Ever wonder if you’re missing a trick?
After all, you have so many options for promoting your latest blog post, you could easily overlook a killer tactic.
But chasing every new traffic trick that appears can be a huge distraction, and that’s time you’re not spending writing great content or engaging with your readers.
And sometimes you don’t need clever new tactics. Some of the best ways to promote your content have existed for years — you’ve simply neglected them.
Sometimes how you promote your content is less important than where you do it.
And one place that’s excellent for driving quality traffic is hidden in plain sight.
It’s called Google+.
Why Traffic-Hungry Bloggers are Dumb to Ignore Google+
Google+ was the search engine giant’s attempt to grab a slice of the social media pie, but since the platform’s launch in 2011, it’s taken a few knocks.
The decision to drop Google Authorship demolished one of the reasons many people signed up, and a fresh rumor of its imminent demise seems to emerge every week.
But even though the “new platform” sheen has certainly faded, Google+ is still a great place to promote your content. Even if you don’t have a following there and even if it might not be with us forever.
Why? Because Google+ consistently delivers more engaged visitors than both Twitter and Facebook. On average, a visitor from Google+ will spend over three minutes on your site, compared to around two minutes for those other platforms.
And that’s where Google+ comes in. It’s an engaged platform where people are already having thriving conversations about content. In fact, many readers go to Google+ with the sole purpose of discovering great content — just like yours.
So if you want targeted traffic — visitors who are hopped up and primed for engagement — posting your content on Google+ might actually be a smart choice.
But what works on Facebook or Twitter won’t necessarily get engagement on Google+. It has some nuances you need to understand.
So let’s see how to share content to generate traffic and engagement.
4 Essential Steps for Sharing Content on Google+
Step 1: Harness the Power of Communities
If you’ve tried Google+ in the past and found that few people engaged with your content, you might just be sharing it in the wrong place.
“Public” sharing can make Google+ feel like a ghost town because you won’t get much engagement unless you already have a large following.
But a smarter way exists, and it has nothing to do with your follower count — using communities.
Google+ Communities are gathering places for users interested in a specific topic, and if you pick the right ones, you’ll find no shortage of engagement.
So how do you find the best communities for you?
The following options are a good place to start:
- “Recommended for you”: in the “Communities” tab of Google+, this option shows suggestions based on your past activity on the social network.
- “Search for communities”: in the same tab, this option allows you to search all the Google+ communities using specific keywords.
- Google+ search: alternatively, the normal search function of Google+ lets you search by keywords and then select the “Communities” tab to narrow the results. The following image shows a general search for “blog traffic” narrowed to communities only.
So, what should you search for?
Brainstorm a few keywords around your blog topic. Look at recent posts on your blog, and pick out some relevant keywords.
In practice, you can only share a post to one community at a time, but try to find three or four communities whose members are likely to be interested in the topics you write about.
And focus on communities where members are regularly commenting, interacting, and sharing content with each other — that’s the kind of engagement you want to tap into.
Once you’ve found a suitable community, you’ll need to click the “Join” button to become a member. After that, the community will appear in the list of options in the “To:” field of the sharing box.
The key to getting the best results from communities is to interact first — don’t jump in and start sharing your own content straight away. With a small number of handpicked communities, getting noticed shouldn’t take too long.
Here’s a personal example of the stark difference in engagement between a “Public” share and a “Community” share:
I shared this on my public profile and it got two +1’s (Google+’s equivalent of a “like”) and no shares.
Compare it to this post I shared with the SEO and Content Marketing Masters community only a few days later:
The engagement levels were substantially higher; 32 +1’s and 9 re-shares!
Bonus Tip: Automatically share community posts to your public profile
Although you’ll see better results sharing with communities, you don’t want your own public profile to be devoid of activity, so you can arrange things so that your community posts are automatically shared on your public profile too.
Jump into the ‘Settings’ tab and choose to ‘Show your Google+ communities posts on the posts tab of your Google+ profile’ — see below.
Checking this box enables you to share a post with a chosen community and automatically share that same post on your public Google+ feed.
As you build your following, more people will be visiting your public page, and then you can share your posts there alone — but until then, communities are a great alternative.
Step 2: Double Down on Your Headlines
When you share a blog post on Google+, the post’s headline is automatically included below the main image from your post (either the post’s featured image or one specified using social metadata.)
But readers easily can miss that headline as they browse the content in their streams, so be sure to create another at the top of your Google+ post that sticks out and draws the reader in.
See an example below from Adam Connell:
In this example, Adam has used the headline from the post itself, which is a popular approach, but you might want to mix things up a bit and use an alternative headline instead.
Well, for one, the original headline will be shown below the post anyway — along with the featured image. Using an alternative headline gives you another bite of the cherry.
Specifically, it allows you to tailor your headline to the audience you are sharing with. All communities are different, so you must ask what aspect of your post will be most interesting to each one? Highlight that in your headline.
Another tip — Google+ posts that lead with a question typically get more engagement because you are asking people to share their opinion, not just share a piece of your content.
Just like your blog post headline, the headline you choose to lead with on Google+ can be the difference between someone clicking your link or simply skimming past to move onto the next thing.
Bonus Tip: Use Google+ formatting shortcuts to make your headline pop
Google+ supports some basic formatting within its posts, and you can take advantage of this to make sure your headline stands out by putting it in bold.
To do this, when sharing your blog post, enclose your headline text in asterisks (no space between the asterisk and the headline) to make it bold once saved.
For instance, Adam’s post above would have looked like this:
Here’s a complete list of formatting shortcuts:
*bold* = bold
_italic_ = italic
Step 3: “Sell” Your Post with a Compelling Teaser or Summary
Writing great content on your blog is not enough — you need to sell it too.
So instead of just posting a headline together with a link to your blog post, you should include an attention-grabbing teaser for your post or a summary of the main points in the body of your Google+ post.
In terms of length, think of a Google+ share as somewhere between a tweet and a blog post.
Here is an example from a G+ guru and veteran blogger, Danny Brown.
Notice how Danny has used a question for his headline (as discussed above) rather than the original headline for the blog post.
Use this text to position your post for your Google+ community. Tell your audience why it should matter to them — grab them by the shirt, and give them no choice but to click on your link.
Just as you can reuse your blog post headline for the Google+ headline, you can reuse the opening of your blog post in your Google+ description to act as a teaser.
However, some communities prefer your Google+ posts to be more self-contained, so you may need to add some context and a wrap-up sentence so that it acts more as a summary of the article rather than a pure teaser.
Bonus Tip: Use a clear structure to make your posts reader-friendly
Google+ allows you to format longer posts — helping you make them easier for readers to skim.
Here are some quick ideas for doing just that:
- Break up your text with paragraphing: if you leave blank lines between blocks of text, they will show as separate paragraphs.
- Use homemade “bullet points” to group points: although Google+ doesn’t support native bullets, you can create your own using characters such as “.”, “*” or “>”. Alternatively, you can write your post in a Word doc first and copy and paste the dot points over to Google+.
- Employ bold and italic styles for emphasis: do so by using the formatting shortcodes above to highlight key words and concepts.
Overall, try to create a clear structure for readers to follow — e.g., introduction, body, and conclusion.
Using these traditional formatting principles to give your post more structure will help it stand out from the crowd and increase the chances of engagement.
Step 4: Expand Your Post’s Reach Using Relevant Hashtags
Twitter has popularized the concept of hashtags, and Google+ uses them too, with a subtle twist.
Instead of categorizing content based on a specific hashtag, Google+ forms relationships between different topics — helping users make associations and discover more relevant content.
In other words, it knows that some hashtags are related to others, allowing your content to be found even if users searching for content don’t have an exact hashtag match.
Hashtags expand the reach of your post beyond your followers and beyond your communities to the entire Google+ audience. Anyone searching for a relevant hashtag has a chance to see your post.
How do you know what hashtags to use in your post?
Go to the ‘Explore’ tab of your Google+ profile.
In the “Explore a hashtag” section, type in the most relevant hashtag you can think of based on the blog post you are sharing.
The following is an example of a search for the hashtag #blogtraffic.
See how the search has generated a whole bunch of related hashtags you might never have thought to include? Each of those additional hashtags is clickable — if you see a better one than your original choice, click it to recenter your search on that term.
Once you’re happy, just take three or four of the hashtags from the list and add them to the post you’re sharing — literally just type or paste them onto the end of your post.
Getting familiar with how “Explore a hashtag” works will help you discover trends, create interesting correlations between topics, and join conversations with like-minded people on Google+.
Bonus Tip: Check popularity and relevance using existing tagged content
When you search for a hashtag as mentioned, Google+ not only returns a list of related hashtags in a box but it also shows recent posts that use the target hashtag.
Browse these posts to double-check the popularity of the hashtag — do lots of recent posts exist?
Also check that the posts are relevant to your topic — would your post be at home in this list?
Smart Bloggers are Sharing on Google+
It’s easy to think of Google+ as the annoying little brother to its older siblings, Facebook and Twitter. But Google+ is not just another social network.
It’s a publishing platform disguised as a social network.
If you’re still ignoring it, you may simply not understand its power as a tool for getting targeted blog traffic that actually increases engagement on your blog.
And while the easy option may be to follow the crowd and disregard Google+ completely, a small mindset change could allow you to easily capitalize on a largely untapped source of high-quality traffic.
You don’t need to spend a ton of time on Google+ to reap the rewards; you just need to follow a simple process like the one above.
So tell me…
Will you give Google+ another shot?