Your Google Plus profile is an incredibly important part of your footprint across Google Plus. Parts of it appear in your hovercard as you travel across Google Plus with comments, posts and +1’s. The different sections of your About page give users information about who you are, and why they should follow you. And your cover image acts like a digital billboard to showcase you or your business.
But your profile extends beyond just your discoverability within Google Plus. Your hovercard, for example, appears within Gmail, Drive, and even websites that have Google Sign-in enabled. And your cover photo is indexed in Google Image Search with a link to your profile, which means there are ways to add some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to it. We’re going to talk about that more below…
SEO for your Google Plus Cover
Every time you share an image on Google Plus (Public shares), the post is indexed by Google. The fact that the post is a “Photo” type of post means it will be indexed as an image, and appear in Image search results.
So, applying basic SEO principles to your cover image will work just like they do on blog posts and websites. You can do this in three easy steps:
First, use keywords in your cover image’s filename (example: google-plus-cover-template.jpg).
Second, when you upload the cover photo itself, give your cover photo a description/caption, and be sure to include keywords as well as a link to your website. When someone clicks onto your cover photo from your profile, this is what they will see. Here’s a video on how to do this:
Third, share the image as a photo post on Google Plus. This creates a second instance of your cover photo; the first one is linked to your Google+ Profile (see above). By creating a photo post of your cover photo, you add another instance of the cover to the index, and have the ability to add more keywords and a URL to your website. More importantly, if this image is clicked on from the Image search results in Google, the visitor will go to your post, not your profile, where they then have no idea what to do next.
More ideas to boost the discoverability of your Google Plus Cover
Use your cover photo as a photo post when you’re promoting your blog or other branded content. Photo posts can be eye-catching, shareable and spark engagement, just like on any social network. The link you add in your post won’t pass PageRank, however, in this case your goal is to add another “link” to your cover photo. And like I said above, photo posts will link to your post, not your Google Plus profile.
Use your cover photo as a marketing and promotional tool: change it up periodically, which will automatically update your hovercard. Then share your cover image as a Photo post, since there is no activity feed like on other social networks to say “So-and-so changed their cover image”. I have a client who does this all the time on Facebook…he runs a local bar, with a huge mural of legendary singers on one wall. He’ll update his cover every day as a photo post, using a part of the mural, and tell everybody who the local band is for that night.
Auto Awesome and Google Plus Covers
One really unique way to showcase your brand is by creating an Auto Awesome cover photo. Auto Awesome is a feature that Google introduced in May, 2013, that will automatically animate a set of images (5 minimum) uploaded to Google Plus at the same time.
You can see lots of examples, and get help with the feature, in the autoawesome Google+ Community.
Once you have an image set that has been Auto Awesome’d, simply make it your cover photo like you would any other photo. The image will be linked to your Google+ profile.
This example from Michlin Metals adds some real visual appeal to their hovercard and their profile. (click the photo to see the animated version on Google+).
But more importantly, it is a series of 9 images (8 original, plus 1 animated) that can each be optimized for their key search phrases.
An Auto Awesome image represents a huge opportunity for businesses and their discoverability efforts in Image search.
How much “SEO Juice” does a Google+ Cover give you?
The answer to this question is the same as any other Google+ post. What’s most important to realize is that your cover is a part of your profile, and therefore will only ever link to your profile. Sharing the cover as an image is akin to sharing any other image on Google Plus…the post itself is indexed.
Also, in researching how quickly images from Google Plus are indexed in search, I’ve found the answer to vary greatly, from a couple of days to 2-4 weeks. By contrast, blog post images seem to appear much more quickly. So look at this strategy as something more long-term than short-term.
Lastly, accept that these techniques provide a very similar benefit to posting content about your business on any other social network…the primary difference being that these posts are on a network that is owned by the same company that ‘owns’ Search on the Internet.