Why Freelancers Need to Be on Google Plus

Of all the social media and networking sites out there, Google Plus might just be the most helpful, yet least understood, one of the bunch. Google’s social media platform has been called a flop and a ghost town ever since its arrival on the scene, but that’s hardly the case anymore.

Google Plus is now the second largest social media site and it’s only trailing Facebook as far as the numbers are concerned. But if you ask me, the networking, knowledge, and community involvement on Google Plus is the best available for any freelancer, and here’s why.

Your Friends Aren’t On It, And That’s a Good Thing

When it comes to social sharing and staying in contact with old high school friends, Facebook has the field beat. But where Facebook succeeds in connecting old acquaintances and stalking old love interests, it fails as a professional networking platform. On Facebook, you have very limited control over what posts you or your friends see and how you can group your friends up, and trying to be selective takes tremendous amounts of time.

To freelance successfully you need to be able to keep your work life and private life separate. This includes setting enough time aside in order to get all of your projects and commitments done, as well as keeping your personal interests and professional networking parts of the web as far apart as possible. Would you want a potential client stumbling across your under-grad pictures on Facebook, or that argument you got in with Chad Ochocinco on Twitter?

Google Plus allows for much more customization of privacy between you and your network or followers. Now, Google probably already knows everything about you – from your inseam to your grandmother’s maiden name – so I can’t vouch for how private your personal information is there, but if you don’t want to share the funny cat picture with your clients, or potential clients then you can choose to do so with a simple press of the button that puts your clients into one circle, and your fraternity brothers into another.

Twitter is Fun and All…

Don’t get me wrong, Twitter is great to stay up to date with your favorite celebrities – but it sucks when it comes to meaningful interaction. Having an ongoing conversation on Twitter is like trying to communicate with soup cans and string; only half of the message can get through and in the end you just end up shouting. While Google Plus does not replace Twitter, or Facebook for that matter, it does offer an easier way to communicate and interact with people that any other platform I’ve come across.

Connect Easily With Like Minded Individuals

Honing your skills is an ongoing process and there is no such thing as a “perfect freelancer.” To keep striving to reach that ideal you need to immerse yourself in your craft which means engaging with your peers in order to learn from those that are better than you, and to help those that need it.

Google recently released an aspect of Google Plus that promotes this kind of interaction with like-minded people: Communities allows you to create or join a group focused around a central theme where users can ask questions, discuss topics, share projects and resources, or whatever the Community allows for. Depending on how you utilize these Communities, you can interact with industry leaders and build up a larger following to showcase your work, and potentially build a source of references and resources.

Protect Your Content with Authorship and Author Rank

For freelance writers and web developers, Authorship and the soon to be released (allegedly) Author Rank system could be the two biggest factors for getting cozy with Google Plus. If you spend any time on Google at all then you’ve seen people’s faces start coming up in the search engine results page (SERP). The obvious benefit of this is that the page’s link stands out more on Google’s otherwise bland layout, but there are many more advantages to Google’s Authorship program.

Use Authorship for Ownership and to Track Performance

Seeing your mug in the SERP is great, especially if you’re a handsome devil like myself, but there are tangible benefits that create a bigger incentive to using Google Authorship. For starters, you can actually track how well your Authorship enabled posts are doing with Google’s Author Stats tool which works almost like a miniature version of their Analytics tool. You can track how often your links are making an impression in the SERP and how often they are getting clickedas well.

instantShift - Use Authorship to Track Performance

As a freelancer you are probably working on multiple sites and you could be hired to link build or generate content all over the place. Using Authorship on all of your content, not just the stuff on your personal site, not only helps you to track your work, but builds up your credentials on your subject and also allows you to have better weight within your niche. Also, once Author Rank goes live you’ll be scrambling to prove your worth.

Author Rank

Most internet savvy people know about Google’s PageRank system in which individual pages pass on influence to other pages through links and references. A site or page with a higher PageRank will pass more influence on with its links than a page with a lower PageRank, which has led to link builders (many of which are hired freelancers) to target sites with high PageRank asking for a link. Google is trying to transfer the power that websites currently have on the web and give more of it to actual people. With Author Rank, those who implement Authorship will have a similar ranking (presumably) that PageRank implements and sites that feature content from authors with a high Author Rank will get a boost, much like if they got a link from a high PageRank site.

For freelancers, this means if you can get in on the ground floor and start promoting strong content enabled with Authorship you’ll have a better chance of increasing your Author Rank whenever it goes live. A high Author Rank could lead to charging more for your content and webmasters competing to get your content on their site.

To Note: While Authorship is enabled, Author Rank is not at the time of writing this and no one is sure when it will finally go live. Anything pertaining to Author Rank is speculation at best, but the general idea behind it (giving internet users more “power”) is sound.

Hangouts Increase Communication Potential

One of first and best features of Google Plus is its Hangout feature that allows free, face to face communication with groups of people. This can help freelancers who are working together on a project collaborate and share ideas in real time. It’s also a great resource to use to speak with clients for a sales call, kick-off call, or discussion of an ongoing project where talking face to face in done easily with no need of extra programs like Skype or other internet calling services.

Getting Found Locally

The internet has made the world flatter than the time before Eratosthenes, which means that a lot of freelancers who work online forget about their local market. Not everyone is online (say what?!) and could still use your services, or people just want to meet in persona and aren’t comfortable hiring online. More often than not, they turn to Google to find someone locally who can help them out. Google Plus has the Local feature where you can claim or make a page for your business and people can rate and review you. The local listings in the Google search pages are influenced by the ratings and reviews of businesses in Google Plus Local – so if you have a strong network who gives you good feedback you could find yourself getting more local business as well.

Use Google Plus for Your Clients

Many freelancers are hired as digital marketing managers in which they set up and run social media accounts, or writers who generate content for a site. Knowing the ins and outs of Google Plus can be a major incentive for people to hire you over the competition, and here’s why.

  • Authorship: Knowing how to enable Authorship for a company’s site is a great pitch since it makes their links in the SERPs look much more appealing to searchers. This drives up the click through rate and should drive up sales or readers as well.
  • Local: Many businesses do not realize that the local listings in Google’s search are influenced by the ratings and reviews they could be getting on Google Plus. Knowing how to set up a strong presence on Google Plus that can also influence their traffic gleamed from search engines is a huge incentive.
  • Community Involvement: Creating a community based around a business or website is a great way to get feedback and discussion from people who are already passionate about the project and lets you have the target audience in another location on the web.
Integrates Naturally With Products

At this point, Google is almost synonymous with “the internet.” Their reach only continues to grow as they keep expanding their reach into laptops, smart phones, self-driving cars, YouTube, Google Plus, Google Glass, Gmail, and a host of other avenues of exploration. Google Plus, if it isn’t already, is going to be tied to all of these products and will continue to be a growing and driving social and networking platform.

Features like Google Calender, Google Docs, and Google Now all sync up effortlessly with all of Google’s products. These are great ways to stay on track with your projects, meetings, emails, and whatever else you might get confusing that could potentially fall through the cracks. Just the other day, Google Now reminded me of a meeting I forgot I had and informed me I needed to leave in seven minutes if I wanted to make it on time with the traffic. If that’s not a selling point, I don’t know what is.

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  1. Hi Thomas I understand what Google are trying to do here with Authors on Google+ but I’ve got one question about author rank on Google, I’ve asked this to numerous other people but nobody seems to have a defined answer.

    If you have a single author blog, which has a Google+ page. Should you be working on building a following on your page profile or your author profile?

    • Hey Paul, that’s a great question but I’m afraid I don’t have a defined answer for you either. At the moment, it really boils down to whether or not you want to promote your blog/brand name or if you want to establish your name within your niche.

      There is no reason you can’t do both and I’d tend to say that focusing on your author profile (if you’re using your real name) is the way to go. I’d rather be known as Thomas, the awesome writer with a great blog – rather than, the guy who writes for that awesome blog.

      Plus, if you’re worried about Author Rank (which isn’t in place yet) I would focus on your personal profile above the blogs Google+ Page for the sole reason that if Author Rank goes live soon, you’re influence will be able to spread while your blog is contained.

      Sorry I couldn’t help clear things up more – but one reason that you probably aren’t getting hard answers is that people simply do not know what Author Rank will do. Mark Traphagen has some great content out there all about Google Authorship/Rank – find him on G+ if you haven’t already and see what he’s written on the subject.

      Thanks for reading!

    • Hi Paul, my apologies I thought I responded to your comment already but it doesn’t appear to have stuck.

      I’m afraid I can’t give much of a defined answer either as it comes down to your personal preference. If you want to market yourself I would say focus on your author profile, if you’re marketing your blog I would focus on your page profile. Personally, I would say focus on your author profile since you’ll always have that connected to you, while you could end up selling the website or discontinuing it. Of course, just because you focus on your author profile more doesn’t mean you have to let the other one suffer as well.

  2. Hey Thomas,

    Your comment about how friends are not on Google+ made me smile. Precisely because no friends are on Google+, it’s then a great platform to go do whatever you have to, and not let the newsfeed be spammed away by others.

    I’ve only gotten on Google+ for the Authorship a few days ago, and I’ve yet to optimize it for anything else. Your post has driven me to spend more time understanding Google+.

    Thank you.

    • Hey Zell,

      Thanks for reading and for the comment – haha, I was pretty proud of that subtitle :)

      The great thing is that once your friends start getting on Google+ you can put them into their own circle and hide that from your regular feed, then check in whenever you feel like it. This keeps your interests, professional, and friends/fun feed all separate.

      Authorship has brought a lot of people to G+ but I think they’ll end up liking it more than they expected. I know I have.

  3. I’m curious about Paul’s question too, I actually wasn’t sure if it was worth the time and effort to create a Page for my freelance business, in addition to my profile.

    I’m also interested in doing more guest posts in the near future and wondering what needs to happen in order to ensure those get counted under my Google Authorship. Is a link to my G+ profile in the byline enough, or is there a more complicated markup involved?

    • The commenting here has been a bit messed up, so I’m sorry for ignoring your questions. For your first part, read over my responses to Paul and see if that helps.

      For guest posting you need to include a rel=author link in your guest posts – you can view an example of mine by hovering your mouse over the link that is my name in the bio box at the bottom of the article. That tag at the end (rel=author) talks to my Google Plus “contributor to” section, and all I have to do is link to my post or author profile on each site I get a post on to close the loop and claim authorship.

      So to answer your question in an easier manner… The G+ link with the rel=author tag is enough and you don’t need a more complicated markup for guest posts.

  4. Isn’t LinkedIn better for this sort of thing?
    Also, I think people spend way too much time on social networks and not enough on what they should be doing, which is designing or actually physically interacting with others.
    Further, judging by how it’s currently going, I give Google+ another year or two before they shut it down, just like so many of their other apps.

    • Jay, thanks for reading and for commenting.

      I would argue that LinkedIn is supposed to be better for this sort of thing, but that it misses the mark with a messy UI and poor search functions – plus you have to pay for it to get the full benefits from it.

      Google Plus, on the other had, offers a friendlier appearance and I think that it is easier to connect with your peers. Granted, you may not find many direct links to clients on G+, but client referrals among a strong community of freelancers is the norm and G+ is the perfect breeding ground for this kind of interaction.

      Can you expand on what you mean by “how it’s currently going?” Google Plus is the second largest social network and it is only second to Facebook. Plus (hehe), it is tied in to almost every major Google “app” such as Gmail, YouTube, Local, and more. while Google Plus may look a lot different in a year or two, I don’t think it will be shut down like Google Reader recently was.

  5. I think the Authorship will be the next criteria for some authority sites and blogs. I won’t be too surprised if something like “Author’s Rank” will be released like the ones we have as page rank and be used as a reference before some post can be considered legit or for blogging sites who accepts guest post. Then from there, a credibility rank for freelance writers will be a factor. Well, I’m not sure though, these are just my thoughts. But this is definitely a good read, thanks for sharing!

    • Jerome, thanks for reading and for your comment.

      There is a lot of speculation that Author Rank will be implemented in the foreseeable future. What this will look like and how it will rank/apply to the rest of the web and sites is yet to be determined. But I agree, having a strong Author Rank (if it becomes a reality) will be a big deal for freelance writers and getting involved in Authorship now could be a good way to help that to happen.

  6. I think that Google+ will definitely make a huge hit in the mobile arena, especially when they’re boasting of instant uploads of images or videos you took from your phone.


    • Paul – I think you’ve hit it right on the head. But now look at Google Glass rolling out – if it takes off like people are projecting it will, the mobile aspect of sharing photos/videos on Google+ will be huge.

  7. Think LinkedIn solves most of the problems addressed here- about being taken seriously, concentrating on like minded people, etc.
    Main difference though, like you mentioned, is syncing with the Google Universe.

    • David – thanks for your comment. You can see my response to Jay for more detail, but I think another big difference is Google Plus’ friendly user interface and the focus away from career. IMO, LinkedIn is messy and unwieldy when compared to Plus, and it doesn’t offer the “fun” side as much if you want to use Plus as a truer “social platform.”

  8. I’ve had a hard time with all of these social media websites. Now I’m more comfortable with twitter and facebook, and all of a sudden Google Plus comes into play. Thanks for the tips.

    • Haha it can be tough keeping track of everything, Dan. Hope I could help. Don’t get too overly concerned with social media if you don’t want to – best of luck!

  9. Freelancing communities allow you to get to know other freelancers. And Google+ is home to literally dozens of freelancing community groups such as web design, programming, or writing, etc. Google+ works with other Google tools that make it easier to collaborate on projects.

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