By Todd Atkins
Ever since Google rolled out Google+, business owners have been eagerly anticipating the ability to use the new social media network to interact with their customers and establish their brand. Over the last few months a few rumors had spread like wild fire about when this feature would be available. Today, Google announced that Pages for Google Plus are here! Well… almost here.
UPDATED 11/9: Google+ Page Creation is now open to all.
As of today, Google+ Pages has officially launched in beta mode. Google says the new social media feature is not yet ready for everyone. Instead, we’ve been given a sneak peak into how Pages will look and a few suggestions and ideas into how business can use it for both Social Media Marketing and branding. When it is ready, you’ll be able to create your Google+ Page just like you would create your Google Plus profile or Google Places page..
I spent a little time checking out the limited sample Google+ Pages out there already. Honestly, I can’t say I’m all that impressed with the front end. There’s nothing special here that isn’t already integrated with personal profile pages. You have the ability to add the business to one of your circles (or better yet, create a new circle for business pages). You can publicly +1 the business page. This obviously, will help the business with search engine optimization, but I fail to see how this will benefit the visitor/customer. In fact, this seems to compete with the add to circles feature and will likely confuse less savvy users. Google+ Pages also show the number of people who have added the business to their circles (“followers”). The business owner can post links, videos, pictures and users can comment and interact. Businesses have a little bit of space to give a short description of the organization and a link to their site. That’s it. Nothing revolutionary. It’s hard to understand why it took so long for Google to roll this out, especially after the harsh criticism for being so late on this already, falling behind Facebook on options, and their over the top strict rules on real names on Google+.
We don’t have much insight to what the back end will look like. One can assume it will have a similar interface as the personal profile editor for Google Plus. Given the extremely limited features of the front end of Google+ Pages, I don’t expect much on the back end simply because there’s nowhere for it to appear on your Page. I’m hoping for integration with Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. It would seem logical to just add it into Analytics instead of creating a separate data reporting system. However, logic didn’t stop Google from creating a less robust data reporting system for Google Places.
As of the time of this writing, there doesn’t seem to be any integration with Google Places, AdWords, or AdSense. I strongly suspect that Google Plus will eventually display ads, but nothing yet. It’s still early, but I was not able to find any “merged listings” in Google Search. Google rolled out these combined results earlier this year for organic searches that were relevant to local businesses. I strongly suspect that, by this time next year, they will merge Google+ Pages into organic results for branded keywords. Until then, they have announced “Direct Connect”.
Direct Connect isn’t really a feature, but a search modifier/operator, which is a special way to search for Google+ Pages. Power users of Google Search already know about advanced search operators. Direct Connect simply lets you easily find a business’s Google+ Page. Search on “+Pepsi” to try it out.
If Google has any hope for Google+ Pages to compete with Facebook Pages, they still have a lot of work to do. What are the top features I’d like to see? Well, let’s start off with getting a few functions that are unique for businesses, like custom content. After that, here is a list of features that should be pretty easy for them to roll out.
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