The new Google+ platform opened to the general public on September 20, 2011, and with it came a substantial amount of hype. Many people were even touting it the next potential “Facebook killer.” It has been 3 months since Google+ launched and a few things have become very clear. First, it is not proving to be a worthy competitor to Facebook in respect to number of users or amount of time spent on the platform, but what is interesting is the impact Google+ is having on SEO and search engines.
Isn’t my Facebook Page enough social interaction for my business?
When Facebook was just emerging as an innovative social media platform in 2005, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, was interviewed about Facebook’s current and future successes. Zuckerberg described Facebook as “a mirror for the real community that exists in real life” and commented on the need to make Facebook “interesting enough so that people would want… to put their information out there.” (To watch the entire interview with Mark Zuckerberg from 2005, click here.) Much of the information that exists on Facebook is not shared in search. Important demographic information that marketers and search engines would do anything to obtain is held securely within the Facebook database. The Facebook world is large, as seen in the graphic below, and that equals an almost unimaginable quantity of valuable data.
Zuckerberg was a Harvard college dropout in 2005, and 6 years later he has a net worth of over $100 billion (pretty good for a 20-something without a college degree). In order for Google to compete for the valuable information available on Facebook, they had to develop something similar to Facebook with the same intention – create enough interest that people want to supply their own information to the public. Google’s newest social media platform, Google+ is therefore Google’s attempt to have their own database of information people want to share.
What does this mean for your business?
Google+ announced in early November 2011 that businesses would be able to set up a Google+ account, giving the search engine the ability to connect your Google+ profile to your website and the number of +1s your business has accrued. This essentially gives them a gauge of your social presence and your online authority. A Google+ business page allows other Google+ users to endorse your products and interact with your brand.
If everyone is using Facebook, why do I need a Google+ Business Page?
The number of Google+ accounts recently reached 62 million, a meager number of users compared to Facebook, and only a small fraction of these accounts are regularly active on the platform. It may, therefore, seem inconsequential to have a Google+ business page, but this is untrue.
Similar to the way you have a Google Places account where users can leave a review and find out information about your business, your business’ Google+ profile provides similar company information. Like Google Places, the Google search engine uses these as indications of your online authority. While we consider Facebook to be a social media platform, we consider Google+ to be more of an online SEO utility, like Google Places. On Google Places, users leave reviews to build more equity in search, but on Google+ you are able to build equity through individual advocates of your brand.
So what’s the difference?
Search engines can see that your business has a Facebook page, and with some Facebook networking, your business’ page will appear in search, but search engine spiders are unable to read things like how many users like your page or how many comments and posts are on your page.
If your company has a Google+ page, the Google search engine can access information like the number of people that have added your company to their circles, posted a comment on your profile or given your business a +1. All of these things affect your search rankings. A Google+ business page is another signal to Google that you have an active presence and following on one of their platforms. In fact, in the roughly 2 months that Google+ has offered business pages, these business profiles have already begun to appear on the first page of search.
Is Google+ more important to my business than Facebook?
We cannot say that one platform is more important than the other. Your business needs a Facebook page to take advantage of the large number of Facebook users searching and interacting. If you want to stay ahead of the curve and help your SEO efforts, you probably want a Google+ profile. Even if this profile gets little interaction, it is still seen as important in the eyes of Google search.
If your business jumps on the Google+ bandwagon now, while the service is still young, your company will be well positioned to reap the benefits of any SEO weight Google places on Google+ business pages, even if you have only a small number of brand advocates (possibly even your own employees).
This sounds like a lot of work!
Simpler than setting up a Facebook business page, which requires virtually-constant monitoring due to the large number of active users, your business can have a Google+ page and a few followers (all you really need) in 5 easy steps.
1. Get a Gmail Account – If you don’t already have one, you can set one up for free at https://accounts.google.com/SignUp. We recommend using an account that is strictly for business, not a personal gmail account.
2. Create a Business Page – Go to http://plus.google.com/pages/create, select whether your business is a Local Business or Place, Product or Brand, Company, Institution or Organization, Arts, Entertainment or Sports, or Other, and fill in your company’s basic information.
3. Customize your Profile – Add a tagline, your company in 1-2 sentences, and a photo.
Google+ will now ask you to promote your page. We recommend skipping this step for the time being.
4. Add some Posts – Once you skip the promotion step(that we will return to shortly) you will be taken to a page that prompts you to link to your website and add some content. Leave a couple of posts like you would on your Facebook page, industry information, etc.
5. Promote your Page – Add a link to your Facebook page, main website and any other online platforms your business uses regularly. Send emails to your employees and clients to connect with your business.
That’s all it takes?
Essentially, yes, that is all it takes. In less than an hour, you can establish your business on a platform that Google favors in search. You can even change the account settings to have up to 30 gmail accounts with Administrative capabilities. By giving Google more information about your company, Google sees you as having a broader web presence. You are not only catering to Google in this respect, but as Google works to further integrate its various platforms, your business will have less work to do. For example, if you sign up for a Google AdWords account, it asks if you want to connect to your Google+ profile. Pretty cool, huh?