Google+ Connects Like Minded People

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the RTP SEO Meetup and the subject was Google+.  I have been to several Google+ type meetups that had presenters like Mark Traphagen and Michelle Li.  I was interested to see what the RTP SEO meetup was all about as I did not recognize any of the names.  That is quite unusual for me as I know almost every active member of Google+ in the Raleigh Durham area.

Domingo Rogers and I have some experience with Google+ so we decided to MeetUp.  Literally.  The basic premise of the meetup was a quick explanation of Google+ and how it is incorporated into social search or SPYW (Search Plus Your World).  After many months of, in depth, research I am well aware that there is much more to it than this.  I explained the Rel = Author tag and some other things about Google+ which will eventually force Twitter and Facebook to change their business models.

After the MeetUp I was talking with one of the other attendees and we connected on the topic of the stock market and trading stocks.  Almost two hours later we were still talking about almost everything related to our lives.  We both live very similar lives in that we make our own schedules and do not have a boss, per se.  We told each other several crazy stories about our lives and really connected on a different level.  The ability to work at your own pace is something that is very hard to explain to anyone who has never done it.

By the time the conversation was over we decided we would grab some lunch this weekend and I would help him with SEO/Google+ and he would help me with stock trading and a few areas of his expertise.  This is just another amazing person I have been connected to through Google+ and MeetUp.  I would strongly suggest participating in a HIRL (Hangout in Real Life) or going to some of these MeetUps.  You will be surprised how many great people are out there looking to get some help with the Plus.

How Google+ Has Changed My Life Five Months

In March of 2012 I jumped onto the Google+ bandwagon as I recognized that Google was strongly pushing their social side of search.  Being a search marketing guy I knew this was going to be the future of “SEO” per se.  What I did not realize was that Google+ would completely change my life in five months.  There is no social website on the Internet that can offer some of the events I am about to explain.

Since March I have had the chance to HIRL (Hangout in Real Life) with the following individuals in the North Carolina area:

Mark Traphagen
Tim Moore
Ty Downing
Keith Bloemendaal
Lauren Formalarie

All of these individuals are very successful and have entrepreneurial minds.  They have immensely helped me to think outside the box. This has not only helped my personal development but it has helped me to grow my personal business.

I was fortunate enough to be active on Google+ shortly before the first Tiger Woods Google+ hangout. I was the only active Google+ user to be selected to this hangout and I had the opportunity to talk with the best golfer of all time.  This would be a social media milestone for most but it was just the start of my Google+ Hangouts on Air career.

In recent weeks I have been selected to take part in the Usain Bolt Google+ Olympics Hangout (didn’t get in due to time constraints). I have also been selected to be part of the Google+ TekPersona Power Panel hosted by J.C. Kendall. Other members of this power panel have included:

John Blossom 
Shaker Cherukuri
Gregory Esau
Su Ann Lim
Gary S. Hart
Cybele Negris

Just today I had the chance to discuss the 2012 PGA Championship which has lead to some great contacts in the golf industry. One of these contacts is more than willing to help me get in to future PGA Tour events.

Yes, this has happened in five months!  I will admit that I have a very open schedule which allows me to do many Hangouts and travel at will.  With that being the case, Google+ has enhanced my life tenfold as there are many amazing people that are reaching out to each other through this social medium.  Last night I completed one of the first Google+ Hangouts for a Fantasy Football draft with the following participants

Sean Grace
Marcus Medley
Shelley Upton
Krysta Gahagen

The league is 8 teams but some could not make it so we picked kickers and punters for them in the first round.  In all seriousness, someone did decide to take the Steelers defense in the 4th round.  We won’t name names, eh hmm Krysta.  Tomorrow I will be one of the few selected to take part in the official NFL.com Fantasy Football Q&A that will be available for the world to watch.  Yes, life is tough!

I can only hope my second five months is half as exciting as the first five.  I will be working with Google to start a Google+ HIRL in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area in the next few weeks so that will be the next chapter in my Google+ book.

Google Penetration Into Niche Markets Such as Vacation Rental

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to spend time with some very educated medical practitioners that knew absolutely nothing about Google search or Google products.  They wanted to pick my brain about a few things and I was more than happy to let them chisel away at my claimed “expertise.”  A very interesting topic came up – Vacation Rentals.

One of the individuals expressed great concern with his vacation rental experience.  Like most people looking for a vacation rental he simply typed “Ocracoke Island vacation rental” into Google and VRBO.com came up.  VRBO offers a search of all the listings but I am not certain how their algorithm works.  The individual who visited the vacation rental said it was terrible and he posted a negative review.  The owner of the vacation rental simply took the review down and the listing still ranks very high in VRBO.  He asked if there is anything that can be done about this.

I explained that VRBO ranks so high in Google search for that keyword phrase because of their reputibility in the subject matter.  Unfortunately, Google can do absolutely nothing about how VRBO ranks their vacation listings.  It is a bad business practice to let vacation rental owners take down negative reviews.  This begs a question – will Google+ local expand into vacation rentals and travel?  If the renter has the ability to post a Google+ local review it will stay up forever and it could affect the ranking in search.  Not only the Google search but the VRBO search as well.

This is something that could change everything about rentals and classified listings.  Imagine if Google+ local becomes search enabled for everything being sold or rented on the Internet?  This would change things a bit.

Google Maps Adds Google+ Local Zagat Reviews

I was doing a little bit of research on some of the upcoming July 4th sales in 2012 and I noticed that certain retailers have the Google+ Local Zagat Score (out of 30) listed in red below the search result in Google Maps.  This is going to be very useful for companies that offer great customer service and great products.  The opposite will be true for companies that offer bad service and receive many unhappy customer reviews on Google+ Local.  Here is an image displaying some results

Notice the red number 8 under the first two listings. It should come as no surprise that Best Buy has some bad reviews as I think most of you know how I feel about that particular electronics retailer. I also noticed that many searches did not bring up these Zagat Google+ local reviews. It looks as if Google needs quite a bit of data before they will implement the red box into Google Maps.  I would also say that tech stores tend to have the most reviews which is related to the Google+ community.

For local businesses looking to stand out from the crowd it would be very useful to get as many reviews as possible. Even if some of the reviews are “not so great” it will still help them see the red box in the Google Maps search results. This is just another rich snippet that will help them get more business. When hovering over the number, Google will tell you how it rates the company based on the reviews. An 8 is “poor to fair.” I found a 12 which is “fair to good.” There is a Best Buy in Anderson, SC which is a 16 or “good to very good.”

I am going to do a little bit of searching around to see if I can find any more results. The best result I have seen is an Apple Store in Greenville, SC which got a 29 or “extradoniary to perfection.” If I had to make a guess I would think Google will rank the higher rated companies higher in the search. Wouldn’t that make sense?

Google Plus Integrates Events Which Will Hurt Facebook Even More

A few months ago Damian Hoskin mentioned, on Google+, the only reason he still used Facebook was for the events feature.  I had some type of idea that Google would quickly integrate events into Google+ once all the bells and whistles were clean.  Damian was excited to hear about my predictions because he, like many Facebook users, didn’t want to use “the social network” for simply one feature.  I have a very good friend that actually calls Facebook his online birthday calendar.

Well, on June 27th, 2012 Google changed social again.  Most knew that events was going to come out in the near future but I am not certain we had any idea how valuable this tool was going to be.  I am going to explain Events simply from a search perspective.  I am a guy who loves finding new and interesting events in my local area.  That being said, I am not a huge fan of Meetup as 45 people will sign up for a Meetup group and about 7 will participate.  As most of you know, I will not get on Facebook so that is out of the question.

What I tend to do is search Google for upcoming events going on.  Most of the time this will take you to an About.com page or a Visitors Bureau page.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this but it does not show how many people will be at this event.  I do not solely go to events with hundreds of people but I would like to know that there will be at least a dozen participants.  I usually do not enjoy driving to a specified location only to find the two hosts standing around saying “I don’t know why no one showed up.”  This is a different discussion for a different time.

Google+ events will not only let you see the activity related to the event through comments and committed attendees but it will also be indexed in search!  When I search Raleigh Social Media seminar in the near future the Google Plus events will likely show up towards the top of the results.  I would imagine the events with the most interest and interaction will show up closer to the top.  This is an extremely valuable tool for planners.  If anyone lives in a tourist town you can imagine that Google Plus Events is going to explode.

This puts a smile on my face as it is another reason people will be able to leave Facebook forever.  It will be very interesting to see how Facebook adjusts to all the great features Google+ is throwing at them.  In the meantime I will be on Google+ discussing this topic.

Google Plus One Year Anniversary Photo Walk – Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill Plussers Meet at the Capitol

It is very hard to believe that Google Plus has been available for one year.  I can clearly remember the release to those “special” few.  I was fortunate enough to get an invite in early July from a fellow Redditor.  I will admit that I used the Plus for about a month before giving up and going back to my old ways.  In March of 2012 things changed after I met Mark Traphagen.  Since early March I have been very active on Google+ and I have enjoyed almost every second.

On Saturday, June 30th, 2012 there will be a Google Plus one year anniversary photowalk starting at the Capitol Building in downtown Raleigh at 10:00 am.  It is going to be a scorcher out there as my Android smart telephone tells me it is going to hit the triple digits.  I have no idea how long the event will last but we might be shedding clothes by the end of the walk which is even more reason to come out.  Mark Traphagen and I will be there so that should be enough for the whole Triangle to sprint downtown before the walk starts.

I am not a true photographer but I have a Samsung Galaxy S II and I have a hand.  I also have four eyes so that should help tremendously.  If you are on Google Plus and you live in the Triangle I would suggest coming out.  It is just a short trip from Chapel Hill and Durham and you will get to meet some very influential people in the area.  I know there are plenty from Wilmington and Charlotte that will be reading this as well.  As I snap photos and upload them I will try to plus you into some of the conversation.

If you are not on Google+ I would suggest giving it a try.  If you enjoy engaging conversation and you like to meet like minded people there is not a better place on the net.  Hell, Google+ has changed my life so much I wrote an eBook about it!

Does Author Rank Affect Google Plus Business Pages?

I have the opportunity to spend a few hours driving to and from Wilmington with Mark Traphagen today and one of the topics of conversation will likely be, “Does Author Rank Affect Google Plus Business Pages?”  I have been active with a few Google+ business pages for a little over two months now and I am seeing tremendous increases in search.  I try not to analyze each and every keyword my pages rank for but my Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools clearly show the jump in traffic each and every week.

Yes, I am very active on Google Plus.  I try to post at least a few times and day.  I also do my best to engage in a few different conversations each and every day.  I have several Google+ Hangouts on Air videos out there and I have a couple thousand followers who, I would hope, read some of my stuff.  I am not the most active Google+ user nor am I the most powerful.  That being said, I have carved out a few side niches that I can dominate when it comes to content.  I always write valuable content with video, pictures and subheadings.  This is not spam not is it a way to game the system to make quick money.  This is my mindset with Google+ as well.  I think we have all seen accounts that are doing their best to game the system to rank for Florida Attorney.

With all of this being said, I am left wondering if my Author Rank affects my Google Plus business pages.  Most of my business pages are related to my areas of expertise (ie finance, sports and outdoor recreation).  If I continue to make conversation on Google+ with my personal profile about these topics will it help my business pages every more?  This is something I hope to discuss at length with several people in the know in the near future.  What do you think?

One Hour Google+ Hangouts – Google Plus Business Pages

My one hour Google+ hangouts started on June 6th, 2012.  I am going to attempt to use most Monday through Thursday nights to connect with business owners or anyone looking to optimize a Google Plus business page.  This resource will document my thoughts about the individuals that I converse with.  The Hangouts will be private as I will be discussing certain keywords and business strategies that will not be revealed in full.

June 6th 2012Damian Hoskin owner of Manticore Productions Google+ Business Page

Damain is new to the whole SEO and Google+ business page process but he is learning quickly.  We talked about ways to actively engage new followers.  This is something I would suggest to anyone.  The more you talk to your audience individually the more you will get out of Google+.  Rather than simply saying “thank you for following me and here is my business page” I would suggest making it much more personal.  Check the About Me section of the person following you and relate on some level.  ”Hey, +John Daddow, I see you are from Australia.  I know +Damian Hoskin who is also from Australia.  Do you have any connections?”   This is much better than simply pushing your agenda.

Something else we talked about was the integration of sidebar widgets that add links.  Putting a link to your Google+ Profile and Google+ Business page from your website is 100% necessary.  This will help increase your Google+ profile exposure and it will help Google understand your area of expertise.  You must also put your website URL in the “Contributor to” section of the Google+ personal profile to fully optimize your AgentRank.

I throughly enjoyed helping out Damian and I can’t wait to see his future videos.  He is working on some great stuff and he will be sharing some of these videos with his personal profile and business profile.  Make sure to follow him if you don’t already.

June 7th 2012Gary Crawshaw owner of Higher Ground Strategies Google+ Business Page

Tonight I had the chance to speak with Gary over a Google+ hangout and we had so much to talk about that it ended up going over by about 20 minutes.  I can talk about Google+ as a business strategy for hours.  Gary asked the question, “Do you think Google+ will be used as a blogging platform?”  Back in mid March I stated that this would likely be the case in the near future.  When Blogger gets implemented into Google+ there is no reason that this resource will not be used to blog.

Some people are wondering if a website is even needed.  I feel as if there will always be a place for a “business card” type website with a few pictures and your contact information but as far as a blog and tons of content, you may just use Google+ for that.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few weeks and months. If you don’t want to pay for a new website just head over to Google+ business pages and start blogging there.  Google+ makes it very easy.  Gary and I connected on many levels so I am certain we will have another hangout in the near future.

Google+ Business Pages – What We Know So Far

Google+ business pages have been a challenge for many as it is a completely different way to utilize Google+ when compared to a personal profile.  When using a personal profile it is very easy to engage with new people as you can follow anyone you want and throw them into a circle.  Not to mention that your beautiful smiling face is next to your name rather than a brand picture.  With business pages you cannot follow anyone who does not follow you first.  I think we can all agree that businesses are not people.  Sorry Mitt Romney.  I digress…

Over the last week I have been pushing for business pages to interact a little bit more.  It is shocking to know that many multi million dollar companies are doing absolutely nothing with Google+.  Some of them don’t even have verified pages!  This means that there is plenty of real estate to carve out your niche.  This can be very good and this can be very bad.  Many of the people in my network are true entrepreneurs and have plenty of ideas.  This can cause problems as you do not want to spread yourself thin.  Let me tell you a great story…

I went for a nature walk tonight.  Near the conclusion of my nature walk I had the opportunity to witness about 10 deer feeding in the middle of a field.  As I slowly approached the deer I noticed that they were very wary of any step I made.  This made me think about Google, the Google algorithm and Google+.  I know, I am not normal at all.

After getting within about 100 feet I was able to take about three steps before the deer stopped everything they were doing and looked up at me.  I remained completely still and allowed them to gain confidence that I was not going to harm them.  After a few minutes they started eating again.  I took another three or four steps forward and the deer did the same thing.  Over the course of the next 20 minutes I slowly made my way to about 10 feet from the deer.  How on earth does this relate to Google search at all?

Most people reading this article are very motivated.  Some of my friends on Google+ are so excited about business pages and getting their brand out there.  They are commenting, hitting the +1 and posting plenty of great stuff.  This is wonderful, but!  I would be wary of doing too much.  The Google search is like the deer.  The search is more than happy to index you and rank you high as long as you prove that you are not going to cause it harm.  If you started dropping five or six posts that link directly to your page every day you would, in essence, be walking started at the deer without stopping at all.  If I did this on my nature walk the deer would have galloped the other way immediately.

From my experience with Google search and the Google algorithm I would make sure to proceed with caution with your Google+ business page.  I am trying to post one article a day linking back to my blog.  I am also posting an article or two from “outside” websites that are in my specific niche.  If you are in the golf niche you might want to post a link to a GolfChannel.com article if you find it interesting.  If you are a business page that is simply posting every single article from your blog you are not really using Google+ the way it was intended.  Give your customers some great information but also post some things that will engage them in conversation.

If you have other friends that own business pages take the time to read and comment their stuff as well.  Building a business page is like building a relationship.  The more time and effort you put into other people and businesses the more time you will get out of it.  If you think you need to post three or four articles a day to Google+ remember that the deer needs time to gain confidence in you before any progression can be made.

How to Play the Google+ Game

No.  Google+ is not a game.  Well, for some of us it is like a game.  This game can be lots of fun meeting as you will meet new smart people!  Over the last two months I have met some amazing, like minded people that love both Google and what it does to make life better.  The people on Google+ are awesome individuals if you are willing to get to know them.  When you start, Google+ is not easy.   Nothing is easy when you are learning.  Remember the first time you go off the ski lift?  After a little bit of trial and error and some conversation you will see that Google+ sure as hell is not Facebook.

You will not find all your old high school buddies on Google+ but, it might be good that way.  Google+ opens up opportunities to meet very successful people who are changing the world.  Unfortunately, many of these successful people may be a little bit smarter than you and I.  This means they are not going to respond to your posts about the new shoes you bought or the picture of your cat eating bacon.  I can promise you most will respond to questions that provoke some type of thought.

This is the Google+ game we play.  Do I want to plus Guy Kawasaki to see if he responds or not?  Is Vic Gundotra watching all my public posts?  Will Mark Traphagen’s reshare of this post outrank my posts?  Tough questions we face day in and day out.  Luckily, all of this leads to the true Web 2.0.  Google is carving the search landscape and land is available right now.  It is like the California gold rush in the 1840s.  There is plenty of opportunity to push your agenda/business but you must know how to do it.

One of the most difficult parts of Google+ has nothing to do with posts ranking in search.  The issue is getting people to engage with so mentioned post will help you rank in search.  I have no problems when it comes to engagement (not to a female!) as I often get 40 or 50 comments on my posts.  The issues lies in a Google+ business page.  Most of us on Google+ have access to some type of business page but we cannot follow all our acquaintances unless they follow us first.

This is why Mark Traphagen and I created Plus Local Pages to help you reach out to those who will engage.  The business pages are hand selected and they are run by individuals that have proven, over time, that they will interact consistently.  This is not a group of successful pages that has already made a name for themselves. This is a group of business pages that understands the power of Google+ and wants to build strong relationships.  We all have friends; some more than others.  If a friend needs help with Social SEO I have several Google+ pages to get help.  I will gladly get my friends new customers as they are willing to do the same for me.  If another friend is seeking medical help, I have Google+ resources for that as well.  This is what Plus Local Pages is all about.

If you would like to be part of this group please feel free to contact me on my personal Google+ page.  Remember that your Business Page will be looked at by moderators so spam will not get through.  If your business page engages once or twice a week it does not belong as part of this group.  This group engages daily and continues to build conversation about their products and services.  This is the future of business and definitely the future of the Internet.  Just ask Google.  Google+ has made it a fun game but you must play it correctly.