Thursday, August 1, 2013

WotW: Boosting Your Blog's Reach Through Google+

Google+ is the ghost town that has the biggest party around. Yeah, you heard me right, Google+. Not Facebook, not Twitter, not Pinterest – Google+.

Chances are, you're rolling your eyes right now and saying to yourself, "Yeah, yeah, it's all hype. None of my friends are on Google+ so why should I bother?" My answer is: "That's exactly why you should be on Google+."

So many people think Google+ is an alternative to Facebook. Yes, while it has elements of Facebook (though done better), Google+ is its own entity. Just like you don't use Twitter the same way or for the same things as Facebook, Google+ has its own purposes. The real power in maximizing your blog's reach on Google+ comes from understanding those purposes.

If you've followed Wednesdays on the Web, you probably know I'm a big fan of Google+. Besides having a slick interface, it allows you to meet new people, share your ideas with different audiences than any other social network, and maximize the power of Google to your advantage.

It's likely true most of your friends either aren't on Google+ or aren't active users. That's OK. You have Facebook to reach those people. Instead, use Google+ as your platform to find new followers and spread your blog's message to a wider audience. The one thing Google+ has going for it is a very active and engaged core user base. If you tap into that, you can get your content to go far.

And with that in mind, here are my tips for how to use Google+ to boost your blog's reach.

  • Create a Google+ page for your blog and flush it out. Similar in some ways to a Facebook page, a Google+ page allows you to broadcast your posts to the public. But you need to have a nice looking landing page. Spend time on making a nice profile picture and cover image. 
  • Google+ pages have a massive cover image size. It takes up nearly the entire computer screen. Use that real estate to your advantage. Make a collage or add some messaging to it. Make it unique and inviting so people are interested in learning more about your page. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words and Google+ gives you a huge canvas to tell those thousand words.
  • Post daily. Yes, I know you're already posting on Facebook and Twitter and pinning like mad on Pinterest, but add Google+ to your mix. Should you post the same thing as you do on Facebook? Ideally no, but truthfully you can probably get away with it for awhile. Facebook only delivers your content to a small percentage of your followers, so chances are if you post the same thing on Facebook and Google+, it may very well be people will see it for the first time on Google+.
  • Learn to post for Google+. Just as Facebook and Twitter have unique posting styles, so does Google+. On this platform, good content and teasers are more valuable than narcissistic posts about how awesome you are. Most people on Google+ probably won't know you, so it's safer to stick to actual content than anything about yourself.
  • One great way to post on Google+ is to summarize your daily blog post in one paragraph or a few short teasers. Catch people's interest and they'll be drawn into reading more. I can't tell you how many times I've clicked to read more because the teaser post was that good. 
  • Every post should have either a link, photo or video. People want to engage with your content, not just stare at it. Guess what? You have a blog full of great links and images – share them!
  • The end goal is to get people to add you to one of their circles. On Google+, circles are like mini groups that a user creates. So, I can create a circle for all the tech blogs I follow, or a circle for all the bloggers I am friends with. This allows me to easily view their content and post to them. One of your goals should be to get people to add you to one of their circles because then when you post, they will see your content.
  • On your Google+ page, add people and pages to your own circles. For instance, you could have a circle for craft bloggers, or your best friends. Having different circles allows you to target content for that audience. You can use this to your advantage. Let's say you have a very diverse blog (like Housewife Eclectic). You know some people are only interested in one type of post. So, whenever you have one of those posts, you can share that content with the interested group and not with everyone else. For example, I could only share technology posts with people in a circle I've made that I know like technology topics. That way, your audience sees you understand them and only give them what they want. This is a much better approach than Facebook's "slam it all down their throat and hopefully someone will see it and like it" method.
  • Use hashtags. Google+ has a great hashtag system. Use it to your advantage. Again, like I've said on the other social networks, don't go overboard. Stick to one or two well-placed hashtags per post. Even if you don't designate a hashtag on a post, Google+ will sometimes figure out the main point of your post and add a hashtag for you, which helps get your post out to a wider group of people.
  • Team up and help your fellow blogger friends. Add 5-10 of your closest blogger friends to a circle on Google+. Check that circle regularly. Get into the habit of regularly +1-ing and commenting on their posts. As you engage with others, you'll soon find they engage with you.
  • One of the great features of Google+ is the What's Hot category. This is a special section Google+ creates to show you what the most popular posts from around Google+ are. It doesn't take a whole lot to get on there. If you and your blog friends worked together and commented, +1'd and shared each others posts, you could propel each other into this What's Hot category, which will expose your content to thousands of people and potentially new followers.
  • Join a community. Similar in some ways to a Facebook group, a Google+ community is focused on a specific topic. Find communities that align well with your blog and join in. These communities are very conversation based. For instance, if you blog about crafts, find a craft community and regularly engage in conversations with these people. It's a great way to make new friends, find new content and get new followers.
  • Host a Google Hangout. This is like Skype with multiple people. Host an event where you'll chat about something. For instance, maybe do a live book review, or do a live demonstration of a craft. People can join in that hangout and ask questions. They're a ton of fun and so easy to do.

When all is said and done though, the real value of Google+ for bloggers is the SEO boost you'll get. A wise man once told me, "If you want to own half the real estate on a Google search results page, get on Google+." And it's true. Think about it – Google owns Google+. They're going to reward you for using it. The posts you write will pull up when someone searches for that topic or your blog. That gives you more chances for people to get to your blog and see your content.

Google+ is a lot of fun, but you have to approach it the right way. Remember, it's not a place to brag or talk about yourself, but it is a place to share the neat content on your blog and discover content you won't find anywhere else online.
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