As if total search engine domination wasn’t enough, Google decided to take on the social media world as well with the introduction of Google+ in 2011. While slightly similar to other popular social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Google+ attempts to differentiate itself by allowing more transparency in who users share with and how they interact through components like the +1 button, circles and hangouts.

Although Google’s social platform arrived late to the party, it quickly made up for missed time. Today, with over 500 million registered users, Google+ has become one of the most active social networks in its space. But what is Google+ and why should businesses be concerned with another social platform?

What’s all this ‘plus’ business?

Your Google+ account is based on your Google profile. Think of this as your ‘about’ page. Through this profile, you (or your business) can attempt to control the information you share with the world; such as a bio, address, phone number, email and website. You can also create ‘circles’ of contacts, for example friends, family and coworkers, with whom you can share content.

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You may have noticed a tiny +1 button on many Web pages, including this one. The “+” is the social networking feature that allows users to promote and share comments, photos, music and more with their social circles. The Google+ platform allows people to chat, share ideas, videos and news, play games, find and contact acquaintances, recommend businesses — the list goes on.

Another great Google+ feature is the ‘hangout,’ which is essentially a video chat session. To participate all you need is a webcam and microphone; these are often built into your laptop computer. Hangouts allow multiple users to simultaneously engage from any location.

Get the online benefits

As with other prominent social networks, smart businesses can leverage the Google+ tool to increase visibility online, self-promote and connect with customers even more. From a search engine optimization standpoint, it’d be unwise to ignore a Google product. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between the Google +1 and higher rankings.

Similar to Facebook’s like feature, Google has +1 votes. Make it a goal to add social sharing buttons to each of your important Web pages, that way readers can share your content. The more +1s on your pages and posts, the better. Those social signal votes let Google know that what you’re posting is being read and shared.

Online marketing company Moz recently released study results revealing that aside from page authority, a Web page’s number of Google +1s is more highly correlated with search rankings than any other factor. That includes Facebook shares, likes and comments too — sorry Zuckerberg. Engineered by Google, there are several obvious reasons that having a presence and sharing your content on Google+ can lead to higher rankings.

  1. Posts on Google+ are crawled and indexed almost instantly compared to Facebook or Twitter, which are known to hide some data from Google. Any content you post on Google+ is immediately and fully accessible to the corporation, which means your page could be showing up in search results faster.  It makes sense that Google would give priority to posts and data that are under its own network. Previously, Google would access its real-time data from Twitter but was cut off in 2011, and Facebook’s privacy settings make it nearly impossible to crawl or index. This means that instead of waiting weeks for your website to get indexed by Google, now it’s as easy as pressing +1.
  2. We know that the amount of quality links you have pointing to your website, the better. Pages and posts that you share on your Google+ profile will pass link juice and authority to your webpage. Google+ allows you to link to your other profiles with the anchor text you choose. You can also insert as many links directly into your posts as you like. The value of that link depends on the domain authority and the number of +1s a post has, shared or linked to. When you have an updated blog post or press release on your company website, make sure to share it on your Google+ profile as well.
  3. Your Google+ page can be optimized to rank on search engines just like a typical website or blog post can. Moz states that the first 45-50 characters of your post (the first sentence) will appear as the ‘title tag’ of that URL, indicating to both readers and Google what that post is about. By creating unique, engaging and keyword-focused content, you can help send relevancy signals to Google and help get it ranked highly and promoted.
  4. Broadening your circle of influence is also possible with the help of Google+. Just like other social networking sites, you can connect with pretty much anyone by adding them to your circles. Start engaging and networking with others by mentioning them in a post, sharing directly with them or tagging and liking their posts. With so many capabilities, you can really focus on building relationships through the Google+ platform, just as you would in person. Use the Google Hangout feature to have virtual meetings or even introduce a new company update or product.
  5. Claim authorship on all original content that you’ve written by linking your Google+ profile to your website or blog. With the Google authorship feature, you can promote and get credit for your content by showing up next to search results for your posts.  Your Google+ profile photo will display in search results, attracting more attention to your posts and improving click through rates to your website.

You may find yourself shuddering at the idea of yet another social media site to familiarize yourself with; yet I urge everyone to consider the advantages of using Google+ for business. In fact, if it has to be just one social network, make Google+ your first. Take a hint from the 48 percent of Fortune Global 100 companies that are currently using it. With its game-changing features, networking capabilities and SEO benefits, you are simply losing out in terms of online visibility if you are not using Google+ effectively. 

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