Google+ Communities has rolled out and garnered a fair amount of buzz and approval across its user base. If you're not familiar, Google+ Communities gives brands the opportunity to take an active role in interacting with individuals in a discussion forum-type setting. Communities can be hyper-targeted to any niche, interest area, or group of like-minded people, similar to how Facebook Groups functions.
Google+ Communities are about starting real conversations with real people, and treating them more like people and less like opportunities to increase your site's traffic, according to Google. That's really the power of social networking - bringing brands closer to their customers and potential customers in a faster, easier way than ever before. In this post, we'll look at five distinct reasons on how leveraging Google+ Communities can positively influence your SEO goals.
Grow your network and spread brand awareness. Because Google+ Communities are highly targeted to niches, it only makes sense that those that join and participate in the communities are people who are extremely interested in the topic. Posting information about your business, sharing links to your blog posts, and having open dialogues and discussions with people in your community can result in a potential goldmine for sourcing out new contacts and potential new customers.
Connect with influencers in your industry. Google+ is packed full of tech-savvy users, many of whom have their own websites and are active on multiple social media channels. Once you've begun to develop those new relationships, you should begin to be able to easily tell who the real influencers are. These people should be your primary focus of engagement. Leverage them to create guest blog posting opportunities on their blogs or offer them the opportunity to write for yours. Share your quality content with them and they'll likely pass it on to those who have circled them or spread it to other networks like Facebook or Twitter.
Show that you're the authority on a topic. Google+ Communities are often being used as Q&A platforms where people are seeking out the insights of other experts. This is your opportunity to show that you and your business are an authority by providing useful and thoughtful responses to those asking for help. Where possible, point them back to your content on your own website and blogs. If you don't have the content to point them to, this is an opportunity for you to come up with new ideas on what you should be talking about. If one person is asking the question, there is a strong chance that there is a whole segment of your target audience asking the exact same thing. Use these types of interactions to your advantage by listening and learning what people are actively talking and asking about.
Community content is public by default. Content posted in Google+ Communities is set to be public by default. This means that it's available for indexing by Google in its natural organic results. This has multiple positive effects for your SEO efforts. Beyond having the ability to have new sets of content ranking in search results for relevant queries, it provides you with the opportunity to help Google find and index your new content even faster. Combined with the pros of having your content +1'd on Google+, this can allow for some quick growth in your organic visibility.
Topics are easy to create. Finally, topics are easy to create. If you search for a community on your industry and can't find one that's been created, then take the initiative and start one yourself. Setting one up is straightforward and you can be up and running in a matter of minutes. Once created, don't just sit back and wait for people to find it. Post about it on Google+ to alert those that have circled you, write about it on your blog so that your subscribers can start to engage in new ways, and post about it on Facebook and Twitter to bring those followers in as well.
Google+ has received its share of criticism since its debut, yet it's been continually rolling out new features and options designed to make the service more effective and easier to use. The addition of Communities on top of business profiles is a clear sign that Google is thinking specifically about brands. Now that Google has provided you with the tools to engage, has your organization taken the steps to begin doing so? If so, in what ways are you using Communities to further build your online presence?
Crispin Sheridan is the Senior Director, Global Search at SAP. As part of the digital team, he established and leads the search and testing practices at SAP. Crispin is responsible for paid, natural, and mobile search and all online testing. Search and testing at SAP are fully centralized and globally funded and run under a hybrid in-house and agency model.
Crispin has proven that search learnings and keyword insights work hand in hand with social media marketing and together can effectively drive B2B lead generation. Furthermore, the development of the SAP.com Test Lab has contributed significant success to SAP's digital marketing efforts.
A frequent guest speaker at conferences, including SES New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Delhi, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Crispin was appointed to the SES Advisory Board in December 2009. He has also been a guest speaker at the e-Metrics Summit and ad:Tech, and is a member of Google's B2B Technology Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @crispinsheridan and read his monthly SEO column on ClickZ.