Like it or not, having a Google+ account has become crucial for brands and people hoping to get ahead in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Even if you aren’t too keen on it as a social network, it’s important to have at least an average presence on the site – especially if you want to be viewed as an expert within your industry.
So, how can you go about setting up a Google+ profile? Let’s start at the beginning…
Firstly, if you don’t have a Google account, you’ll need to set one up. Head on over to this page, where you should see the below screen. It’s all pretty self-explanatory and asks for the simple details: your name, desired username/password, DoB etc. You’ll also need to supply a current email address, which Google will use to verify your information should you lose your username or password. Once it’s all filled out, click ‘Next step’.
Next, you’ll see the screen below. Click on the ‘Continue to Google+’ button…
Now, you’ll be asked for the basics again – your name, gender and birthday. You should add a photo of yourself, too (which you can do either by dragging and dropping a picture over, or by selecting one from your computer). Opt for a clear, professional headshot; don’t just crop your friends out of last Saturday night’s group photo!
It’s important to mention that Google will only accept a proper, sensible-sounding name. You aren’t able to use special characters, punctuation or numbers within it; nor can you include any indications of qualifications, memberships etc. (i.e. you cannot call yourself ‘Dr’ or ‘Professor’) If you’d like to read more about the rules surrounding profile names on Google+, check out this page.
Once you’re done, press the ‘Upgrade’ button.
You’ll see the below screen next, which aims to help you find and connect with people you know that are already using Google+. This is optional, but if you have a good network of contacts on either Yahoo! or Hotmail, it’s worth doing. Plus, it will help you quickly build up your circles (your network of friends/followers). If you’re not interested, click the ‘Skip this step’ button. You’ll see a pop-up box asking if you’re sure… Just click the ‘Continue anyway’ button.
Google+ will then display the ‘Follow interesting people and pages’ box. This shows you the profiles for some of the most popular Google+ pages and members. This includes names like Madonna, the Washington Post, NBC Sports and Hilton Hotels.
If you press ‘Follow’ on any of these groups, you’ll see this screen – which explains what happens when you beginning following someone:
If you see anyone/any page of interest, get following! Then, click ‘Continue’. You’re now at the ‘Be awesome’ stage, which looks like this:
Again, this is a pretty self-explanatory screen. Include details of your employer, education and location. You also get another chance to change your profile picture, if you aren’t happy with how it displays on the screen. Once you’re done, click ‘Finish’.
Now is where the fun really begins!
Let’s get personal
So, this is the home screen… You’ll want to click on the ‘Profile’ button in the left-hand navigation bar (highlighted below):
Once you’re on your profile, click on the ‘About’ button in the top nav bar. You’ll then get the chance to change your cover photo. Click on ‘Change yours now’, as highlighted below:
Then, decide what you’d like to use for your cover photo. Currently, the G+ cover photo size is 2120 x 1192 pixels. If you use a considerably smaller photo than this, it’ll appear pixelated – or may even be rejected. As such, it’s important to think carefully about the image you want to use. You could choose one from the pre-set gallery, but we’d recommend personalising it to you/your brand. This is what it’ll look like once your image is set up:
Now, scroll down to view the other boxes you can fill out. These include the following:
Again, it’s pretty obvious what G+ wants from you here. In the ‘Story’ section, create a 10–15-word tagline (it’s really important to keep it snappy) and then expand on this in the ‘Introduction’ section. When it comes to the ‘Bragging rights’, you can put anything you want. Most people will put what they believe to be their biggest accomplishments so far… So you might talk about your degree and/or years’ experience in your field, if you’ve had any children, skydived from a plane etc. You can expand on your work-based skills in the ‘Work’ section and on your personal life in the ‘Basic information’ box.
Here’s the rest of your ‘About me’ page:
Again, the ‘Contact Information’ box is really simple to fill in. Where your presence on the web will really come into play is with the ‘Links’ box… In this, you can add links to your other social media profiles, to websites that are of great interest to you (why not include a mixture of professional and personal likes?) and the ‘Contributor to’ part demonstrates where the content you write is published on the web. For example, if you’re writing regularly for the Huffington Post, you could include a link to your author bio on the HuffPo website in here… And so on and so forth.
Filling out this section is really crucial to the success of your G+ profile, as when the rel=author is set up on the reciprocal page (i.e. the author page on the HuffPo website, in this example), your brand on G+ will be associated with any of your content that shows in the SERPs.
Once all these boxes are complete, you can start exploring the other parts of your profile. You might want to add some pictures to your ‘Photos’ tab, or videos. Plus, anything you +1 from now on will be visible in your ‘+1s’ tab. Try it, then see how your profile changes. Make your first post, too, but try to avoid the typical ‘Totally new to this… Someone help me out?!’ message. Instead, aim to make your first post something that will define what you aim to convey in the long term with your profile. Perhaps you could include a link to your latest blog and an interesting overview of what it’s about?
Top tips for success
Now the basics are in place, it’s time for us to share a few top tips for achieving success with your G+ profile. It’s important to add that there are lots of useful blogs out there that deal with this too, so a quick search for ‘optimising my Google+ profile’ will give you many more ideas… For now though, here are a few of our tips to get you started:
Find influencers: Look for the G+ pages of your industry’s key influencers and follow them. This will boost your own credibility and authority, not to mention provide you with inspiration on what is the most shareable content within your sector
Fill your circles: Look for your friends’, family members’ and colleagues’ G+ profiles too. Add them to your circles. The more people you have in your circles and the more circles you appear in, the greater your online presence (in Google’s eyes)
Make your profile information public: To reap the full potential of having a G+ profile, make all of your information public and visible to anyone on the web. This is the only way to gain the visibility and reach you need to make your G+ page a success. As long as you aren’t sharing anything you wouldn’t be happy saying to your followers’ faces, you’ll be fine
Keep your posts interesting: G+ isn’t like Twitter, which offers only a few characters per update. There’s no character limit on G+ posts, which doesn’t mean you should add a 1,000-word essay alongside any links you’re posting – but on G+, the best posts provide a short overview of any links being posted. Don’t just repeat what your link or blog says, though; try to just sum up its point in a six or seven-line paragraph
Don’t ignore it: Once your profile is set up properly, don’t neglect it. You need to post valuable content that’s relevant to your followers on a regular basis. Ideally, you should publish a new post at least once a day; in a perfect world, you’d publish three or four posts per day. Mention any associated followers or pages with your posts, to provide context (i.e. if you refer to your company in your post, @ it). Conversely, don’t overdo it. Publishing seven – ten posts a day might put people off. Think quality, not quantity.