Google+: What Is It, REALLY? And… How Do I Dominate Social & Search With It? #SMX

Posted in Google, SMX East, Social Media

Welcome back to aimClear’s coverage of #SMX East 2012! Alright. Here we are. A session dedicated exclusively to Google+. Which is awesome, because admittedly, Google+ is one social channel I don’t personally use. Hooray! An opportunity to learn from the masters all about this social element to the world’s largest search engine! Let’s do this!

The morning of SMX East Day 2 brought together a diverse panel of pros to discuss the ins, outs, perks, struggles, opportunities and best practices of Google+. Moderator Monica Wright Social Media Editor, Search Engine Land and Marketing Land was joined by Kari Clark, Product Marketing Manager, Google+, Google, Kerry Dean, Chief Traffic Officer, Performance Media Group, and Jed Paulson, Director of eCommerce and Marketing, Free People. So we had someone straight from G+, someone from an agency using G+ for clients, and someone using G+ in-house for an eCommerce company. Diversity at its finest!

aimClear was finally able to live-tweet this socially stimulating session, thanks to personal wi-fi from a fine friend. Read on for all the juicy insights.

HOLD UP! Made it this far into the post without knowing what the heck Google+ is? SMX describes it as “a social aspect to Google, allowing people to share photos, places they’ve been, videos, links and status updates.” Google CEO Larry Page describes it as the “new DNA” for Google products. So, yeah. Kinda big deal. Now, on with the show.

First up was Kari Clark from Google+.

Q: What is Google+?

A: It’s a better way of using Google.

G+, according to Kari, is taking the best parts of Google on the organic side and the paid side, and adding a flavor of social (people). In other words, Google + is meant to enhance your marketing efforts while connecting folks together.

Fun story of the power of G+: Some digital camera was lost on the ocean floor for 447 days- a scuba diver found it, and the SD card still worked. A scuba diver posted the photos on Google+ and other social sites, eventually found the owner and returned the photos! This story shows the power of the network, and how it’s a bit different from others, according to Kari.

Interesting G+ stats:

  • Google+ has only been around for a bit over a year, with 400 million folks who have upgraded to Google+
  • 100 M ppl go back to Google+ the destination (desktop of mobile) every month
  • People spend 60 minutes / day on products that have Google+ integrations, and 12 min / day in the actual G+ stream

Ways G+ is Being Integrated into Google Products + Fun Statistics
First up, some consumer insights. How are people using this platform in a different way?

  • G+ users are connecting over shared interests & creating their own communities.
  • You can divide contacts and segment them out into interest-based circles, and from there, form deeper communities.
  • Photographers, for example, love G+ because the images are high-res, beautiful. They create shared circles of other photographers.
    • This group of photographers took it from online to offline, meeting in different cities, taking photos together on walks, sharing those pics back online.
    • They even collectively published a book of photos initially shared on G+!
  • There are many different interest groups on G+ from zombies to knitting to fashion and cooking.
  • Daria Musk was next shared as an example. (I had no clue who she was, which goes to show how infrequently I use G+.) Here’s her story:
    • She’s a singer/songwriter, but was so far undiscovered.
    • She hopped on G+, created an account, and decided to initiate a “hangout” (video chat with multiple people).
    • She wanted to perform her songs for whoever came along. At first, no one did…
    • But then, one guy showed up, then another, then more and more people!
    • Now, she’s not only a recognized musician, but she performs her songs for sometimes 100k people via G+ hangouts / broadcasts!
    • She even spliced her G+ performances together and made an album!
  • More people access G+ with mobile than they do desktop. You can even do hangouts via G+ mobile.
    • That means people who are unable to leave their homes can follow along with, say, those photographers, as they travel to beautiful cities, and go on cool photo-walks.
  • Kari’s seen people have real conversations with folks they couldn’t chat with before… like… the President of the United States!
    • Yes, President Obama had a G+ hangout with 8 constituents that was then broadcasted, and Qs from users poured in, which he answered (some of them, anyway…).

G+ Advice for Marketers
G+ helps marketing perform better by adding relevance, engagement, and accountability.

Relevance. The relevance factor is two-fold:

1) The +1 button. Recommendations from friends and family are more trusted than any other form of marketing (go figure).

  • In 2011, the average US shopper consulted 10.4 sources prior to purchase. That’s twice as many as 2010.
  • Not to mention, 57% of people talk more online than they do “in real life”. That means more conversations are happening online, where brands can be present.
  • Also– people now expect to have recommendations when they search- 47% really rely on them to make a purchase decision.
  • +1 gives fans a megaphone. Add this button to your website, search, G+ page, mobile, video, display. All +1s carry through to each asset.
  • Bottom line, Kari stated that +1 increase performance, e.g. 5-10% average increase in CTR on search ads.

2) Search Plus Your World.This is another way G+ is making your business more relevant.

  • SPYW = more personal results
  • New SERPS can have something like 70 personal results, activity from your friends, + regular results
  • More personal info makes search more relevant and useful for consumers, which helps brands, as well

Engagement. G+ improves marketing by increasing engagement between user, friends, and brand.

  • Cadbury (mmm) has hangouts with friends, in which they do interviews, cooking demos, other fun things.
    • Kari’s fav thing about Cadbury is their hangouts translated to higher clicks on ads based on their social engagement on G+.
  • As a reminder, G+ hangouts = 10 people video-chatting simultaneously, & you can broadcast the hangout via Google or YouTube. You can also create apps in G+ for added customization and engagement.

Accountability. Lastly, G+ helps enhance your marketing by making you more accountable.

  • Google has AdWords reporting that allows you to see the impact G+ has on your CTR.
  • In Google Analytics, there are now social reports that take Analytics goals and show how social affects them.
  • Now, you can tie real $ amounts to what you’re doing in social. That’s what everyone wants, of course…
  • G+ Ripples reports help identify brand influencers. Check out each of your brand’s posts, who shares them, size of circles, and other noteworthy metrics.

Kari wrapped up, but not before telling us that “this is just the beginning with G+,” and that there’s a whole lot more coming. She also outlined, quickly, how to get started:

  • Create a G+ page ( )
  • Link the page to your sites & ads
  • Add the G+ badge to your website

There you have it!

Kerry was up next. Not to be confused with… Kari… right.  He was ready to discuss a casestudy from a client of his, Viator sell tours and fun things to do once you get to your travel destination. Case Study with G+
So… Kerry wanted to build a network of blogs hosted at  – targeted to specific cities. He also wanted to create FB & Twitter profiles for each blog. The goal was to provide content frequently to all different blogs, help inform users, build social audiences, and drive traffic for each city.

His team launched, like, 80 blogs in a very short period of time (one per city) packed with awesome content written by passionate writers, and gorgeous travel photos taken by talented photographers. In other words – the blogs had consistently posted, high quality content.

Remember, the goal was to create social audiences for each city, so each city-specific blog had authors hooked up to G+ via rel=author tags, along with big, shiny social / share buttons pointing to each associated FB page and Twitter profile. Those social assets showcased the content for it’s corresponding blog. Each social asset ended up amassing a pretty sizable audience, from 2k followers to 200k fans.

(One noteworthy takeaway: If your brand has a worldwide appeal, you can segment your communities by region and remarket to all of them.)

Here’s where Kerry shook things up.

Though each city had its own blog, FB page, and Twitter page, his team decided to make ONE G+ page for the entire brand. Fascinating. Some stats:

  • The G+ page grew from 100 to 100k in 2 weeks.
  • Interestingly, G+ included Viator in suggested list of follows for new G+ users (sadly, that’s no longer the case, but it sure helped!)

Viator G+ Strategies: 

  • post 1-2 / day
  • post rich content – pics, videos, links to blogs
  • use hashtag
  • +mention ppl/pgs where possible
  • repost and +1 other relevant people / post
  • participate in weekly hashtag chats and photo contests
  • link to Viator where relevant

Viator’s G+ Struggles:

  • No longer recommended to G+ as someone to follow.
  • Just started tracking referrals from G+ to main site. (D’oh!)

Kerry’s Takeaways: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Fabulous advice for any social strategy. Take a look at brands that are “doing it right,” and learn from them.

Some of Kerry’s research and findings:

  • LEGO – Compared to Viator, +LEGO has less followers, less frequent posts (1X / week). But they post very creative pics, and have TONS more comments & +1s.

Lego literally dominates the above and below the fold of for their branded KW SERP… how cool is that?


  • PEPSI – 500k followers, post every 4-5 days, tons of engagement, +1s, comments. Many posts are videos asking a question for the community.
  • Carnival – 680k followers, post 1-2 days, lots of engagement, comments, +1. Posts revolve around Qs or prompts.

And now, from the research, we have…

Best Strategies

  • post frequently
  • pics and videos
  • prompt users for comments (caption contests, Qs)
  • respond promptly
  • leverage hangouts
  • participate in hashtags
  • follow / share relevant G+ users / posts

(Helloooo, do those strategies look familiar? Many apply for ALL social channels. They’re basic social best practices, not specific to Google+. You should be mapping them to ALL your social communities.)

Integrating G+ & Paid Search
Kerry loves this – the integrating G+ & paid search: you get gorgeous real estate on the right side bar that features info about your company. Check out this screencap from a SERP for “Lego.” They completely dominate above and below the fold with Maps and the knowledge graph. Booyah.

Some more fun stuff: G+ and YouTube have tied together with hangouts. You can even begin commenting in YT with your “real name” thanks to G+… but we don’t exactly recommend that… Anyway, in Kerry’s opinion, hangouts are the best thing to come out of G+ so far from a marketing perspective. Consider having your CEO / product engineer, customers hang out, or broadcast via video… awesome possibilities.

Last but not least, Jed from Free People was up. Yeah. Free People…

Free People’s Social Strategy:

  1. Be everywhere their girls are. Whether that’s Pinterst, G+, etc.
  2. Content is huge! They post content all about their products and beyond- general fashion to DIY to food, travel.
  3. People are integral, too. There’s a large emphasis on the community itself.
  4. Lots of the community turns to FB specifically for customer service, so that’s part of their strategy, too.
  5. The home office sets guidelines, but each of the 75 stores have their own FB and Instagram accounts.

Social Growth

  • Facebook follower count had nice, steady growth, thanks to both organic and paid.
  • Twitter growth wasn’t quite so strong. A significant struggle there. They had a hard time breaking the 100k follower point, and they’re still lingering around that point.
  • Instagram grew quickly thanks to in-house team members already embracing the social site.
  • But… WHOMAGOD! Google+’s growth was huge. Launched in Nov ’11, and around April ’12 when their page for verified, there was an enormous spike in the community. Free PPL’s G+ community has, at this point, surpassed FB community in population.

But lest we forget… it’s not all about quantity. It’s all about quality, and engagement. Many of Free People’s G+ community members are international men. Some of the interaction is just silly spam, comments like “hiii babyyy”. Yeah… not very rich.

Jed’s Steps to Success with G+

  • Be an early adopter
    Get verified
  • Post amazing content
  • Daily updates
  • Also… it doesn’t hurt that they’re in the fashion industry 🙂

How’s G+ Performing for Free People?

  • Sessions & sales via G+ are low, but visits via organic search increased substantially.
  • Jed believes this increase in organic can be attributed their engagement on G+
  • Like Kerry, Jed likes the G+ integration with search. The fabulous knowledge graph, that awesome real estate opportunity in organic search.

Desired Functionality – Jed’s G+ Wishlist

  • Reporting & follower insights (desire to understand who’s coming from where)
  • Associate store G+ pages with brand parent pages. That’d be sweet.

What’s next for Free People?

  • Hangouts! Live DIYs with blog team, style tips form creative directors, etc.

Right on! That wrapped up an awesome presentation with really smart folks. Rock on 🙂 Stay tuned on aimClear blog for more coverage straight from #SMX East 2012!

  • Charles Hall

    This is the best google+ oriented post I have seen in a long time. I personally believe that G+ is the future and businesses need to jump on the train. A phrase that I have told many people to help explain G+ is this, “If google is the future of search, then G+ is the future of being found,” this means that as all of the other social media sites begin to turn to just that social media sites as opposed to business oriented websites. G+ will remain unscathed and allow businesses to truly connect with their consumer. I look forward to that day and will continue to persuade businesses that G+ is the future and you can have your fun with the others for now but when ever you get serious about your future G+ is the only way to go.

  • Steve Landon

    Google+ still have an awful long way to go if they’re to be treated as a leading social media platform. The danger is that by providing users with improved SERP, it becomes a graveyard for half completed profiles that have only been setup to create a website backlink.