How a Google+ Strategy Can Help Get You to Page One in the SERPs
Forget link building; I say we shift gears and start focusing on circle building.
Ok, ok. I may have gotten a little carried away there. Don’t forget link building (it’s still critical to getting your Web pages to rank highly in SERPs), but let’s remember why we want high SERP rankings (to get links to our content to show up on page one of search results pages when people search for queries that are highly relevant to our products/services/thought leadership/etc.) and then let’s dig into a conversation about how focusing on Google+ circle growth, influencer outreach, and content strategy could score you page one representation for highly competitive search queries quicker and possibly with less effort than some traditional optimization efforts.
And, no, this isn’t just another post about theoretical social signals. More than anything it’s a case study of my own experience, how the 30 people I have circled on Google+ have changed the way I find and consume content, the tactical insights I’ve gleaned from this experience, and how you can apply these tactical insights to increase the number of times your brand shows up in page one results.
How the People In My Circles Have Changed the Way I Find And Consume Content
I have found myself reading a lot of content in or through Google+ posts lately. And not because I am going to Google+ seeking content (like I frequently do with Twitter, admittedly my primary social network of choice).
I don’t go to the Google+ content – the Google+ content is coming to me via page one of my Google Search Plus Your World results.
In this example I am seeing two links to read Google+ content listed in the top 10 results for the single-word query “Hummingbird;” the first of which is showing up above Hummingbirds.net (a highly relevant website for the word, I’d say). I don’t think anyone needs convincing that result number two for a single word search query is some prime real estate!
I am not following very many people on Google+ (as mentioned, only a nice round 30), and I see links to content from people in my G+ circles all the time. In fact, I just did 15 searches for queries related to online marketing/optimization (because that is usually what I am searching for) and 12 out of 15 of those searches showed one or more links to Google+ content in page one results. Here’s a SlideShare of my results for added effect:
To reiterate, 12 out of 15 queries means that 80% of my recent searches have shown at least one link to Google+ content in the top 10 SERP results. What does this mean? (cue double rainbow guy)
Well, it means that:
- Google is indexing G+ content and considers content from people you have circled to be highly relevant, trustworthy, and best suited to solve your problem
- By allowing people to choose who they circle, Google+ actually allows people to tell Google who they prefer to see content from, and accordingly, to play a role in (perhaps inadvertently) curating their own SERP results
- Accordingly (and because encouraging activity in G+ is also beneficial to Google) Google gives a lot of weight to Google+ content
- You, the online marketer, have an incredible opportunity to push your competition out of the top 10 with G+ content
- You have an incredible opportunity to rank highly for competitive search terms with G+ content, and, accordingly, an incredible opportunity to drive more organic traffic to your Web pages through links in optimized Google+ content
- That I know Mark Traphagen’s name, his face, and that I end up reading a lot of content from him and the external Web pages he links to (In fact, I actually considered naming this article “Why Mark Traphagen is Killing It On Google+”)
Is Circle Building the New Link Building?
Well, not quite. As mentioned in the intro, Google+ content shouldn’t be considered a replacement for link building (we still want our Web pages to rank!), but if you’re looking for a way to communicate brand/content relevance, trust, and quality directly to Google, Google+ content and circles are powerful supplemental tools.
Think of it like this:
Inbound links pointing to your content help your Web pages show up on page one of the SERPs because inbound links cast “votes” of trustworthiness and relevance which Google takes as third-party endorsements, translates into PageRank, and uses over time to infer what it thinks might be the best results for each unique searcher for each unique search query. In other words, we build links to improve our SERP rank because inbound links improve Google’s understanding of our Web pages as high-quality, trustworthy, and relevant.
With Google+, by circling someone, you tell Google directly “I trust this person/brand, they are relevant to me and my interests, and I am interested in reading content from them.” It’s a first-hand endorsement that lets Google skip all the he-said she-said PageRank inference business, which can help get your G+ content into page one results for competitive terms quicker, and ahead of your perhaps-slightly-less-relevant-to-this-specific-user’s-preferences competition.
(The concept is kind of like a magic eye. You have to stand back and blur your eyes a little to see the rocket ship. And then all of a sudden, bam! It’s hard to believe you could never see it before.)
So, how do you do it? How can you use Google+ to get your consumers to curate your content into their page one results, bump your competitors out, and make yourself the name/face that people remember because you’re always there?
These four steps are a great place to start:
Four Steps to Creating a Google+ Strategy That Dominates Page One of the SERPs
Channel your inner Mark Traphagen with these four tip-of-the iceberg Google+ strategies that will get your content showing up in page one of the SERPs quicker than any link building strategy can:
1) Build your Google+ network (i.e.: Get people to add you to their circles)
I see content from Mark Traphagen, CopyBlogger, and Jonathon Colman all the time because I have them circled on Google+. Get people to circle you to get seen more frequently on page one in Search Plus Your World results.
Not sure how to get started building your pack of circling wolves? (I couldn’t resist.) Wade Harman offers some great tips on how to build your Google+ circle following in his blog post, How I Got 1,200 People To Circle Me On Google Plus In 3 Weeks.
Here are my three favorite takeaways from his post:
- Use engagement to get on the radar: Find people relevant to your niche (everyday Joe consumers who you want to follow you, and big-name thought leaders) and engage with their content. People tend to notice when you +1, share, or comment on their posts more than once.
- Use Circle Sharing (and #CircleSharing to find circle sharing opportunities)
- Make it easy for people to circle you by using the Google Developers badge tool to add a Google Plus badge to your site/blog, like this:
2) Regularly post original and curated content to Google+
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Aside from the ‘more optimized content = more page one results’ #win equation, remember that Google+ is a social media network first and foremost so you need regular content updates to keep your followers (circlers?) engaged. Like any other social media cocktail party, don’t spend all your time talking about yourself. Curate the content of others and genuinely contribute to the conversations that matter to your community. Happy community = bigger community = more chances to get the posts you do write about yourself/your website/your product seen (in Google+ and in SERPs. Remember a G+ circle signifies an endorsement, which means your G+ posts can show up more frequently in Search Plus Your World personalized SERP results).
Curating/sharing the content of others is also a great way to grow your circle of influencers (see number four below).
3) Make sure the content you create is optimized for keyword phrases
Google creates the Meta title for your Google+ post SERP listing from the first line of your post text and then includes the keyword phrase in bold. Always write for the human first but try to work your target keyword phrase in close to the beginning of your G+ post if at all possible. Said another way, write smart but don’t over optimize by cramming a keyword phrase that doesn’t make any sense into the first sentence because you want to rank for that phrase.
4) Focus on Google+ influencer outreach
Who are the thought leaders in your niche? Who are the players that have the largest relevant following? Get a niche leader like Mark Traphagen to curate your content in their stream and you can utilize the power of their circles to get your content into more Search Plus Your World page one SERP results.
Need a visual? I read this article from Ammon Johns because I did a search for ‘Hummingbird’ and Mark Traphagen showed up in spot number two of my SERP results. In other words, this article from Johns got in front of me because it was curated by a thought leader whom I had circled (Mark). I would never have seen Johns’ article if Mark hadn’t curated it to his Google+ account. See the power of connecting with influencers and politely coercing them (either organically or by direct outreach) to curate your content?
Need help figuring out how to get influencers to take notice of your content? Curating and sharing their content is a great place to start. Simply engaging the influencer in comments is also a smart, straightforward approach.
Learn more about how the Bruce Springsteen of Google+, Mark Traphagen, identifies and evaluates his Google+ influencer opportunities in this SlideShare presenation, Building a Powerful Google+ Network, from SMX West 2013: