Google+ continues to grow it’s reputation as the Rubik’s Cube of online marketing. Baffling to most, understood by few and ever, ever, ever changing.
Either purposefully or organically Google+ is unlike other social networks and because of that, Google+ is the single most important thing a small business can do to succeed online.
In the last several weeks I have been asked two related questions regarding Google+
- “Why would a small business care about a failed social network?”
- In the context of the removal of Google+ links from organic results – “What bothers you about the absence of G+ (links). Isn’t that actually a good thing? After all you control your website but not G+. “
According to the most recent statistics – Google+ is the #3 social network with over 540 million active users. You Tube has 1 billion users. Facebook has 1.5 billion users. Failed social network?
The bigger question is why a small business should care about Google+. Let’s start with some very basic statistics.
- 90% of US adults use the internet
- Nearly 2/3rds of Americans have a smart phone
- Google drives approximately 80% of organic search, 86% of mobile search and 90% of global search
- Bing and Yahoo are essentially the same search engine and combined make up about 17% of search
- All remaining search providers fall into the remaining 3%
- 90% of consumers use search to find local products and services
Based on these numbers, Google clearly provides the greatest potential value for a small business. Google+ heavily influences how a small business appears in Google.
There are three things a small business should worry about in regard the their on-line visibility:
- How does the business appear when customer searches specifically for it? Branded visibility is key to reputation management and customer retention. A search for a local business by name is strong buying signal – over 80% of local mobile searches convert to sales. Google+ data drives nearly all of the information that shows up when someone searches for a business specific term such as ‘ABC Catering St Louis’ including the Knowledge Graph results that appear to the right of the organic search results.
- How does the business appear when customers search for applicable competitive terms? Competitive visibility is key to customer acquisition. Within a typical search page there are multiple types of results – a search for ‘catering St Louis’ returns the results in the image below. Competitive visibility can be gained in the Google Places/local/map/ Google+/Google My Business results, in the organic results and in the paid advertising.
- How does the business appear in mobile results? Mobile visibility is the key to growth. While this is partially covered above, it’s important to recognize that mobile and voice generated search will continue to grow in value. Google+ / GMB information that is claimed and validated as being provided by the business owner is the ‘gold standard’ for local business information. Google is putting processes in place that will devalue local data that is not managed by the business owner. Devalued local data will have great difficulty gaining any visibility in mobile and voice search results.
Google+ influences search results.
Reviews from Google+ can be connected to paid advertising on Google Adwords.
Google+ is the primary source of verified business information that appears in the local and map results. Claiming, validating, building and managing a Google+ page dramatically improves local search visibility.
One of the least understood values of Google+ is it’s impact on personalized search results. When a user searches in Google, the results are personalized based on location, search history and other factors. One factor is Google+. A business that is connected to a user via Google+ will be far more likely to appear in that users organic (middle of the page) search results. This is true for the initial user, everyone that they are connected to and everyone they are connected to. This ‘organic network effect’ can be tremendously valuable.
As you can see in the example above, Google has once again changed the look and content of the local search results. It’s a step in the right direction, reintroducing the physical address, hours and phone number to the results.
Why are these links to Google+ important?
Because the information that appears in these local results all comes from Google+ and a direct link provides users with access to the next level of information they need to make a buying decision. Regardless of whatever tweaks Google may make to the interface, UX should always take precedence. In fact most SEO is directly related to improving the UX.
Put another way, Google uses the data from Google+ to present the initial view of a business to searchers but does not make it easy for the user to directly access that source information. That seems to defy user expectation. Users want as much information as possible within the initial view – the fewer clicks the better.
To have a local business result with no phone number or address, with the only pathway to that data being through Google Maps is nonsensical. Nor does it make sense to show a few pictures of a business in the Knowledge Graph but not allow easy access to the rest. The same applies to reviews and other content.
The unfortunate part is that we have absolutely no idea what Google+ local results will look like tomorrow . They continuously tweak functionality with no seeming rationale. The frustration of people within the social / search marketing world and among small business users is understandable.
We can not control Google+, but we can influence what appears there. In reality, we don’t control a websites visibility either. Penguins and Pandas prove that.
Why should a small business care about a failed social network? Why does visibility and access to Google+ data matter?
A small businesses Google+ presence is the single most powerful way to influence visibility on Google. The content of Google+ drives small business visibility in the worlds largest search engine.
Unlike any other social network, Google+ pays huge dividends whether a businesses customers ever use it as a social network or not. Unlike other social networks, the value of Google+ extends far beyond the social layer.
For a small business, it is critical to influence Google+ as much as possible. Claim, validate and optimize your listing. Claim and delete old or duplicate listings. Integrate Google+ to your site, Engage with upstream influencers to help Google+ understand your business.
Google+ is a repository of business content connected to communications tools that enable upstream and down steam communications. It is the defacto small business directory for 90% of the worlds searches but remains Rubik’s-like for so many