Google Plus Your Business: Why Your Company Needs a Google+ Profile
When it was first launched back in 2011, Google Plus (also known as G+) was widely viewed as an experiment in pursuit of competing with social network titan, Facebook. In the few short months following the debut of Google Plus, web industry professionals began to portend Google Plus’ inevitable and swiftly looming failure. However, as we approach the three-year mark since Google Plus was born, the nearly 600-million-strong user base belies those predictions.
To be fair, those experts who avidly foretold the demise of Google+ didn’t have enough perspective to make those predictions in the first place. As we’ve found out over the past three years, Google’s motus operandi with Plus was never so narrowly focused on one-upping Facebook.
In fact, Google Plus is much, much more and it is critical for every enterprise with a web presence to recognize exactly what this means. In this article, we’ll answer two deceptively simple questions in depth: What exactly is Google Plus? How will it benefit my business?
What is Google Plus?
The misconceptions surrounding this topic are staggering. For the average layperson, G+ is seen as nothing more than another social network. That’s understandable (albeit still a misconception), but I’ve seen even seasoned SEO (Search Engine Optimization) professionals openly decry any value in the platform and/or go so far as to laugh it off as a failure manifested by a search engine trying its hand at social media.
Don’t be fooled. While Google Plus is indeed a social network, it is much more. First, it’s important to recognize that it is a core component of the Google universe, integrated with just about everything else on the web that’s tied to your google ID (or gmail address). Let’s look briefly at a few of the functions and features comprising Google Plus.
Google Plus works in tandem with the search engine’s local-based platform, ‘Google Places for Business’. Not only are your own local searches within Google Plus tailored to your interests and locale, your G+ Profile information is also seamlessly integrated into Google Places for others to find in their queries.
Google’s ‘Hangouts’ feature is perhaps one of the most scalable, flexible, extensive and yet underutilized online collaboration tools on the web. Google Plus Hangouts offers free, real-time, recordable communication options ranging from basic text chat to group video conferencing with file sharing.
Recognizing the web community’s growing demand for easy-to-use, seamless multimedia editing, Google has built simple, yet powerful, photo and video editing features into Google Plus. Furthermore, users can enjoy improved smart photo search and tools for creating their own animated gifs.
Just last fall, the YouTube community sent the internet abuzz with outcries regarding an interesting change in the commenting system: Google Plus integration. Users were automatically migrated to the new comment platform, complete with +1 buttons and G+ Profiles. Many believe this move could be Google’s way of getting more real names and user data from the YouTube community after failing to gather it by simply asking nicely on previous occasions.
Now we come to the central focus of the Google Plus phenomenon. While competing with Facebook is an understandable motive, collecting data is most likely Google’s primary objective with the platform. Google is constantly pursuing avenues by which it can efficiently collect data. With Google Plus, the search giant has created a centralized network of information gathering.
Extensions of the G+ network, such as YouTube commenting and Places for Business, operate with the same purpose and are often able to collect real, personalized information regarding people and businesses. That’s not to say Google Plus isn’t equally effective at gathering heaps of marketing data and generalized information whether it’s the latest trends and world news or pop culture and technology.
So then what exactly is Google Plus? First and foremost, it’s one of Google’s most efficient data harvesting tools. Beyond that, it is a versatile suite of tools and integrated communication platforms that doubles as a social network. We know G+ wouldn’t have attracted such a sizable user-base without providing some value, so let’s look at what we Google Plus users get out of the deal.
How Does Google Plus Benefit my Business?
Search Engine Rankings?
At the forefront of the discussion on the benefits of Google Plus for business is the possibility that it benefits our SEO efforts. Some research has shown correlative data reflecting what appears to be a connection between Google Plus signals and improved ranking for the linked website.
While the web marketing industry has its share of believers and skeptics alike, the only real evidence we have comes from Google’s own Matt Cutts. Back in August of last year, Cutts (who presently heads up Google’s Web Spam Team) took a few minutes aside to address this very subject, making it clear that “+1’s” (similar to ‘Likes’ on Facebook) do not impact rankings in Google search results.
Unfortunately, there’s no truly definitive information indicating whether Google Plus activity benefits our search rankings. But at the end of the day, we should prefer to rely less on +1 fueled SEO, favoring other benefits of the platform instead.
Every tool works best when used for its intended purpose. Google Plus is no different, offering a robust platform for social engagement with your audience and industry peers. Brimming with multimedia-laden potential, Google Plus empowers businesses with a promotional platform for launching any type of marketing campaign.
In addition to posting content, growing your groups and drawing those prized +1’s, remember that YouTube content is linked through the commenting system as well. If you’re adventurous enough, you might even leverage Google Hangouts to engage your Circles with live video conferencing.
Because G+ is an integrated Google platform, your Google Places listing is linked with your social profile. As you gain positive reviews from your clientele, they’ll appear on your Places listings, drawing in new customers interested in learning more about you and your offerings.
Linking up other external local listing profiles with your Google Plus page is yet another way to send positive trust signals while boosting brand exposure.
Feeding Data to Google
If there’s one thing Google does remarkably, it’s gathering and processing data. Fortunately, Google’s tenacity at data collection works in our favor if we’re properly applying strategies focused on top positioning in the Google search results.
As you build your social profiles online and integrate what you can with your Google Plus profile, Google is learning more about your business, your brand, your offerings and your audience – along with external connections and citations you make. The more information you can offer and authority you can build as a reputable company in your industry, the better your results.
One of the greatest benefits of Google Plus, albeit traditionally underutilized, is Authorship Markup. There exists a wealth of information on the web regarding this one feature, including Google’s own Inside Search Authorship overview.
The Authorship feature is designed for attributing your website content to the author(s) of that content and offers a few different benefits. If you don’t have a blog or any consistent form of content production on your website, Google Authorship markup should represent a strong incentive to create those content channels.
Google Plus simply offers too much benefit for online businesses to be ignored. There’s no cost, it’s easy to use and it’s well integrated with other Google offerings and platforms. Remember, as with any other marketing channel we leverage on the web – the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it!