Growing Google Plus Circles For Local SEO – Part 1

By April

One of the most common questions I get asked by SEOs concerns how to use Google Plus for local SEO. While there are many ways that G+ can benefit any SEO campaign, one of the easiest and quickest to produce results is to build and grow your Circles. So what are Circles?

Google Circles give us the ability to segment our connections within Google Plus. With Circles, we can create targeted groups based on interest, profession, location, or any other criteria we choose.

This is important because, once we have developed a targeted Circle, we can share posts, updates, messages, offers, and promotions to a very specific audience; an audience that is most likely interested in what we’re sharing with them (so long as we have grouped them together properly).

So why would we do this for local SEO and how?

In Part 1 of this two-part post, we’ll talk about the why… Consider the following example:

You just landed a new SEO client. Let’s say it’s an HVAC repair contractor in Atlanta Georgia who has little to no online presence. Your job is to properly optimize the website, begin an SEO campaign, and get it to rank for the search terms that will provide leads for the business. Pretty standard stuff.

As part of your SEO campaign, you set up a Google My Business (formerly G+ Local) account properly, which ties their website to G+ and Google Maps.

The next step is to begin a content marketing campaign so you can begin building brand awareness and, let’s be honest, inbound links too. This content is generated using the client’s blog and typically consists of helpful information that ties back into what the business offer; posts such as “3 Steps to Reduce Your Cooling Bills This Summer”, “How Often Should You Change Your Air Filter?”, or “Proper Heat Pump Maintenance Will Reduce the Need for Air Conditioning Repair”.

As long as you have set up the proper content syndication channels, this content marketing strategy will begin to build links, generate some traffic to the site and, over time, improve the search rankings.

Sounds great, right? But it’s currently the Dog Days of Summer and your client wants to capitalize on all of those [poor] people who have air conditioning units that aren’t working and are searching for “air conditioning repair”, “hvac repair”, etc. The client wants results NOW (like yesterday!) and doesn’t want to wait 30 to 60 to 90 days to see the SEO results you promised to provide (sound familiar?).

So what’s an SEO to do?

Well, we all know we have other options like ranking YouTube videos, or para-sites and citations like FB pages and Yelp listings. But even those take a little bit of time to rank and some extra link building work.

And of course there is always Adwords (yuck!) But unless you figured that into your initial proposal, the client probably isn’t going to like it when you go back and ask for more money.

So that leads us to Google Plus. If done correctly, G+ can provide nearly instant results. I’ll repeat that:


If you have properly built up your client’s Circle base, you can literally hand deliver your clients posts, messages, specials, and offers right to potential clients, overnight.

You see, when you +1 or share a post or a web page with G+, you can choose which circles you want to share it with. When you select “Your Circles” it shares with everyone in every one of your circles.

When you select “Extended Circles”, it will share to the circle you chose, plus everyone in that circles’ circles. This can get a bit confusing, but I will clear this up in part 2 of this post.

When you select specific circles, the share will only post to those specific circles.

So in our hypothetical example of the HVAC Repair client, let’s say we had built an “Atlanta” circle that contained hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of G+ members that had “Atlanta” mentioned somewhere in their profile. More on HOW to do this in part 2…

So when you published the post mentioned above, titled “Proper Heat Pump Maintenance Will Reduce the Need for Air Conditioning Repair”, you chose to share that post with the “Atlanta” circle.

This INSTANTLY delivers this post to everyone in that entire circle! Each person and business in the “Atlanta” circle will now have a G+ notification about “Proper Heat Pump Maintenance Will Reduce the Need for Air Conditioning Repair”. So anyone that needs air conditioning service will have been notified of your client’s existence and the service he/she provides (and since we’re marketers we already know to include a clear call-to-action in the post, of course). Pretty powerful, huh?

I know, I know. I can hear some of you already saying “but that’ll only produce leads if the people that receive the notification actually need air conditioning service at that exact moment”. You would be correct. It is a “fleeting” notification that may very well generate a few leads but unless someone actually needed those services at that very moment, they would probably quickly dismiss the post and never think of it again.

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What if your share shows up in the search results the next time any of those people were searching? That would be incredibly useful, wouldn’t it? In fact, if you shared all of the client’s posts and had properly SEOed them, then any time anyone from within that “Atlanta” circle searched for any related HVAC term, your client’s posts would show up. Here is an example of a similar result:

Private results in Google search results

Search results example


Now this is assuming that the searcher hadn’t opted to “Hide private results”. But considering that probably about 95% of all Google users (that’s a statistic I just made up) don’t even know what “Private results” are, much less how to turn them off, you’re pretty safe to assume that they will see recommendations from people who have circled them.

Google private results option


One caveat to this, however, is that for “recommended results” to show in the searchers’ results, they will have needed to have circled the sharer back. So there is a bit of a “catch” to this. But alas, there are ways to obtain a high “circle back” ratio that we will delve into in part two of this post.

And remember earlier when I mentioned “extended circles”? This sneaky little function allows us to “back door” our messages to even more people, even if we’re not directly connected/circled.

So for now, just think about how these concepts can be used for evil good and the potential it has. And by-the-way, I will also be sharing how you can do this sort of thing without having to build each and every one of your clients’ circles; a much more efficient and smarter way to do it, where you keep ALL of the power (“I giveth and I can taketh away”).

Until part two…

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