Google+ goes corporate – Now open for business (oh and Places, brands and others)

by Peter Young on November 8, 2011 · 3 comments

Finally Google is doing what many of us said they should have done before, and opened Google+ up for commercial brands. Like many Google launches this is being phased out – however at the time of writing I was seeing the new feature live and kicking here in the UK.

Using the ‘Create a Page‘ tool, users can now create a page in one of five main categories namely:
- Local Business or Product
- Brands or Products
- Company or Organisation
- Arts, Entertainment or Sports
- Other

Details required in each setting varies from category to category with fields presented changing depending on what options you choose from above. In particular for commercial organisations, the Local and Product Brand options are likely to be of particular interest. However the lack of integration between the Local Google+ page and the actual Google Places entry is somewhat of an oversight in my opinion. Surely the time has come to revisit the entire Local framework – as this is something that is archaic, cumbersome and out of touch with everything else Google appears to be doing – but that is a different post.

That said, these Google+ local pages do include some of the functionality of the Places page.
“Local Google+ pages are unique from other categories of pages because they have features that allow customers to easily connect with that business’s physical location. For example, local pages include a map of the business’s location and feature its address, phone number, and hours of operation.” – Google Help pages

However according to Google the functional differences of the Google+ environment to that of Places, is one of the reasons things have been kept seperate. Why closer integration between the two should not have been included from the beginning is beyond me. Surely one looking for a local partner is more likely to buy into the whole feel of the brand and probably more so than a bigger brand.
“Currently, Place pages and Google+ Pages must be managed separately. A Place page provides information about a business and makes it easy for customers to find local businesses on Google Maps and local search; while a Google+ page provides business owners with additional ways to engage, build relationships and interact directly with customers.” – Search Engine Land

Its just one of the examples of a feeling of disjointedness that we have seen throughout the Google+ launch. That said, the functionality of the personal Google+ accounts is still there for Pages. Users can still share photos, videos links and conduct hangouts. Further to that, organisations are not restricted to one page, so for example company x could have one page for their company, one each for their brands, one each for any local entities and so on. There is still some usability issues with regards to +1/circles etc however one can’t help thinking much of this being factored into the overall algorithm in some form or another. Further to that much of the feedback I have had has mentioned the issue of duplication and even potential canabalisation of brand spaces. Again not all the questions appear to have been answered here and one would assume and hope any small issues are worked through and sorted out over the coming days and weeks.

One of the nicer touches – and the explanation for the removal of the +parameter recently on searches has been the launch of Direct Connect which effectively links search with that of the Google Pages. Whenever a user wants to find a brand on Google+, all they have to do is type “+” in Google Search, followed by the brand or business they want to follow. So if a user wants to follow DFS, they would simply type “+DFS” in the Google Search box. This brings up a direct link to the DFS Google+ Page that appears directly under the search box. Hitting enter after typing in “+DFS” will also take a user directly to DFS’s page. Its certainly a nice touch – and one of the better features of the new pages platform – however one needs to be warned it does need setting up first.

We have all seen Facebook taking a leap into the offline integration landscape by encouraging brands to use their Facebook environments for landing pages and the like (ie FMCG goods -Smirnoff etc). Google had a fantastic opportunity to develop this early doors – something given their existing corporate relationships that would have been far far easier to do than it would be for Facebook who are still finding their way. To me really going to town on this would have given them a fantastic environment to leverage greater personal usage of Google+. At the end of the day – why are businesses going to jump if the audience isn’t there. Again an opportunity missed in my opinion.

To conclude, Google+ is potentially a great little tool. Whether its got the social factor and likeability factor to take on Facebook is still open to debate. It certainly has issues – theres no doubting that – and as with any modern Google product it does have a ‘half finished’ feel to it. That said there is no doubting in my head its got the potential to integrate nicely with search and integrate the social functionality into an environment potential customers are used to – and it gets more exciting when one considers the products Google is working on and could bring to the table – ie Wallet, Local, Shopping etc. Its a step forward but its the start of a long journey if Google wants to get the product itself right. That said one can’t help feeling that Google are already getting a ton of value from + in terms of the understanding user behaviour etc. That itself is worth its weight in gold

Here are some thoughts from the industry:

Sam Crocker – OMD
It’s a really interesting opportunity and I think there will definitely be more that will come as a result of it. It’s potentially much better than Facebook pages as from first glance it looks like the analytics information available will be much better and more regularly available. In the long term I think this is going to have a massive impact/intersect with Google places and they way in which Google rolls this out and in the longer (still) term I think this will line up really nicely with Google products and even integrate with Google wallet. It’s a bit of a long shot but this is where I really see this going and this is ultimately where I see Google+ having a real impact on the space – I see it as more of a social marketplace and maps/reviews interaction data source as much as anything else. Still lots more playing to do though!

Ooooh and worth noting that I think along with integrating with Places they’re going to really find their stride with vouchers and location as well… watch this space!

Rishi Lakhani
The real reason why Google has removed the plus operator (http://searchengineland.com/google-sunsets-search-operator-98189) was in preparation for brand pages.

In your google plus settings https://plus.google.com/settings/plus) see this line:
“Automatically add a Google+ page to my circles if I search for + followed by the page’s name.”

So Google is going to potentially con hundred of eople into plussing sites that they never intended to.

Eds note (PY) – Google did forecast this back in late October – https://twitter.com/#!/rishil/status/128817367995252737

Dan Taylor from Moneysupermarket
Working for one of the largest brands in the UK the Google+ Pages are just another property we have to claim to protect our brand, but where Google+ differs from say Facebook is the ability for businesses to personally connect with individual users through features such as Hangouts. This means that potentially customers can get 1 to 1 facetime (no pun intended) with businesses they follow.

What this means from a business perpective is anybodys guess; will businesses have the resources to manage these relationships, and will Google+ provide the necessary return on engagement required to utilize the full feature set on Google+?

Tim Nash
Google+ Pages seem very clunky, not entirely sure how to add people to the pages circles, and with them defaulting to the wall and not the about page means information about the brand or company isn’t immediately seen. Indeed they look a little to much like a users page. So when do people expect to see Facebook style Apps for pages?

Mark Edmondson – Guava via Twitter
Google+ pages have a huge incentive by offering bypass of navigational search, avoiding aggressive brand bidding etc

Ammon Johns via Twitter
G+ Pages finally gives G+ something over Facebook. Far more bizlike than FB, yet more social than Linkedin.

Stacey Cavanagh via Twitter
It’s a bit disappointing. Facebook do it better…. No different to setting up a personal page really.

Liam Sheppard – Coast Digital – via Twitter
Disappointment. We’ve waited all this time for what is no different to the standard profile. No analytics or additional features!

Ian Miller – Crafted Media – via Twitter
Good for avoiding brand search leakage to 3rd party sites, & aggregated +1s crftd.md/uGs218. Poor as yet another platform

Tom Smith – Fast Web Media via Twitter
Direct Connect could make Google+ brand pages interesting: on.mash.to/tOPjoj …The pages really need analytics though.

Google+ Comments

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kev Strong November 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm

The ability to create brand pages with no confirmation/verification could be a very quick win for someone with malicious intent. However, I think that Google may hold off indexing these pages until this is addressed.

If not, then I wouldn’t be surprised if some very quick thinking individuals are spamming SERP’s with (what is likely to be) and instant 1st page, controlled ranking for a brand phrase related search. Think Ugg Boots and a link to a counterfeit website.

Once fully rolled out and implemented, I can see Google+ Pages becoming a very valuable property for companies to control not only for brand searches, but for overall “hub” integration.

Stacey Cavanagh November 10, 2011 at 10:53 pm

I am indeed disappointed so far… Business pages are a little, well, primitive. Google does have a habit of making things better with time though and hopefully we’ll see increased functionality, custom URLs and means of verifying the authenticity of a page in the very near future.

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