How to make the best use of your Google+ profile
Back when I was invited to Google+, it took me less than a week to realise what a big phenomenon it would become; and while it felt good to be a part of that before public release, I also realised I had to leverage its power and integration to my benefit: specifically to benefit my online presence, my website and so on. To a small extent, this would also affect my offline persona. In this final installment of my +You series, we shall examine how you can squeeze the juice out of your Google profile.
This is the last of a 4-part article series on Google+. Read the others here:
Understand the effect of Google+ on you
Google+ as I have said many a time before, is called plus for a reason. It is designed to help Google Search in more ways than one. Today, Google+ released their new, landmark algorithm, Search plus your world, and this will exactly prove my point.
Think about it this way: you have a family doctor you stick with. You do so because he knows the ins and outs of your life, your medical history and so on. Now bring that concept into the Internet. If you are looking for something, it is quite probable (and happens about 75% of the time) that a number of concepts, news, images and videos match what you are looking for.
Now the thing that is searching for you is just that, a thing. It has no mind of its own, and it therefore becomes necessary for that robot to learn something about you. Enter Google+: as a Google+ user you have created your community, shared things you liked, declared +1 for things you liked, spoken about your thoughts, views and promoted your work. Google Search is going to start considering all such activities on your part to improve its search feature so it can deliver better search results (i.e. it can present you things closer to what you were actually looking for, than before!)
It is an entirely different story that the result of this algorithm has turned out to be a great success. But that is a topic for an entirely different blog post which I am planning on for the next couple of days.
How is this going to affect your business?
Since Google+ will come into consideration, I suggest you start considering it an extremely important part of your online presence if you haven’t already done so. Now, I do not work for Google, nor write on their behalf, but, from a neutral standpoint, I would sum it up this way:
You may be a fan of Facebook, or another infamous social network. I do not suggest you migrate from it. It is quite easily understood that you have spent your time creating a community and getting in touch with lost friends on Facebook and to many, migrating to Google+ would be a huge undoing.
All you need to do–at least–is have your Google+ profile up to date along with a Google+ badge on your site. If you do not have a site, just keep your Google+ profile filled in the manner I will now explain to you. This is an official requirement from Google, and trust me, if you are not seen in the first page of the Google search results, you might as well be invisible.
To prove my point, I have below a collage of two screenshots; on the one on your left, it shows a user searching for photography tips and another searching for Google+ daily photography themes. Notice how my articles (highlighted) are present above the fold (within the first six search results) in either case? Now these are just two I had in hand so I put them up.
Specifically, it is important that you understand the next couple of points I am going to explain. But before that, also understand that a so-called ego-search will give your Google profile right at the top of the search results (unless, perhaps, you have a good website) and potential employers looking for you might skip if the first thing that comes up is one of your questionable Facebook photographs. You get the point.
A little code magic
I would be underrating Google Search if I said all you have to do to get up on the search page like you see my article in the picture above is adding a tiny bit of code to your site/external profile. No, remember that content is still what matters and what I will explain is just a little aid. But really, it is a feature Google is working on which has not gone public so you might not see the same results that invitees like myself see. In short, our Google product pages might be a little different from yours, but do not worry; rest assured yours will get updates as well.
Now the process I am talking about is simple, but it requires you to understand a simple concept Google uses called author and me relationships. This is to a) let Google know that it is you with the Google profile who is, say, writing an article/putting up a photo; and b) let Google know that you who are, say, writing an article/putting up a photo have a linked Google profile. These are called rel HTML tags.
With me so far? Alright, I have made a small image explaining these rel tags.
Notice how this creates a virtual circle for Google+. This circle ensures Google that the person in question is really you no matter which website you participate in (and not just your blog/website) and it makes sure nobody drops into the circle uninvited and posts questionable content under your name.
The first code you will have to add to your profile anywhere is the rel=”author” code, signifying that the relationship between you, the content and your profile is that you are the author. In stricter terms, it tells Google that the person with such and such a profile ID is the author because your profile ID is how Google recognises you (at least until Google makes vanity URLs a possibility.)
Google uses one key page as a sort of filter. Generally, we content creators use our author page (popularly called the About page) for this sake.
When linking from anywhere to your about page, especially when you are doing it from other pages on your site or from the navigation bar, or when you are doing it through the typical short bio that appears at the end of your articles, make sure you add this code:
<a href="http://yourwebsite.com/about/" <span style="color: #ff0000;">rel="author"</span>>Short bio</a>
The next code you need to add is the rel=”me” code, signifying to Google Search that you are the guy who claims to own Google Profile ID so and so. Observe how this works beautifully now (I’ll try to put forth this complicated point as best as I can!)
From everywhere you are active on the Internet, you are credited as the author and linked to a basic author page of your choice telling that page you are the author; this author page in turn links to your Google Profile telling Google that you are the owner of a given profile ID. In other words, Google now knows you with that profile ID are the author of all those other pages on the Internet.
So now we will link your author page to Google using this simple code:
<a href="https://profiles.google.com/your_ID" <span style="color: #ff0000;">rel="me"</span>>Author Page</a>
You now need to head to this authorship form and fill it up. But know that you will not see changes soon; instead, the fact that you are all ready to be featured in Google’s search results will be notified to them and they will queue you when the feature is finalised and goes out as a stable public version.
The result? Something like this:
Other benefits of a good, filled Google Profile
One thing you need to understand is that Google+ profiles are really a carry over from the previously existing Google Profiles. I am quite surprised by the large number of people who had no idea of this. If, when you first joined Google+, you found your profile filled, it was because you had already entered those details in various other Google products and Google integrated all that data. However, Google Search had never been integrated with it, and that is what Google has done now.
To some, this looks like a cunning marketing strategy to get people to use Google+ but to others, including myself, this is a wonderful (not to mention easy) way to get worthy publicity, especially if you are a content creator (and all bloggers are.) Google is on its way to integrating the web and creating a smarter experience for everybody who deserves it, and they are using Google+ to personalise everything for a person. The fact therefore is that you need to use your Google+ Profile to leverage Google Search just like Search is using your Profile!
Why not Facebook?
Now you might wonder why Facebook cannot do this; after all they already have too much of your data–a good chunk of it extremely private–and with every passing day hundreds of websites are linking to Facebook. The answer is quite simple: Facebook’s policy has successfully blocked the company from any development whatsoever, in this direction.
As Edd Dumbill writes on O’Reilly Radar, Facebook “does not want to be the web. It would like to draw web citizens into itself.” This clearly renders it a closed platform where, while people connect and get in touch very eagerly with lost friends (whom they should not have lost in the first place,) it does not exercise control over any other part of the Web. While Facebook can engage your existing social circles, it cannot help publicise your work to the outside world as much as one Google Search entry can.
Facebook has often been criticised, after the coming of Google+, as not reflecting real life friendships and social circles as well as the search engine giant’s networking offspring. But my own advice to you is to stick with Facebook if you have a good following there and use your Google Profile as much as I have mentioned in this article.
Good luck on the new Web!