Search and Beyond: Web Visibility for Small Business

Small Business Web Visibility Event

At our November 2014 Small Business WebTech event, John Moore and I had the pleasure of speaking with a true expert in Internet marketing, Ammon Johns, about web visibility for small businesses.

What is web visibility?

In the broadest sense it can mean anything that results in awareness of you and/or your business online and offline. In a stricter sense it can mean anything that results in the growing and nurturing of your online audience.

For micro/small businesses, thinking in terms of visibility instead of search engine rankings integrates more cleanly into how small businesses operate naturally, with the added bonus of helping various aspects of your SEO at the same time.

The challenge is bringing those nice-sounding concepts into something that relates to your business operations.For most small businesses, if it’s not part of the regular process it will get left behind and neglected.

Our special guest, Ammon Johns has that deep real world business experience to help bring all of those ideals into focus with real advice as to how to enhance your visibility both on and offline within all the daily tasks of your business

Embedded in this article is RightStart Website’s Google+ post containing a clickable time stamp summary and index of the discussion. Simply click on the time for any part of the video that interests you.  Be sure to click on “Read more” to expand the post.

 

 

Relationships: The Key to the Castle for Small Business

 

 Below is a recap of our event with Wade Harman, a specialist in relationship marketing.  There were many excellent insights…a very helpful and honest show.

 In order to retain the functionality of the time stamps, our summary posted on Google+ is embedded below.  For desktop users, just click on the time stamp to go to any point in the video. Be sure to click on “Read more” to expand the post.

 


 

Web Visibility: From A to Z

Web Visibility A-Z

 

A Small Business Guide to Getting Found on the Web

  

What is Web Visibility?  

In the broadest sense it can mean anything that results in awareness of you and/or your business online and offline. In a stricter sense it can mean anything that results in the growing and nurturing of your online audience.

So where does SEO (Search Engine Optimization) fit into this?  Rand Fishkin has a saying I love… “..anything that results in signals for search engines is in the SEO bucket…”.  I think this is the most succinct and comprehensive definition I have heard of SEO.  

You can see the relationship between Web Visibility and SEO.  They are married at the hip.  

For micro/small businesses, thinking in terms of visibility instead of search engine rankings integrates more cleanly into what small businesses do naturally, with the added bonus of helping various aspects of your SEO at the same time.

The purpose of this A-Z guide, then, is to provide an overall understanding of what it means for small businesses today to get found on the web.  The big picture, yes, but also some of the important details to support it, along with quotes from thought leaders, experts, and respected contributors.

I chose to use the alphabet for this because it…

  • keeps ideas organized
  • makes it a little easier to remember
  • is highly scannable

and makes it just a little bit more fun!

My first A-Z guide was for Semantic Search, which you may want to take a look at, because one influences the other.  If you think of semantic search and web visibility as a Venn diagram, you will see quite a bit of overlap because semantic search has had a huge impact on SEO and web visibility.

I  have kept the number of entries for any one letter to no more than 4 (with the exception of A). 

So let’s begin!

 

A is for…

Alligator.  As in, See ya later, Alligator!  No, the alligator and zebra in the graphic aren’t just for looks! Say good-bye to black hat SEO techniques and tricks and hello to an integration of optimal online behavior that focuses on value for the end user.  If they’re happy, Google is too.

Authenticity.  People want to know the person(s) behind a business. Think of yourself as the (online) neighborhood storekeeper who people come to because you’re honest, fair, friendly, and helpful. People have to get to know you before you develop a trusted reputation. It takes time and effort.

Authority.   Google is looking for people, and the websites behind them, to show that they are a trusted authority in their field. It is vital to build authority and trust to show up well in Google’s search rankings. The very best part is that people trust people, so besides helping Google find you, you also build a trusted audience that will become your evangelists.

Audience.  Find YOUR audience (as opposed to AN audience) with whom you’ve built up trust and who is genuinely interested in what you have to say.  This is a VITAL first step that many small businesses skip

…understand what makes you you. Then, your tribe will consistently look to elevate you to be your best.” ~ Stephan Hovnanian

Analytics.  Often times the only way to take it to the next level is to understand where you have been and where you stand right now. Also if something goes wrong later, you will have the data to get out of that hole. Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics are a great start, but don’t limit yourself there.

Think about what you want to achieve and how to achieve it.  What will success look like and how will you measure it?…We spend time tracking hits, when we should be tracking engagement.” ~ Ammon Johns

  

B is for…

Building.  Building relationships, building your audience, building authority, building trust, building your reputation.  Notice that I use ‘building’ in the present tense, as it is an on-going, constant process.

Caveat: We’re not talking “build it and they will come” here.  That is a proven non-starter.

Blog. Your blog can be the entrée to your website, and is probably the most linkable part of your site.  It helps establish you as an authority and increases website traffic.

Blogging is the key way to introduce yourself as a knowledgeable, reliable resource who can solve people’s big problems – the sort of problems they turn to the great Google oracle to solve late at night.” ~ Marisa Goudy

 

C is for…

Creating Comprehensive Content Consistently. Content is still king, but only if it is top-notch and semantically dense (i.e.,not a lot of fluff).  It must go deep enough to answer real questions people have.

Content creation is the point where Google’s need for data and your business’s need to be found on the Web suddenly come together.

The success of your business’s online visibility hinges on the quality of its content marketing.  The greater the overlap between what you have to say and what your target audience is most interested in, the more successful you will be in generating the kind of online buzz and engagement that produces a presence across many of the search verticals.” ~ David Amerland

  

D is for…

Discoverable.  Make sure you have done everything possible to make your content discoverable by searchers.  This includes being active on social media, using keywords in a natural manner, using attention-getting images and headlines, making sure there are no on-site issues… More on this as you cruise through the alphabet.

 

E is for…

Engagement.  Creating engagement is critical. This includes social media, obviously, but also through any means possible, both online and off. Remember: Person to Person is the foundation to visibility. No one will connect with you if you are hiding in a closet.

The key with all of these is engagement. If more people are interacting with your material, then more people will see your material.” ~ Thomas E. Hanna

Expertise.  This is part of Google’s Rater’s Guide: E.A.T. (Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness). You have to demonstrate that you know your stuff.

Easy.  There is no “Easy Button.”  Be glad.  If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

 

F is for…

First.  There is not a true “first page” of Google anymore, since search is becoming personalized.

Future Proof.  There are short cut techniques that may get you short-term results, but Google will catch you some day. Keep it clean, follow the rules and your future will be safe. Don’t do anything you may regret later.

Never make the mistake of thinking you have your finger completely on the pulse of SEO. It’s always growing and evolving towards a future of complete disclosure… Be mindful of your actual web-presence far more than your perceived rank value. ~ Mike Alton

 

G is for…

Google+.  If you want to be in the game, it’s a good idea to play in Google’s backyard.  Google reads the signals coming from Google+ with less ambiguity than anyplace else. Google is actively working at getting better at understanding signals from other social networks, also.  There is no evidence that social signals are being used in search, because it is no easy task for search engines. The key for now is E.A.T. – Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness, and Google+ is a great place to demonstrate that.

Using Google+ you can build a following of relevant engagers who will amplify your message into Google Search. Whether it is personalized results, or global, this is SERIOUSLY powerful for both content and product pages… Social and Search are now working hand-in-hand.” ~ Martin Shervington

Guarantees.  There are none.  If that seems an unsettling prospect, remember that there never should have been any in the first place.

 

H is for…

Holistic. Always keep in mind the big picture.  All the parts are woven together: useful and helpful content, relationships that amplify your content, website user experience, your business identity and values. All of these work together and affect web visibility.

Hangouts On Air.  This video broadcasting tool is becoming increasingly important for web visibility.  Nothing beats person to person. Nothing builds relationships and audiences faster than person to person. And as a bonus… 

1) It’s a Google property  2) The videos created in HOAs (Hangouts On Air)  are automatically posted to YouTube, another Google property and the second largest search engine world wide 3) Google is getting better at understanding the content in videos, which, if semantically rich, can potentially increase your authority  4) social sharing can positively affect your trustworthiness.

The Hangout on Air tool we all have is a wonderful way to communicate your message! For years small and medium sized businesses have wondered how to get their message out there without breaking the bank.Now we have a way… Google & Hangouts on Air provide the answer.” ~ Ronnie Bincer

Helpful.  The more content you produce that people find helpful and therefore share with others, the more questions you are able to answer for people – be that through posts, comments, videos, hangouts, slideshares, podcasts… the more authority and trust you build, and the better for your visibility, and eventually your website’s visibility.

Hub.  Your website is the hub for your business.  Everything you do needs to point back to it.

 

I is for…

Identity.  Google+ is an identity engine.  Who are you and what are you and your business all about? What else can you do to project your identity on the web? Is it clear what your values are?

Indirect. Indirect benefits.  Your content creation and social media activities have a powerful, but often, indirect, effect. Think about your audience and what they need.  The benefits will ripple out from there.

 

J is for…

Just.  Just be a person. 

People relate to people, people trust people. Don’t lose sight of that fact. (see  E is for Engagement.)

K is for…

Keywords.  Keyword research is important for finding the topics and long tail phrases that people are actually searching for.  Keywords in title tags and headers are essential.  But once you’ve taken care of that, just write as if you were talking to someone face to face.  Those keywords will naturally surface without being overdone.  Google is getting better at understanding the variants so don’t over think it.

 

L is for…

Links. But it’s all about attracting  and encouraging quality links, not building them. You’re looking for relevant, natural, organic links from trusted sources.  Even though acquiring links is an important goal, you can’t go after them directly. They are a by-product, derived from producing valuable, shareable content and the audience that connects with that content.

Local.  Google is weighting localized search more, which can be a big visibility boost for small businesses. If you have a physical address where you do business or use a service area, then be sure to claim your Google My Business listing.

Caveat:  Be sure all your contact info is consistent everywhere it’s found on the web, as this can affect your ranking.

Learning.  Opportunities to become more visible are evolving so keep learning what works and what doesn’t, and keep abreast of best practices.  The only constant is change.

 

M is for…

Mileage.  As they say, Your Mileage May Vary.  Just how much benefit or return you get depends on a lot of different factors.  Foremost among them is how much time you’re able/willing to put in and how enthusiastic you are about implementing the practices outlined here.

Mobile. Google is placing more and more emphasis on everything mobile. So ignore it at your peril. Think “Mobile First” , with your website and with your audience, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

 

N is for…

No. No more gaming the system. No easy wins. No shortcuts.  No tricks.  No magic formulas. No guarantees…  And No stopping. 

Nurture.   It’s not enough to build relationships and an audience.  You have to nurture them, too.  You do this by caring about people, helping them, and looking for ways to elevate them. The karmic wheel will turn…

 

O is for…

On-going.   Web visibility is not something you can say you’ve ‘done’. Or as Rand Fishkin, says, “Fire and forget”.  You can’t use the past tense.  It takes time to develop, but if you stop doing all the good things that made you discoverable, you will fade back into cyber-oblivion again. 

On-site or on-page technical SEO. Table stakes.   

OPA.  Other People’s Audiences – Coined by Eric Enge.  Building an audience, one or two people at a time, is a slow process that will exhaust and discourage even the most enthusiastic entrepreneur.  Getting your content in front of Other People’s Audiences will help speed up this process. Find existing audiences that are relevant to your business. Start engaging with them, sharing their content, participating in communities, and showing your expertise by being helpful.  This draws attention to you.

Get in front of OPA, and then publish fantastic content so you can earn that audience’s respect and trust.”~ Eric Enge

 

P is for…

People.  Create your content for people, not search engines.  Which is what Google’s been saying all along. (see letter J)

Persistence and Perseverance. You need boatloads of both. It is often said that all of this is a marathon and not a sprint. Absolute truth.  A good dose of Passion and Patience helps, too.   

Promote.  You can create the most amazing, valuable content imaginable, but if nobody knows about it, neither will Google. But the real magic is when you also promote others. It’s not all about you, but about helping your audience. Promoting others will naturally lead them to want to promote you, too.

Personalized Search.  This one’s a biggie. With personalized search, you have a much greater likelihood of showing up on someone’s first page of Google.  For those logged into their Google accounts, the default setting in Google search is personalized to reflect the people who have circled you on Google+, as well as their extended circles.  It may not be a huge audience, but it is a much more targeted one. In addition, author authority still seems to be active for personalized searches.  Another good reason to be active and build relationships on Google+.

… the most effective search strategy isn’t always just showing up for as many searchers as possible. It can be vastly more important to show up for targeted searchers; that is, for searchers who are more likely to want to see your content. Those who have at one time or another added you to a Google circle or to their Gmail contacts are certainly more likely to be in that group.

When those people are doing searches relevant to what your brand is about, wouldn’t you want to be pushed up in their results for free?” ~ Mark Traphagen

 

Q is for…

Quality. Quality content on your website, blog articles, videos… wherever you are interacting with others.

Questions you need to ask yourself.  Questions about your identity, your values, your message, your mission.  Is what I’m doing the best that I can do? The best that I can be?

 

R is for…

Ranking factors.  Ranking factors are incredibly complex. There are over 500 of them, and no one knows exactly what they are.  However, in general, ranking factors are becoming less quantitatively back-link centric and becoming more content-relevant centric. 

Relationships. Relationships are the prime movers of web visibility.  Without relationships, you have no audience for your content. Without an audience for your content, no social signals will be created and no links to your site will be attracted. 

Build strong relationships and people will support you on the web (and in real life). Stay true to who you are… Let your (or your clients’) content reflect values and personality. Always take the high road”. ~ Mary Stovall

Reciprocity. Being reciprocal has a significant role in building relationships.  Why would anyone be interested in what you have to say, if you’re not also interested in their content as well?  But it can’t be a purely quid pro quo arrangement.  You have to genuinely believe in the quality of the person and their content that you’re supporting.

…make your audience members feel special, foremost by recognizing them for their loyalty and support. The people who have devoted a few moments of their time to you, certainly deserve some of your time in return. It is important to support the people who support you.” ~ Kristoffer Howes 

Referrers.  You are looking to build an audience of people who may or may not be your customers and  possibly may never have occasion to become one.  But… they may very well refer others to your products and services when the need arises.

 

S is for…

SEO – Search Engine Optimization is still very important.  Not as a gaming tool but as an optimization and analytic framework. (Go figure, optimization is part of it’s name). Remember: Table stakes – you first want to play at the table.

Semantic Search changed the entire nature of search and web visibility along with it. (Yes Panda and Penguin had a hand in there, too.) David Amerland, in his book, Google Semantic Search, lays it all out beautifully.  Two words.  Read. It. 

Success in search really depends on having your content in front of what is increasingly a totally customized first page of Google.  The only certain way of doing that is to create fantastic content that is widely talked about, linked to, and reshared across social networks.  The only way to consistently do that is to mine your passion and transfer it into the digital image you create, on the Web. ~ David Amerland

Simple (but not easy). The principles and strategies for web visibility are pretty simple to understand.  That ISN’T saying it’s easy to do or accomplish, but it IS saying that if you are determined and willing to put in the time, you will see results…. eventually.  It’s not an overnight process.  It is impossible to predict just how long before you see ROE – Return On Engagement. But really, it’s your best option for long-term, sustainable success.

Social Media. Social media (see also G is for Google+) is critical for promoting your content and helping others promote theirs.  It provides a place where you can find and connect with your audience. Only if your content is commented on, shared, and linked to, will it send any social signals to Google.

Without Social Media you very well may never show up in Google, Bing or Yahoo… other than the quality content they can see on your site, the most powerful votes that prove your validity and usefulness comes from activities outside your own web property (your website/blog); the links, shares and citations pointing back to your site and who is creating them.” ~ Gina Fiedel

 

T is for…

T is always about Trust.

Trusted Authority.  The Google gold standard and what we are all striving to become.  When Google perceives you as one, it will improve your ranking and visibility.  One last thing… You have to keep earning your stripes, even if you think you’ve “arrived”.

Building trust, being responsible for what comes across your stream and in your articles, creating friendships that solidify your place on social…that’s the thoughts that you need to start cultivating.” ~ Wade Harman

Transparency.  No hidden agendas, please! Be up front about your motives, your procedures, and your objectives.  Customers not only appreciate transparency, they will be very vocal in their displeasure if you deceive them.

 

U is for…

User experience. (Part of SEO). This closes the loop. You have been found, but if your website doesn’t offer a good experience, it will all be for nothing. How is the content on your site organized? How easy is it for people to find what they’re looking for?  How easily and quickly can people navigate through your site? How are people interacting with the content?

V is for…

Visibility. (Just checking to see if you’re still with me.)

Value and Values. Providing value and staying true to yours.  One of those foundational premises that you don’t want to forget.

Video. Video is the hot new trend for content creators.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Heck, you can even get started creating a video with your smart phone, though at some point production values will matter.

Video content creates a connection in a way no other medium can.  It reveals your personality and helps create a deeper social connection for your brand”. ~ Mark Timberlake

 

You don’t have to hire someone else to do quality productions.  Learning video post-production (editing) is one of those 21st century skills that a person would be very wise to learn.” ~ Scott Scowcroft

 

W is for…

Webmaster Tools. Table stakes.

Work. (see S is for Simple)

X is for…

eXciting!  Does all this sound like a ton of work? Well, before you throw in the towel, consider this.  The only thing required of you is the sweat of your brow and the smarts in your brain, and you now have ways and means at your disposal to be competitive that doesn’t require a dime. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point.)  

Social media is FREE. Many of the tools to help you create, analyze your efforts, connect with others are either free or have a free version.  Personalized search allows you to get in front of a targeted audience. This is the best news small business has had in years!

 

Y is for…

Yesterday.  Yesterday is gone.  Time to move forward.

Yes.  Say yes to relationships, content creation, attracting links, passion for what you do!

 

Z is for…

Zebra.  Nothing is black and white.  Many lines are being blurred.  There are many different interactions and influences, many of which are indirect.  There is no one “thing” that will be decisive in your ranking and general web visibility.

 

As you can see, there is much you, the small business person, can personally do to get found on the web. I close with these words from Stephen Hovnanian  

 

— as you put yourself out there online, new faces will discover you every day. Some through recommendations of people they trust. Some through search. Some through other people’s audiences. Some through other algorithms. In each case, they are going to get an impression of who you are by the way you handle and present yourself.” ~ Stephan Hovnanian

 

Recommended Resources:

David Amerland, Google Semantic Search, Google+ Hangouts for Business

Eric Enge, “The Smart Way to Use Other People’s Audiences to Build Your Own”, “Your First 9 SEO Tasks“, “Duane Forrester’s 5 Keys to Improving Search Rankings

Rand Fishkin, “Does SEO Boil Down to Site Crawlability and Quality Content?”

Cyrus Shepherd, “Breaking the SEO Rules”

Mark Traphagen, “Google Plus Search Power: Personalized Punch for Your Target Market”

Eric Enge, Mark Traphagen, David Amerland, The Digital Marketing Answers Show, “The End of the [First] Authorship Era”

 

Introduction credit: John Moore

Image credit: Melanie Moore Bermudez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Optimization: A Small Business Summary

Google Authorship died

Did you? 

If not, then you’re not alone. You might be one of the “70% of authors [who] made no attempt to connect their authorship” (Eric Enge).

One reason authorship died is that so few authors bothered to make the effort to set it up or found it too hard to do so. It was, admittedly, a bit convoluted and for most micro/small businesses, that was a killer right there. 

Another issue might be that many small business people don’t see themselves as “authors” or content producers. They have a business to run and creating content is not on that list.

Let’s tackle that issue first. 

Is Everyone An Author?

The first question you should ask is: Do you want people including your customers to see you as an authority or expert in your field?  I imagine the answer to that would be YES! (at least I would hope so.) 

Then how is anyone going to know? 

Have you displayed your expertise and therefore worked at establishing your authority?

If you have or want to, then you ARE or NEED to be an author. It could be text content, videos, broadcasts, podcasts, infographics, presentations, slides, conferences, social posts, images, or any other media or format you might imagine. 

We won’t dive down the rabbit hole right now of discussing all the ways you can be an author, but the key here is that you should be if you are in any way trying to demonstrate your expertise and authority.

The next point then, is… Will anyone notice?


But Authorship is Dead, So Am I Left Out?

No.  The good news is that Google’s interest in authors (and, more generally, authorities and experts) is just as important as ever. Let’s go back and remember that often quoted statement from Google’s executive chairman:

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.

Eric Schmidt in The New Digital Age

 

So what happened? 

The short version of that answer is that it was a lot harder than Google anticipated. The long answer can be found in this post:

It’s Over: The Rise & Fall of Google Authorship For Search Results

Here Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen of Stone Temple Consulting, review the history and reasons for authorships demise. They also wrote a companion article which discusses the future of Author Rank:

Google Authorship May Be Dead, But Author Rank Is Not   

 Or you can to sit back and enjoy the following video overview on the Digital Marketing Answers Show, with Eric Enge, Mark Traphagen and David Amerland.

 

Okay, I’m an Author. How Do I Tell Google That?

Ah, now we’re getting to the point of this article, the HOW.

There are three possible tasks.  Not all of them will apply to your situation, but they basically involve a few minor changes to your website and Google+ profile.

So, let’s get at it!

1 – Publisher Setting: Do you have a business page on Google+ (often called a Brand Page)?  If so, then you want Google to see your website as a publisher of content.  You will need to put a tag on your home page to indicate this. For those with static websites, it will look like the following:

<link href=”[Your Google+ Page URL Here]” rel=publisher />

If you have WordPress, then many of the SEO plugins support this tag. For example Yoast WordPress SEO has this setting:

Yoast SEO publisher settings

Just paste the URL of your About page of your Google+ business page and save.  You’re done.

If your SEO plugin does not have this (and you REALLY should have a SEO plugin) then you can install a dedicated plugin called “Rel Publisher” that will do the trick.

Whichever of the three ways you use to insert this tag, the key is that your home page points back to the About page of your Google+ business page.

2 – Set Up Author Page: Somewhere on your website there should be a page that talks about you, the author. (And if you have more than one person posting articles, that includes them as well)  On a WordPress site it is called the “Author Page” and is generated from your User Profile when someone clicks on your “byline”. This is automatic, unless you or your theme turns it off.  Be sure your User Profile is complete and that you add links to all of your social profiles in the “Biographical Info” section.

Again, if you have a SEO plugin, it may have a more enhanced setting for the Author Page. For example, Yoast WordPress SEO has this extra setting area:

Yoast SEO author setting

Most people recommend checking “Exclude user from Author-sitemap”. 

Remember the key here is to get the links to ALL your social profiles in the bio. Your Google+ profile will give the most direct signal to Google, but the more signals you can provide, the better. Whether you have a SEO plugin or not, you should do that as a minimum.

3 – Contributor to: Add or Confirm “Contributor to” links in your Google+ profile.  This last one specifically involves your Google+ account. In your profile you have a links section in the lower right of your profile. You add a link to each website to which you contribute content.  At the very least it should include your website.  Here is what it looks like:

Google plus links: contributor to  

What’s the End Game?

As a micro/small business you have little time or resources to waste. Even the smallest diversion can negatively impact your business. Everyone needs to keep their eye on the ball, but you live on thin ice. I understand that. I’m one of you.

This configuration by itself will not have an immediate effect. It’s ONE of the many basic SEO configurations and tasks that are table stakes that get you a seat at the table. 

Helping Google connect the dots is an important first step. Next is doing things (creating content, building an audience, etc) that will help Google see you as a trusted authoritative expert. Many of these activities will have both immediate (personalized search, for example) and long term (often unknown) impacts on your visibility on the web. 

That part of the story involves much more than we can cover here. Stay tuned for more…

 

 

 

 

 

Hangouts and Small Business: The Perfect Pair

Ronnie Bincer HOA

Have you heard of Hangouts and Hangouts On Air? 

This FREE video conferencing and broadcasting tool from Google offers small businesses some incredible opportunities for building authority, trust, and relationships, as well as expanding your reach and amplifying your brand.

John and Marilyn Moore spoke with special guest Ronnie Bincer, one of the foremost experts on Hangouts, about just how small businesses could take advantage of this technology. This was an in-person event which was broadcast live using Hangouts On Air. In effect, it was a Hangout about using Hangouts!

Following is RightStart Websites’ Google+ post which includes a timestamped index to the event, as well as the video itself.  In order to retain the functionality of the timestamps, the post is embedded below. Be sure to click on “Read more” in blue to expand the post.

Let us know if you have any questions!

 

 

Eleven Easy Ways to Increase Your Engagement on Google+

 Google+ Etiquette

et·i·quette

noun

conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.

Etiquette.  Sounds stuffy and out of date, doesn’t it? Something that went out with high-button shoes.  Who needs that?  We’re all busy, and it’s enough to just get something posted… Isn’t it?

Actually, no.

By following certain practices, aka etiquette, you can increase your level of engagement, your odds of connecting with influencers, and, to be blunt, people will like you better.

Why else should you care about engagement?

Engagement is a prerequisite for building relationships with people. And relationships are at the core of online marketing these days.  Engagement is not an end, in and of itself, but it’s a necessary ingredient for many marketing goals.

In order to build the trust and authority which is important not only to people, but to Google, you have to start by strategically connecting with people. You need to build relationships to develop an audience for your content, so that it will hopefully get reshared and send social signals to Google.  

You won’t be building many relationships if you’re not talking to people and getting them to return the favor… in other words, engaging.

It sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Well, actually it is.  Like many things, it’s easy once you know how. There’s nothing tricky here.  All it takes is the willingness to observe, learn the culture, and to put in the time following through.

What do you need to know?

Note:  Many of these are ‘how-to’s” that are specific to Google+.  However, the principles apply to social media, in general.  So, while some are nuts ‘n’ bolts, here’s-what-you-do types of things, others are “best practices” suggestions.

90% of this is just common courtesy. So why am I writing about something everyone already knows?  Because it’s amazing how many people don’t do it!  

I’m sure it’s not because they’re trying to be thoughtless, but it can come across that way if you get busy and don’t make a conscious effort to remember that courtesy counts – and it is noticed by others.  It’s an unbelievably easy way to help make yourself stand out.

Here’s what to remember.

1. Saying THANK YOU is powerful.

That’s a no brainer, right? But I’m not just talking about if someone does something big.  Thank people for the little things, too.  For example, on Google+, thank people if they:

-> answer a question you asked

Joan Stewart gives a gracious thank you for the answer to a question she asked.

Thanking someone on Google+

-> ALWAYS thank someone who reshares a post you created.  But going beyond that to start a conversation is even better. Gina Fiedel is a master at this.

Gina Fiedel comments

-> When resharing a post, it’s a nice consideration to thank the person who wrote the post, and if there is a business name mentioned, don’t forget that also. Mary Iannotti illustrates this here, as well as using formatting (bold and italics) to make her post more attention-getting.

 Google+ Etiquette screenshot

->If someone gives you a hat tip (h/t, H/T) thank them for the mention (more on that later).

thank you screen shot

->  I will often thank someone for leaving a comment, and then respond further – especially if that person is an “influencer” whom I know has many demands on their time.

Example of social media comment

-> When leaving a comment yourself, thank the person for sharing and the person who created the original post (if different)  Beth Lee Browning shows how easily this can be done.

 Beth Lee Browning

Note: It’s important to know that you can edit or even delete your comment after you have shared it. Hover your mouse over the upper right hand corner of your comment and an “edit” option and an”x” (for delete) will appear.  You can also edit posts and reshares.  It’s best to do this right away, so that corrections and changes are made before it has been seen (hopefully). 

 

2.  Be sure to “plus one”

->ALWAYS plus one a comment (unless it’s a negative one) in which you are plus mentioned or the comment is directed to you.  As a matter of course, if you’re going to comment or reshare a post, always plus one it first.  If you just want to indicate you like the post and leave it at that, clicking the plus one button is sufficient.  

Just remember though that a plus one by itself will not do anything for engagement.  Think of a plus one as smiling at someone.  It’s a good start, but you have to do more than that.

Also, try not to leave a comment hanging, or unanswered. You’ll be able to avoid this by staying on top of notifications.  (Click the bell icon in the upper right of your screen in Google+ to view your notifications.)

 

Plus one a Google+ post

 For a hilarious and insightful take on the plus one button, watch Martin Shervington’s video, “Why? Why didn’t you click the button Dave?

3. How to plus mention people

Speaking of plus mentions, on Google+ if you type someone’s name with a plus sign in front of it (no space), a popup window will appear as you start typing the name.  Click on the person’s name you want, and the name will turn blue in your text, and the person will receive a notification that you mentioned them. This is really important for engagement because if a notification is not sent, they will not be able to respond to your comment or post.

Plus mention screenshot

 

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 Plus mention people on G+

A couple of things to know about this process:

a. If you want to reply to the last comment made in the comments section beneath a post, hover your mouse over the upper right hand corner of that comment, and a “reply” option will appear.  Just click on it and the name will automatically be plus mentioned for you in your comment window – a handy shortcut.

 b.  If you forget to plus mention someone in a post, if you have already hit “share” and then edit your post to add it in, the name will turn blue, but a notification will NOT be sent .  So check over your post before you share it.

c. If the name you’re looking for doesn’t appear in the auto-suggest box, try typing the letters more slowly to give the Google code running in the background time to catch up.

d.  If you are typing a line of text and realize you didn’t plus mention someone, if you try to insert the name, chances are the auto-suggest box won’t appear, or will not have the correct name you want.  Google gets confused if you try to insert a plus mention into a line you’ve already typed.

Here’s a work-around.  If you need to add in a plus mention, hit return to clear the rest of the line, then go back, add in the plus mention, and take out the extra space you added.

4. The HAT TIP or h/t

Historically, a gentleman tipped his hat as a sign of courtesy.  Metaphorically, we do the same thing on Google+.  If you reshare a post that someone else shared before you, you want to acknowledge them by including h/t (also H/t, H/T,HT) and then plus mention that person at the end of your post.

This is important for 2 reasons.  First of all is the courtesy part. It’s a simple nicety that is appreciated.  

Second, when you give a h/t to someone, they receive a notification, which is one more way to get your name out there.

Carrie-Anne Foster demonstrates the hat tip.

h/t example

Note: The h/t is a shorthand version of saying thank you to the previous sharer.  If you prefer, you can, of course, just say ‘thank you’!

5. ”Ix-nay” on link-dumping!

Every social network has its own culture, and this is a definite no-no on Google+.  On this platform, just sharing a bare link will not gain you any traction.  Taking the time to write a thoughtful introduction is highly valued.

What’s a thoughtful introduction look like? Read on!

6. Quality Resharing: A good way to get noticed and start conversations.

As mentioned above, resharing with a well-written introduction can help you stand out from the crowd.  

Why?  Because it takes time. Time to:

a) Actually read the entire post you are resharing.

b) Craft an introduction that goes beyond the “great post” auto-pilot intro.  Ending your intro with a question will often help get the conversation started in the comments.

c) Come up with an attention-getting title that you have bolded. (See d below)

d) Add in formatting  – put in asterisks (*) at the beginning and end of any word(s) you want to bold, and underscores (_) at the beginning and end of any word(s) you want italicized.

e) Plus-mention the person who created the original post. If they have a brand or company that was mentioned in the original, include that, also. Thanking them at the end never hurts, either.

f) If someone shared it before you, give them a hat tip (h/t) and plus mention them

g) Include 2-4 hashtags which are relevant to the content at the end. 

To create a hashtag, type the #sign and start typing how you want your hash tag to appear (no spaces anywhere). You will see a dropdown with the letters you are typing and other auto suggestions.  You must click on a choice from the dropdown, even if it’s exactly the same as what you typed in your text. Your hashtag has to turn blue for it to be active, just like a plus-mention.

hashtag  

Sound like a lot?  Some people are able to accomplish this more quickly than others, but, yes, it does take some time.  But this is a good thing!

Why?  This takes more than just a quick click, so many people don’t do it… which makes it easier for your thoughtfully reshared posts to stand out!

For an example of how to reshare a post, Brian Jensen is a fantastic model.

 

Unless you have oodles of time on your hands, you’re not going to be able to reshare a ton of posts like this every day.  But the ones you do, are more likely to be remembered by those who see them, and equally important, make a good impression on the original creators.

7.  Don’t go AWOL

If you’re trying to get engagement it’s important to respond to comments and shares in a timely fashion, so try to post when you’re going to be around to respond within a reasonable time period.  You’re posting to get some sort of reaction from people.  If you’re not there to respond, it kinda misses the point.

That being said, doing something is better than doing nothing.  If you have to post and run, so be it.  At the risk of stating the obvious, just be aware that results are commensurate with the time and effort you put in.

8. Courtesy and kindness go hand in hand.

Even though we have been talking about the etiquette “rules of the road” for social media, and in particular, Google+, at the heart of it all is kindness and treating others with respect and courtesy. You know, the same stuff you learned from mom and dad and your kindergarten teacher.  It’s the same principle, just a bit more sophisticated.

Sharing content is the kindest thing you can do for anyone 

          Chef Dennis Littley

9. Give credit where credit is due.

If you got your ideas from someone else, acknowledge that in your post.

How do you do that?

Plus mention them for sure, and if appropriate, include a link to the post or article that inspired you to create yours. This not only gives credit to the originator, but it also brings you to their attention in a positive way.  It’s one more way to get a dialog started.

This is a perfect example from a recent post from Wade Harman of giving credit to the person who inspired his own post.

Social media etiquette

 

10. Do Google+ communities have any special etiquette?

For starters, it’s important to remember that communities are created as a place for people to exchange ideas, ask questions, provide support, and share passions with people interested in a given topic.  Don’t view them as a captive audience for your blog posts.

Think what would be helpful and of value to OTHERS in the community.

How do you know what’s considered of value? Start by reading (and following!) the community’s guidelines.  Wondering where you can find them?  Look for the “About this community” section in the upper right of every community to know the focus of the community, what’s expected, posting policies, etc.  For example: Are external links allowed? Can you use link shorteners? What about posting your own blog articles? Can you promote your own business?  When in doubt, ask the mods (moderators)!

An example of Community Guidelines from the Google Plus for Small Business Community.

 About this Community example

Do introduce yourself if there’s a category for that.  But make it a sincere, one-of-a-kind introduction – not a canned intro that you have copy and pasted into a bunch of different communities.  Plus, if you do that all at once, your post will get tossed into the spam filter anyway (see “spam caveat” below).  Don’t include a link to your website, or say you’re looking for followers. You don’t want to come off as self-promotional or start off by asking people to follow you.  After you’ve had time to get to know people and they, you, start circling those you’ve started connecting with. Most likely they’ll circle you back.

Here’s a wonderful example of a community introduction from Tim Sweeney.

Google+ Community Intro

For sure, though, you need to spend some time observing the etiquette and tone of each community you join. Then spend some more time engaging and connecting with members of the community before you even think about posting.

Spam caveat:  If you post the same content to several communities at once, Google will probably flag this as spam.  You don’t want to be caught in the spam filter!  Your post will be rejected by the community moderators 9 times out of 10 – at best. (Ditto for link-dumping by the way.) Not a way to make a good impression.

11. You still have to be YOU!

This isn’t a white-tie affair.

Just because you’re following social media etiquette, doesn’t mean you’re formal.  Being authentic and personable – whatever that means for you and your own personality and character – is key to building relationships.

David Amerland is a business thought leader and global authority on semantic search, but he also shows a more playful side with the popular Cloudwars Community he created in which people share their cloud photos, as in the post below.

A humorous Google+ post

Using appropriate etiquette greases the wheels for engagement.  It’s that getting-off-on-the-right-foot stuff that will help people notice you in a good way, and make them more receptive to what you have to say.

In conclusion, Ben Fisher has a wonderful acronym which I think sums up the principles behind social media etiquette.  He calls it The SKETCH.

S – Share what you like

K – Be Knowledgeable

E – Share your Expertise

T – Be Thankful and Thoughtful

C – Be Caring and Connect

H – Be Helpful

Follow these 11 easy ways to boost your engagement on Google+ and be The SKETCH.  You’ll be off to a solid start!

What has worked for you to increase engagement?  What else would you add?

 

Ready for more?

“Where’s Your Manners? The Complete Guide to Google Plus Etiquette” by Wade Harman makes the connection between courtesy and marketing.

To learn more about Google+ posting: “How to Post on Google+: a list of the best guides”. Jimmie Lanley has compiled several posting guides together in one post.  It includes an impressive list of contributions from Brian Jensen, Mike Alton, Dustin W. Stout, Andrij Harasewych, Visnja Zeljeznjak, Peg Fitzpatrick, Eric Enge, and others.

photo credit: Nemo/pixabay