Google+ Custom URLs – Facts, Tidbits and Concerns

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 9.24.59 AMGoogle rolled out a series of new photographic tools on Tuesday that they hoped would make them as cool as Apple but it seems that all folks are talking about is the new “custom” URLs at Google Plus.

Here are a number of factoids, observations & issues in relation to the latter:

  • “Custom” is a misnomer. Assigned is more like it. Custom implies that you have some input into the process which is fully automated. You pretty much have to accept the URL given or keep your number.
  • Any brand or business that has a linked website or is a verified local business can claim a custom URL for their Google+ page. Link and verification info is available in the Google+ Help Center: http://goo.gl/RMpxP
  • Even though there appears to be an appeal option the decision is for the most part final on the new URL.
  • From Google: At this time, we do not allow you to appeal your assigned Custom URL. Based on user feedback, we’ll determine any necessary updates to this process. 
  • Google will use a number of signals, including the name of the page/profile, and the website associated with the page to determine the given URL.
  • Businesses with multiple locations are being assigned a URL like BusinessNameLocation as in plus.google.com/+PizzHutOlean
  • When the domain is NOT .com Google seems to be adding the TLD to the end of the URL. Business with .net or .org will have those added to the URL.
  • This applies to international domains as well. So folks in France are getting URLs with FR appended to the end. This is an aestetic problem but apparently becomes  more so if you live in Cook Islands, and the websites end in “co.ck“. (Is this real?)
  • John Mueller noted that the “vanity URLs also work on any Google TLD”. They thus can be shortened from plus.google.com/+MikeBlumenthal to google.com/+MikeBlumenthal and it will still work.
  • Barry Schwartz noted that the Google’s TOS regarding Custom URLS indicate that Google “are free for now, but we may start charging a fee for them. However, we will tell you before we start charging and give you the choice to stop participating first”. Wow would that be a mess.
  • Glenn Gabe noticed that Google is 302′ing the old # URL to the new name URL. Strange but according to John Mueller  noted in the comments that “Google treats it like a redirect. [and] Yes, you can use rel=author with these.  You can also use the numeric ID” and thus should have no affect on existing author links. There is a good discussion of this at Cyrus Shepard’s G+ Post.

As in all change the real question for me is who really benefits? Clearly this is a win for Google. It is ironic at one time Google only sent traffic to your website and now you will be sending traffic to Google.

Cyrus Shepard noted that the new URL structure would likely cause G+ Pages to show more visibly for branded searches at Google. I suppose that might shift some traffic away from the directories to SMBS so that would be a net benefit if the SMB maintained a decent Plus Page.

My biggest concern though is that SMBS will not think through how this should fit into an integrated on-line marketing plan and that they will send folks willy nilly to their new and shiny google.com/+MyBusiness page. If this comes at the expense of building out their own web equity and losing the ability to track, analyse and convert new and existing customers it would be a shame.

Social media has a roll to play in SMB marketing but it should supplement a sound plan not replace it.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google+ Custom URLs - Facts, Tidbits and Concerns by

22 thoughts on “Google+ Custom URLs – Facts, Tidbits and Concerns”

  1. My assigned custom URL has com and the location in it yet there is only one location, the site is a .com, and the name isn’t a real word i.e. no competition. I didn’t accept the assignment figuring I might as well wait to see if they give me a better option.

  2. I also noticed that it doesn’t capitalise each word in your chosen name, outside the additions like location.

    The good news is they 302 redirect if people get the case wrong. I think a 301 would be better but they seem to be 302ing everything at the moment. Maybe encase they change their mind!

    I also picked up a mixed number + vanity url that still worked after the conversion. No redirect but it had a canonical to the correct vanity url.

  3. Social media certainly shouldn’t (and couldn’t) replace a well integrated online marketing plan for the average SMB.

    But it is a necessary complement to boost said web equity..at least in this cowpoke’s totally biased overly simplistic opinion.

    If Google enlists more SMBs to increase their awareness and take (correct, beneficial) action with their online business identity, that should benefit SEOs, SMBs, and most importantly local customers, and of course Google.

  4. Good summary, Mike!

    I recommend all folks and businesses who are not happy with URL they got to wait and not accept their assigned URL. Rather wait until enough people complain/send feedback about .co, .org, .co.uk,… additions (or be more proactive and submit Google+ feedback) and there’s a better solution. Hopefully. It’s easier to wait for solution than try to change it later.

  5. @Chris
    My only concern is that SMBs hear how great G+ is (or a Facebook Page) or whatever other shiny baubble comes along and neglect the fundamentals of a good website, rigorous email gathering, review management and even blogging.

    I consider that all of those should come before an aggressive social presence.

  6. Hmm I’m beginning to think that the process Google has gone through isn’t the best but then again a custom URL landrush isn’t either. I guess they are trying to make it fairer.

    I can’t see everyday users being charged for their name based on the TOS, but perhaps we will see a Google+ premium service in future?!

    From these facts and the 302ing I’ starting to think thi is more of a test than a rollout!

  7. @Mike

    Just to follow-up on my post about my vanity URL being inconsistent. The day before yesterday I got another notice from Google with another assigned name. This one was “clean” without com or the location. Needless to say I accepted before they changed their minds again :-)

  8. @Marios

    When you say that you did not claim the original offered Custom URL, did you actually respond to some type of messaging that said something along the lines of “No Thanks” or did you just choose to “do nothing” until Google added an additional choice?

  9. For those who are not satisfied with the Custom URLs that Google offered, users in the Google+ Help Community are being encouraged to use the “Send Feedback” tool, from within Google+, and submit the following:

    Current URL
    Offered URL
    Preferred URL

    For those who were offered the preferred URL on a different Profile/Page than the one it should logically be on, that information should be included as well.

    That said, it is not clear (to me) if users are receiving new offers as a result of using “Send Feedback” or if it is just coincidental that the new offer comes along after not choosing to accept the URL that was originally offered.

  10. @Marios

    Thanks for the clarification about how you handled your original Custom URL offer.

    It helps (somewhat) to have the exact details, since many of the user reports I see are often missing important details. It helps to know all the facts, when we are trying to figure out how (if at all) the experience might be impacted, from the user side.

  11. Robert Scoble got +Scobleizer – I don’t know if Google came up with that or whether a human intervenes to get it just right for “high profile folk”.

    I’m “alicam” everywhere but had to settle for AlisterCameron, since there is no appeal process. Very frustrating. I’d like to say “I’m alicam everywhere” but now G+ is an exception.

    Just upsets me that – I suspect – exceptions and special conditions were applied to “special people” and for the rest of us, it’s automated… and wrong!

    A

  12. @Alister
    There has long been a “test program” that allowed celebrities to get a custom URL. I believe that now that the custom url program has rolled out more widely that this boutique approach is no longer in effect but it may be.

    Unfortunately this was available to a very few people and provided truly custom URLS not the machine generated drivel that we are being asked to accept as “custom”.

  13. Hi all,

    I have a question. Have you experienced problems with the customs URLs trying to setup the authorship? Last week Google used to display both numeric and customized URL’s and now I can only get the customized URL and it is not working. Does anybody knows how to get ONLY the numeric URL (i.e. plus.google.com/00000000000)?

  14. What’s your opinion – if you get a horrible assigned URL, better to accept it or hold out and see what happens? My page’s assigned URL is 37 characters long!

  15. @Jim
    My opinion is: it doesn’t really matter one way or the other.

    Given that I would hold out and see if something better comes along… obviously if it is 37 characters its not like you are going to lose it.

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