A quick question for all the bloggers who are reading this: how many of you have a Google+ account? If yes, do you actually use it?
My collection of social media accounts has grown considerably over the last year, but Google+ is the one that I’ve struggled the most to get to grips with.
After Facebook, Google+ is now the second biggest social network out there. That’s right folks; it’s even bigger than Twitter.
However, user statistics for Google+ are closely tied to some of Google’s other products. For instance, anyone signing up for Gmail also creates a Google+ account, even if they don’t actually want to use the network so it’s possible a lot of these profiles are lying dormant.
The point is, it’s no longer possible to dismiss Google+ as a failed or empty network that you don’t need to bother with. This fantastic post from the Moz blog will give you a bit more information about the benefits of using the site.
But there are three main issues I have with using Google+:
SEO and Google Authorship
It’s now almost essential for anyone with a blog or website to use Google+ if they want to maximise their search results. Posts shared on G+ are indexed almost immediately by Google, so your posts will show up in search results a lot faster.
Setting up Google Authorship on your blog also gives your content a lot more credibility. Google can now verify where the content has come from, so it has a greater chance of ranking well. Authorship also allows a thumbnail image to appear alongside your posts in search results, supposedly making them more attractive to readers. Here’s one of my face.
However, if you’re not claiming your authorship yet, you could end up in the same situation as this website owner whose content was claimed by another website.
I found setting up Authorship to be a bit complicated and it didn’t work right away. One of the issues I had was that my profile picture didn’t show my full face. Once I changed it – ta da! – it worked.
Finding an audience
From my experience of using Google+, it seems to be more widely used in the US than the UK. Statistics tell us that most G+ users are men and many are very tech savvy. You’ll also find a lot of online marketers and professionals from digital industry on there.
But what does that mean for your audience?
One of the great things about Google+ is the communities. As a writer and book lover, I’ve found several relevant groups where I can share my content and find interesting people to interact with. That said, the traffic I get from Google+ is tiny compared to other social networks.
Of course, this could be entirely my fault, as I spend very little time on there, beyond posting links to my own posts.
Personal vs. business page
As with Facebook, you need to sign up for G+ as an individual before you can set up a business page. It’s this fact that has given me the greatest headache when trying to use the network.
My first thought was to set up a business page for my blog so it aligns with my other social networks, where I post as Ten Penny Dreams rather than myself. So I now have a TPD page and I’m also listed as myself, which is where it gets confusing.
Most of the bloggers I follow who have set up on G+ only have a page in their own name. This is an issue for me, because I’m a digital marketer in my day job and I prefer to keep my online identity separate to my blog, where possible. But thanks to Google Authorship, my real name (and photo) is now also tied to my blog name. I mostly use G+ as Ten Penny Dreams; however, the follower count that shows up in SERPs comes from my personal page, so really I need followers to add me to their circles on both pages. Confused yet?
A few times I’ve considered ditching the blog page and just being me, but I’m not sure that’s the answer either. If anyone has a successful way of managing this issue, I’d love to hear about it!
So far, my experience with Google+ has been a bit feeble. If I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t bother with it if it wasn’t for how closely it is connected with Google’s search engine.
And there’s the issue: if you want to rank your website as Google moves more towards quality content and authorship, you can’t afford to ignore Google+ any more.