looking at what WE’RE doing; we want them consuming OUR products, reading OUR posts, buying OUR goodies. And in the world of social networking, we want people following US.

What follows is some of the best ways to get people to connect and follow you (on any social network, really). Remember, the end goal here is to get people to click to your profile and find it interesting enough to add to one of their circles.

1. Find your niche’s conversations, and begin to strategically engage others.
The old adage of social networking is the cocktail party idea. You wouldn’t walk into a cocktail party and just start slurping all the booze and talking about yourself, would you? I hope not. You’d mingle. You’d eavesdrop a bit to pick up on what various people are talking about. You’d nod, smile, be polite. Perhaps you’d try to even help out the host or offer to get someone a drink.

The same applies in any social network. You don’t just show up—not knowing anyone —and start blathering about yourself, your websites, those damn keyword phrases you’ve been programmed into believing are so important.

No! You better use your two ears much more than your one mouth, at least until you’ve made some friends within your niche. By being a good listener, showing your care (the +1), and strategically adding thoughtful comments to others posts should help to make you a part of your niche while helping you stick out as someone with original, interesting thoughts.

2. Let them know you’re paying attention. Another excellent way to let people know you’re out there and “one of them” is to use the “+” key and then type their name.

This works like the @ symbol in Twitter. If you wanted to mention Robert Scoble directly, you’d type +Robert Scoble (once you start typing, Google will help auto generate the right name). Depending on each user’s setting, this type of mention will generate an email/text message to let them know. This, in turn, allows people to click through and see who you are and determine if you’re someone they’d like to follow and connect with.

3. Make your original posts awesome! Easier said than done, right? Well, you don’t have to be a great writer to catch people’s attention. In fact, you don’t even have to post original content in your posts to garner interest in your posts. But following these rules of posting should help make even the most boring posts kick ass!
1. Always use an image: People loves images (or even better, videos). You have an endless supply of free images at Flickr. Use this link to get to Flickr’s advanced search page: http://www.flickr.com/search/advanced/? Once there click all three of the Creative Commons boxes. This will bring back images you can use free of charge (always check the copyright limitations before using, and always, always give credit).

2. Think like an editor: Headlines sell newspapers, not the stories. Yes, good reporting keeps people subscribing, but it’s the headlines that bring people to the newstand. So are you’re creating your posts, put on your editor’s hat and create engaging headlines that pull people in. (Check out Copyblogger’s Magnetic Headline series here: http://www.copyblogger.com/magnetic-headlines/).

3. Test your times: Even super-users like Guy Kawasaki have posts that don’t get traction. This is because streaming networks like Google+ have peak times and slow times. You’ll have to see what works for your particular circles, but start with early and mid morning, lunch time, and around 5 or 6pm (basically when people have some free time on their hands).

4. Share far and wide: Unless it’s top secret content, make sure you’re sharing with Public, Extended Circles, and your relevant Circles. This will maximize the exposure of the content you’re creating.

5. Don’t forget your keywords: Utilize your keywords and relevant hashtags within your posts. For the love of all that’s holy, please keep things natural sounding. The last thing anyone wants is some ill-sounding keyword-stuffed headline or paragraphs. Let’s assume that Google can make sense of your post based on the most modest usage of a particular keyword.

EVEN MORE RESOURCES

SocialStatistics.com: tracks and generates detailed statistics on over 89,000 users and
pulls in the most popular posts. Add your own profile to be tracked as well.

Google’s Google+ Resource Page: Who better than Google to answer frequently asked
questions about all things Google+?

Firefox Add-Ons: Extend your Firefox browser with Google+ add-ons. Just search for either
“Google Plus” or “Google+”

Chrome Extensions: I use the Chrome browser. Search their extensions store for Google+
related extensions.

Add a Google Plus widget to your websites: Here’s Google’s official button:
http://www.google.com/webmasters/profilebutton/ or try this one out:
http://widgetsplus.com/

Google+ Cheat Sheet:
Use this helpful list of formatting and hotkeys to improve your
experience.

Create a Custom Google+ Nickname URL: Branding is everything, right? This cool
service allows you to create a brandable URL, rather than those ugly links Google currently
generates.

Google+ for Mobile: Never be out of touch. This is Google’s official mobile page with links
to the various mobile operating systems.

Join Groups: The quickest way to connect with people in a particular niche is by finding
them first. This site works like a group directory.

Claim Authorship of Your Content: You can claim the authorship of articles you’ve
written, which will in turn show up in research results. Check out Google’s resource page on
this here: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1408986

Use Direct Connect to help your site visitors find your Google+ page: This is critical
to converting your site visitors into followers! https://developers.google.com/
+/plugins/badge/

PARTING THOUGHTS

Social media marketing—done successfully—lacks an “easy button.” Once you’ve set up your Google+ profile and brand pages, you may be asking yourself, “OK, what’s next?”

My first recommendation is to have fun. Approach social media as an opportunity to find and authentically connect with those truly interested and passionate about your niche.

Create truly outstanding content that your audience wants to share. Don’t be afraid to also share the great content of others in your niche. People will begin to see you as an authority and a trusted resource within your niche.

Look at these changes from Google as a reset button that allows you to refocus your efforts into being a part of your niche community rather than forcing your way into it through the many SEO efforts that Google clearly appears to be diminishing.

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