Google+ Business Pages: To Merge Or Not to Merge, That is the Question

The recent rollout of the ability to merge a G+ Business page and a G+ Local page was a significant sign post on Google’s way to integrating local into social. To Google’s credit the product and process were simple and elegant. The design was more than a notch above previous efforts in local and it just worked when you went through the process. That being said it only satisfied a very narrow use case of business listing types.

Was the rollout a signal that your business or clients should make the merge now or was its limited function a tell that you should wait?

Obviously as Google moves towards social local search it is clear that there will be moment when, for most local businesses, it will make sense to commit to fully Google Plus in one way or another.

It is important though to understand this latest move in the context of Google’s longer term plan for integrating listings into the Plus environment and know some of the pitfalls before deciding whether to go ahead with the re-verification process now or to wait.

Local and Plus both have a lot of moving parts. Google’s tactic of “develop early and iterate often” means that we will be living with a more half baked product than usual as these parts are ripped out and rebuilt. The pieces to the pie are becoming visible very slowly and a great deal of functionality is still missing.

We know that a new dashboard with increased functionality is likely on its way and hopefully better social management tools as well. In the meantime, since we are only seeing a corner of the whole picture, it is conceivable to me that a wrong step now might require a business to back up and execute a complete redo down the road if you commit too early.

What the upgrade is and isn’t:

The recent announcement of the ability to to merge via re-verification seems to be appropriate for a very small number of current local claimants: those bricks and mortar businesses with both a dashboard account AND a Google+ Business Page that don’t find re-verification a burden. Thats it, no more no less.

There are a number other use cases that are excluded from this rollout:

-Bulk upload users

-Businesses with multiple locations that find it hard to post card verify

-Service Area at Home Businesses

-Businesses that have no need for social or don’t want the hassle of re-verification.

Known issues:

-The upgrade didn’t completely do away with the need for the Dashboard, it is still necessary to add categories, do bulk uploads, add offers and to see stats.

-If you created the wrong type of +Business page originally it can’t be changed to +Business local page. You will need to create an additional +Business local page before you can proceed and your followers will not come along automatically.

Features that are missing but will be needed by many:

-There is no way for a business with many locations to have a single social stream for multiple locations. It is hard to imagine that company owned chains with thousands of locations will be able to support location level social content with the current limited tool suite.

-The current management interface only supports 50 businesses per + user and thus is limited for larger businesses.

-There is no way to easily distinguish between one of these locations and the next in the +Business page management interface.

-There is no way to indicate a single rel=publisher entity that is associated with the multiple location pages

Google’s Guidance:

From the public and private forums I have gathered the following:

– there will be an automatic verification process for those listings already claimed

– re: home-based businesses – For now, they can still add their location via the Google Places Dashboard and verify it but the new +Business verification process will not work for them.

– re: the Dashboard-  Local information can still be managed from Google Places [dashboard], though we don’t recommend it at all. Edits from +pages should take a few minutes while edits from Places will still take days. However, you’ll need to go back to Places to see dashboard metrics about your business [and to add categories].

I also asked Google for a public comment about the new product transition and a Google spokesperson said:

Our long-term vision is to enable business owners to simply and easily manage their presence across Google, whether they’re posting on a local Google+ page or updating their local listing. We’ve recently enabled verification for business owners who created pages via Google+ Pages for Business, and are working hard on ways to help additional business owners fully upgrade their listings and take advantage of the interactive features of Google+. 

I then posed the following hypothetical current situation to the spokesperson: A multi location business has created a Google+ page for Business (but not in the local category) and has 25 locations. Should they keep the Business page AND claim the 25 locations? Should they get rid of the current Business page and just claim the 25 locations? Should they just wait?

The spokesperson noted:

In the case you outlined, we’d encourage the business owner to hold tight until we enable verification for more and more businesses. 

The upshot:

From where I sit, whether to merge now depends on what type of business you have and the roll of social in your marketing mix. If you are a single or dual location bricks and mortar shop and don’t find the re-verification problematic now is as good of a time as ever.  If you have several locations and find the G+ social tools valuable then go for it. Here is a step by step guide to the process.

But as you add more locations or practitioners to the equation, the decision becomes harder. If you have 3-10 locations I would think twice. More than that would quickly become unmanageable. In this situation I would set up several locations for testing and familiarization purposes only.

If you fall into one of the many other categories of business that are not explicitly supported I would wait until Google provides a solution that meets your needs.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google+ Business Pages: To Merge Or Not to Merge, That is the Question by

46 thoughts on “Google+ Business Pages: To Merge Or Not to Merge, That is the Question”

  1. Well done, mate. Good overview of the situation. Going to try it out and see how it works. Still new, but I have to imagine better exposure with these to elements consolidated rather than fragmented for a business (when it makes sense to consolidate).

  2. Mike,

    Great write up and I like the recap at the end. I really wish they allowed you to verify via phone especially if you have already verified the business in places.

    Like you said, I think the major reason to do this is if a client wants to be super active in Googles social element. Other than that….I think they should wait for the auto merge (those might be some painful last word. :-)

  3. To Google, or not to Google: that is the question:
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous Google Places,
    Or to take arms against Google & Google+,
    And by opposing end them?

    All good food for thought. I will move some, but slowly. Gotta test this mess out!

  4. Mike totally agree with all. I’ve been fielding lots of questions and giving lot of advice. So just shared it all in my forum, as a follow up to your post here.

    As usual I wrote a book – so won’t share it all here, would be too long. But a couple points I wanted to share here to add to what Mike said:

    1) Bottom line is if you client is either A) an early adopter or B) into social media, then they already HAVE a G+ Business page. SO THEREFORE, if they don’t yet, that says to me they are neither an early adoptor OR into social media. So in that case I would not (if I were still working on clients personally) jump through hoops to integrate an early merge that may not be quite ready for prime time.

    3) If you merge now I would still consider this a little bit BETA. You need to realize it’s uncharted territory and help docs are lacking, so good chance you’ll hit some roadblocks or unknowingly take some missteps that could be hard to unravel later. Tons of questions are coming up in the Google forum that the Places TCs don’t know the answers to and even the G+ TCs don’t know. Heck even Google does not know how to answer some of the complicated use case questions yet I don’t think.

    4) When consultants ask me if they should upgrade clients now, I also tell them…

    It depends on your time and how you are being compensated IMO. If you are being paid enough to go the extra mile for clients and manage their entire Internet presence then go for it. IF you are prepared for possible bumps in the road and growing pains as everything shakes out. If a budget client, wait for Google to offer the next step which I think will be less work for you.

    I ended my post with the fact I’m VERY excited about G+ and where this is all heading, so not saying don’t upgrade. Just want to be sure folks understand it’s early and there may be extra time/work/bumps if you do it now.

  5. “Businesses that have no need for social” – about 95% of my local clients.

    I think the main advantage is the expanded About Us (home page) that allows a business to tell their story, make an offer, call to action, etc.

    Google seems to think that we want searchers to hang out on our G+Page, we don’t. We want them on our web pages or on the phone as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  6. @Kevin

    Assuming that folks actually come to read reviews then you will definitely get the option to provide them with better photos, more story and a better chance at connecting with them if you done the merge.

    @Michael
    I think there will once again be phone verification (and there still is in the every lower functioning dashboard) but pending that, and better management of multi location businesses, this model doesn’t really work for too many.

    @Mathew
    Testing makes all kind of sense to me.

    @Linda
    Thanks for the additional points and nuance. Please post the link.

  7. @Keenan

    The new PLus page definitely offers better formatting and presentation and more opportunities to move someone off of Google’s site to your site.

    Right now there appear to be some bugs with how it handles HTML and links making that harder than it should be.

  8. I’m arguing with myself over this very problem. Clients want me to give them the latest and greatest because they’ve read someplace that’s what they need. However those of us who’ve been down this road before have been burned once or twice. So my problem is how do I keep my clients happy and protect myself from an unknown amount of work do to some future google change? From my point of view it’s a no win situation.
    Best regards,
    Franklyn

  9. When the change came back in may, I had a google + account already so it seemed natural just to reverify and run with the new system. At the same time I also changed from service areas and a floating marker, to show my address and a working radius with a pin on my house. Many competing companies seem to have this situation accepted over the past year with no sign of them being bumped off. I had made the change to seeing some clients at my home office so I thought that that reflected the facts and mode of operation best. Within 3 weeks I received a “stern warning” that my listing would be taken off if I didn’t hide my address again.
    Is this a consequence of the changes that they are rolling out or is it something so basic that I’ve missed it completely as I try to get my head round all the new stuff?

    Having complied with the request from Mr G, my floating button is now at the top of the pile for a couple of my less competitive local keywords. Previously I had fairly low key showings against the national seo boys even on the low competition KWs.

  10. As of now I strongly recommend and discourage any of our customers from transitioning over to the Google+ Pages. Here is why:

    1. No one is on Google+ (more proof http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/google-plus-ghost-town_b26573)
    2. Google will be making major changes due to this lack of traction
    3. Google+ business pages are horrible to use from a searchers perspective (they are slow to load, confusing to view, and simply shill Google products)
    4. Google is again pulling local third party information into natural search results (Yelp in particular)

    Instead we are working more with Yelp profiles if they “need” to do something aggressive.

    From an overall business perspective I am glad to see Google majorly screwing up their local search results. It opens the door for competitors and widens the field for all of us service providers. It eliminates the scamming companies that used blackhat and promised “Page 1 on Google” rankings and allows LSEO to provide a wider range of local services focused more on results and less on competing with those constant “Page 1″ calls our clients received every day.

  11. If only I had the choice!

    I live in a country that ONLY has P.O. Boxes (not allowed to verify). So until Google let’s me put in a description for my address, I’m shafted.

  12. I’ve transitioned several of the listings I manage and I don’t quite understand the reticence to go ahead and merge (unless of course it’s a multi-location situation as Mike mentioned.) Being able to post updates that show up on the G+ Local interface is a much needed resurrection of the Places Page Updates that Google got rid of months ago; in addition, the posts made on G+Local are actually indexed (i.e. search friendly), whereas the old Places Page Updates were not.

    If you have a business page and a G+Local page I say go for it. Things change so quickly in this space that any new tool that enhances the aesthetics AND ability to post new, indexable content is a tool I want to take advantage of. Even if there is a change in the future that forces you to reclaim in some way, it’s just that: reclaiming. If you’ve minded your p’s and q’s citation-wise then you shouldn’t have much of a problem reclaiming.

  13. Hi Mike, we’ve been keeping up with all these changes in Google (Place, Local, +) for a while so the process of reverification was simple for many of our clients. I got back some PINs just this week and noticed the two platforms (Google Local and Google+ business page) haven’t combined or merged in any way. How long did it take for your listings to “merge”?

  14. I manage the local portion of the web presence of the company I work for and have recently attempted the merger. Everything went pretty smoothly, it took about a week to get the pin number. I even received a call from a Google employee to verify, who was a native English speaker and was helpful (shocking).

    It does not seem to have actually merged, my Google Local page has a Google + format but is distinctly different from the Google+ page that I have been posting to for some time. Not sure if this is going to take some time but they have definitely not merged at this point. They are not even linked, let alone merged. It has been verified for almost a week now.

  15. @Steve, also that’s a service area business that only goes out to customers so it’s not eligible for merge yet.

    @Kim, I’m right next door in San Marcos. ;-) I’ve reported a few like this to Google and they are looking into it.

    Could you post more details at the Google forum like dates, anything unique about how you did it. Any dupes. How and where exactly you entered the PIN, etc. Then em me the link to linda @ catalystemarketing DOT com and I’ll take a look at the additional details and escalate to our list of similar probs if need be.

    Might also check this thread to see if any similarities. https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/business/SDd05Rp9ddg/discussion And there’s another on my forum with similar yet different issues you might want to read. (It gets a little convoluted but still maybe some tips) http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/showthread.php?424-Merging-Google-Business-Page-and-Google-Local-Listing-%28via-separate-accounts%29

  16. @Mike

    Here is our current situation. We are a law firm and have 8 locations. We have places pages for each location and just 1 G+ business page for our main location. Our places page and G+ business page for our main location has not been merged yet. Should we create G+ business pages for the other 7 locations?

  17. @Michael C

    As Google has indicated above they will at some point have a solution for multiple location businesses that want a single brand social page.

    If you don’t update your listings often and don’t mind the kludge that is the Places Dashboard I would wait for that rollout as there is no way of knowing if decisions you make now will make that transition more difficult.

    Since Google has also indicated that they will also provide an automated pathway for previously verified listings, it seems to me that waiting would be the most productive strategy. I see little immediate value to either a social location page or the extra work.

    I see no disadvantage to waiting.

  18. I merged a Google Places Page into Google Plus and neither my reviews nor my photos or videos are showing. It *looks* like I am still supposed to manage my page within Google Places. The images and and videos still show in the Google Places account.

    If anyone has any suggestions on how to get those assets converted into the new Google Plus page, I’m open!

    Thanks in advance for the help.

  19. Thanks, Mike. This is great advice. I admit I had to stall a couple of my clients because I wasn’t sure what to do – it simply isn’t very clear-cut and your article addresses this very well. I’m advising some people to wait it out a bit longer.

    For our own Google Places and Google+ business page, I merged them quite easily. Google said they would send me a postcard but instead I got an email from the a few days later saying they could verify us without the postcard and included the PIN within the email instead – made me feel special for 5 mins until I came back to reality ;)

  20. “I see no disadvantage to waiting.”

    @Mike. I would like to second this opinion as there are clearly bugs present within the merge process even for accounts that meet the ideal criteria for a merge.

    I have a client who was an ideal merge candidate, with two brick and mortar locations – one merger completed with no issues (https://plus.google.com/106528850702481580529/about?gl=us&hl=en), however, the second is stuck in ‘been postcard verified but wont merge’ land.

    Finally contacted G last week regarding the 2nd location’s + page, we’ll have to see how this sorts itself out. But I add this here to toss my 2 cents in that even ideal merge candidates can run into issues.

  21. Okay got it, I have 2 brick mortar locations, and I have 2 Google places set up.

    Question 1) If one of my Google Plus pages is set up correctly (red pin/local) but set for the one address and is unverfied. Should I set up a 2nd Google Plus (local red pin) page for the other address too? And then try merging them?

    Question2) The one page I have been working on I now realize is a brand page and is not local. Can I change this category to a local page? If I can’t will this page ever merge to one of the existing places page?

  22. @Robin

    Question 1) If one of my Google Plus pages is set up correctly (red pin/local) but set for the one address and is unverfied. Should I set up a 2nd Google Plus (local red pin) page for the other address too? And then try merging them?

    That is your call but I see the risks as quite high and the benefits few. If I were you I would wait patiently unless social marekting at Plus is a very critical element of your marketing.

    Question2) The one page I have been working on I now realize is a brand page and is not local. Can I change this category to a local page? If I can’t will this page ever merge to one of the existing places page?

    You can not change this page from Brand to Local and it will NOT merge.

  23. Comment #20,
    That Google Local Page is not claimed so if that is you or a clients you should verify and claim it before a competitor closes the business

  24. This is a fairly old thread now, but one issue I have been struggling with is changing the about information after having merged my business page and +local page is accurately updating the “About” information.

    Namely, my changes get approved, but without any of the formatting or anchor text links I had set up in the “Edit Business Information” segment.

    Any ideas on this?

  25. @Scot
    In theory these pages offer “rich text” formatting. However due to security issues related to Maps and HTML, they are under strict algo review. The result is that this feature has not worked reliably. All you can do is wait for Google to get their act together.

  26. Thanks, Mike.

    Ah, ’tis disappointing though. I’ve spoken directly with Google local staff, and they have said that is something they have no control over, it’s up to the + team (who in turn do not have a support line).

    Feeling vaguely punished for merging, but I also want the local search benefits!

  27. @scott
    As far as I could tell merging offered little in the way if “local search bebefits”. It was neutral in that regard. It does allow for a prettier local page I suppose but given the many quirks and limits I did not generally recommend it.

  28. @mike
    Yes, I am beginning to think it might not have been a good idea as well, at least not until these idiosyncrasies get ironed out.

    I have other pages I’ve set up that I want to put the official stamp on, but am now reluctant to do the whole merge process again.

    In this case; do you have any idea how to go about verifying a business brand page?

  29. Can I remove google plus?

    I have merged google place with google plus; but in google plus there aren’t categories that there are in google place; like apartment, building apartment, rental agency apartment.

    These words are important for me and I have disappeared in local with these words.

    Can I remove google plus page and have google place only?.

  30. You can remove your listing from the dashboard or not. Its up to you. Google IS upgrading the dashboard and you will get the new one eventually. Regardless both PLus and the Dashboard feed data to the same knowledge graph. Once the upgrade is complete you will lose access to custom categories so enjoy them while you can.

  31. Hi, Just wondering if you have any practical experiences on the following… Can merging bring benefits for local rankings?

  32. I have a client who has a general (not connected to one location) Google+ page for their brand. They currently have individual Google+ Local pages for each of their 75 locations. So, it sounds like as of now, the best practice is to leave things as-is until Google has a “solution for multiple location businesses that want a single brand social page” as you mentioned in a previous post.

    However, we’re finding areas where we need to make updates to a Google+ Local page that require us to merge that page with a Google+ business page, and I’m not sure what the best solution is.

    Example: We have claimed and verified a location and it has a Google+ Local page. A Google user (unknown to us) posted a personal photo to this page, which is now appearing as the profile photo on their local page. In order to fix that and post our own profile photo, Google is guiding us to a page that requires us to create a public profile. Since this is a franchise location, and not really connected to a person, I’m not sure how to proceed from here.

    It seems like the most ethical practice would be to have the GM or franchise owner of each location setup a personal profile, and then connect that to their local page. But, that could be very time consuming and challenging to get each GM to comply, and could cause issues with turnover of managers and the fact that some franchise owners have more than one location.

    I considered setting up a “dummy” Gmail account for each location, but that feels wrong.

    What is the best practice here, and what would you recommend?

  33. @Allison
    I am not sure why you would need to upgrade to social to have the ability to control photos on the page. If the photo is inappropriate, report it. You can upload photos via your dashboard and via the community upload to have more photos of your own that you like. Anyone with a public profile can upload photos it doesn’t need to necessarily be from the company, it could your account.

  34. Mike –

    I know this is an older post, but I stumbled upon it while searching what to do with my multi-location business, so thanks for the info! You pasted Google’s response to you about companies like mine that would prefer to have one social stream, and multiple locations. They said to “hold tight”. Did they ever land or come up with a solution for this type of use case, or is that still pending?

    My company was a single location business until a couple months ago, and I want to get our new location listed in Google. Challenge is that we have been building up a following on our current G+ page (https://plus.google.com/+greatfermentations), and I would prefer to not have to manage two social accounts. In an ideal world, I would have one G+ page, that contains all my physical business locations. Any suggestions on what we should do?

    Thanks!

  35. @Bryan

    Google will create G+ local Pages as soon as they discover your locations. So there is no way to avoid Google showing those pages…. The best that you can probably do in this situation, given that Google still does not have a single stream/multi location ability, is to claim the other locations, add decent photos, highlight a good profile photo, add a decent cover photoand generate at least 5 reviews for each location.

    Then on the posts page add just one post direction potential followers over to your original social local page.

  36. @Mike

    Thanks for the info! Two more questions then I’m (hopefully) done. Google has not “found” my new location. Can I add it myself? Also, what is the difference between a local page and places?

    Thanks!

  37. @Bryan
    Place pages became G+ local Pages… they are one in the same…. they have two management interfaces”
    G+ Pages Dashboard or the Google Places for Business Dashboard.

    Both can be used to add and verify new listings. I prefer the (new) Google Places for Business Dashboard for a number of reasons (see this post. Also because of the new review monitoring system which is only visible in the Places Dashboard.

    This all assumes that you are not still using the old Places Dashboard. See this post to ascertain that see this post.

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