The world of “social media” has become a confusing crowd of personal and business pages, almost too many to name. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, not to mention Instagram, Tumblr, Yelp, and more.
When online articles talk about the Top 10 and Top 15 Social Networking Sites, you know you’re in trouble. Who has the time?
So here we are to tell you about Google Plus, aka “Google+,” and to encourage you to establish and use a Google Plus business page. Why invest your time in this social platform over some of the others? Well, the fact that it’s from Google should provide your first clue.
Google Loves Google
According to SearchEngineWatch.com, Google’s search engine market share neared 68% in May of 2014. Other studies have ventured that 95% of web traffic goes to links that appear on the first page of Google results.
Of course, we all know that Google searches command attention. Today, however, a significant number of those search results are for Google Plus pages.
Why? It’s because Google works to promote its own products and integrate them into search results.
In the image at right, you see the results of my search for a “children’s dentist.” Almost immediately after the ads at the top of the search results, we start seeing listings that include a Google+ link. You’ll see much the same if you search for an attorney or a car mechanic, a book store or a kitchen remodeler, for any locally based business that draws its clientele from a nearby service area.
Google Plus is all about local results. When you search online, the search engines know, at the very least, where you are located geographically, and Google Plus pages help Google find service providers that are close to you.
Now reverse the equation. As a local business, don’t you want to be more visible on Google for the people in your area, looking for you? That’s the value of having a Google Plus business page.
Of course, Google Plus is competitive too. If you’re a computer repair shop with a dozen competitors within twenty miles, you can still be crowded out unless you do a good job with Google Plus. If you’re the only sports store in the same area with a Google Plus page, you’ve got it made (in my test search, the only “sporting goods” results in my area belonged to three locations for Dick’s Sporting Goods.)
Google’s Facebook Killer
Well, not really. Google Plus was designed to be Google’s answer to Facebook. There are personal pages and business pages. Where you have friends on Facebook, you have “Circles” on Google Plus. Instead of “likes,” Google Plus has the +1 button.
The opening view of a Google Plus page is a stream of content that you and your circle of friends have posted; a profile page provides personal information, and you can even use hash tags, like Twitter.
Google Plus can be used very much like Facebook, but to be honest, if you ask the average person, they’ve probably heard little about it, and those who have use it infrequently. Instead of the Facebook killer it was meant to be, Google Plus is more like a Facebook shadow. But because it’s Google, if you disregard it, you do so at your own peril.
The Business Page
Just like Facebook, businesses can establish and populate a company page on Google Plus. The great advantage of these pages is that Google has connected them to their mapping system and uses them in results for local searches.
That alone makes it all worthwhile.
Log in to Google (or create a Google account) and then visit https://plus.google.com/pages/create to sign up for your Google Plus Business Page. It’s free, and it takes only a few minutes to fill out your business information and get your page online.
Since you are interested mainly in search results, you want to pay attention to the following points:
- Make sure your Google Plus page links to your website.
- Use the option to create a custom URL, as in: https://plus.google.com/+YourCompanyName.
- Use a few appropriate keywords in your Tagline and Introduction, as that is where Google looks for them.
- Link your other social media profiles, from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest by adding them to the links section of your Google Plus Profile.
- Last but not least, populate your business page with information about your company. You can add pictures, videos, and more.
You May Already have a Google Plus Page
Before anyone knew about Google Plus, Google needed to make it visible and relevant. They did this by auto-generating an enormous number of Google Plus business pages using publically available information.
That means you may already have a Google Plus business page and not know it. How can you find out? One way is to search for products and services like yours and see if your listing shows up with a Google+ page link under it.
If so, you want to visit that page and find the “Manage This Page” button. Instead of creating a business page from scratch, you’ll end up claiming the one Google has already generated.
You can either have Google call the business phone they have in their listing or mail a postcard to the business address. Either method will provide you with the code needed to give you editing rights to the pre-generated Google Plus page.
If you make a new page and you already had a pre-generated page, at some point Google will contact you about de-listing the “extra” one, as only one Google Plus business page per customer is allowed.
Instructions for Managing your Google Plus Page
There are a number of online instructional guides to setting up and managing your Google Plus business page. Here are three we found useful:
Create a Google Plus Page in 4 Steps (includes a video)
The thing to remember about instructions for all Social Media, including Google Plus, is that the media often change faster than the instructions. So be prepared for the possibility of a change here or there between the instructions and the reality of setup at the time you give it a try.
Now that you’ve gone this far, maybe you can find a few spare moments to be social on Google Plus. Posting short informative articles and engaging with customers who may have questions builds on the strength and relevance of your Google Plus page, providing additional encouragement to the Google algorithm to bring back your business page in local search results.
Building out your Circles of interest, just like making friends on Facebook, only adds to the effect.
While some pundits had declared Google Plus a “ghost town” compared to Facebook, Google leveraged its unique powers to effectively run a train track and major highway through the center of town.
Regardless of any other consideration, Google’s ability to make Google Plus relevant in search results means your business needs to have a Google Plus business page and to maintain the accuracy of that page over time.
Get started today.