Is Google+ the right place for you to market and sell more of your professional services?
Like anything else, there are no guarantees that you will get better results by having a presence on Google+.
However, there is evidence to suggest that you are at a distinct disadvantage if your competition has a Google+ presence.
Who is this article written for?
This article is a meant to be a useful resource for professional service providers, who have not yet decided that that Google+ is a great place to be, including but not limited to:
- Dentists and Dental Specialists
- CPA's, Accountants and Other Finance Professionals
In particular, this article is written for any professionals who:
- Have an online presence and want to get more out of it.
- Believe that SEO is still a valuable strategy, but understand that times are changing, and online relationships are going to trump SEO trickery, particularly in the case of semantic search marketing.
- Are passionate about their profession, and want to establish themselves as a thought leader, or as a professional with a voice worth listening to.
- Have a productive practice, get most of their business from referrals, but recognize that they could amplify their message with a more powerful social presence.
Googles version of a "social network", on the surface, might appear to be just like them all. A closer examination reveals that it is not.
Google+, more than any other social network, offers you an opportunity to become a thought leader in your industry and present your authority across the web via the Google+ Social Layer.
That said, your goal is to design a sales and marketing plan to help you get found, get chosen and get referred. So, you need to examine Google+ from the perspective of helping you achieve those objectives.
Google+ offers no silver bullets. It takes time and effort to get any benefit from engagement there. You have to consider your decision to participate in the context of what you are trying to achieve, where your audience hangs out and how much time and effort you can put into it.
After reading this article you will be able to decide if you should be using Google+.
So, should you use Google +?
If you want to develop online authority, drive traffic to your website, showcase your reviews, network for referrals and knowledge share, meet other professionals, share your content, get known, chosen and referred, then you might consider the merits of having a presence on Google +.
Facts - You Be the Judge
Social Layer vs. Social Network
What the heck is a "social layer"? Great question, and one best answered by watching this video with Martin Shervington. In it Martin tells what the "social layer" is and why it might make a difference.
The net of it is, Google+ is Google, and as such, deserves a close examination and some measured respect.
There are many components to the "social layer" but I will use the relationship between Google+ and how your links are presented in Google search results to illustrate an important component of the "social layer".
When I enter "social layer" as a search phrase in Google, Martin comes up on the first page. Notice there is a picture, AND, there is some social proof that Martin is somebody you might want to learn more about. He is in over 300,000 circles on Google+.
The picture AND the social metrics are all delivered as a snippet in the search results because Martin is active on Google+. If Martin were not engaging on Google+, his listing would not be as enriched.
Because you can see Martins picture, and some social proof about who Martin is, you are more likely to click on the link. The direct impact of having a presence on Google+ is demonstrated strongly by an increase in Click Through Rates(CTR's) on your ranked page links.
How would the same thing work for a Lawyer? Here is the search results for "boston defense lawyer". Notice the lawyers that have an active presence on Google+.
What might this look like for a dentist?
I am not suggesting that the lawyers and dentists on Google+ are better. I am mearly suggesting that the results they will see from internet marketing, and/or SEO, will likely be better than the other lawyers and dentists, who, seem to be doing all the right things to get to page one, but may fall a little short against the competition in terms of CTR's.
So, do Photos in the SERP's (Search Engine Results Page) Increase your CTR's?
Maybe a better question is "Why are CTR's so important? First, if people don't click, then what is the point? Second, search engines are watching. If your CTR's are low, they diminish the relevance of your link, and downgrade your overall rank.
With that, you want to do everything possible to increase your CTR's. Google+ Authorship is one way.
If you need more evidence, check out these articles written by other experts:
- Want a 150% Boost in Traffic? Then Use This Idiot-Proof Guide to Google Authorship Markup
- How Rich Snippets Can Improve your CTR
- How Optimizing My Ugly Google+ Pic Increased Free Traffic 35%
Hangout's on Air and Communities
Just like the other social networks, Google+ allows you to share content, interact with people, post media and get followed and follow others.
But Google+ offers something really cool, and what I think is, really unique. The ability to create custom communities on the fly in the form of either a Community or a Google Hang Out.
Google Hangouts are really cool. Without going into too much detail, imagine a place on the internet where the average non tech can create a "room" where experts can get together and communicate with each other OR with an audience at large.
Here is a great example of two lawyers, Tina Willis and Stephan Futeral, who use Hangouts on Air brilliantly to not only market their services, but HELP people, lawyers and clients, understand the trending issues and topics. (this also happens to be a video where the Tina and Steven interview David Amerland re all things online marketing. You might want to listen to it.)
Google Hangouts for professionals are critical in that they:
- Allow you to educate your target audience.
- Bring other experts to the conversation, showcasing their expertise and delivering useful advice to your audience.
- Provide you with an easy way to connect to your audience using videos, live stream and recorded. Video's are the next best thing to live meetings for professionals who want to build relationships in a leveraged way.
A Google Community provides the ability to easily and quickly create a "forum" where people of like mind can gather and share stuff. For a professional, you can bring your expertise to your audience via informative posts.
Or, you can bring in a collection of related experts who can add more value to your target audience. You can also use communities to develop closer relationships with peers for future referrals, and exchanges of professional ideas and thoughts.
According to David Amerland, "Google+ is a key component of semantic search."
What is semantic search? If you don't know, or you think your current marketing consultant doesn't know, the answer to this question, than you must read David's book, titled interestigly enough, "Google Semantic Search"
Doesn't make sense to go into a great amount of detail here on what semantic search is. David is better at answering the question than most, so reading his book and following him everywhere he has a presence is a good way to learn more about semantic search.
Just know, Google+, because of the social layer concept described above, is connected to all things Google. Google+ is where your engagement, your expertise, your discussions, your networking, get's connected to the rest of the web. All of this engagement not only helps Google present you when people are searching for what you offer, it also helps people make you the easier choice than your competition.
I also wrote and article and subsequent Googe+ post that asserts that now, more than ever, Google is a referral source, and should be treated just like you would treat any person who has the potential to give you a referral.
Opinion - What do I think?
Just the "social layer" alone, to me, makes Google+ an important consideration. If we agree that, for example, blogging is a great way to attract people via search engines, then it shouldn't be a leap of faith to see how a being on Google + would be a good thing.
When you factor in the relationship side of Hangouts and Communities, you cannot go wrong with Google+. If you are paying for SEO services, and you are not on Google+, you may also not be getting the biggest bang for your buck.
Belief - Foundation for my Opinion
The internet does not seem to be going away anytime soon. Google is solidifying the strength of their presence. I believe, unless you are one of those rare birds who doesn't really need marketing, you need marketing. Since the buyers of professional services are making their decisions about your services by investigating you online, it only makes sense that you need to be online.
More importantly, and if you hang around me long enough, you will hear me reference the book "Absolute Value". In summary, the authors of Absolute Value assert that your buyers are not looking to you for validation of your credentials. They are looking to others who have either experienced you, or have commented about you, online. This "conversation" is how people are going to decide to work with you. As such, your job is to make sure that you are helping to create and enable the conversation.
There is really no better place on the web to encourage, participate and promote the conversations people are having about their experience with your services. Period.
Before I go, Here are 10 reasons why Google+ may not be for you:
- You don't like to engage with smart people.
- You prefer to the old version of promotional marketing where it is all about you and not about your audience.
- You dislike helping your clients, prospects, partners and peers.
- You think online marketing is for stupid people. Cold Calling is where it's at.
- You think winning is more important than collaborating.
- You think because you are brilliant, people will come.
- You think you are smarter than everyone else.
- You think a Radio or TV commercial is the most cost effective way to spend your marketing dollars.
- You think a blog is for people who want to share recipes.
- You think marketing is for people who don't provide a good service.