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Google Launches Google+ Pages for Businesses/Brands

Google+ Pages for Businesses

Should Small Business Jump On Board?

As news of Google’s official launch of Google+ Pages for Business spread rapidly across the Internet on Monday afternoon, digital marketers and brand managers for big companies scrambled to get their G+ pages created for their brands. I, too, rushed to get a page created for WESST by early afternoon.

After publishing the page, I quickly realized that few to none of WESST’s clients and target market were even on Googe+. Since Google rolled out Google+ on a limited “invitation only” basis before making it public, early adopters tended to be in the digital marketing, web development, software, and tech industries. Photographers are another group of early adopters. Turns out Google+ is a pretty sweet way to share photos.

Since WESST’s market is primarily local/regional small businesses, how could I find clients and prospective clients to add WESST to their Circles? Matt McGee wrote an article about this dilemma on his Small Business Search Marketing blog entitled, “Small Businesses Should Grab a Google+ Page, But…” He noted the golden rule of social media: Be where your customers are and advised that if your customers aren’t on Google+ yet, then you shouldn’t spend too much time on Google+. With that in mind, I thought I’d write this post to prompt some small businesses in New Mexico to create a Google+ page.

Why, you ask, should I bother? The answer? SEO.

Social media is becoming an increasingly important factor in site optimization and traffic generation. Whether you’re engaging in social media to take advantage of Google’s growing interest in social signals as ranking factors or you want to establish a presence for your business to engage with customers, optimizing your social presence is quickly becoming an essential part of a successful site strategy.

Social sharing helps attract more visitors to your site, and the social signals the search engines receive act as a sort of proof to your visitors that your product is trustworthy; if someone likes your site or your product, their friends can see those tweets, likes, and +1s (The +1 button, introduced last spring, is basically Google’s version of the Facebook “Like” button), in Google’s results and in their various social networks.

Google has this to say about the +1 button’s impact on SEO:

Content recommended by friends and acquaintances is often more relevant than content from strangers. For example, a movie review from an expert is useful, but a movie review from a friend who shares your tastes can be even better. Because of this, +1′s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality.

Each G+ page prominently features a +1 button in the top left sidebar on the Posts page that Google says will eventually aggregate all +1s to a particular site. While it’s too early to tell exactly how Google+ interactions and +1 counts will affect rankings, it’s safe to assume they will since Google created its own social media product to integrate with its search engine. For example, Google’s Direct Connect feature integrates G+ Pages with Google Search to make finding G+ business pages easy. This feature is currently available to a select handful of brands including Google’s own + page, of course, YouTube and big brands like Pepsi and ABC News. But Google will begin rolling out this feature to more businesses they deem “eligible.”

A page’s eligibility for Google+ 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+ page and your website. To help Google associate this content, be sure to connect your Google+ page and your website using the Google+ badge, or by adding a snippet of code to your site, in addition to adding your website link to your page.”

Small businesses may not qualify for the Direct Connect feature. Still, it’s important to connect your site to your Google+ page once you create it, for SEO purposes.

How to Create Your Google+ Page for Your Business

As with Facebook, before you can create a Google+ page, you need to create a Google+ profile, which requires a Google account, of course. Once you’ve created your Profile page, you can click on a link to Create a G+ Page in the right sidebar of your homepage and here’s what you’ll see.

Most of my small business clients should create their pages under the Local category. Refer to Google’s Support page for step-by-step instructions on setting up your page under the Local category.

As you’re filling out the fields, you’ll notice that much of the information is similar to what you may have already entered for your Google Place page. You may be thinking, why do I need both? Here’s Google’s response:

Currently, Place pages and Google+ Pages must be managed separately. A Place page provides information about a business and makes it easy for customers to find local businesses on Google Maps and local search; while a Google+ page provides business owners with additional ways to engage, build relationships and interact directly with customers.”

The other downside for many small business owners is that Google+ pages currently only allow one administrator connected to a personal profile. And it doesn’t integrate with third-party tools that allow for automation. You have to enter your posts directly from Google+. But Google says that will change in the coming weeks.

Some Cool G+ Features for Businesses

Google Plus Integrates with Google Apps

At the end of October, Google announced that Google+ is now integrated with Google Apps. You can manually turn on Google+ for your organization, and once Google+ is turned on, your users will just need to sign up at google.com/+ to get started. If you use Google Apps for Business or the free version of Google Apps and you’ve chosen to automatically enable new services, Google+ will automatically become available to you — giving you access to the same set of features that are available to every Google+ user.

One of the coolest, most appealing Google+ features for businesses is Hangouts with extras, which combines multi-person video chat with screen sharing and collaboration in Google Docs, lets you work together on projects even when your team can’t be in the same room–let alone the same city or state.

Faced with some criticism that Google+ pages are too similar to Facebook pages, Google’s Bradley Horiowitz promised that this is “just the beginning.”

For now. everyone is just trying to figure out the right way to make the most of the new branded pages. Today, Google +’s Vic Gundotra will be on Good Morning America to promote the launch, which should help prompt some more businesses to get their Google+ game on.

Here’s a look at WESST’s Google+ page. I’ll be doing my best to populate it with fresh content that’s different from what I post on WESST’s other social media accounts. (By the way, branded urls are not yet available.)

Have you created a Googe+ page for your business yet? What do you think? Do you love it or do you think it will fizzle out like Google Buzz? Share your thoughts below.