Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Google has had many failed experiments in the past, such as Buzz, Wave, and, more recently, Google Glass. However, the search giant shows no signs of giving up on its attempt to compete in the social networking sphere, via Google Plus.
Google Plus has seen constant updates since its launch, in 2011. The platform has phased out features that weren’t successful — such as unbundling YouTube comments from also appearing in users’ feeds — while highlighting features that have separated it from other social networks.
Within the past month, Google has completely overhauled the user interface to focus on what it does best. This article will discuss a few of these changes and how you can use them to promote your business.
The photos feature in Google Plus has always excelled above the competition, which is why the company turned it into a standalone platform: Google Photos.
A new feature, Collections, takes the excellence of Google Photos and allows users to create themed boards, similar to Pinterest.
The creator has full control of what gets posted, which makes it a useful tool for small business owners to show off their expertise.
If you own a boutique or clothing store, for example, create a collection of your new lines or seasonal clothes and assemble “lookbooks” or style grids. Bike shops can show off their custom builds or post other custom bicycles, for fan inspiration.
As with Pinterest and other social networks, it’s important to showcase not only your products but also things your followers will want to see.
Google also implemented multiple features that make uploading and editing photos easier, resulting in higher quality images and more engaging content.
- Auto Awesome takes photos shot in a series and attempts to convert them into animated gifs automatically. These types of files are highly shareable. Your brand can potentially reach hundreds of thousands of users with the right gif.
- Auto Enhance adjusts the brightness and contrast to create more dynamic images. Automatically editing the images can save business owners time, especially for those who have no desire to learn Photoshop.
- Auto Backup, also known as Auto Upload, is a feature that automatically backs up photos taken on your mobile device.
- Auto Highlight assembles uploaded photos into albums.
With the right strategy, Collections can become a useful tool for marketing your small business.
Communities, an online groups feature that enables people with similar interests to share content, debuted in 2012 but has been given new focus with the recent redesign. They function similarly to the subreddit communities on Reddit but with a much more user-friendly design.
Whereas the creator of Collections controls the content posted on it, Communities opens up the content to all followers of the group. Not unlike LinkedIn Groups, they provide you with a platform to show off your expertise and establish yourself as an industry leader. Find the groups that are relevant to your business and use them to promote your content.
Communities can either be public or private. The former will get more exposure to your content, but private groups are more exclusive. One share from an industry leader in a private group can be worth ten from a public group with thousands of followers.
Local Business Pages
Google has completely removed the local aspect of Google Plus business pages, which brings a significant change for local SEO in particular. The local elements that were removed include:
- Maps and directions;
- Business category;
- Hours of operation.
What this means for local businesses is that they no longer have to put as much effort into optimizing their Google Plus profile for local search and can focus on treating it as it was originally intended — a social media platform.
However, it is still essential for small businesses to continue their local SEO efforts. Visit this FAQ from search marketing expert Mike Blumenthal for more information about the change.
In addition to the above, Google Plus has been updated to make the overall user experience easier and more fluid. Some of these will make it simpler for users to share your content with others, and not just within Google Plus.
Users can share content by clicking the share icon on posts and selecting either Google Plus, Facebook, or Twitter, or by just copying the link to a post. This sharing capability provides much greater potential for your posts to reach a broader audience.
Most importantly, the redesign has put a new focus on mobile, bringing consistency to the user experience — something that was severely lacking in the previous versions Google Plus. The update is timely, particularly given Google’s heavy emphasis on the mobile experience in determining search engine rankings.
Should Your Business Be On Google Plus?
The updated Google Plus certainly makes for a more pleasant user experience, but I wouldn’t prioritize this platform over any other. Google Plus is and always has been perfect for photographers and studios. It is also a platform for industry leaders, to demonstrate their expertise, mostly to other industry leaders.
Very few users are active on Google Plus — less than 10 percent of its total audience actively uses the service — so your content is not likely to be seen by your target customers. Unless you’ve mastered all other social media sites and are looking to conquer another, I would skip dedicating much time to promoting your business through Google Plus.