Though my business card says "social media marketing," I have a good background in search engine optimization (SEO).
When I first got involved with Google+ it made my SEO "spidey sense" tingle. That's why I made it the centerpiece of my social networking activity, at a time when other "experts" were dismissing it as "just a Facebook copy" or "a ghost town."
My gamble paid off royally as I began to see first my own, then clients' search rankings and Google search traffic rise in proportion to their use of Google+.
How can your business take advantage of the power of Google+ to elevate your visibility in search, bringing you more customers, more leads, and more sales? I recommend following these steps:
1. Create an SEO-optimized Google+ page for your brand, and properly verify it with Google. For instructions and tips, see my post "The First 5 Things You Should Do with Your Google+ Business Page" on this blog.
2. On the About tab of your page's profile, add links to everywhere on the Web where you post content and/or engage with others about your business topics, especially your various social media accounts.
3. Post regularly on your Google+ page, even before you have much of a following. You want to build a history of fresh content consistently on-topic. Not only is this important for Google's tracking of you as a topic authority, but it also encourages people looking at your page for the first time to "Circle" you if they see they are going to get good content served up regularly. Because Google+ does not yet allow posting from third-party tools, you will have to build these posts "by hand." Remind yourself of the search engine rewards your efforts will bring. Varying original content with re-shares of other Google+ posts or Web content can help ease this task.
4. Engage with your followers. Regularly monitor your page for notifications of new comments or shares of your posts. Google's own business team recommends that wherever possible you "sign" your brand page posts with a personal Google+ ID, and then respond to comments as that person, rather than as the brand. People feel more connected to a brand when they feel like they know an "insider."
5. Keep up with your blogging and other content posting outside of Google+. Given that you've linked to it all through your verified Page, Google can use it to build your search ranking profile.
Follow the steps I outlined above consistently and regularly. Track visits to your site from organic search in your analytics as you do. Watch for a pronounced rise in your "hits." Depending on your vertical, it may take a few weeks or a few months, but if you keep at it, based on all I've seen and tested, I'm betting you will begin to see a dramatic rise in your traffic.
Mark Traphagen is the director of social media marketing for Virante. A version of this article first appeared on WindMill Networking.