March 8, 2012

How Google+ May Shape Local Business Strategies

Last week, while watching “American Idol” with my wife and daughter – don’t make fun – a commercial came on for Google+.  It was about a person who had 100s of baby pictures on their phone and lost it, but thanks to Google+, every picture had been instantly saved to their Google+ account.  At the end of the commercial, both my daughter and my wife pulled out their phones and downloaded the Google+ app.  Before the night was over, they both had set up Google+ accounts and were adding whoever they could find to their Circles…and uploading photos they didn’t want to lose.  At different points in the evening they asked me why, with this being my field of expertise, I hadn’t told them about this before.  My reply:  I didn’t think they would want to know.

Similarly, shortly after Google announced the release of Google+ Pages, the feature targeting businesses and brands, I had a friend who owns a local business ask me why I hadn’t told him about it.  My answer was the same: I didn’t think he would want to know.  After all, how many businesses, large or small, have the extra time to devote to creating and maintaining another social presence?

Then Google announced Google+ Search plus Your World, turning their social platform into a necessity for brands and retailers.  Google+ membership is roughly 12 percent of Facebook’s and current activity levels on Google+ are just a fraction of the activity on Facebook, but with Search plus Your World, Google+ offers something to brands Facebook cannot match:  longevity and search relevance.

On Facebook, comments and posts can have a short lifespan as they are continually pushed down the page.  With the advent of Google’s Search Plus your World, Google is showing that social commentary lives beyond the social page by actually showing up in search results.  Many searchers have already seen these types of commentary showing up beside “regular” organic content in the search engine results pages.  Search plus social results is the latest evolution in search and is not going away.

Does this mean that national retailers with a heavy local presence (or any other local retailers for that matter) should jump right out and create Google+ profiles for each of their locations?  No, but brands don’t want to ignore Google+ and what it will mean in the long term for local strategies.

As such, brands need to consider  the following top three points when developing a local strategy for Google+ Pages:

  1. Google local results are based on relevance, prominence and distance.  Location-based web pages (either new or sub-pages of brand site) can give a location a digital boost more than almost any other online tactic.  Coupling those pages with a Google+ Places profile will make the business even more prominent in Google’s eyes.
  2. Business listing rankings are based on relevance and citation signal strength.  Engaging in Google+ Pages will add a very strong citation signal to boost listings rankings.
  3. Facebook created a link between Facebook Pages and Facebook Places; there is every reason to believe Google+ will institute a similar link.  The ranking power of the two services (+Pages and Google Places) will certainly outweigh the power of each, individually.

As with any new platform, those retailers who move first in the space will be able to help mold and direct the evolution of the platform.  Multi-location retailers would be wise to seriously consider a move onto Google+ Pages as it presents a unique opportunity in the online space and could very well represent the next large step forward in the social revolution.