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Inside Tips on Using Google +1 for Business

Right now, Google officials are quietly meeting with corporate partners to enlist support for the much-anticipated business version of Google+, their new social media platform. Soon (they hope), local businesses will be competing to be “+1s” from customers (similar to a “Like” on Facebook).  Here’s a sneak peak at what Google execs are saying:

  • Circles:  Big G says today’s social media experience is “sloppy” (we only connect with certain people at certain times); “scary” (all online conversations are public); and “insensitive” (we all define friend and family differently).  With G+ Circles, you can separate groups of coworkers and customers, which lets you share certain information only with the people it’s meant for.
  • Sparks:  Sparks is meant to be an online sharing tool that feeds you relevant content from the web.  Businesses can use it to stay up to date on important news about an industry, profession or competitor.  
  • Hangouts:  Connecting with others online can be awkward.  When someone doesn’t respond to a request, you aren’t sure if they’re not there, or just not interested. Through multi-person video chat, Google+ Hangouts changes the game.  For example, businesses can arrange video conferences with up to 10 employees or co-workers; or use Hangouts as your own live customer support line.
  • +1:  Putting +1 buttons on your website will let customer recommend your business, site, page or content to friends and contacts.  Consider it free word of mouth marketing.
  • Photo sharing for business: A phone is a perfect collaboration tool for business owners since it’s always with you and always online. But getting photos off your phone is a pain. Google+ instant upload lets users add photos to a private site in the cloud, and even add locations.
  • (Also see ShopTalk: Social Media’s “What Local Business Should Know now about Google Plus.”)

The +1 Button is the Key

The +1 button lets users recommend you right on Google search – or from your own site, if you have the button installed.  Adding the +1 button to your business website gives customers and other visitors another way to endorse your business or brand.  The more +1’s your business collects, the better. Having +1’s will improve search results for your business, product or service, and also give your ads more oomph.   It works like this:

1)      Julie clicks the +1 button next to your online ad or organic search result about your business. This now becomes a public recommendation, linked to her profile.

2)      Her contacts will see a personalized “annotation” (more on this below) on her own search results and ads showing that Julie “+1’d” (pronounced PLUS-ONE’D) it.

Where to Get the Button

Google has created a special page for businesses and webmasters to learn more about the +1 button, download the code and even create customized versions of the button for specific uses.  That’s where you’ll find everything you need.  Put the button wherever you think it will be most effective. On the top half of the page, near the title of the page, and close to sharing links are good locations. Placing the +1 button at both the end and the beginning of an article or story can also be effective.

How +1 Affects Search Results and Traffic

Basically, +1 helps people find relevant content—a website, a search result, or an ad—from people they know. As G+ expands, the +1 button will appear on more and more websites and ads.  You’ll see a +1 button on a Google search result or next to an article you’re reading on a news or industry site.

Adding the +1 button to pages on your own site lets users recommend your content, knowing that their friends and contacts will see their recommendation when it’s most relevant—in the context of their future Google searches (yes, a little scary, but true).  Personalized annotations next to your page in search results may increase your site’s visibility and click-through rate. To see how +1 affects your search traffic, try the +1 Metrics tool available in Google Webmaster Tools.  Available metrics include:

  • Search impact: See the pages on your site that received the most impressions with a +1 annotation, and see how +1 annotations impact click-through rate.
  • Activity: See the total number of +1’s received by pages on your site.
  • Audience: See aggregated information about people who have +1’d your pages, including the total number of unique users, their location, and their age and gender.

Google+ Annotations

Personalized annotations display the faces of friends and social connections who’ve already +1’d a piece of content. Google tries to display +1’s to people (specifically those in the user’s social connections) who would find them most useful. By making the recommendations more discoverable, users will be more engaged with your site. 

How to Stay in the Loop

To preview the latest updates to the Google+ platform, subscribe to the Google+ Platform Preview group.  For updates specifically about the +1 button, subscribe to the Google Publisher Buttons Announce Group.

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A Secret Google Tool for Local Search Success

It’s been almost three years since Google launched one of the most useful tools ever devised to help small business owners plan more effective advertising campaigns for local online search. Yet this free and insanely useful tool called Google Insights for Search (GIS) remains a well-kept secret among a handful of search geeks, corporate quants and marketing academics.

Too bad. GIS (still listed by Google as “beta”) has the potential to be a local business owner’s dream tool for analyzing search volume patterns across specific regions, product and service categories and time frames. For example, it lets you see how search volume by specific keywords and phrases is distributed across cities and regions and compare what’s happening now for any time periods you select going back to 2004.

With search engine marketing becoming more competitive and expensive for small business, being smarter about it and spending online marketing money effectively is more important than ever.

This kind of self-serve market research does require some work.  But the GIS tool makes it easy for even the most data-phobic among us to interpret the numbers. Rather than showing absolute numbers, which can be misleading, it “normalizes” the results and graphs them on a simple to read scale of 0-100.  That makes it easy to see the relative gain or loss in popularity of any particular search term over time, and in any area down to individual cities.

What’s more, the system offers projects of where the graph will go over the next 12 months, making it a handy forecasting tool as well.

For example, is you chart searches for “orthodontist,” “pediatric dentist” and “teeth whitening” in Chicago over the last five years, you’d discover the following (among many other things):

  • Online searches for pediatric dentists in Chicago have increased from 24 to about 31 on the index scale, or about 29%.
  • But teeth whitening jumped from 46 to 75 (63%) and searches for orthodontists went from 66 to 99, a 50% leap. 

Different starting points for any given search reflect its relative importance (more people search for orthodontists than pediatric dentists, for example), so the most important thing is the percentage change over time. In other words, among these three searches in Chicago, teeth whitening has experienced the most relative growth over the last 5 years.

By applying the “Category” filer in the Google tool you can convert the index numbers into a graph showing change over time as a percentage of growth.

Our dental graph reveals other helpful information as well.  For example, searches for both orthodontists and teeth whitening have tended to move together in the first half of each calendar year.  In the second half of the year, however, searches for orthodontists tend to rise while people seeking whiter teeth go away. And indeed, for the second half of 2011, the GIS tool projects a big increase in searches for orthodontists, while teeth whitening searches tumble.

This kind of knowledge clearly has marketing implications for orthodontists or teeth whitening services trolling for new customers online.  And that’s just three search terms involving one type of business.  The possibilities are endless for hundreds of local businesses and professions, and tens of thousands (or more) of search terms. Google also provides some helpful examples of how a business can use Insights for Search.

Here are three general areas to explore on the GIS tool:

  1. Categories:  Here you can focus and compare the search information you retrieve to specific categories such as automotive, food and drink, beauty and personal care, health, home and garden, real estate, travel and many others.
  2. Seasonality: By looking at search trends during specific seasons (summer; back-to-school, Thanksgiving, etc.), you can better anticipate demand for whatever your business sells and plan or budget accordingly.
  3. Geographic targeting: This GIS component offers great potential to help you know where to find customers by looking at how search volume is distributed across cities and areas. This would be of particular help in targeting new locations.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.