Compared to the thriving social centers of Facebook and Twitter, Google+ may seem like a bit of a ghost town. The number of registered users has increased dramatically over the last year, but the percentage of active users has dropped. By forcing YouTube and Gmail users to sign up automatically, Google+ has essentially inflated its population without an equivalent increase in actual use.

You might think, then, that Google+ pays far fewer dividends than other social media sites with more active users. And this is true if you consider only social sharing and exposure. But Google+ offers a few incredible features that far outweigh its relative lack of active users. By integrating seamlessly with Google’s own search results, a Google+ page can allow you to improve your SEO in ways that you could only dream of with Facebook or Twitter.

If you haven’t made a Google+ page for your storage facility yet, do so. Then proceed to post in a manner that you might use for other social media sites. When you’ve established a functioning Google+ presence, take the extra step and optimize your own Google search engine results by taking advantage of the following features.

Google+ and PageRank

Perhaps the biggest benefit Google+ offers is its enormous potential to increase your PageRank. There are three ways it does this:

  1. +1s create links to your Google+ posts and any pages you embed in your Google+ posts.
  2. Google+ posts appear in Google’s search engine results.
  3. Google indexes Google+ posts faster than most other sites.

Number one is by far the most important. Link building is a huge part of SEO. When other sites link back to your site, you move up in search results. Google+ allows you to generate links in a way that other social media sites don’t. Let’s look at an example to get a better idea of this.

This post from Spring Hill Self Storage has eight +1s. That means eight people have shared Spring Hill Self Storage’s post, resulting in eight new links back to the original post. More importantly, there are eight new links to the embedded link that appears at the bottom of the post. Not only has their Google+ profile bumped up in the search engine rankings, but now their actual website has too!

It’s important that you embed the link in the post. That doesn’t just mean pasting it into the body of the text – that won’t get you anywhere. When you go to write a Google+ post, look for the “Link” button just below the main content box:

How to add a link in Google+

When you click it, you’ll see a new box appear. This is where you should put your link:

How to add a link to Google+ continued

This will result in an attached link that appears at the bottom of the post. If you look back at the example from Spring Hill Self Storage, you’ll see another URL inside the body of the text. This one is not indexed by Google and does not receive any bump in PageRank when someone shares it.

You can see what a powerful tool the +1 can be. When you add in numbers two and three on that list, the benefits only multiply. By taking the time to cultivate a regular following on Google+, you can see benefits far outside the reach of other social media sites.

Google Authorship

Google Authorship is a great tool that allows you to link your personal Google+ profile to web pages, articles, and blog posts that you’ve written. Note that this is separate from your storage facility’s Google+ page. Google Authorship only works for personal accounts.

You will, of course, need a blog or other site content that you update regularly. Don’t try to attach authorship to generic pages, e.g. your website’s “Contact Us” page. Google will be very angry with you if you try this. Instead, try to write useful, unique content that your target demographics find interesting. When you’ve started doing this, go to the Google Authorship page to set up your profile.

Once complete, you’ll see a picture next to your posts in search engine results, like fellow StorageAhead writer Amy Daniels:

Google Authorship in search results

If you know anything about how people use the web, you know they love pictures. As a result, the eye is naturally drawn to search engine results with an Authorship picture attached, and the click-through-rate increases, meaning more traffic for your website. Need proof? SEO and social media specialist Justin Briggs put together a study to examine the impact of Google Authorship on click-through rates. Here’s an eye-tracking chart from the study:

Eye tracking study

You can see how the participants look much further down than they ordinarily would without any Google Authorship pictures. Even as the fourth or fifth result, the one with the picture receives more attention than the coveted top position – the spot which conventional wisdom tells us should receive the most attention.

Google Local Carousel

The Local Carousel was introduced last year. You might have seen the large black bar that lists local business results horizontally as opposed to the traditional vertical ranking. That bar is the Carousel.

Google Local Carousel

Since it’s recently been rolled out to storage facilities, it’s a good idea to set up your local business listings and optimize your Google+ profile for local search, especially for the Carousel.

Update: Local Carousel has been updated to include more businesses than the ones mentioned above, including self storage facilities, which makes it more important than ever to leverage your Google+ profile for better local search results. Check out the screenshot below to see what it looks like:

Google Local Carousel

The Search Engine Journal did a study and found that the number of +1s on a business’s Google+ profile correlated more strongly with that business’s location on the Carousel than any other metric they looked at.

Google Carousel study

Since we learned earlier that more +1s create more links, it’s not hard to see why that’s the case. But it also shows that a strong Google+ profile can potentially have a bigger impact on your business’s local search ranking than just about anything else.

Reviews, however, are not far behind.

Barnacle Reviews

SEO specialist David Mihm has written at length about what he calls barnacle reviews. The process is extremely simple: You log into your business’s Google+ page, find a local business you’ve used or worked with, and leave a review – an honest, useful review. That’s it.

By leaving a review, your name will forever be attached to that business’s Google profile. If it’s a particularly good review, it might rank consistently near the top of their reviews page. As a bonus, they might see your review and decide to reciprocate. The outcome is more exposure all around.

Finding a business should not be too difficult. Think of all the different kinds of companies you might work with:

• Movers and truck rental agencies

• Third-party cleaning, maintenance, and pest control

• Security management

• Software providers

• Dumpster pick-up

• Local colleges and universities

As a business owner, you likely already have a whole host of business associates and acquaintances. The barnacle review is simply a tactic that allows you to use your existing network to further generate exposure both for you and for the business you’re reviewing.

While the end goal for you is obviously making yourself more visible, you can’t overlook the importance of giving a fair and relevant review. Do not spam. Let me write that again: Do not spam! Spamming will only hurt you and alienate the business you reviewed.

I hope these tips help you make the most of your Google+ profile. While it’s useful and necessary to post on Google+ the same way you would Facebook or Twitter, it’s also incredibly fruitful to take advantage of its other capabilities. Because it’s Google’s own social media site, Google+ is a great opportunity to improve your SEO in a number of ways, so don’t ignore it.

While you’re there, follow StorageAhead on Google+ and let us know what you thought of this post. We might just follow you back!