INTERNATIONAL: An Introduction to the Brand New Google Plus Business Pages
The big news of the past week is that Google – the search giant - has finally launched the long-awaited Google Plus Business Pages. This step officially brings Google into the Social space for businesses by offering brands the chance to humanise themselves and use the platform to engage with their customers and prospects.
Overview of Google Plus Brand Pages and Why they Matter
Online marketers will be buzzing with questions about the potential of the platform. Regardless of if you think it’s the next big thing for brands or a flop waiting to flip, Google is confident in the platform:
“I expect brands will notice this and will build marketing plans around it” said Bradley Horowitz, vice president for products at Google Plus in an article for The New York Times.
Since Google Plus launched, in June 2011, many brands have been waiting for the opportunity to jump on board. However until now, Google Plus has been open exclusively to end users. The platform promotes sharing stories (via “Circles”), participation in discussions, photo upload, and video conferences calls (called “Hangouts”).
The social space is already populated by giants such as Facebook (which currently counts more than 800 million active users), Twitter (200 million) and Linkedin (120 million).
But being small isn’t necessarily a drawback for Google Plus, as a company’s content is less likely to get lost in an ocean of information as it often happens for brands on Facebook.
Will the search giant also become the Social giant? This is extremely hard to predict at this stage, however there are no doubts that Google Plus has some very appealing features.
To get an initial feeling of Google Plus Branded Pages, have a look at this short video:
How to Create the Perfect Business Page
Creating a page in Google Plus is extremely easy. Just give yourself 10 minutes.
In order to be able to set-up a page, it is necessary to join Google Plus as an individual first, which can be done here: https://plus.google.com/pages/create.
Then, once you’re logged in, you can find the “Create a Google+ page” link on the bottom-right of your splash page:
After clicking on that, you are allowed to pick the category that better fit your business/organisation, by choosing 1 out of 5 options:
- Local Business or Place
- Product or Brand
- Company, Institution or Organization
- Arts, Entertainment or Sports
Local Google Plus pages are slightly different from the other categories, because they include features that make it easy for users to connect with physical location of a specific business. As you may already be aware, Google already offers Local Places Pages to businesses, where they can include their address, phone number, operating hours and accepted payment methods, however Google Places pages have not been integrated into the Google Plus Pages yet.
Google states that different pages have different uses; while a page on Google Places allows a business to get found on local search and Google Maps, Google Plus pages provides business owners with the opportunity to build a relationship with their customers and engage and interact with them at a deeper level.
Despite all this, Google itself said “Don’t stress out about choosing the perfect category, use the ‘Other’ category if none of the others seem to be a good fit. The core functionality and discoverability of a page isn’t affected by its category”.
The person that creates a page is the only allowed administrator (the page cannot be transferred to someone else) and this is definitely a limitation, mainly for big brands having multiple account managers.
Once the category has been selected, it is possible to name the page and add a link to the business website. Users can also choose a sub-category by selecting the most appropriate one from a drop-down menu (e.g. "Consulting and Business Services" or "Banks and Financial").
You can also select who (what age group) your content will be appropriate for. Options include:
- Any Google Plus user
- Users 18 and older
- Users 21 and older
- Alcohol related
Agree to page terms and conditions and click ”Create”.
Customising Google Plus Pages
Now that the basic information has been added, you can start customising the page and making it interesting, fun and appealing to the people you want to target.
- The first thing you should do is add a tagline - ”The 10 words that describe your page best”. Spend some time thinking about the wording of it, as it’s the first bit of content people that discover your page will see. Make sure it’s compelling and informative at the same time, and don’t forget to add keywords in it.
- You can also add a photo/logo as a square image and it can be resized after the upload.
- Additional information about your company’s product and services can be included in the “About Page” where you can add an introduction, contact information and a link to your business’ website. The introduction is the section where you can write something descriptive about the business and tell people how you can be useful to them! Also you should include keywords that are related to your market to give an SEO push to the page. It even includes a full WYSIWYG that allows you to bold, underline your text and add links to relevant landing pages of your site. In the contact Info box, you can add an email address, phone number and fax number.
On the right side of the page, you can also add links to the profiles on other social networks (e.g. your Facebook Page, or YouTube channel) and you can also customise the anchor-text of the link.
The last thing we recommend you to do is to add your business to Google Plus Direct Connect, which will be explained in more detail in one of the next sections. Google Plus Direct Connect has a positive impact on SEO. In order to be included in it, you need to paste a snippet of code in the header of your website; after doing this, your site will be eligible. This feature allows anyone searching for your business in Google to put a ”+” before your brand name (e.g. +Pepsi) when typed into the Chrome browser omnibox and be taken directly to the Google Plus brand page.
To grab the custom code, all you need to do is click on the “Get started” link (located at the top left-hand side of your brand page) and then click on “Get the badge” in the ”Connect your website” section.
By including the option to get the badge, Google also aims to encourage brands to get followers.
Google is also offering ”Hangouts” or video-chats for brands (which were already available for individual pages). This feature allows a business to start live conversations with its followers and personally connect with them. The Muppets were one of the first to host a hangout on their Google Plus page. Brands are also allowed to name their Hangout, share notes and collaborate via screen-sharing.
Some tips to get immediate value out of your Google+ Brand Page:
- Share lots of photos. Photos are very important on Google Plus. A quick look at a Google Plus feed shows that lots of individual images are shared by users. This is slightly different from Facebook, where users are more likely to upload an entire album of images at once. What photos, videos and infographics can you share on Google Plus to drive engagement and make your content go viral?
- Add links to important blog articles and landing pages to drive more traffic and leads for your business.
- Promote Your Google+ Page on your website. To get real business value from Google Plus, you need to have a community of people there to consume and engage with your content. In order to get people to add your Google Plus page to their Circles, you need to promote the page in places where you are already attracting visitors, such as your homepage, blog side bar, or other social media profiles.
- Look at the traffic from Plus in Analytics. A few days ago, Google announced that Google Analytics will integrate with the Google Plus Pages in about 3 months.
- Put the +1 button on your Web pages. Google is building up real-time search and is using the +1 button and the sharing system inside Google Plus for content indexation. A post on Google plus literally will get indexed in minutes. In the future it’s very likely that there is going to be more usage of data signals from Google Plus (assuming that they see good content from the network).
- Discuss with users, mention specific Google Plus users if a specific piece of content relates to them, because even if they are not following your brand they will see the post anyway. This is a great way to get a bit of traction when you are new to the platform and still building your following.
- Follow a good group of people/pages who are sharing great content on Google Plus and share some of their content on Google Plus itself but sharing it on other network such as Twitter or Facebook, or on your site. Leverage the power of “Ripples”. Basically, whenever a post on Google Plus gets shared, it is possible to see a timeline of who shared it and when! This is very useful information because what it shows is not just the people who shared it and how many followers they have, but it also shows who influences that sharing. This is pretty cool feature that doesn’t feature on either Facebook or Twitter.
- Link your page to your AdWords account. As Pamela Parker, editor at Search Engine Land, says “when that’s done, +1s for any of the linked URLs — on web sites or landing pages for AdWords ads — will all accrue to the brand, making the numbers much larger. Previously, +1s were specific to individual URLs and only accumulated when people +1ed the URL in organic results or an AdWords ad that used that URL as a landing page. Google is now displaying +1s with ads both on Google.com and on the display network and has said ads with +1s perform better than ads without, presumably because they’ve been socially recommended”.
Many big brands and institutions have already created a presence on the platform.
Even if it’s still at a very early stage, Google is being very clear about the differences between Google+ business pages and Google profiles and about the terms and conditions for using the platforms. Currently, Google retains the right to block or remove Pages that violate these terms. Google also informs users that it may remove any Pages that are inactive for more than nine months. Without notice!
We also recommend to add to your circles the Google Plus Your Business page in order to keep up to date on the latest Google Plus features, discover how other businesses are using Google Plus, participate in a hangout, and find inspiration to do great things on Google Plus to engage and get to know your customers.
And for more information about the Google Plus API, check out the Google Plus Platform Developers: https://developers.google.com/+/overview.
How Do You Delete a Google Plus Business Page?
If for some reason you need to delete a page, all you have to do is to click on the little drop-down menu located under your page logo, and then on ”Manage your pages”. Finally, click on “Delete”.
Google Plus Direct Connect and Its Impact on SEO
There’s a lot of conversation happening regarding the impact that Google Plus Brand pages will have on SEO.
Thanks to Direct Connect, we are likely to see a change in the SEO landscape.
Last month, Google retired the “+” operator, in anticipation of the Direct Connect release. Now Google Plus Direct Connect leverages the “+” symbol for users that are looking to go directly to a Google Plus page in search. For instance, instead of typing in “Bruce Clay Australia Google Plus” Direct Connect will allow you to type “+Bruce Clay Australia” into the Google Chrome browser’s omnibox to be taken directly to our Google Plus page. The custom operators and Google Plus Direct Connect functionality will surely help to give Google Plus pages more visibility in the search engine results pages.
The following videos explain Google Plus Direct Connect more in detail:
The official statement from Google is:
“A page’s eligibility for Google Plus Direct Connect is determined algorithmically, based on certain signals we use to help understand your page’s relevancy and popularity. In addition to this analysis, we look for a link between your Google Plus page and your website. To help Google associate this content, be sure to connect your Google Plus page and your website using the Google Plus badge, or by adding a snippet of code to your site, in addition to adding your website link to your page”.
When users perform a “+brand” search, they’ll only get one result back, which is the official Google Plus Brand page of your business. If a brand doesn’t leverage Direct Connect, then they’d end up with the classic “10 blue links” which - obviously not as good as having a user go straight to your Plus page.
Google Plus vs Facebook and Twitter
Google Plus presents some differences when compared to marketing opportunities on Facebook and Twitter:
- Unlike Facebook, there aren’t “vanity” URLs available. Google has provided no update on when or if this might change.
- Unlike with Facebook, you can change the page name at any time. However, if you have verified the page with Direct Connect code, doing this will cause you to lose verification, and you’ll need to start this process again.
- Pages can add people to circles, but not until they’ve been first added. This is a good move by Google as it will limit spamming behaviours. Unlike Facebook, Google Plus Pages are a little more forgiving if you make a typo in a post or suddenly decide you don’t want people to leave comments or share with others – you can edit the post or change settings after you’ve posted.
- It’s a lot more difficult to set up a fake brand page on Facebook or Twitter. Facebook will automatically reject a brand name that has already been used (like “Coca-Cola”) and requires that users with a “large number” of fans verify their identity. Nevertheless, Facebook’s system for setting up brand pages was once somewhat chaotic as well.
- Google Plus has the +1 button, while Facebook has the Like button.
- Google Plus has Hangouts, while Facebook has video chat and group chat with Skype.
- Google Plus has Circles, while Facebook has smart friend lists.
- While some people prefer Twitter’s 140 character updates, Google Plus offers a richer platform where companies can share content to fans. Also, sharing pictures and videos on Twitter is still a rather complicated process. Google Plus integrates directly with YouTube for videos and Picasa for photos. Also, anyone can readily comment on a Google Plus post, and the Page administrator can quickly respond.
- Finally, Google doesn’t index Facebook content right now and they’re also no longer using Twitter for the real-time search engine. But of course Google index’s any content that is publicly published on Google Plus.
Controversies and Limitations of Google+
There has been a fair amount of criticism about the limitations of brand Pages, as they’ve been defined by some as inadequate for public companies’ needs.
Currently, the biggest gaps are as follows:
- As mentioned above, the lack of being able to let multiple people admin the page (as you can do on Facebook), which is a pretty critical feature especially for big brands. Multiple admin support is said to be coming soon.
- It’s very easy to set up a page (although there’s a verification system in place) so this can lead to fake pages popping up! This is why Google added verification badges to ensure that people, brands and businesses can protect their identity.
- Google Plus doesn’t allow brand Page owners to host contests or promotions directly on the social network. One possible reason for this is that Google doesn’t want to partake in legal battles. Facebook instead allows promotions as long as they are administered within apps and each entrant agrees to fully release Facebook from responsibility. This gives Facebook a competitive edge in terms of marketing. The alternative to this is to display a link on Google Plus that directs users to a separate page where the promotion is hosted. On one side, this impediment might promote genuine interactions and also contribute to fight spam. On the other side, it might be a reason for some users that are looking for more tangible benefits of connecting with a brand to keep using Facebook/Twitter and not join Google Plus. Time will tell.
- The separation between personal/professional identity is a bit confused. By default, users are logged in as individuals and then they are able to switch to the Business page by clicking on the little icon located next the profile picture, which, however is not very visible.
- Notifications are not delivered by email whenever somebody comments on a post, or shares it. Email notification only happen when somebody adds the page to a circle. Once the user’s logged into Google Plus, notifications appear on the right-end side of the toolbar.
Google+ for Marketing: Final Thoughts
Google Plus is a critical component of the Google Apps suite and it’s clear that Google is aiming to turn its social network into a serious business tool.
In a recent interview, Social Media Evangelist Chris Brogan said: “You gotta look at the facts. Google is the number one search engine in the world. That Google Plus offering is sitting there in the top part of that number one search engine. Gmail is used by millions and millions of customers, all getting advertising messages about Google Plus. More Android phones are sold every single day – 500+ units an hour now or something – than iPhones, and all of that is pointing towards getting on this network that is indexed by the number one search engine in the world.”
Entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki also said, “I think Google Plus is to Facebook what Mac is to Windows. Think about that for a second.”
Facebook cannot compete on SEO. This is where the competitive advantage of Google Plus lies. The SEO value they add can be one big reason for businesses to jump on it.