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The Good, Bad, & Ugly Of Content Promotion On Google+

The Good, Bad, & Ugly Of Content Promotion On Google+

If you have been under a rock for the past couple of months, you may not have noticed Google has released their answer to social networking: Google Plus. Mixing features of sites like Facebook and Twitter, Google plans to revolutionize social networking.

I know you’re thinking, ““Great, another social network I need to use. Why should I waste my time?” Well, since Google is king of search, it might be wise to keep your eye on their social network curveball. With features from friend recommendations directly built into Google SERPs to automated Google alerts using ““Sparks,” there is definitely potential for this network to grow into a strong social media contender: a new medium for social content promoters.

Below I will review the good, the bad, and the ugly features and concepts surrounding this budding network. How will content promoters be able to leverage this network to build exposure, traffic, and links to their social content? How will businesses use this new network to create brand exposure and get their name/product out there?

The Bad

On Page Sharing

Unlike its predecessors, Google Plus only has one feature for sharing an article when you are off the site: the ““+1” button. Once pressed, the +1 will share the story under your +1 tab, but does not show (or stand out) on the live stream. This makes it hard for a social media user to come to your site and share your article while including a blurb and thumbnail. So that +1 gets lost in a stream of never-ending, and similar looking, activity updates.

Image: Credit

While we wait for Google to (hopefully) release a button for this in the near future, the guys over at State of Search have put together a great walk through on creating your own Google Plus share buttons.

Noisy Streams

One of the biggest features Google Plus is missing, is the ability to filter and control your feed. I noticed I am following around 100 people, but the same 5-6 people flood my daily feed, because:

  • If someone comments on their posts, their post shoots back onto my front page repeatedly.
  • If a share gets a high number of +1s, it sits on my stream page for more than day.
  • When the post is shared by multiple people in my stream, the same piece of content appears multiple times on my stream. Before I know it, I end up seeing the same people, incestuously sharing the same content.

The lack of exposure makes it hard for users with small follower bases to get their content out there. The one benefit (and negative) of their current system, in terms of content promotion, is the ability to create prolonged exposure for your content. Since the system moves shared content to the top based on comments and +1s, in theory one could keep pushing their article to the top of streams by adding more +1s, and seeding comments throughout the day.  This would allow your content to continue to appear in a person’s stream over and over for multiple days.

The Good

Using Google+ Posts to Rank Content

Image: Credit

In my research, I found some great articles explaining how to index a Google Plus post and what metrics will affect your placement and exposure. There are obvious social signals, such as +1s, comments, and shares that will affect your placement. With Google ending their agreement with Twitter, they are looking to replace it with their own in-house system. Google Plus will most likely be that system, and SEOs and SM marketers will want to leverage it to:

  • Share and build exposure to their content.
  • Leverage their success from their Google Plus social promotion to index organically.

Using resource link bait, in theory, a user could promote their content via Google Plus, getting likes, comments, and shares. Google will take those social signals into account when placing the share and content into their SERPs. The social signals could equal higher placement. When a user does a search for a resource around a specific niche, they could be provided with your content share. You will end up seeing social exposure from your promotion, and organic exposure from your improved SERP placement. Again, this is all theory, and Google plans to make a lot of changes as their networks grows.

Google+ Recommendations in SERPs

As many Google Plus users have already noticed, when you search via Google, you are seeing recommendations beneath search results. Google is using friends from your social network as a metric for authority and quality in the SERPs. If someone in my social network recommends it (and I trust them), then I would definitely check that search result out first, no matter its placement on the page. This could be a game changer in terms of organic SEO, since placement can take a backseat to a friend’s recommendation.

This is where content promoters can step in and clean up. When Google Plus released, I was able to get in and play around during the initial phase. As part of my testing, I hit the +1 button many, many times, on many pieces of content. Not until later on did I find out from my co-workers that my face was appearing everywhere in their personalized search results. Not realizing it, I was spamming my co-workers with my recommendations. Every time they searched, a little box with my face would appear telling them I “+1′d this.”

In theory, one could create content, promote it on Google Plus, and garner tons of +1s and interaction. They will receive a boost from the social signals, but if they are in enough users’ circles, those users will be seeing many recommendations for the content. So if one could determine the user demographic for their content/product, they could go out, and then mass follow those people, hoping to get a courtesy add back. Then, by promoting their content/product and using the +1s, one could make that demographic think their product/content is much better than anything on the page, because of the number recommendations.

Leveraging Google Plus Hangouts

One of my favorite features of Google Plus is the simple hangout feature. People have started coming up with some creative ways to use Google hang out. From live concerts, to the ability to speak directly to large brands.

Instead of creating interactive video infographics, a company could  go out there and teach a free class. For example, taking the same media assets as a video infographic, a company could setup live hangouts where they could provide simple explanations of how debt works, or how credit cards work, using live examples, drawings, etc. They could use viewer feedback to improve their information after each hangout, eventually putting together a complete guide, which could be used for more traditional content promotion.

Sites like Hangout Party are starting to pop up allowing people to post their upcoming live streams and letting users easily track down and join hangouts their interested in. There is so much more that can done with this, and you should keep an eye on it as Google begins to roll out their business pages.

Google Plus Image Tagging

Similar to Facebook, Google allows users to tag specific images. When it comes to social promotion, one of your major goals should be getting your content in front of social media influencers. The select groups of users that have the ability (and reach) to help make your content popular. Since you can use third party sites to find those influencers on Google Plus, you can use circles to build influencer groups for various niches.

In theory, when your are promoting content you think they would find interesting, you could tag those users when you post your image (infopgraphic).  This method allows your content to stand out from the thousands of posts in a noisy Google Plus stream.  Overimplementing this strategy, will probably get you removed from the service.

Leverage Google Plus Sparks

There hasn’t been much information released on how Sparks work, but from my research it seems similar to Google News. Sparks allows a user to set categories to follow, which will automatically update their stream based on Google’s new internal social algorithm. I would assume the algorithm uses social signals from Google Plus with a mix of data from Google News to determine timeliness and authority of the content it is showing.

In theory, if you are a news organization that has been optimized to be included in Google News, and you are  promoting your content on Google Plus, you can not only build exposure from your promotion, but could also build exposure from the feed, which target users interested in that content. This is definitely a feature that will grow, and will be very useful to content promoters, in terms of secondary exposure.

The Ugly

Re-Share Post Feature

The re-share a post feature has to be the most annoying part of Google Plus. Unlike Facebook, where shares of the same content (and some cases similar updates) are grouped together, Google Plus just reposts the share right above the old share. So if I have ten friends that re-share the same post, my entire stream is flooded with that one post. As a content promoter this is great because I get massive exposure, but from a user perspective, people will get very tired of your content, quickly.

Email Spamming Out of Network

Image: Credit

This is starting to die out, but during the initial release of Google Plus, users were given the option to share with people not on Google Plus by allowing mass emailing to people in your address book. This feature flooded people’s email accounts with every single update a person made.

Unfortunately, one could add a massive amount email addresses related to their specific niche, and using Google Plus as their mail server, spam thousands of people with their content. Hopefully there is limit to the number of email shares once can send.

SPAM: Follow & Unfollow Bots

It was just a matter of time before someone figure out how to create a mass follow/un-follow bot to crawl through Google Plus. Below is a video of an ethical programmer who created such a tool. Basically his tool goes out, auto adds tons of people hoping out of 5,000 users, some of them will follow him back. Within 24 hours, he removes all of those people and goes out does it over and over.


Though Google Plus has many excellent features that have yet to see the outside of their potential, there are many kinks to be worked out. We will continue to observe, test, and see what will work. Google has a long way to go before they will be a viable promotion medium, but there is a lot of potential with their current features.

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  1. Eric Lander says:

    Excellent post that walks through some of the many reasons I can’t remain engaged at Google+.

    The “Noisy Streams” is something that I cannot overcome, no matter how much management I put into my circles. The Scoble, Pirillo, Cutts impact is too great to overcome.

    The email spamming is something that many (including some in our industry) are beginning to use far too frequently.

    • Ryan Sammy says:

      Thanks Eric, I agree, it makes it hard to even use when I see the same people and the same content over and over again. When I first got on the network, I would check it a few times a day but recently I go days without checking it, and I usually don’t missing anything. They need to make that fix a number 1 priority or users will start to drop off.

      If they plan on keeping the share via email feature, they need to set a limit of how many can be shared to each email address in your book, unless the user okays it. They have basically built a white labeled spam machine.

  2. Hi from Australia, this is a really good post on Google+ some fantastic information.

    I think we will see even more developments when they release the business side of the product, it will be the most crucial element for promotion and indexing in my opinion.

    • Ryan Sammy says:

      Thanks James, I am glad it was helpful. :) I agree with you, I can’t wait to see what they have in store for business pages. I can see them tying in a business’s Google plus profile with their local Google results and using social ratings, maybe a live stream of content around them directly on their page.

  3. suresh says:

    Really interesting things Eric, it takes time to implement all the features.

  4. india says:

    good information. It takes some time to grow up.

    • Ryan Sammy says:

      Thanks for the comment :)

  5. Mitch Neff says:

    It is exciting to see a platform grow so quickly. You really hit the nail on the head with how important G+ is to a content marketing/promotion strategy.

    …However, I really couldn’t disagree more with the emphasis on “noisy streams” here. Actually, one of the huge benefits of G+ is how EASY it is to filter and throttle what come through the stream. There are several ways to this and myriad blog posts on the topic – so I don’t think it is necessary to go into detail here. Suffice it to say that a simple combination of using an “Incoming” circle and the “Mute this Post” feature addresses every issue that you have raised in this post.

    By selectively listening (and assuming others are doing the same) content promotion becomes even more valuable to the consumer, because that creates an implied “opt-in” of sorts (in the users own mind) to see what is coming through their stream.

    • Eric Lander says:

      Mitch, I’m sorry if my comment was misleading. It was written from the perspective of seeing Google+ as a true community, not through the eyes of a content marketer as Ryan offers in the post.

      When it comes to push marketing, Google+ has it nailed.

      When it comes to creating a socially active environment, they’ve failed.

      The notion that you have to organize your circles, filter, throttle and mute stream content is what I’m speaking to there. While it may be easy for us it is not intuitive to users at scale.

      I’m assuming that we’re alike in that we work with the Internet regularly. A “simple combination” of clicks and selections for us is a true task for blue collared workers, baby boomers, etc. who may be just getting their feet wet with Google+.

      • Mitch Neff says:

        I agree the true community is where it is at. Further, i think that you are correct in you assumption that what is simple and intuitive to “us” may not be built to scale. Perhaps Google is targeting the digital natives? Who knows. The fact still remains, once your network gets above 50 or 100 connections, there has to be some way to filter out the noise… Facebook does this for you, which is not my preference. Maybe I am just a control freak, but I would rather build community relationships of my own choosing, not based on an algorithm.

        You are right on the socially active content piece. I will give an example (links and real names removed to reduce the douchey self-promotion factor):
        I produced a pilot of a web show that involved a book review of Bob Smith’s new book that is due out next month. When the show was posted to YouTube and the show’s .com, it was promoted via Twitter, FB, and G+. The author of the book that was reviewed picked it up and reposted. He has a HUGE network. The FB shares got consistent action and then died off. The G+ shares have been popping up and down throughout the day for the last few days… so the longevity is good, but several people that are close to me MISSED the G+ posts and have no idea that I just put out this video… so it gets better dayparting action, but misses key connections somehow… I am not sure what the answer is there, other than to give a real example of what just happened and I observed.

        • Eric Lander says:

          Solid examples, Mitch. I think you hit the nail on the head (and I’m glad we agree) — Facebook does a lot for you to keep the community experience fresh. It may not be ideal, but for the large group of users who wouldn’t know how to go about creating lists in FB and managing them — they solve this issue and the user never even knows it existed.

  6. Very true eric, nowadays all people are using Google+ as one of marketing tool. they just share stupid things over there.

  7. Guy Borgford says:

    Thanks for the great critical analysis, Ryan. I think it’s spot on. I’m sure Google is going to work out the kinks. I’m pulling for them as there has to be a better alternative to Facebook.

    • Ryan Sammy says:

      Thanks Guy :) I am really excited see where the network will go in the next few months. I think if they are able to keep the simplicity and correct the issues mentioned above, they may have chance to at competing with Facebook.

  8. Hey Ryan,

    This write up on Google+ has been one of the most clear, concise, and simple to comprehend and take action steps on compared to many others i have read. The main benefit i am seeing thus far is how easy it is to share relevant info with various “circles” compared to facebook’s option of sharing content. Thanks again-

    Justin @JustinRFrench

    • Ryan Sammy says:

      Thanks Justin! :) Yes, I agree Circles feature is what makes Google+ stand out. I love the ability to control who I am sharing with, especially with such an easy method.

  9. Nice outline of G+. Thanks.

  10. Mari Smith says:

    Fantastic post, Ryan!! Really good content here – some I haven’t seen on other posts out there. Sharing with my peeps now. :)

    • Ryan Sammy says:

      Thanks Mari! I am glad you enjoyed the post and really appreciate you sharing it with your followers :)

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