Is Google and G+ Too Confusing? It’s Not Your Fault.

Google Confusion  Google+ logo

You are not alone.

Many small business owners are confused about Google Places, G+ Local and G+ Business.

The confusion is well deserved and it is direct result of the ever evolving online landscape.

But here’s the thing.

You don’t want to let a little a cobweb (Halloween pun intended) confusion keep you away from the power Google has to offer.

I want to blow away some of your confusion by showing you what’s what, give you an understanding of G+ power and some of the simple steps you can take to get started.

Why Bother with G+? 

Simple.

Most business owners I know want more customers in their stores and/or more traffic to their websites and they’re not picky about how they get the customers or the traffic.

If that’s you, then you want to pay attention, get your business listed on Google+ and you’re going to want to optimize it.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

You still have some questions.  Like…

Why bother when I have Facebook? 

To my mind, there are three key reasons why Google may be better than Facebook.

1.  Google gives it to you for free where Facebook makes you pay.

Google engagement shows up in organic search results for free.  Thanks to Facebook’s Edge Ranking, your Page updates only reach about 16% of your fans.  You have to buy advertising to reach more. Not nice.

2.  Google’s universe is bigger than that of Facebook.

Google is leveraging its ‘King Kong’ status in search and linking it to all of its product offerings – gmail, Android (read mobile), YouTube, and long, long list of products, tapping into billions of global users.

This means a big universe of people are going to see your Google engagement online.

With Facebook, your engagement is limited to just Facebook.

3.  Google’s changed the rules around search, which impacts everyone.  Facebook is limited to search within Facebook.

You can find out more this in my previous post and in a presentation by Google’s head of SEO, Matt Cutts just last week at Pubcon.

The bottom line is you always want to focus your online marketing efforts where your audience hangs out and many may be on Facebook.  BUT with Google’s impact on organic search, it can only help to expand your audience and do so for less than Facebook.

I’m not saying stop what you’re doing in Facebook, or LinkedIn if that is where you find your audience.  Instead, I’m strongly suggesting you make room in your online marketing to include Google+.

If you need more reasons to consider Google+, you may find this post helpful.

What is Google Places?

It doesn’t really matter what it was, because Places has been replaced by G+ Local.

If you had an old Places account and haven’t visited it in a year or more, chances are you’ll find that it has been merged, replaced with Google+ Local.

What is G+ Local?

G+ Local is the new look and feel for the business listings that appear in search.  Think Maps, 6 pack listing and now and the new carousel search results.  It is specifically for any business wanting to be found in local search.

When someone searches for a local area restaurant, a dry cleaner, a dentist, or a plumber the information presented by the search engine is your business listing.  Initially, information about your business is being pulled from third party sources so search engines such as Google could present searchers complete set of search results.

Google+ Local (as was the old Places) is a way for you, as the business owner, to control, update and optimize this information for free. Here  you enhance the description of your business, categories,add  images, hours of operations and contact information.  You also could send your customers to your Local  listing for them to give you reviews.

To control this information, you need to ‘claim’ your business listing. In return, it gives you a G+ Local page for free.  You’ll find a link at the bottom of your business listing in the search results.  Refer to the screen shot below, which also shows you where your G+ Local appears in the organic local search results.

 

Google Places for Restaurants

You’ll find a link to claim your business G+ Local business listing at the bottom of your business listing in search.  An alternative is to create your Local page inside of Google+ account.

 

Google Places Claim Link

When someone clicks on your business listing on the map they will see your G+ Local Page, which shows them all of the company’s basic info.

Google+ Local example

 

Okay.  What is Google+ Business? 

Think Facebook Fan Page or LinkedIn Company Page.  This is were you engage with your customers and that engagement shows up in the search results.

Instead of just a business listing, searchers see an enhanced and more detailed company description, the ability for folks to follow your Google+ page, and a display of your most recent post.

Google Search results with Starbucks

Google+ Business pages also include additional features such as tabs for Posts and YouTubes and it identifies others who have Starbucks in their circles.

Finally, Google Places For Business is a general hub where business owners can manage various services for their local listing, like their local Google+ page itself, as well as offers from their business.

Note: If a business has a Google+ page and then claims a Local Google+ page that’s been created about their business, the two pages will be merged into one big magical Google+ page once the ownership is verified.

– See more at: http://www.webs.com/blog/2013/09/04/getting-the-most-from-google-places-for-business-your-local-google-page-part-1/#sthash.WFhzLkZt.dpuf

Finally, Google Places For Business is a general hub where business owners can manage various services for their local listing, like their local Google+ page itself, as well as offers from their business.

Note: If a business has a Google+ page and then claims a Local Google+ page that’s been created about their business, the two pages will be merged into one big magical Google+ page once the ownership is verified.

– See more at: http://www.webs.com/blog/2013/09/04/getting-the-most-from-google-places-for-business-your-local-google-page-part-1/#sthash.WFhzLkZt.dpuf

Google Starbucks G+ Business page

If your business has a Google+ Business Page and then claims a Google+ Local  page, the two pages will be merged into one big magical Google+ Page once the ownership is verified.  Simplification, finally.

Within G+ Local  or Business, you can tap into Offers (think coupons that are currently free through Google), Hangouts, Adwords Express for mobile advertising and a variety of other Google free and premium products.

Google likes to use Gmail as the key to unlock Google+ If you don’t have one, get one.  Know that the Gmail account you use will be linked to all of the Google+ products and services you use.  If you have multiple Gmail accounts, you need to select just one and be consistent in that usage when inside Google+.

You also need a personal Google+ profile. The personal profile is anonymously linked to the other Google+ pages just like within Facebook.

Once you have your Google+ Business Page, you need to optimize it the same way you would your Facebook Page of LinkedIn Company Page.

  • Great description of your business with keywords
  • Links back to your website
  • Use of images to draw attention of your G+ fans and to stand out in their streams
  • Consistency in posting and updating
  • Badge and +1 usage on websites and in advertising, etc.

Google+ Resources

Once you have your Gmail account, visit Google+ Business and download the Guides that walk you through the process.

Google Plus Resources

Share Your Thoughts

What do you think?

Is Google+ worth the effort?

Do you think it will bring you more customers, more traffic?

Are you currently on G+?

Share your thoughts and experiences below in the comments section or pass this along to someone who has been struggling with local search.  They’ll appreciate it and so will I.

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Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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