Change is the only constant in online marketing, and this doesn’t seem to get any truer than when it comes to Google+. Only last month, the company announced that they were cutting resources in their Google+ division, repositioning themselves to no longer be in competition with Facebook and Twitter. But it’s not time to wipe your hands of Google+ properties. Now may be more important than ever for your company to be active with the search giant. The small business benefits of Google+ can’t be denied.
As with all things on the web, a set-it-and-forget-it attitude won’t help you or your business. Facebook strategies change; Twitter tactics need to evolve; Pinterest introduces new tools. The evolution of Google+ seems to be changing by the moment, but the businesses who keep up will see the benefits.
What is Google +?
In mid-2011, Google+ was launched invitation only, similar to Gmail in its initial days. The outlet was introduced as an authorship platform that went beyond a social network. It was a place to organize connections into “circles” to make the most out of sharing with targeted audiences and a tool to integrate a user’s experience across multiple Google properties (YouTube, Maps, Gmail, Google Play, Chrome, etc). Many saw it as a competitor of Facebook. Many saw it as Google’s attempt to recover from their past social media attempts like Buzz (launched 2010, retired 2011) and Google Friend Connect (launched 2008, retired 2012). These are aspects of the total package, but Google+ is so much more.
Google+ Business Pages can take various forms, each with their own subtleties and advantages. At present, options include “Product or Brand”; “Company, Institution or Organization”; “Local Business or Place”; “Arts, Entertainment or Sports”; and “Other.” Adding to the complexity, an argument is often made that some businesses should have two different categories of pages—for example, a “Local Business” page and a “Company” page to connect with audiences both within the neighborhood and on a larger national scale. Those decisions aside, let’s turn to the specifics of Google+ Local.
Google Places Phasing Out, Google+ Local Phasing In
When Google Places was launched, a business could literally put themselves on the map—as in Google Maps. A Google Places listing included a business address, hours, images, and reviews, but this wasn’t a place for social networking. However, in 2014, users can no longer sign-up for or claim a Places page. Businesses are being directed to Google+ Local pages as the site for this information.
Benefits of Google+ Local:
- Google has been displaying search results for local queries above all other results, thus making them even more prominent than paid ads. Google+ Local makes sure your business is in the rankings.
- Google reviews available on on Google+ Local will further help you rank higher in Google’s search results. The more recent, the better.
- Local Insights share analytics on how users interact with your business on Google from search query language to page views to requests for driving directions through Google Maps, Search, and Maps for Mobile
- Google+ is a significant component of Google Authorship, which is reportedly used as an important ranking signal.
- Social posts (for as long as they last) are crawled and indexed almost immediately, influencing SERPS faster than posts to other social media outlets or websites
- Furthermore, each social post is optimized for semantic relevance (having its own URL, title tag, and anchor text created through shares and +1s);
- When you connect your website to your Google+ Local page, a “knowledge graph” of information about your business can pulled from Google+ and is shown in a side bar on the results page when people search for your business name or other brand signals.
- Video calls (i.e. “Hangouts”) can be organized from your Google+ Dashboard, creating a new way to communicate with individuals or select communities within your audience.
- Plus so much more.
What This Means for Small Businesses
You do a lot online. Google wants to be the primary hub for your business’s virtual identity. With Google+ Local, you increase your digital footprint specifically in your local market, which can be a huge advantage for small businesses.
One of the pros of having a brilliant team of cutting-edge professionals is that they will come up with revolutionary ideas; one of the cons of having a team of cutting-edge professionals is that there will be so many ideas and if not implemented well, things will be a bit confusing. This is where it seems Google sits lately when it comes to Google+. At present, their business offerings have some overlap and are a bit clunky; however, they do seem to be getting smoother. Google+ Local continues to evolve as well. While a business’s strategies with the platform might change over time, its relevancy is not in question.
Google began as a company, became a verb, and is now the powerhouse that dominates thought on SEO. If your company is thinking about enhancing its online presence, specifically targeting your local market, don’t forget Google+ Local. Keeping up with the giant can be difficult, but that’s where having your friendly, neighborhood web company comes in handy.