Google, the world’s largest and most popular search engine, owns Google Plus, right? So it stands to reason that if you wanted to find information hidden within Google Plus, you could search for it, right?
To be honest, it isn’t as easy as you’d think. Google+ Search is definitely more of a “Search” than it is a “Find”, meaning you will still have to sift through numerous posts and filters to get to the exact thread you were looking for.
This might not be an issue if you are searching for a broad topic or phrase; Google+ will usually pull up the most popular (“Best Of”) posts about that topic for you, much like it does on Google.com.
However, if you are active on Google Plus and find yourself saying “where was that post from so-and-so?” more than once a day, these tips are bound to help you out:
Search for Conversations
Let’s say you and another user were having a conversation about a topic, but you can’t find the post quickly by scanning your profile (or that of the other user…in fact, maybe that conversation was on someone else’s post entirely).
Simply do a Google Plus search for both your name and the name of the other user. Google+ will return every single post that the two of you have interacted with, be it a +1, comment or a +1 on a comment.
Extended tip: use the “More” drop-down at the top of the search results to filter down the post types, especially if you know who posted it, or if it was a specific type of post (a Photo, for example).
Find shares of your blog post or website
The +1 badge allows a user to quickly share your blog post onto their Google+ profile, and these aren’t always as easy to find as when someone takes the time to craft an introduction that +mentions you or your brand (for tips on sharing and notifications on Google+, watch this video).
One way (the best way) to locate your shares is using Ripples. Another is to simply search your URL and look for the “+1’d on [domain]” in the gray text next to the person’s name.
Look up the last time you posted about something
Let’s say you wrote a post about a topic, and wanted to re-share the post to give it some more traction. Obviously, you don’t want to appear to spam people with the same post over & over again, so you want to make sure there was ample time between this share and the previous one.
Type your name (in quotes) and the title of the blog post (also in quotes) into the Google Plus search bar. Then, change “Everything” to “From You” in the More drop-down. You should see the last time you posted about it; make your judgment call about whether enough time has lapsed to re-share it.
Find a conversation within a community
This is by far the clunkiest part of Google+ search. There is an independent search bar within a community itself, however, you cannot use the “More” drop-down to filter the types of posts like I explained above. Having said that, usually the results are fewer when searching directly in a community, such that you might be able to scan the results and find what you’re looking for.
Anyway, a tip I can offer is to use the name of the community (in quotes) within your search phrase, then look for the community header in the posts returned by the query. In the example to the right, +Karen Peck and I had each commented on those two posts highlighted (even though you don’t see them…I cropped the pic for this blog post).
Time-based search on Google Plus
There is no natural way to search based on time within Google Plus. You can include the month and year in your search phrase (like “Stephan Hovnanian” March 2013); however, posts with the actual month and year written in the text (or links) will be returned.
But what if you wanted to do a “Week in Review” to summarize your shares this week?
For this, head to Google.com and use the in:plus.google.com operator along with a time-based filter as shown in the picture. This will pull up only the posts on Google+.
Now, you’ll notice that I searched my name, yet none of those posts are mine (I was +mentioned though). If you were putting together a list of people who interacted with your posts this past week, you can stop here. However, if you were putting together a list of articles that you shared, this isn’t going to work, is it? So, simply change the search operator to in:plus.google.com/u/0/105076725141939280120 and this will restrict the results to just the posts that you shared. Those numbers in red are my profile ID, you’ll want to change them to your own. You can get your ID from your Profile page or copying the link from hovering over your name in posts & comments (where your hovercard pops up). Then paste it somewhere & remove everything but the string of numbers.
Competitor monitoring on Google Plus
Businesses have a huge opportunity to benefit from Google Plus search. They can monitor their competitors’ page activity by adding them to their circles, and also joining communities that they have created.
To look up a competitor, simply type the competitor’s name into the search box. Change “Everything” to “People and Pages” under the “More” option. Also note that any personal profiles who list the company as their employer will also appear under “People and Pages”, so you can circle them as well. Sometimes profiles are more active than pages, especially for smaller companies.
TIP: Look for the verified seal (for larger companies) and/or a checkmark next to the Page’s website address on their About tab; these indicate that the page is actually owned by the company, and not a fan page or knockoff.
To look at the communities the page may have created, simply change the drop down to “Communities” and you will see any communities that have the competitor’s brand name in them. Check out the number of members, though; sometimes these can be unofficial and a low member count is usually a good signal.
Brand listening on Google Plus
Not all users will +mention (tag) a brand if they’re going to rant about them. Most will, and if they do, your brand page will get a notification. But if they don’t, like I show in the example graphic from +Jesse Wojdylo about Dreamhost, you have no way of knowing someone is truly fed up with you. This is bad. This is really, really bad.
So, simply create a Saved Search for your brand name and a couple of variations of it, and frequently monitor it. To access a Saved Search, click the “More” button atop your Home Feed and scroll down to the saved searches (they’re after your list of circles).
In May, 2013, Google started to auto-append posts with hashtags. Knowing what hashtags your competitors post about will give you another method to track their activity across Google Plus. A saved search that includes a company name and a hashtag would be a very powerful way to track both direct posts by competitors on that topic, as well as shares of those posts by other users on Google+.
To find the hashtags that Google Plus adds to posts, simply hover over the right side of the post. The hashtags with blue backgrounds/tabs are auto-added, the gray ones are added by the user within the post itself. For more on how the hashtags are incorporated into the Google Plus “Cards” check out the help article here.
HASHTAG BONUS TIP: You can add personal hashtags to your own posts for easier reference later on (do a search for the hashtag, switch the drop-down to “From you”). You can also add these hashtags to other posts in the comments. There’s a trick to find them, though. You have to remove the # symbol from the search to find the hashtag instances in comments.
For example, I like to add #markasresolved to help-related posts on Google+ when the question has been answered. If I do a search for #markasresolved, the only posts that return will be the ones that have that hashtag in the body of the post, not the comments. So, all I need to do is search markasresolved and Google+ will return all the posts where I added that as a comment.
More tips to make the most of searching within Google Plus
- Use quotes for exact phrase matching, especially with names.
- Take advantage of the other search tips from the Google and Google+ help docs (below).
- Save the search if you’re repeating yourself, you’ll find the saved search under the “More” tab from your home stream
- Consider enabling the Favorite Posts for Google+ extension on Chrome.
- Don’t forget to filter down from “Everything” to other post types like “Photos” and even “Hangouts”
- Use regular Google search in conjunction with in:plus.google.com to find Google+ posts
Bonus tip: Find mentions of You (or your brand, or a competitor)
This one is from +Ronnie Bincer (original post here): to find mentions of your profile, search your name (in quotes) followed by -inurl:[id]. The negative operator (minus sign) will skip posts written by you, or any profile ID you place in the search box. There’s more on negative operators and other advanced search techniques in the Search operators on Google link below.
Example: “Stephan Hovnanian” -inurl:105076725141939280120
For competitor and brand monitoring, this could help you refine your Saved Search results. For personal use, this is a huge help to keep track of mentions across Google+…because if you’re as popular as Ronnie, those red notifications could definitely get overwhelming.