As the looming Penguin update(version 2.0) hovers overhead, search professionals are left wondering how the unknown changes to Google’s search algorithm will impact their company’s digital visibility.
While Google always holds its cards close to its virtual chest when it comes to its search algorithm, Matt Cutts (who is in charge of Google’s webspam team) has announced in a recently released video that the company is looking to give special ranking boosts to sites that are authorities in a specific industry, community or space. Although Cutts doesn’t define how authority will be determined, one could speculate that the company’s social network, Google+, could be an influencer.
This scenario wouldn’t be surprising at all, especially because Google has been incorporating its social network into a variety of its products, including its search engine, for a while now. So in the case that Google+ does indeed become a factor in determining authority, one question remains – How can a brand build authority on Google+?
1. Grow Your Circles
A brand with 20 followers on Google+ doesn’t come off as very authoritative in its niche. That said, building a fan base on this social network can be challenging, especially for companies whose fan base spends the bulk of its time on other social networks, like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. However, there are ways that brands can increase their popularity on Google+.
Start by growing the people within your circles, which is a tactic that is frequently used on Twitter. By doing this, your brand’s name and Google+ profile is being put in front of new people, which influences them to return the favor. And the more people a brand adds to its circles, the more likely it is to receive higher follow back numbers (keep in mind that not everyone will follow you back). While you can add anyone to your circles, this strategy is most effective when targeting relevant people. To do this, brands should search for influencers within their industry, as well as for contacts that they already have on other platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even email lists.
Furthermore, if you already have an active audience on a social network like Facebook or Twitter, make sure to promote your Google+ profile with your audience on these platforms. You can even tease exclusive Google+ content in order to persuade your audience members to make a profile and follow your brand on Google+.
2. Post Fabulous Content
Content is, and will always be, king. In fact, nothing says that you are an authority on a topic more than content that receives high engagement metrics, like shares, comments and +1’s. And regardless of your follower numbers, the only way to obtain high engagement rates is with content that captures attention and makes audiences feel like they need to share the information with their circles. There is absolutely no way around it – in order to receive high engagement numbers, brands must create and post content that resonates with their audience, is relevant and is in high-demand.
3. Leverage Communities and Hangouts
To be an authority within your niche, your presence on Google+ most go beyond posting regular status updates. Luckily, Google’s social network offers a variety of avenues for brands to foster relationships with their audience, including Google+ Communities and Hangouts.
Communities, for instance, allow users to create social groups based on specific topics or interests. And when a brand fosters an active community, it not only helps them build better relationships with their audience and acquire more brand advocates, but also helps them obtain more interactions and therefore gain authority within their niche. In addition, brands can use Google Hangouts as another unique way to build relationships and increase engagement rates, which, ultimately, helps a brand gain authority.
4. Interact with Your Audience
We have already established that shares, comments and +1’s help a brand gain authority, so what better way to encourage this type of behavior than by interacting with your own audience? Just as adding people to your circles can influence them to return the favor, so can interacting with people. That said, you shouldn’t just start interacting with everybody and every status update. Rather, choose your interactions wisely so that you do not come off as unprofessional (and un-authoritative). For example, if someone comments on one of your posts, consider responding back. This will help build brand loyalty by showing the audience member that you pay attention and care about what they say – making them more likely to interact with your brand in the future. Likewise, if someone posts interesting content that is relevant to your industry, an action as simple as a +1 or share could influence them to return the favor in the not-too-distant future.
5. Network with Other Brands
Take your interaction strategy up a notch by networking with other brands and industry professionals. While the aforementioned audience interaction tips can be applied here as well, you can also partner with other brands and professionals to share contributed (guest) content with your audience. By doing this, your business is not only providing its readers with relevant content from respected industry professionals, but it also helps to increase your business’s visibility. This is because the contributor is likely to share the content with their network as well, which puts your brand in front of a whole new audience and gives you the opportunity to increase your followers and engagement rates.
6. Use the Google+ Page Badge
Just as you display social sharing buttons for Facebook and Twitter on your site, it is also important to feature the Google +1 button. This button encourages site visitors to publicly recommend your content and share it with their Google+ circles. And the more +1’s you obtain, the more authority you gain, as it shows Google that you are a trusted source of information.
7. Take Advantage of Authorship
If your brand is publishing content, make sure to link that content to the authors' Google+ profiles with Authorship. This not only gives recognition to your hard-working employees, but it also shows Google that there is an identity connected with the content, which gives the content and your brand, better credibility.