Since its release in 2011, Google Plus has been through several iterations and redesigns. Features have been added and removed, re-added, re-worked, and more. Get up to date and informed with these 8 things businesses should know about Google Plus:
1. Google Plus was Built to Compete with Facebook
As Facebook continued to gain popularity since its release, Google attempted several times to create a Google-owned social network that could compete. Google Plus was Google’s fourth attempt to enter social networking and was the only attempt Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took seriously at the time.
Now, Google no longer refers to Google+ as a social network. It’s not considered a front-end social network product anymore. Instead, it’s a platform to integrate social across Google products. This supposedly takes Google Plus out of competition with Facebook and other social networks without removing the social aspect. That may be Google’s stance on it, but for most users, it’s still a social network. For businesses, it’s information and reputation management with a social network add-on.
Details aside, Facebook is still on top as the largest social network in the world. Google Plus may not be on track to dethrone Facebook, especially when it comes to businesses using Facebook, but it does continue to draw in users. Being owned by the search engine with the most market share certainly helps.
2. There are Millions of Active Users
Google keeps some of its data close and doesn’t seem to want to share much related to their own social media statistics. From studies and information previously available, it’s estimated that Google+ has over 2 billion users worldwide. The number of monthly active users is debated, ranging from 111 million to approximately 395 million monthly active users, meaning they log in and post at least once a month.
2. Google My Business is Google Plus for Your Business
When Google first launched Google+ back in 2011, there were Google+ profiles for personal use and then pages for business use. Then, businesses had Google+ Local followed by Google Places for Business, which were both attempts to better integrate local search with Google Plus. In 2014, Google launched Google My Business.
Google My Business combines Search, Maps, and Google Plus into one dashboard for your business. Signing up for Google My Business allows you to manage the information provided in the map listing that appears for your business in local search results. You can also verify your business, add photos, share posts, and more to help make your company easier to find and more discoverable in general. In terms of managing the listing information for your business in Google, Google My Business is a tool you need to be using.
3. Improve Visibility in Local Search
As search engine algorithms continue to improve and personalize results, location makes a difference in what shows up. Using Google My Business to add and verify your business information allows you to improve your chances of showing up in the map listings and further associate your business with your service areas.
Within the Google My Business dashboard, you can add categories to your business to identify your industry and service types. You can also define your location and service radius to give visitors and Google a better idea of your geographic location and business reach.
4. Add Photos to Your Page
Images, especially on social media, increase engagement. Social media posts with images tend to be “Liked”, retweeted, favorited, and shared more. Blog posts with images also get more engagement and shares. The same holds true for your Google Plus page.
As you’re filling out and adding information about your business through Google My Business, add relevant and interesting photos too. Business listings on Google Plus with photos receive 35% more clicks to their website and 42% more requests for driving directions.
5. Manage and Respond to Reviews
Reviews make a difference for your business and affect your online reputation. It’s important to be monitoring and responding to online reviews to keep your business’s reputation intact, identify potential issues, and resolve any customer complaints.
Previously, users had to be registered on Google+ in order to leave reviews on Google. Since 2016, however, local reviews no longer require a Google Plus account. This means anyone can leave a review for your business on Google and the only way for you to respond directly is to do so through your Google My Business dashboard.
6. Analytics are Built-In
Not only can you integrate your Google Analytics account into your Google My Business dashboard, but there are analytics built into the platform as well. They can be found in the Insights tab. There, you can see valuable information like how many people called you using the number in your listing, visited your website from the listing, requested driving directions, viewed your photos, and more.
There are also snapshots about how customers searched for your business and where they found your listing, whether in search or through Google Maps. You can find most of this information in Google Analytics as well, but Analytics focuses on the performance and interaction of your website, not your listing. The Insights tool focuses specifically on your listing performance and interactions there to provide more segmented detail.
7. Various Ways to Engage
There are several ways to engage with users on Google Plus. You can add posts and photos, hashtags included, just like other social networks. Three features to become familiar with are Circles, Communities, and Collections. You can connect with others, discover content, and engage further through these features.
Back when Circles was first released, you could create customized Circles to organize and segment followers and people you followed into groups. You can no longer create customized Circles, but you can choose from one or more of the standard Circles offered: Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Following.
Communities are groups formed around a specific theme or topic. You can join Communities and interact with other people who have similar interests. You can also create Communities around topics related to your business and build brand awareness through them.
This feature allows you to follow specific topics and share content around specific topics. You can create your own Collections and add content to them and you can follow Collections created by others.
8. Google Plus Integrates with YouTube
Since Google owns YouTube, you can link your Google Plus listing with your YouTube channel. This helps you link together branded web properties and cross-post content easier. There used to be a product called Hangouts On Air that would allow you to use your smartphone and Google Plus to broadcast video through your Google Plus page.
If you had a YouTube channel connected, Hangouts On Air would also cross-publish to YouTube. When Google acquired YouTube, they integrated the Hangouts On Air functionality into YouTube Live. Since the function then existed in a more popular and frequently used product, Google removed the Hangouts On Air feature from Google Plus in September 2016.
Google Plus can be a valuable part of your overall marketing strategy. At the very least, a complete, optimized Google My Business listing needs to be included. It’s integral to your business’s listing information and local presence.
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