Friday, 14 February 2014

What is Google + and How you can use it to increase your Business Visibility

What is Google +

Google + is Google’s social networking website. Within a year of its launching, Google+ had 400 million registered user from all over the world. It is important to understand why Google introduced Google Plus. You will note that Google does not sell advertising on Google Plus; it was not set up with the intention of becoming a major revenue driver for Google ie Google does not see the role of Google Plus to be to generate a large user base to which advertising can be sold in the same way that Facebook views its user base for example. Rather, Google is reacting to the uncomfortable reality that their primary quality indicator ie links are becoming increasingly redundant. For example, if someone enjoys their experience at a restaurant, it is far more intuitive and so likely that that user will like the Facebook page of that business as opposed to link to that business’s website. In fact, the vast majority of Web users could not, even if they wanted to, link to another website.

The vast majority of Web users could like a business’s Facebook page or even their website (assuming the like plug-in is installed). So, Google’s job is and has been to harness the collective intelligence of Web users to identify what is good content and what is not. To date, this intelligence has manifested itself in links. However, in an increasingly “social world,” social indicators are likely to be far more relevant indicators of quality. So, why doesn’t Google just use the social indicators from third parties such as Facebook likes for example? Because Google does not own this data and to rely on it in order to rank websites would be to cede an immense amount of power to the third parties. If Google came to rely heavily on such third party generated data, then it would find itself in a very vulnerable commercial situation should the owner of the data wish to either cut off access to the data or charge exorbitant fees for access. This is best articulated by Amit Singhal, head of search at Google, when he says that algorithm updates that rely on data from third parties is not something that Google is comfortable with http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVzM4n1I-vM  .

Faced with this dilemma, Google generated its own social network in the hope that users would migrate to it and so provide Google with its own source of quality indicators to augment / replace links. This is the driving force behind the Google +1 concept. If Google can convince people to use Google Plus and +1 content that they like (far more intuitive than linking to it), it can use this data to understand what content online is high quality. Further, it can customise search results for users based on who they are connected to in their Google Plus network thereby again increasing the relevance / quality of their search product.
Before reading any further, you must take the time to fully understand Google+ by signing into a Google + account and selecting “help.” Here you will find comprehensive documentation on Google + and its functionality. Below is synopsis of the comprehensive documentation.


The Tour:
A Google + profile is like a Facebook personal account in that it is for a private individual. For more, see: http://support.google.com/plus/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1355890&topic=1257354&ctx=topic Much of the functionality that we are used to from Facebook is here. Profile owners can add people and pages to their “circles.” By doing this, updates from these people and pages flow into your news feed as happens in Facebook.

Home:

The layout of the Google Plus interface is quite similar to that of Facebook. On logging in, pride of place in the centre of the screen is your news feed as marked below in green. This is the feed of updates from all of your friends as well as the people and companies you follow. As with Facebook via the friends list functionality, your feed can be segmented into streams depending on from whom you want to see updates. As in the red box below, your news feed can be segmented depending on the circles you have set up, more on circles below.


Circles:
Circles are accessible from the “more” tab on the left hand side of the screen. These are to Google + what Friends Lists are to Facebook in that they facilitate the user to group friends and pages into logical clusters such as friends, business, entertainment etc. By creating circles and adding people to these, you can then filter your news-feed to contain only updates from people in a particular circle. Further, when posting updates, you can choose with which circles you wish to share the updates.

From a business's perspective, the goal is to get as many people as possible to add your business page to one of their circles as then your updates will appear in their newsfeed. While business pages can add other business pages to circles, a business page can only add a private individual to a circle if that individual has added them first.

Profile:
Here is where your profile on Google Plus can be edited. This is how others see you on Google Plus. You can see all of those sites from around the net that you have +1’d ie your favourite stuff from around the net.

Explore:
As the name suggests, this is where Google Plus users can explore what’s happening on Google Plus to find interesting people and pages to follow. When you click on “get started” you will be presented with the screen below which is essentially groups of categorised people and pages. You can choose to circle individual people and pages from a category or to follow the whole category. If you follow the whole category, this will automatically create a circle of that category’s name and add all people in the category to that circle.



Hangouts:
Hangouts is a group voice and video conferencing feature. The ubiquity of Skype does tend to mean that the problem that this hopes to solve has already been solved.

Photos:
A useful feature within the photos section is the ability to link your Google Plus account to your Picasa account.


Google + For Business:
A Google+ page is the equivalent on Google+ as a business page on Facebook. Like Facebook, there are different types of business page. These are:

     Product or Brand
     Company, Institution or Organization
     Local business or Place
     Arts, Entertainment or Sports
     Other
Most businesses will want a company, institution or organisation page. Businesses that have physical premises will want a Google + Local page for each premises that they have. Google + Local pages essentially replace old Google Places pages. It is not compulsory to move to Google + Local.

The reason that a business would consider moving to Google+ Local is to avail of additional functionality that is not available within Google Places. For example, businesses that upgrade to Google + will be able to post regularly at their Google + Local page and users of Google+ will be able to add such pages to their circles. Posting to your business page as well as to a number of local pages may place an undue administrative burden on a company particularly in light of the relatively low levels of users on Google+. To create a Google Plus page, follow the steps here: https://plus.google.com/pages/create (you will need to set up a gmail account).



Link your page to your website:

Link your website to your page with a Google+ badge:

Growing a follower base:
Google+ is no different to any other social networking site in that it offers companies the ability to create business pages to which users can subscribe by adding the page to a circle. Interestingly and in my opinion impressively, a company cannot add an individual to a circle unless that person has firstly added them ie the power lies with the individual and the silly situation that is rampant on Twitter whereby companies follow everyone, left right and centre in the hope of getting a follow back does not arise. Company pages must create compelling content in order to convince people to add them to a circle. Companies can add other companies to a circle without permission though.

Increase Exposure in search results:
By adding the +1 button to your website, you are offering visitors to the site the opportunity to +1 any page on the site which essentially means “I think this page is pretty cool!” Our internal research indicates that the more +1s a page has, the higher it ranks in search results even for searches carried out by people not logged into a Google account. For those logged into a Google account, those pages that have been +1’ed by people within their social connections will rank higher and have an annotation that x person and y others +1’ed this.

By social connection, we mean anyone who you have added to a circle on Google Plus, people in your GMail or Google Talk chatlist or even those people who you are following in Google Reader and/or Buzz. The rationale here is logical and it is that you are more likely to be interested in content that has been +1’d by someone you know than content that has not been. So, the more people that a business can get to +1 its content the greater the chance that this content will receive a rankings boost.


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