Google+: Do's and Don'ts for Small Businesses
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The jury may still be out on the value of Google+ for personal users, but for small businesses, Google+ can't be ignored. Google+ isn't just another social network a small business can use to boost its online presence, but it's also the ultimate resource to maximize visibility on Google search pages.

Being on Google+ is a must for any small business because the platform works hand- in-hand with Google Search. This includes potentially ranking higher on search results, integration with relevant Google for Business services, and the ability to draw customers in by providing key business information — such as location and directions, phone number, photos, reviews and more — right on search pages. Google+ will also let you promote posts, specials, deals and other content to a wide range of audiences, from those in your Google+ "Circles" to people simply searching for your business on Google.

There's much more to Google+ than signing up for an account and sharing posts, however. Using Google+ effectively as a small business is all about having a strategy to attract and engage customers. To help you get started, Business News Daily asked business owners, social media experts and other marketing professionals how they have found success with Google+. Here are their do's and don'ts of using Google+ to grow your business. [Google+ Local: A Small Business Guide]

Take advantage of SEO value

The main differentiator between Google+ and all of the other social networks is that it is the social network from Google. This means that one of the largest benefits to using Google+ is SEO value. Businesses should take advantage of this by combining their Google+ Local Page (your maps listing) and their Google+ Business Page. With this small change, a business will be more likely to rise to the top during location-based searches. When setting up a page for the first time businesses with a brick- and-mortar store should keep in mind to select Local Business or Place as their business type. — Ron Cates, director of digital marketing, education, Constant Contact

Use visuals

Adding images of your business headquarters to your Google+ page helps users to stay engaged with the page. Furthermore, these images will show up in your brand's search engine result pages (SERP) if you are locally verified. In general, users will feel much more secure in working with your business online if they can see where you are located and what your offices and employees actually look like. — Austin Paley, corporate marketing communications manager, Blue Fountain Media

Strategically share content

An enormous part of our business is getting leads through our website, and we've seen a lot of significant traffic from Google+. The trick we've found that works is you have to post first as your page, but then use your personal profile to share that post to communities you're involved with. People prefer a personal connection, so make sure to add a personal comment on the link, preferably in the form of a question, instead of just link-dumping. This will increase your likelihood of receiving comments, +1's, and shares. — Erik Larson, SEO and social media specialist, Lendio.com

Claim authorship with rel=publisher tag

My best Google+ tip for businesses isn't necessarily something to do on G+, but it will grow your business's page: implement the rel=publisher markup on your website. This will link your Google+ page and your website, so that when someone searches for you on Google, your page information comes up on the right side of the search results. Searchers can then view information about your page and follow it, right from search results. It's a quick, one-time task that will continually help you grow your audience on the network. — Brittany Berger, digital content supervisor, eZanga.com

Make your posts stand out

Format your postings with bold, italics and indentation. Include images in your 
postings that are attention-grabbing. Use #hashtags in your postings so that there is an increased likelihood that other users searching will find your mini-blog postings.  — Sean Kane, Internet marketing manager, LawyerReviews.com 

Actively grow your audience

Work to gain a large group of followers. Add people to your circles in the hopes that they will add you to theirs. I like focusing on people in my same industry, as well as potential customers and professional acquaintances. Once you reach a certain number of followers, that number will appear next to your link when you show up in an organic search result on Google. Additionally, a high number of followers in your circles boosts your authority with Google, which also improves your search rankings. — Lauren Witte, associate director, marketing & client services, Jackson White P.C. 

Target your audience

It might seem simple, but doing your homework can go a long way in ensuring your content is reaching the appropriate audience. What do consumers of your product like? What are they discussing? Are they largely male or female? Are they located on the East Coast or West Coast? You don't want to waste time on content that's not reaching the right people. — Phil Penton, president, Social Integration

Put a +1 button on your site

The most important thing is to get people to share and +1 your website. That means having the +1 button on your site and encouraging users to click it. We've found that Google+ +1/shares have much more impact on improving Google search rankings than a similar amount of likes/shares on the other big three social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). This may surprise people considering Google+ commands less direct engagement than other social networks, but it's important to realize that the value of Google+ is mostly behind the scenes: When someone endorses your site with a share or +1, there are indications that it improves the visibility of your site for people across their extended Google network, which includes Gmail contacts and even other social connections Google mines from Twitter and Facebook! — Yarin Kessler, founder and CEO, PDF Buddy 

Create a community

Communities are a newer, underused feature of Google+ that is great for connecting with others in your industry, potential clients, and strategic partners, all depending on who you gear your community towards. For example, I am the marketing manager of a managed service provider. Our ideal clients are local companies, so I created a community specifically for businesses in our county. We also belong to a managed service providers community where we can ask questions and have discussions with others in our industry who are on the same level as us when it comes to social media. There are so many communities that have not been created yet, get in there and be ahead of the game! — Yvonne Miaoulis, marketing manager, Baroan Technologies 

Ask for reviews

Earn positive reviews from your customers by reaching out to them and offering your Google+ link to leave a review. Reviews will help build credibility for your business and make you stand out from your competitors — Pavel Khaykin, co-founder, Banarsi Designs

Follow other businesses

Follow other businesses and figures in your industry. This could lead to 
potential business opportunities down the line or just keep you abreast of 
relevant industry news and updates. — Gregory Walker, senior SEO manager, Perfect Search

[For a side-by-side comparison of the best social media marketing services, visit our sister site Top Ten Reviews.]

Forget to claim your business page

The main things for businesses to do is to either set or claim their business page. 
The easiest way is to Google the name of the business and see if there is a page already there, if not, go to www.google.com/business to set one up. Then, if you are a local type business, make sure you verify the address. Also look to link up your website (if you have one) and add the "follower button" to your site. From there, you will want to add in content to your profile, for instance, saying a little about yourself. — Martin Shervington, community manager, Plus Your Life and Business

Neglect your profile

First and foremost make sure that all the pertinent business information is filled out in your Google+ business page. Don't skip any important details and be sure to add as many images of your business as possible. Make sure to use keywords you want to rank for and keywords your customers are using to find your business when filling out your profile. Also be sure to link out to important pages on your website within your profile as Google+ allows you to do this. These will help with your online visibility. Use video and images as much as possible as customers are more likely to interact with profiles that have media. — Matthew Zajechowski, outreach manager, Digital Third Coast

Wait for customers to come to you

Take advantage of Google+'s awesome openness toward interacting with followers. On Facebook it is very hard to communicate with your customers because Facebook won't let you reach out to them via your business page. They have to reach out to you first. Imagine the power you would have on Facebook if you could proactively reach out to your customers. You could offer them discounts, coupons, or simply just check in with them and continue building a relationship. With Google+, that's exactly what you can do. Google+ allows as much two way conversation as you would like. You can tag people in your posts before they reach out to you. It's great. Go ahead and be the first to engage in the conversation with your customers, don't wait for them to come to you! — Joshua Mackens, owner, Tutelary Marketing

Forget about 'Circles'

Segment your customers. Most business have different types of customers, and if possible, add customers in different circles on Google+. This can let you drip more targeted content and have a better chance of engaging your audience. — Kenny Kline, CEO and founder, Slumber Sage

Spam users or communities

If you think that you are beginning to post too much in a community, or you feel that you are being too annoying, then you most likely are. In our experience, people on G+ are there for a reason and are able to pick out spammers from a mile away. If you get blacklisted as a spammer, you will have a very hard time getting off that list and making headway in the community. — Jacob Markiewicz, public relations and media specialist, Exert

Confuse Google+ with other networks

I see myriad of food pics, baby pics, lifestyle pics. All are great for Facebook or Pinterest, etc., but NOT if you are using Google+ for business. — Marina Lee, CEO & Founder, Women in Tech Network

Confuse Google+ with other Google pages

Don't confuse the difference between a brand and a local page. Google's new 
My Business feature gives you the option of creating a Brand page, a Service 
Area page, and a Storefront page. The main difference is that Service Area 
and Storefront pages have a physical location that you can verify 
(equivalent to Google local pages), whereas a Brand page is more for 
national or international businesses that don't necessarily have a physical 
storefront. — Samantha Pena, content strategist, Hudson Horizons

Make Google+ your social media bread and butter

One thing to keep in mind about Google+ is that its number of users, and more importantly, its number of engaged users is much lower than that of other social media powerhouses like Facebook and Twitter. So before a small business decides to venture into Google+, it's important to understand how it aligns into their larger social strategy and if their target audience are active users of this channel. In other words, one major "don't" for Google+ is to make it the center of one's social strategy. It should be a complementary effort. — Matt Winn, senior marketing communications manager, Volusion

Originally published on Business News Daily