Social media plays an instrumental role in audience growth, providing websites with the opportunity to share more content and develop a rapport with their followers. Facebook and Twitter, with a combined 1 billion active users, have emerged as leaders in this regard, regularly introducing people to new pages and handles, which, when executed properly, inspire followers to visit the curators’ websites. After a disappointing first couple of months for Google+, Google launched “Search, plus Your World” back in January 2012, a feature that merges public search results with personalized results from the search engine giant’s recent foray into the world of social media.
With “Search, plus Your World,” logged-in Google+ users will be able to see relevant public or shared posts from their Google+ friends as well as prominent Google+ users every time they perform a search. Personalized results are marked with a blue silhouette and given preference over non-personalized results from the listing of search results to suggested search terms in auto-complete. Given Google’s popularity as a search engine and people’s propensity to stay logged in to their accounts, especially when using private computers, “Search, plus Your World” places brands and websites with Google+ pages at a significant advantage over those who have yet to join.
To improve your likelihood of appearing well positioned in a personalized search, you have to actively maintain your Google+ profile, just like you maintain your Facebook or Twitter. This means regularly updating your profile with detailed posts that use important keywords; uploading photos with actual titles and not just the standard camera-given alphanumeric name; joining as many circles as possible, especially of individuals that are prominent within your area of focus; and, most importantly, being a person with thoughts and interests rather than an uninspired page of links. Google+ is most interested in accelerating the growth of its community, so it places users with sizable followings who frequently discuss specific topics under the People and Pages section on the right side of the page to promote connections and conversations. By becoming an active participant in the world of Google+, you’ll increase your chances of appearing under the section which will allow those outside of your circles to learn more about you and add you to their circles, further expanding your reach.
Speaking of circles, Google+’s most notable feature lets users organize people into different, customizable circles, allowing users to share content tailored to the specific relationships they have with each of their circles. Circles mimic real world interactions by recognizing the nuances that relationships have in terms of subject matter and saturation points; for example, if you have a food blog, you can place vegetarians in one circle, chefs in another circl, and farmers market vendors in a separate circle, so the vegetarians don’t have to read about that rack of lamb you made last night and people aren’t inundated with posts that are irrelevant to their interests. You can further enhance your relationship with members of your circles by participating in hangouts; these multi-person video chats allow you to interact directly and in real-time with people and are significantly better than Facebook’s temperamental chat feature.
Another way to garner more visibility for your Google+ profile, and ultimately your website, is to guest blog. Guest blogging is a great way to introduce yourself to a new audience while building relationships with other bloggers and sites. If you do write a guest blog, integrate Google+ into your piece by having the site include rel=”author” with a link to your profile. When a logged-in Google+ user searches for a term related to your blog, your piece, which is now linked with Google+, has a better chance of appearing near the top, and your profile picture will accompany the link, helping it stand out from the rest of the results.
The idea behind “Search, plus Your World” is that a personalized search experience is an ideal search experience. Creating and maintaining a well-rounded Google+ profile will help you establish yourself as a person worth getting to know, and as your circles continue to grow, so will your influence.
Joshua John currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California’s Virtual Master of Social Work program, which provides social workers the opportunity to earn an online social work degree and apply for a social work license. He also loves gadgets, movies, and all things Batman. Follow him on twitter: @joshuavjohn.