Google+ is the social media site that was designed for photographers. It's the best place for photographers to interact with other photographers to learn about and be inspired by photography. But don't think you are going to find your friends and family there. It's not Facebook.
Aside from sheer inspiration, it makes sense to hang out on Google+ if you are a photo educator since that's where your potential customers are. But otherwise it's a bit of a ghost town … so far.
However, even if your target audience is not photographers, a presence on Google+ can still go a long way to help your business.
How? Search engine results.
But before we get to that, let's look at how Google+ works.
First, a bit about the lingo. Google+ works with “circles.” On Facebook you “like” on twitter you “follow” and on Google+ you “circle.” Just like a circle of friends, your circles can have multiple people in them.
You can circle anyone you want and you will receive all the content they post publicly. Similarly anyone who circles you will receive your public content. Circles can be used as a filter so you don't have to look at your entire feed at one time. You can choose just to look at posts from people in one specific circle at a time.
People also share their circles so you can add a whole group of people at once.
When it comes to publishing your content, you can choose to post content publicly or only to specific circles. If you have two distinct interest areas, like photography and cooking, you might divide the people you follow into separate circles. Not only can you view posts from your cooking circle separately from your photography circle, but you can also publish your own content to only one of the circles so your photography friends don't receive all your new recipes.
You can have circles for a particular type of photography like High Dynamic Range (HDR). That gives you the ability to share your HDR images only with photographers who you know are interested in HDR so you don't get inundated with comments from people who hate HDR. You could have a circle of people who you want to ask to critique your work – you wouldn't ask the general public, only photographers you admire and trust. Or you could have a circle for past customers and send something specific only to them. It's very powerful.
Google+ is not like other social networks where you might engage with your family and friends. Rather it is for keeping in touch with others that have similar passions. Hence the reason photographers go there share images, inspiration and keep up with trends in photography.
But what if you are a portrait or wedding photographer and don't have time to hang around on Google+ just to be inspired? Well, there are other more important benefits to having a presence on Google+ and that gets us back to search engine results. Google is the biggest search engine in the world and if there's any way you could increase your ranking on Google, especially for your target audience, that would have a big impact on your business.
Well there is a way and here's how it works.
Google search is no longer a general search that relies on keywords. Now it's personal. When I search for something I get entirely different results on Google than if you search for the same thing because Google knows me. It's a bit scary isn't it? Google knows what kinds of content I like because I +1 things and it knows who I trust because of who I put in my circles. Not only that but if I trust you and you trust a third person there is a link in Google's mind between me and that third person. It's not just one level deep. Everyone's search results are greatly affected by their connections, interactions and activity on Google+.
Have you noticed this on the Google search page?
That is a tiny little switch that totally changes your search results. By default the “personal” search results are on so most people get search results that are customized to them (even if they don't know this feature exists).
If I search for “Big Bend National Park pictures” guess what is on the first page of my search results? In addition to the big sites like trip advisor and National Geographic, the other results are articles posted by people I have in my circles! In fact, someone in my circles got a better ranking than National Geographic! Why? Because Google knows that I like and trust their content because I put that person in my circles. It is delivering search results specifically tailored to me.
When I do an image search, anyone who is in my circles who has posted images on my subject pops up first! Check out my search results on images of Yosemite National Park. First a couple of my own images followed by images from people I have circled.
So the more people who have circled me on Google+ the more people will see my content on the first page of their search results if they search for anything I have posted.
That is huge!!
Just imagine the potential. Let's say you connect with someone who is involved in a community event. Perhaps there is a marathon in your home town and you circle the person in charge of the event. Obviously other people will circle the person in charge of the event too. Sometimes that person will share their circle of people who are participating and everyone adds the shared circle to their own circles. Suddenly you have hundreds or even thousands of people in your local community that have circled you for one reason or another.
The interesting thing here is that now Google knows there is a connection between you and those other people. Guess what is going to happen when those other people decide to do a google search for a photographer in your area? You are going to be at the top of their list! Or if they search for a photograph of the event or a photograph of the city or anything at all that you have have photographed you will come to the top of their list because Google thinks they trust your content.
So what I'm saying here is that the benefits Google+ are not necessarily in the social network itself. It benefits you because you pop to the top of google search results when anyone who has circled you does a search for anything related to you.
In addition to appearing on the first page of topic based search results, if you have a Google+ profile you will get better promotion on search results pages when someone searches for your name. Notice how the search results below display information and my photo from my Google+ profile.
Another way to increase your site's visibility in Google search results is to claim authorship of your site on Google. By doing this your avatar will display in search results which immediately draws the eye and will increase your click through rate. It also displays a link to more content created by you.
Notice in the screenshot above how my avatar displays next to my content at the bottom of the screenshot. That avatar even shows up while I'm typing my search terms. I only typed “anne mc” before Google knew what I was going to search for.
To claim your authorship, follow the instructions on Google's site.
It's even easier to claim authorship if you use WordPress for your blog. Just add your website under the “contributor to” section of your Google+ profile and then use a WordPress plugin like “Google Author Link” which will create all the necessary markup in your blog posts for you.
So if you haven't set up a Google+ profile yet, get started now!
In my next post I will share some ideas on how you can be popular on Google+ and get lots of people to add you to their circles.
Today's guest post comes from Anne McKinnell, a photographer, writer and nomad. She lives in an RV and travels around North America photographing beautiful places and writing about travel, photography, and how changing your life is not as scary as it seems. You can read about her adventures on her blog and be sure to check out her free photography eBooks. Find Anne on Google+