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How to Dominate Google+ Hangouts on Air

By | Miscellany, Social Media, Web Marketing | 11 Comments

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You’ve decided to do a Hangout on Air for yourself or your brand. Great idea! They’re a lot of fun and can help you provide value to your fans and solidify relationships within the industry. They also can make you want to pull your hair out.

oh no i've gone cross-eyed

That’s why I created this checklist with all the things that you want to do when you’re planning your Hangout on Air. This’ll take you from A to Z in chronological order, with a few side trips in between.

To get you pumped and ready to go, here’s an overview of the steps:

  1. Install G+ Hangouts plugin and make sure Hangouts are enabled
  2. Schedule the Hangouts on Air page as your brand page
  3. Connect the correct YouTube and Google+ accounts
  4. Think through the roles of your team
  5. Do a test run before the event
  6. Send panelists and participants an email about hangout structure and additional preparation
  7. Embed the Hangout on your event page or website
  8. Set up the apps in the Hangout
  9. Broadcast your Hangout on Air and have some fun!

**Everything has been updated in December 2015 to give you the most accurate, up-to-date information**

One note before we dive into the deep abyss of Hangouts on Air. Google+ has two products that are very similar: Hangouts and Hangouts on Air. Hangouts on Air is different because:

  1. You can embed the live video stream of the Hangout on Air to your YouTube channel, a G+ Event page, and even your site.
  2. You can have millions of viewers watch the Hangout on Air, but not actually participate in the Hangout.
  3. The Hangout on Air is recorded and published onto YouTube so anyone can watch later.

For the purpose of this post, assume that when I say “Hangout”, I mean “Hangout on Air.”

Let’s get started.

Way before the Hangout

If you or your Hangout participants don’t use Google+ much, you’ll need to install the G+ Hangouts plugin and test it. Also, if your account is controlled by a domain administrator, they’ll need to make sure that Hangouts is enabled for your account.

enabling Hangouts as domain administrator

Here’s where you need to enable the Hangout settings as an administrator

 

There are two ways you can create a page on G+ for the Hangout on Air to live. You could create an Event page or schedule a Hangouts on Air page. The only differences between the two options is that with the Hangouts on Air page, you can use the Q&A app (more on this later) and you don’t need to embed the video on to the Hangouts on Air page. For those reasons, scheduling a Hangout on Air page for the date of the Hangout can be an easier option for people. You can create this page ahead of time to use for promotion of your Hangout.

Whichever way you create your Hangouts page, you need to create it as your brand page, not with your personal G+ account. The Hangout will not be associated with your brand if you create it from your personal account (unless you’re hosting it as yourself in which case disregard the above advice).

Another item you want to do before you go playing around with Hangouts on Air is to connect the correct YouTube and Google+ accounts (mainly your brand accounts) if they are not already connected. You will get a notification on this if you have not done it by the time you schedule your Hangout on Air.

Here’s another warning for you: only 10 people are allowed on a G+ Hangout on Air at a time (meaning you can only have 10 individuals or screens total inside the Hangout although you can have an unlimited number of people watching it). Plan accordingly. Before you get too far into your planning, also think about the roles your team will play during the Hangout on Air:

  • Who’s moderating?
  • Who else will have control of the Hangout? More on this later.
  • Who will be your tech person (meaning someone who is knowledgeable about G+ who can work out technical difficulties you may/will have with the Hangout)? They must be on hand for the Hangout if they take on this role.
  • Who’ll be live tweeting and monitoring activity on social media?

Along with this, you may want to set a hashtag for your Hangout so that your followers can follow along on other social media outlets like Twitter. I’d recommend making your hashtag short, unique, and descriptive of the event.

During your test run of the Hangout

Yes, you must do a test run, especially if you’ve never ever done anything with Google+ or Hangouts on Air before. Hangouts is a great tool, but you will run into technical difficulties. Do not compromise on a test run to save time or effort. Google+ Hangouts on Air is not the most intuitive platform so familiarize yourself!

It’s best to do a test run about a week before your event. You should run through all the steps in this post as well as test the location, sound, and lighting of the person who is moderating the event. You can decide whether to invite your panelists to join in that particular test run or do another one just for them (depending on how comfortable with G+ Hangouts they are).

In the days leading up to your Hangout

About 3-4 days before the event, I will send participants info in an email about the structure of the Hangout, questions they can expect, and other logistics or prep they need to know about.

A few things that I make sure to cover are:

  • Tell them you will be inviting them to the Hangout 30 minutes before it starts (or goes on Air) to take care of a few last-minute logistics and make sure all is well before go-time.
  • Make sure they know they need a Google account and have the plugin installed on their computer before they can log into the Hangout.
  • Remind panelists that internet bandwidth is important so they should ask their team not to upload/download big files, back up their computers, or all watch the Hangout during the Hangout itself.
  • Ask for their cell phone numbers in case of internet issues. That way you can communicate with them easily if something goes wrong.
  • Have a logo file ready to upload for their footer during the Hangout (more on this below).
  • Let panelists know that you will be muting them during the Hangout when they are not speaking so that there are no audio issues. They can unmute themselves when they want to chime in and then mute themselves again when they’re done talking.

30 minutes before the Hangout

You made it this far and you only have a little more to go before you’re ready to rock your Hangouts on Air. To start the Hangout, you either go to your Hangouts on Air scheduled page and get started there, or you can start a Hangout on Air from scratch.

To start or schedule a Hangout on Air

  • Go to the Hangouts on Air page (it’s also in your left-hand nav under Hangouts). The new Google+ layout has Hangouts on Air in slightly different place when you go to the Hangouts page so I took a screenshot for you:where to find Hangouts on Air on new Google+ layout
  • Select “Create a Hangout on Air” on that page – don’t worry, it won’t start broadcasting until you tell it to.

Google+ hangouts on air page

  • You’ll be asked to put in the event name and details. Select ‘starts now’ (or later if you’re scheduling it).
  • You can invite your audience by typing in their emails or their names to find them on Google+.
  • Then, select Share.

how to schedule a Hangout on Air

 

  • You may get a screen that asks you to connect your YouTube and Google+ accounts. This is something to take care of when you test out the Hangout on Air.
invite guests to hangout, connect youtube

Here’s how to invite guests and connect your YouTube account to your G+ account if you haven’t already done so.

You’ll now see this:

hangouts on air screen

What you’ll see when you’ve done everything right

Now you still need to do a few things before you click that tempting Start Broadcast button at the bottom.

1. Embed the video stream on your Events page (skip this step if you scheduled a Hangout on Air instead – it will do that automatically)
2. Embed the video on your site (if you plan to do so)
3. Set up your apps
4. Do a final check with your panelists

Embed the video stream on your Event page

If you’re using an Event page to stream your Hangout on Air, you’ll need to embed the YouTube embed link there.

  • Grab the YouTube URL from the lower right corner of your Hangout screen.

how to find youtube embed and video embed links for hangout on air

  • Plug that into your Events page if you created one. Go to your Event page, then Edit Description,  Event Options,  Advanced, and then Show More Options. If you did a Hangouts on Air page, just ignore this step.

hangout on air events page edit event

You’ll see the YouTube URL on the second from the last line. Paste the URL in there. Save.events page editing

The video on the page will show a coming soon type message until you start broadcasting so you can get this going ahead of the hangout.

Embed the video on your site

To embed the video on to your site, grab the video embed link just below where you grabbed the YouTube embed link. Paste that into your page where you want your video stream to be. Update your page and save. Just like the Event page, the video will show a coming soon type message until the Hangout starts broadcasting.

Set up apps

All of these apps can be found on the left-hand navigation panel or can be added as an app from the Add an App feature.

Control Room app

If you want to give control to co-moderators or managers to mute/unmute or take someone off screen, this is the app to do that.

  • Hover over that participants name and click the dropdown button to the right of their name.
  • Choose Give Controls and they’ll now be able to do the same things that you can do in the Hangouts on Air.
  • If someone comes on to your Hangout uninvited, this is the app you’ll use to shut them down (don’t laugh – it’s happened to me before).
Cameraman app

This app controls the broadcast and how panelists come on. I follow Google+ Hangouts mastermind Max Minzer’s advice and select yes, no, yes on the three options. Like so:

google+ hangouts on air cameraman app

Hangouts Toolbox app

This app will take your Hangout on Air from amateur to pro in 1 minute flat. What it’ll do is create a footer below each panelist with their name, company, and company logo.

  • Click the add app extension in the left-hand nav. Find and add the Hangout Toolbox app.
  • It’ll ask for your permission.
  • The app will then show up on the right side.
  • On the tab that has the person in the circle to the left, enter your name and company name; upload your logo; and change the color scheme of the line in the first box to the right.
  • Where it says “Lower Third” – click to change it to “On.”
Here's what the Toolbox app looks like

Here’s what the Toolbox app looks like

  • If you want to make changes to your name or logo, make sure you turn the lower third off, make the changes, then turn it back on.
  • Your panelists will need to do this themselves, but that’s why they should come on early to the event so you can walk them through this.

If your footer shows up in reverse, all you need to do to change it is to click the rotate or mirror icon and rotate until the footer looks right.

Google+ hangouts on air toolbox app - rotate or mirror logo footer

  • Here’s an example of a footer before I rotated it: wrong layout for toolbox app footer G+ Hangouts on Air
  • This is what the footer will look like when done right:G+ Hangouts on Air Toolbox App correct footer layout
Q&A app 

This app lets your audience ask you questions before or during the Hangout. You’ll need to set this up before you start broadcasting and you’ll have to use a Hangouts on Air page rather than a simple Events page. In order to enable the Q&A app, you need to click on the Q&A icon on the Events page preview video.

How to turn on the Q and A app on G+ Hangouts on Air

It will go from greyed out to a color icon when the app is enabled. You will do the same for the Showcase and Applause apps from this page if you want to use them.

Showcase app 

With this app, you can share links to resources, content, products, and sites without disrupting your broadcast. This is helpful if your participants mention articles when they’re talking and you want to send listeners to those pieces, or if you have a call to action you want to send viewers to.

You enable the app for use the same way you enabled the Q&A app above by clicking on the icon on the preview image on your Events page before the broadcast begins. In the screenshot below, it’s the yellow icon in the middle.

How to enable the Showcase app on Google+ Hangouts on Air

To use the Showcase app:

  • Once the app is enabled, you can use the app in the Hangouts on Air window.
  • Click the yellow Showcase app icon on the left-hand navigation in the Hangouts on Air.
  • You’ll see the text field where you can add a URL. Once you add the URL, you will see the item you can show when the time is right.

How to add an item to be shared on the Showcase App

  • When you’re ready to show an item, just click the checkbox next to it and it’ll be visible to your audience. Unclick the checkbox on that item when you’re done with it.

How to show an item in Showcase app on Google+ Hangouts on Air

To learn more about the ins and outs of the Showcase app, Mark Crosling has additional tips and tricks for you.

Applause App

You can use this app to allow your viewers to express their thoughts about the Hangout via thumbs up or down icons. If you’re looking for specific feedback or questions from the audience, the Q&A app would be a better option. However, if you want to get votes or do a simple poll during your broadcast, the Applause app would work well.

Final Checks Before Going Live

There are a few final things to check before your broadcast goes on air:

  • Is everyone there? If not, copy the link to the Hangout on Air and send it in an email to them. Some people don’t get the notification from Google.
  • Does everyone’s sound and video look ok?
  • Does everyone know where the mute button is?
  • The camera should automatically go to the person who’s speaking. To override this, the moderator can select the video image at the bottom of their screen to select the person he wants to be show.

Once you’re all ready to go, click Start Broadcast and you’re on air as well as streaming the video to YouTube and your site (if you chose to). Live tweeting the Hangout can enhance the experience for all and provides easy retweets to those who are listening and following along. You’re all set to start hosting your own Hangouts on Air now!

Do you have any questions I didn’t answer? Run into an issue? Want to commiserate about the difficulty of using G+ Hangouts? Share in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter.

Earning your Google Rankings: Not So Easy Anymore

By | Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

Back in the day (like, a whole year ago) it used to be that you could invest in some good SEO for your website and, with the right keywords, and a few links, you’d be attracting some pretty awesome targeted traffic. Thanks to Google (and we mean that in a good way), this is no longer accurate. Things have changed. A lot.

If you’re one of those people who want to know how to get your website on the first page of Google, you should read on…

Blame it all on a guy named Panda

In the early months of 2011, Google launched an algorithmic update that utterly and irrevocably altered the world of search. Even the practices that ethical search engine marketing companies (ahem. that’s us, by the way) were using were no longer enough.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

A engineer-type dude at Google named Navneet Panda engineered some updates to Google’s ranking algorithms. These changes drastically changed many of the rankings websites were accustomed to holding. For some this was very, very good. For many it was…not. The whole world proceeded to freak out. Mass panic in the streets, much headless-chicken behavior, etc.

The Panda update necessitated an evolution in the way we approach SEO and internet marketing. Here’s why:

Before the Panda update all you really needed for decent SEO was a fairly simple checklist:

  • build some good content
  • integrate some keywords that you researched
  • build some links to it
  • pat yourself on the back for a job well done

Problem was that a bunch of people, even big, otherwise reputable companies like JC Penney (where grandma buys her shoes! insert sob of betrayal, here), were trying to scam the system. People were generating a ton of mediocre content and farming for links to that content. And, however inadvertently, they were being rewarded in the engines for this shifty behavior with good rankings.

Google was on to them. Panda updates went live. Stuff happened.

It was the search equivalent of heavy artillery fire turned against hordes of rampaging scavengers. Carnage.

And now…

When the smoke cleared and the new world order was established, that checklist had gotten a lot less straightforward.

Suddenly Google (and where Google goes, the others soon follow) was a lot more sophisticated about how they parsed the content on your site. The ways they evaluated your trustworthiness and authority, your relevance and appeal had grown up and gained some discernment.

Their reasons were pretty clear: a search engine’s purpose in life is to provide searchers with the best online answers to the questions they ask.

When you ask a question to a human person, how do you evaluate the information you received? You look at the source: how likely are they to know the answer? Has anyone vouched for them? Do they strike you as knowledgeable and trustworthy? You also evaluate the answer: does it make sense? Is it articulate?

The Panda update was Google’s way of applying those very human and instinctual rules to its own search results.

Of course, because of the very nature of the internet as a ginormous computer program, they still had to find ways to do this electronically. And those clever enough and not overly burdened with scruples can always find ways around electronic measures meant to emulate human response.

But the simple (and fortunately moral) truth is…Google hires the very, very clever, too. And they’ve sent a very clear message: we are watching.

Creepy, I know.

But wait, there’s more…

The new reality of search

It’s fairly safe to assume that any further changes Google makes to its code will trend in the direction of ever more human ways of evaluating your information. What this means is that, in both the long- and short-term, the most sustainable way to conduct your SEO is to meet all the standards that actual people demand of those from whom they seek knowledge.

For example:

You’ve got to build a community around your brand. You’ve got to be a brand that people know, trust, and want to share.

Links still matter, but the quality of the links have become of even more important. You’ve got to be selective about who you are building relationships with (and stop thinking about it as building links).

Design & user experience, always a factor, is now a screaming necessity. User behavior is one of the ways Google is teaching its engines how to think like people. It is weighed and measured to determine if human people linger on your site or click away quickly. (Word to the wise…most people aren’t wild about a design cluttered with ads and this is one of the first things the humanized search engines seem to have learned).

Pages with low authority (no one links to them, poor content) can drag down the authority of your whole website. There’s no such thing as a throwaway page. Every page on your website needs to be valuable and worthy of being shared (or linked to) by others.

Content must be meaningful. Funny is good, but authentic and relevant are requisite. Be professional and engaging and put your personality into your content. Get the multimedia going: photos, maybe an info-graphic or two. Video if you can manage it. You want you site to have bits that people want to tweet, share, like.

And you really need to pay attention to your metrics. Not just how many unique visits you have on your site, but also: how long do they stay? how many pages do they view? do they share or like? are they talking about you out there in the wide world?

This is why you need web marketing

So, to recap, SEO now means more than just the keywords that you target on your website. You need to think about the bigger web marketing picture (which is brilliantly illustrated in this infographic if we do say so ourselves).

So what does this all mean to you?

What this comes down to is more time spent on generating valuable content and becoming the company you’ve always wanted to be…online. Because really what we’re saying is that if you do all of this and do it right (and Mack Web is behind you every step of the way), you will experience:

  • Higher domain authority (trust us, this is important)
  • Targeted traffic
  • Desired rankings
  • An amazing and supportive online community
  • More value in your company
  • More value for your customers
  • Better relationships with your customers
  • A clear-eyed view of your company identity and goals (this will change your company, believe us. we know)

If you want more information on how Mack Web Solutions can help your company succeed with web marketing, give us a shout. We’ve got some good stuff to show you.

 

 

Human vs. Google: User Experience and SEO

By | Web Marketing | No Comments

I talk a lot about the big picture of SEO and making sure that you put your users first and Google second. After all, if the web had no users, Google would be out of a job.

There is a way to provide a good user experience and help your rankings.

Here’s how:

  1. Create a clear path
    When a user comes to your website, they need to see a clear path to what they are looking for. Designate your audience’s top three tasks when visiting the home page of your website. Provide calls to action within the design and content that direct the user to the most significant places you’re expecting they will want to go.

    As you add new content to your site, the “calls to action” on the home page can change to reflect. This way, your users (and Google) have direct access to the new stuff (helping to boost your rankings).

  2. Respect the hierarchy
    Like your customers, the search engines see your main navigation as the most important pages in your website. Those pages hold the most value, the sub pages of those sections hold the second most value, and so on.

    Make sure that you place your most important information, resources and materials towards the top of the hierarchy. This will help your users to find anything quickly and easily, and it will also help the engines to understand what pages are most valuable. If you must bury anything deep within your site, make sure it is easily accessible through your predictable navigational structure. And, if it is really important, make sure that you provide a link to it from somewhere on your home page (or the engines may not ever find it).

  3. Learn to evolve
    As the web continues to evolve, the user will continue to take precedence. Your website’s job is to provide value through content, user interaction (blogs and forums), and media (images and video). Your job is also to participate in your online community (social media websites, blogs, forums) and help your potential customers (and other websites) to learn the value that your website provides.

Do your best to satisfy your users, the humans that are visiting your website. Naturally, over time, you will watch your rankings become stronger and more stable, and you will also have happier customers.