You may have heard that on Jan 23rd, Google pulls the plug on Google+.
In fact (and this is not an alternative fact!), Google are simply revamping Google+, adding new features as requested by current users. As Google says,
“We believe the new Google+ is really your Google+ — designed around your suggestions, requests and needs.”
What is Google+?
Google+ is one of the oddities in the Google suite of online tools, initially touted as a community/social media type platform with comments, chats, etc. For businesses, it offered an opportunity to link your listing on Map search results to a page with posts, photos and more.
The new version has been available since November 2015, but it’s only now that Google have decided to switch off the old, classic format. The new business page format is more a mix of mini website and photo gallery, with photos and posts taking more prominence, in a move driven by the increase in mobile searches.
Personal and Business Google+ Pages
At this point we need to make clear that not all Google+ pages are the same. You will have one for you personally, and one for your business, known as a Brand page. Personal pages can be edited just by signing into your Google account. Brand pages need to be administered via Google My Business
Circles, Communities and Events
One of the original features of Google+ were Circles, which worked along the lines of Facebook groups. The advantage to many businesses was the ability to advertise events to these circles of followers, but the feature was dropped. Instead, you have Communities, which enable you to join likeminded people following area of interest. You can set up a Community yourself, or join as many as you wish.
More importantly, you can create a Community around your own brand or business. This could pay dividends, as a post on Social Sprout explains:
“Interests are key. While people turn to Facebook to share everything from articles to status updates about work, content on Google+ seems focused around a particular topic.” (2)
So, if your brand or business has loyal followers, this is a great way to communicate with them, free from the other distractions of Facebook.
New Google+ also includes Events, where companies can create and join events on the web. Again, it’s hard to talk about this kind of feature without comparisons to Facebook, but the difference here is about searchability. Events listed in Facebook will not shown up in Google SERPS results. Probably (as details haven’t been confirmed yet), results from Google+ Events might.
Comments and Reviews
One of the features that defines social interaction online are comments. People love to comment, but they are not always high value comments. Google+ now filters these and puts the higher value comments at the top, hiding the less desirable ones underneath.
Comments are not to be confused with the single most important feature of your business Google listing - reviews. These reviews form the basis of those star ratings you see in Google. Reviews, and the elements that appear on your Google+ company page, are managed through Google My Business. Equally, your address and opening hours are administered here, and shared between Google Search, Google Maps and Google+.
Google+ - do or die?
In summary, the new Google+ offers a lot of opportunities, but as with all social media platforms, you need to work out what they are for your business. At Akira, our social media baseline service does offer posts to Google+, but we’re not 100% convinced it’s right for everyone. A report by Statistic Brain calculates that 55% of users are from the USA, with only 5% and 4% from the UK and Canada respectively.
At Akira, we work on the assumption that if the Google+ page is there, you might as well populate it for the few users that will find it. After all, your Google+ page is owned and promoted by the very search engine most people want to rank in. There’s no evidence the presence of a Google+ page boosts your rankings, but it sure ain’t going to harm it…