Google Search May Force You to Expand Your Social Media Portfolio
Google, the world's most popular online search engine, is making changes to its search model because of its recent entry into social media platforms. Going forward, search results will be placing less relevance on your business website’s content and more importance on the online conversation about it.
What Google’s New Search Addition Emphasizes
Like many Google updates, one of the most important for businesses fell under most entrepreneurs’ radars. On January 10, 2012, Google launched Search Plus Your World, an enhancement to its ubiquitous Google Search. The company claims Search Plus Your World will "bring your world, rich with people and information, into search." Unfortunately for the small business owner, your world and your potential customers’ worlds aren’t always one in the same.
While your website may be overflowing with great content crafted around the keywords a potential customer is searching, your site could be knocked down a few pegs in the results if you’re not integrating Google+ with your online marketing strategy. Instead of mostly focusing on your site’s architecture, links and its content’s relevancy, Search Plus Your World focuses on three areas:
- Personal results, such as Google+ photos and posts created by or shared specifically with the search user.
- Profiles in Search, meaning Google will display relevant people you might want to follow based on the search term.
- People and Pages, including people profiles and Google+ pages Google thinks match the search query.
The problem for the Google+-abstaining small business owner lies in the arrangement of the Google+ search results. All of this social data is located above the organic search results, much like Google Ads are displayed. But instead of the visually boring text ads, users will now see intriguing pictures, people and profiles before scrolling down to your business’ website. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed: Scrolling down remains an impediment to getting your site's search result noticed and boosting site visits.
You can debate whether Search Plus Your World is a brilliant way to connect people socially to pictures, profiles and people of interest, or a ploy to ensure Google remains top dog by favoring its Google+ social network in search results. Either way, if Google is favoring individuals—and, more importantly, businesses—with Google+ profiles, it’s in your business’s best interest to jump on the bandwagon.
Six Steps to Creating a Google+ Business Page
Before you devote all of your social media attention to Google+, don’t neglect your Facebook Business Page and your Twitter account. Facebook maintains about 800 million users, and Twitter lays claim to more than 300 million tweeters. Neglecting the two biggest social media players in favor of your Google+ account that, at this moment, reaches 62 million users won’t maximize your impact. Google+ will have to fit into—not dominate—your overall social media plan.
Once you’ve blocked off a little uninterrupted time, you can create your Google+ Business Page at Google+ for Business. While the Google-provided instructions and videos are fairly comprehensive, you can follow detailed video instructions if you’d like to really dive into the process.
If, on the other hand, you’re more interested in getting something live that has 80 percent of what you want now and working on the other 20 percent at your leisure, following these basic steps will help you create a respectable Google+ Business Page.
- Choose the correct category. After you click the "Create Your Google+ Page" button, you’ll be presented with five category choices:
- Local Business or Place
- Product or Brand
- Company, Institution or Organization
- Arts, Entertainment or Sports
For the sake of argument, let’s say you own a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Is that a Local Business or Place, or does it fall under Arts, Entertainments or Sports? In this case, it’s a Local Business or Place. If you were promoting your book—not your bookstore—it would be Arts, Entertainment or Sports. Making sure you select the correct category now saves a lot of headaches down the line.
- Enter your phone number, or add it to Google. Google will attempt to locate your business after you enter your business phone number. If it doesn’t find your business—or it finds the wrong business—click the "Add Your Business to Google" link and complete the prompts. You must enter an address if your Google+ Page is for a Local Business or Place.
- Change the profile photo. Click the “Change profile picture” button to replace the default photo. In most cases, you’ll want to avoid a personal picture, unless you’re an insurance agent, financial planner, doctor or a professional in a similar line of work where you are synonymous with your business and its brand. Opt for your logo, or if you have a brick-and-mortar shop, a nice picture of the storefront or the merchandise will work.
- Spread the word about your new Business Page. If you’ve already created a personal Google+ account (which you should, as customers want to hear from the owner personally, especially during a service breakdown), Google+ will prompt you to share information about your new Business Page on your personal Goolge+ account. This likely won’t reach prospects, but remember to keep it fun yet professional. If a prospect finds your Google+ Business Page then stumbles upon your personal page only to find an unprofessional or offensive post, you’ve probably lost a customer for life.
- Post on your brand new Google+ Business Page. At this point, you’ve actually finished your Google+ Business Page. Congratulations! But bear in mind your page contains nothing other than a profile picture and your contact information. You’ll want to make a couple posts, just like you would on Facebook. The posts can include links to products you currently have on sale, announcements about new services you offer, etc.
- Link your business website. Click the "Get the badge >>" link so you can update your business website with a badge that links directly to your Google+ page. This not only demonstrates to visitors your web savvyness but also enables you to increase the recommendations for your site in a Google Search.
As you explore Google+, you’ll unearth a plethora of areas you can customize and add content to. For now, your Google+ Business Page is good to go. And with some continual postings and maintenance it should help you achieve higher Search Plus Your World results. Until, of course, Google reinvents search yet again.