Beginners guide to Google+ – Introduction to Interface & Features

a beginners guide to using google plus - introducing the features and interfaceIt’s fair to say that Google+ didn’t receive a warm welcome when it arrived back in 2011. Two years later and more and more people are realising the benefits of being on Google’s own social networking site. Google Plus is now the second largest social media site in the world with about 235 million active users. Create a strong presence on Google+, share and create great content and you’ll notice a difference in your traffic. Here’s some tips about getting started and how to navigate your way around the interface.

Getting Started

Creating an Account
To have a Google+ account, you must have a Google account. Many of us do these days (for Blogger, Youtube, Gmail etc) so decide if you want Google+ to be associated with that account or not. Go to plus.google.com and create an account, fill in your details, add your profile picture (250×250 pixels). Click Continue to Google+ where you will be guided through filling out more details and asked if you want to follow some friends and interesting profiles. Once you get through this, you will land on the Google+ Stream.

Your Profile
Just like Facebook, your Google Plus Profile shows your information and content. At the top you’ll see your profile image and cover header, your name and tagline, the number of followers you have and your profile views. Profile views show how many times your content has been seen by other people. This includes photos, posts and profile page. It’s an approximate value so it’s not completely accurate but will give you a rough idea of how your content is viewed. Underneath this you’ll see the navigation for your about page, posts page, photos, youtube and other content. Below this you’ll see your content area, a space for updates and an area that shows who you follow and who follows you.

Google Plus Profile and View Count

Tips for your Profile
Use your real name or the name you use across your blog and social media sites. If you want to add your blog name, add it as a nickname by hovering over your name and clicking Edit > More Options. Click Display my Name and choose what name you want to appear. Include a good picture, Google want to trust you and with Face Recognition coming into play for Google Authorship (discussed below) they need a good headshot. Include a short, descriptive Tagline and fill in relevant information. Design a nice cover photo / header that shows off your branding. Need help creating a cover header for Google Plus? Canva makes it really simple, see the guide here.

Get a custom URL
Google just announced this new feature which has been requested over and over. Learn how to get your own custom URL for your Google+ profile and page here.

Using Google Plus

Google+ Stream
This is your timeline, it shows updates from those you follow as well as showing things that are trending, popular users, etc. Use the Home tab on the left to navigate around Google+ such as your profile, photos, pages, communities, settings etc. Hangout on the right lets you send messages and have video calls.

google-plus-stream

Following people and adding them to circles
You can follow people to see their activity on your stream. Add them to a “circle” such as Family or Friends, create a new circle such as School or Work to keep your contacts organised. Adding people to your circles is quite like Lists on Twitter or Facebook, it groups them together allowing you to filter content or share something to a particular group of people.

Interacting with Posts on your Stream
You can interact multiple ways with posts – +1 is similar to Facebooks “like” feature, share the post or comment on it, clicking the arrowing in the corner of the post allows you to view activity, embed the post to your blog or elsewhere, mute the post and lots more.

Posting to Google+
When you post on Google+, you can choose who see’s it – the public, those in a certain circle, a community, a page or just one particular person. You can also tag users and brands in your posts using +username, tagged users will get notified. Using circles means you can share content to the relevant people or even better target the people you want to see your content.

google-plus-post

Communities
Similar to Facebook Groups, communities are usually topic specific and are full of conversation and discussions. There are so many communities to choose from and a lot of ones that are to do with Blogging. Find one you like and request to join the community. You can post to the community page directly or you can do so on the stream by selecting the community in your post just like you would with circles.

google-plus-community-post

Hangouts
The Hangouts feature is similar to Facebook Chat, Skype or any other recorded or live chat. There are three types of Hangouts available for free – Text Chat (Gchat replacement) or Video Chats such as Private Hangout and Hangouts on Air. Private Chats will not be publicly viewable, only those you invite can join. Hangouts on Air are public and can be viewed by all, they are also archived as YouTube videos to be viewed later. In order to start a Hangout on Air, your account must be associated with a YouTube account. This is a great alternative to streams such as YouNow (used to be BlogTV) and Ustream. Remember your headphones to avoid feedback problems. Google also have a Hangouts App which allows you to interact using text or video chats just like you would on your desktop.

Events
Similar to Facebook again, Events are used to promote any upcoming events such as a Hangout, party, blogger meet up, etc. Events can be integrated to Google Calendar. You can set the event to be seen publicly or a select group circle.

What’s Hot
What’s Hot shows posts, topics and hashtags that are currently trending on Google+, it also shows popular Communities which may be of interest to you. Using Hashtags in your posts can improve your contents discoverability but don’t go overboard!

Getting the most out of Google Plus as a Blogger

Google Authorship
There are so many benefits to being on Google+ which I hope to cover in a future post but one thing that you can get started with right now is Google Authorship. Basically, Google Authorship tells the “internet” that you have written that piece of content. Bloggers create new content on a regular basis and this is something Search Engines like, they place this higher on the Search Engine Results pages. Read more about Google Authorship below and learn how to set it up.

What is Google Authorship & how to set it up on WordPress
Set up Google Authorship on Blogger

UPDATE: Google Authorship is dropped, read more here.

Benefits to Google Plus for Bloggers
Find out the benefits of being on Google Plus as a blogger in this post. I’ll be covering more tips on getting the most out of Google Plus in the future.

Related Posts

Why you should stop hating Google Plus as a Blogger.
Achieving SEO Success in 2013/2014
Increase Traffic with these SEO Tips!
Choosing a Blogging Platform (WordPress vs Self Hosted vs Blogger vs Other)
Google Updates – Blogger, YouTube, Google Analytics
beginners guide to google analytics for bloggers

Connect with me on Google+ at +Ellie M or +xomisse.

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