Google+ Launches Pages for Business
Earlier this week, Google announced the launch of Google+ Pages for business.
"So far Google+ has focused on connecting people with other people. But we want to make sure you can build relationships with all the things you care about—from local businesses to global brands—so today we’re rolling out Google+ Pages worldwide," said the announcement.
To date, brands large and small have created pages. This includes everyone from Anderson Cooper 360 to Zen Bikes. As with Facebook, there is no cost involved, just the time it takes to walk through the Page setup process.
I recently created a Google+ page for Practical eCommerce and was surprised by the similarity between it and Facebook Pages. It's as if Google looked at what Facebook had done and mirrored it to some extent. Even the business categories were similar. Like Facebook, you can also choose to interact as the Page, not as an individual.
Benefits to Using Google+ Pages
I see several benefits to using Google+ Pages.
Direct connection to search - It should come as no surprise that Google would tie Pages to search and that's what the company has done, in two ways:
Business pages will be added to Google search.
Google has created a new feature called Direct Connect, which allows people to search for brands by inserting the "+" sign then the name of the brand to bring up the page. Google indicates this feature is in an "experimental" stage, so it is not available to all Pages as of yet, however, but will rolled out incrementally.
Whether this will enhance search rankings remains to be seen. Searchers can "+1" your brand in search returns, and, according to SEO expert and Practical eCommerce contributor Jill Kocher, the Google +1 button now "plays a much more visible role in promoting content in search and social marketing."
Kocher says that because "Google's +1 button allows Google+ users to share a comment, an image, a headline and a snippet of text when +1'ing a page...it represents an excellent opportunity [for ecommerce merchants] to influence what gets shared, control how it looks when shared and increase visibility in search engines and in social marketing."
Maya Grinberg, social media manager for Wildfire Interactive, said in an article at the Huffington Post that Google has already begun to incorporate a company's social engagement levels into its search rankings.
Whether this will, in fact, have bearing on search returns remains to be seen, but I'm cautiously optimistic. One thing for certain, it testifies to the fact that the line of demarcation between search and social is largely erased and, in my opinion, amplifies the need for a brand to have a presence within social media.
Greater audience segmentation - Through the use of Circles a merchant can more easily segment his or her audience, which allows for more targeted messaging.
Connect with customers face-to-face - Google+'s Hangouts live video streaming component allows merchants to have face-to-face conversations with customers and prospects. I see several benefits to this:
Online focus groups - Connect with a select group of customers to discuss ideas for new products, ways to improve shipping, or new features they may like to see on the merchant's website, for example.
Customer service - Hangouts could provide another channel for customer service. It would require that someone be available to monitor Google+ on an ongoing basis, which may prove next to impossible for smaller merchants, however.
Community building - What better way to build relationships with customers than through face-to-face interaction? Perhaps times could be set aside for scheduled chats.
Challenges to Merchants
Aside from the benefits to using Google+, I see some challenges as well.
First and foremost, merchants will be forced to monitor and manage yet another social network channel. Based on my own experience using Google+ on a personal level, I can see where it could potentially be very time-consuming, too, especially if there is a great degree of engagement.
This could lead to a second challenge, that of ROI. According to a survey of merchants conducted by Practical eCommerce earlier this year, social media as a whole hasn't returned a significant payoff. Most merchants - 77 percent - indicated that they see less than five percent of sales coming from it. Why would there be an expectation that a presence on Google+ would cause that number to increase?
Add to that the fact that the degree of traffic to the network has declined since early days. According to a report from data analytics company Chitika, following the initial spike traffic has waned considerably.
Why should a merchant expend a great deal of effort building a presence on a network when there may not be an equitable return on the investment in terms of engagement, sales or traffic to the ecommerce site? That's especially true if the merchant's customers aren't using the site.
A further challenge I see is social media burnout. Posting the same content day-in and day-out across multiple channels can become tiresome and led to a kind of fatigue, especially if no centralized dashboard is being used to manage the activity.
Based on the perceived benefits and challenges, merchants will have to decide for themselves whether the investment of time and effort is worth the risk.
At this point, aside from the potential benefit of increased SERPs, I don't see much that differentiates Google+ from Facebook. In order to remain viable, it has to find its unique place within the social media ecosystem.
I will continue to experiment with PeC's page and plan to report on the results. In the meantime, if you decide to create a page for your business, let me know by leaving a comment. I'd like to follow you. And, if you don't mind, be sure and follow and +1 our page, too!
Tom Snell says:
I am not impressed about creating a business page from a personal style of profile within G+ Maybe google has made allowances for large brands but for the average business it's of know use yet and I would advise to proceed with caution as you may be wasting your time and effort at the moment. G+ pages are in very early stages. They hype over them is over rated and it is looking likely that some embarrassment is going to fall on google over the rushed creation of the business page platform. Have a play around with creating pages from your profile if you wish because at present thats exactly all it amounts to.
Kanti Purohit says:
I have the same issue - and a question - about creating a Google+ Business Page as Tom Snell.
I have two separate Google email accounts - Gmail for personal (firstname.lastname@example.org) and a Google App Gmail for business (email@example.com). I already have a Google+ account tied to my personal Gmail account. I certainly don't want to create a Google+ Business Page tied to my personal Gmail account.
BTW, I got an error when I clicked on "Google+ page for Practical eCommerce". How did you create such a page - did you have to use your personal Gmail account?
The question: Does Google allow me to create Business Page that is tied to business Gmail account?