If you’ve ignored Google+ for this long or consider it anything other than a legitimate inbound marketing channel, your opinion is about to change. The age of Google+ Interactive Posts was quietly ushered in months ago, with little fanfare. In fact, barely anyone seems to have noticed.
So allow me to introduce you to Google+ Interactive Posts!
Interactive Posts, meet Marketers.
Marketers, meet Interactive posts.
Before I leave you two to get to know each other better, let me tell you a bit about Google+ Interactive Posts, their background, and why they’re so dang awesome.
What Google+ Interactive Posts Are All About
Interactive posts on plus allow you to enhance your existing sharing by embedding a clickable Call to Action in your post. They’re pretty easy to set up and I hope that after this tutorial, you’ll be able to get running with them right away.
Here’s Why Google+ Interactive Posts Rock My Socks
I’ve praised the visual markup options on Google+ for a long time (the ability to use bold and italics to compose a remarkable post), but the new interactive post is exponentially more impressive. If you haven’t seen an interactive post on Google+ yet, they look like this:
Yep. That’s a CTA embedded directly in a Google+ post! When you set up Google+ interactive posts, you can create a custom share button that allows you to share a page to Google+ and leverage a custom CTA that links to the same or different URL. Yeah, you can share a blog post about an event announcement and link off-site to eventbrite.com so people can sign up!
You can even deep link to a specific location within a mobile app, a la Twitter’s recent Twitter Card enhancement. Implementation gets a bit trickier for mobile apps, but what else is new?
About CTAs for Interactive Posts
When you configure an interactive post for Google+, you get to set the CTA. Right up front, you can only choose from a limited (yet extensive) list of Call to Action “labels”. Now, what could be seen as a drawback initially is, in my opinion, actually a huge benefit for scalability and reach. The reason that you can’t write your own CTA text is that Google wants to be able to translate that CTA into the native language of every Google+ user who views it. If you’re involved in international SEO (or any aspect of international digital marketing for that matter), this is a godsend. You also never have to worry about how that button renders because Google+ takes care of QAing it for you. As someone who did time at MySpace towards the end, I can tell you that the over-customization of social networks is seldom a good thing for user experience.
Getting back to the point, there are a ton of “label” options to chose from. There’s a full list over at Google, but here are few cool ones:
- ADD_TO_CART – Select this label when you want to link to a dynamic URL that adds the product you’re talking about to the user’s cart on your site.
- ADD_TO_CALENDAR – Use this if you’re talking about an event and you’re linking to a calendar invite file like a .ics.
- ANSWER – You can link out to Quora questions! Sweet!
- ATTACK or DEFEND – Google recommends using this for game apps, but I just want to use it for EVERYTHING!
- BOOKMARK – Click to bookmark a webpage.
- COMMENT or DISCUSS – If you’re sharing a blog post, you can include a CTA that links directly to the comments section.
- COMPARE – Link to a page that compares to two different products.
- CONTRIBUTE or GIVE or HELP- Great for taking people to a donation form.
- DOWNLOAD – Perfect for whitepapers and such.
- INSTALL – If you want to direct mobile users to download your app.
- LEARN or LEARN_MORE or READ or READ_MORE – Pretty decent generic option for a blog post or tutorial or case study.
- PIN_IT – Google is, apparently, down with Pinterest in a big way. Pin it up!
- RATE – Direct users to rate a product, movie, experience.
- REGISTER or RSVP or SIGN_UP – Send user to a page where they can register for an event.
- SUBSCRIBE – Use Google+ to grow your email subscribers. Nice.
Select Use Cases
So what exactly can you DO with Google+’s new interactive posts? Let’s explore options using some examples.
Event/webinar Information and Signup
Scholarship announcement and application
Interview with a designer and buy now
SaaS Overview page and Get a Quote (Lead Capture)
Political Issue and Take Action
There’s a lot you can do with the new Interactive Posts and, at the risk of sounding cliché, you’re only limited by your imagination.
How To Use Google+ Interactive Posts
Itching to get this set up? While there aren’t many easy options for dynamic, site-wide implementation as of yet, I put together a pretty nifty tool that you can use to get the full benefit of this awesome new opportunity sooner rather than later. The biggest benefit of Interactive Posts is their customizability and I’d imagine most site-wide implementations would either need to be pretty rigid or 100% customized on a page-by-page basis. The solution I worked on involves using a central Interactive Posts Command Center that your team can use to create and push out Google+ Interactive Posts on the fly.
This Command Center is free to download and completely open source. Experiment with it and let me know what you think.
Download the Command Center and upload it to your website (or your client’s site if that’s who you’re using it for). I’d look into setting up some password protection on that directory since anyone who knows the URL can compose and push posts from it.
Open command-center.php in a text editor and enter your Google+ API Client ID at the top of the file and then save it. To grab your API Client ID, or set one up if you don’t have one, head over to the Google APIs Console. Your client ID is just the number listed on the first line under “Client ID for Web Applications”.
Note that the “Product Name” gets displayed when you share Google+ Interactive Posts, so make sure it aligns with the name of your website.
(UPDATE) Step Two: Part II
You’ll also need to enable Google+ API as a “service” while you’re in the Google APIs Console. When you’re in the console, click on “Services” on the left-hand side menu, then scroll down to Google+ API and turn it on. It may take a few minutes to kick in.
Fire it up in a web browser by going to www.yoursite.com/optional-directory/command-center.php or similar.
You have all the options to play with when you go to compose a post.
- Content URL: The primary page that you want to point to. This is the link you’d use for a standard Google+ post. The meta description and on-page images from this page are what get pulled in for the standard Google+ rich snippet.
- Prefill Text: This is the message that will be pre-composed when you hit “Share”. Not really 100% necessary since you’ll be managing this on your own, but you could embed the output into your own pages and leverage that prefill text.
- Call to Action Label: The CTA label that you pick from the list of Google’s available options.
- Call to Action URL: The page that the CTA directs visitors to. Can be a static or dynamic URL.
- Button Text: Optionally, change the text that shows up on the actual button.
Note that some variables aren’t user-facing, notably “data-cookiepolicy” and “data-clientid”, which you won’t need to change unless you’re customizing this. Also, I’ve disabled the fields for Mobile App deep linking, since this is a web-based tool and, if you’re setting up Interactive Posts for a mobile app, you probably know this stuff better than I do.
Once you understand the above, you can go ahead and start pushing out Interactive Posts from your new Command Center!
Step Four (Optional)
You can also hit the checkbox at the end of the page to grab the embed code for whatever Interactive Post you come up with. You can then follow the simple instructions to drop that into the HTML of your site wherever you want.
More Interaction, Higher Engagement, Better ROI
I think Google+ Interactive Posts are an amazing opportunity to take what you’re doing on Google+ to the next level. The new CTAs allow you to not only share your content to a growing audience, but also direct users on what to do next. However, don’t starting thinking putting a CTA in everything you share on Google+ is some magic formula that leads directly to higher user engagement; you still need to work hard at building an audience, establishing trust and authority, and giving your users a reason to engage. Once you do that, Google+ Interactive Posts dramatically streamline the process of connecting interested users to their end destination.
I’m sure we can expect plugins for easy WordPress integration soon enough, but you should now have everything you need to hit the ground running. As with all the tools that Google gives marketers (especially SEOs), use it for Good and not Evil. Remember, Google knows who you are (you just registered to get a Google API Client ID) so they can easily take away your privileges if you’re spamming Google+ non-stop with your affiliate links and not being a, you know, real company/person. But what else is new? #AmIRite?
Let me know in the comments if this worked out for you, how you’ve been using it, and whether or not you have any feedback on the Command Center tool.
Good luck and happy optimizing!