What does My Business Tell Us About the Future of Google Plus?

The recent rollout of Google My Business provides an interesting view port into the future of Plus. It is the first public major rollout in Local since Larry Page took the helm and since the introduction of Google Plus three years ago.  We can see in this product the widespread use of Plus features but nowhere is Plus even mentioned.

Several months ago rumors were rampant that Google Plus was going the way of the dodo, soon to join a raft of recently abandoned Google products .

However in My Business we see it tightly integrated into the portal. But not as a stand alone product or brand. Interestingly, while Google Plus is integral to the product AND it broadly utilizes Plus, there is NO mention of Google Plus anywhere in My Business.

In this rollout Plus is being positioned as a feature or a service not a product. It is being positioned as part and parcel of Google’s Local offering not as the offering.

Unlike previous product rollouts Google released their mobile app simulataneously with the desktop version. In the mobile app the relationship to Google Plus is particularly obvious or rather not obvious. The user, while using Plus broadly, doesn’t directly interact with it at all.

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Look at this recent customer communication advising the SMB about the many features and benefits of the  new My Business:

Tips for successful sharing:

Keep your content fresh and public – Share what’s new with your business, important updates from your community and more.

Post exclusive events and deals – Promote special offers and big sales events and ensure great turnouts with Google+ events.

Share beautiful, high-quality photos – Pick up your smartphone or camera and take photos of your window display and your best selling products.

Record a behind-the-scenes tour – Use Hangouts on Air from your laptop to broadcast a video recording of your business or your team in action.

 Respond to your customers – Think of your posts as a dialogue. Respond to comments and follow your followers back.

The email is very action oriented. Everything is about sharing, posting and responding and every feature mentioned takes advantage of Plus but the business, whether using the App or the Dashboard, doesn’t need to be aware even of Plus’s existence to take actions. (Note that the only other brand mentioned is Hangouts On Air, obviously a brand and product that is also being positioned as a stand alone mobile product).

In the past Local was being rammed into Plus. Now Plus, sans the brand, is being integrated as a service into the new local portal as  as a communication tool for SMBs. It is wrapped in the utility of a multifunction portal that increases the value of all the parts and makes them more accessible.

My Business is a product that is tightly focused on serving a large horizontal market segment – small business. It doesn’t address the needs of very large business, multi-location businesses, hobbyists or specific verticals. So one assumes that there are more rollouts that will address these markets.

Time will tell but I think it likely that when Google does address those markets the product and brands will tightly integrate Google Plus as a service. It won’t be dead, it will just be repackaged as a range of services when and if relevant to the market, the brand and most importantly, the app.

It is the App world that Google is facing its largest existential battle and where I think you will see Plus being repurposed as a service across a broad range of targeted apps and mobile brands.

Plus apparently is not going away but it is morphing.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
What does My Business Tell Us About the Future of Google Plus? by

20 thoughts on “What does My Business Tell Us About the Future of Google Plus?”

  1. Mike,
    thank you for this interesting and insightful article. While I was reading I thought yes you are right. I did not notice but it is actually quite a smart move for Google. I know from clients that they are rather reluctant to use this Google+ thing which seems to be dead to them. They don’t know how to approach it or make good use of it. Then there is the Google + Local part which is even more confusing to most.
    So to drop these names or at least to rebrand and restructure makes good sense.
    Now SMB are faced with a new cool easy to use dashboard for it all. With a name that also makes sense.
    I’m quite excited to see where this is going. And I also don’t think Google+ will go away just be integrated more nicely in a way where local businesses don’t get confused anymore.

    1. Hi Kersten
      Yes, from a sales view point it is always best to position benefits rather than features and by doing so Google is clearly articulating some compelling reasons for SMB engagement.

      Just this feature alone: Post exclusive events and deals – Promote special offers and big sales events and ensure great turnouts with Google+ events. is enough to attract many SMBs. And the fact that it will often show on the front page of google for a Brand Search is even nicer. Particularly so in an era when Facebook is cutting back on the reach of an SMBs content on their page there.

  2. Mike,

    Great post as always. Your last point in the comment to Kerstin is particularly insightful. Will be interesting to see if more SMBs being to use this new portal to get proactive about engaging SERPs.

    1. @stephen in the smb market google needs to not only deliver great value (which they have often done even if it was too complicated) they have to convey that value which they are trying to do here.

      The real test will be when they start outreach to new businesses.

  3. Interesting article here Mikey. I think Google+ is a very useful facilities for business in many ways, so would not like to see it die. This way of integrating it seems to be a positive step forward in enuring that more businesses see its value and help it thrive. Exciting direction!

  4. I would suspect that Google will display the deals icon and short text snippet of the offer on the local listings (3 pack or 7 pack) as well as for a branded search. That’s what Yext does in most of it’s partner network. And even though it’s just 50 characters, it’s a eye catcher and I’m sure beneficial for customer acquisition.

  5. @Peniel
    I am pretty sure that
    Post exclusive events and deals – Promote special offers and big sales events and ensure great turnouts with Google+ events.

    applies to the already extant capability of Plus to show the most recent SMB post in their local Knowledge Panel.

  6. I’m not sure how a small business owner can wear all of these hats. Now in addition to being a plumber, I am sprucing up my business profile on Google My Business with rich content, news, and special offers. In particular, how does a small service startup compete with established businesses who have an aged record and likely more time and resources to do these extras?

    1. @Charles
      The way a small business competes is the same way they have always competed by being faster, smarter and focusing. For example while Google Plus offers a great many options very few of them actually lead to more or better customers. I would recommend, as a n example, that you only post to Google once every month or. Just enough to get your article and picture on the front page of Google for a brand search and no more.

      If I were you I would focus on the core elements of this graphic (out to the ring of claiming directory listings and being sure to build a great email list). Use the email list for quarterly or biannual communications and it will return many times over any social work you are doing.

      Then I would slowly but efficiently work for (ie earn) review, links and newspaper articles.

  7. Good news, I’m seeing instant results using the new business format. A lot of the frustrating ‘what is the point’ feelings of the previous model have been answered. Do you have any articles that expand on ‘Google local’ and suggest strategies to utilise what should be a bonus for small businesses.

  8. Great take, Mike.

    At least to me, now Google’s “social spine” simile makes a little more sense – given that most spines are invisible 🙂 But I can’t imagine they had this de-Plussing in mind at the time.

  9. @Phil
    Google seems to tack every 3 months or so. As such it is likely that this approach is new. Although it does make sense that they have to build the social backbone and login service before they can integrate it into various products.

    Its been totally integrated into Youtube as the commenting system. Its the commenting system in HOAs.

    What I am curious about is the use of the brand and the social network itself. It seems that even if it gets integrated everywhere the maximum value would be achieved by still having the brand and the Plus presence on both the desktop and mobile.

    If that is the case then what we see now is what it will be. Certain parts broken off or built for which plus is a feature while the Plus product stays mostly intact.

  10. Mike,

    Thanks for your contributions as always, got a question for you. I am part of a large organization eMarketing team with local verified feeds. Feed 1 is a rather new acct and has about 100 listings, converted to bulk My Business two weeks ago, we love it. Feed 2 is a very very old Google account with 600 listings, has not even converted to the new places dashboard, has the old bulk upload and as you know no edits or management of these listings exists at all with these ancient dashboards. I have contacted Google multiple times about this account with the same answer, “wait.” When My Business rolled out for our Feed 1 I asked if I should transfer the 600 bulk listings from Feed 1 to this account and they said it would confuse the system (although its doable for us and I can make the transition). I need someone’s knowledgeable advice on the topic beside another mediocre Google Places Help rep (no offense but they aren’t very knowledgeable on all their own topics). Should I transfer over large feed and delete old account when all is clear??? Thanks

    1. @Vincent

      Because of the change of ownership rules between the old and the new system, having any given listing in different bulk accounts makes it that much harder for Google to process the listings. While it is possible to force the issue now and move the listings it may create ownership issues down the road. Google is suggesting waiting because it gives them a clearer shot at resolving who actually owns any given listing, a complicated process by any measure, given that previously these listings could be in both multiple bulk and multiple old and new dashboards. You can see in that scenario how adding one more layer of complexity to that mess could goof them up.

      If you know for a fact that the listings in the old bulk dashboard have never been uploaded in any other dashboard and have never been claimed into Plus or other Places dashboards, it would probably be ok to make the transition. But you can’t really know that… so I would also suggest waiting.

      I know its a pain, I know that the old bulk dashboard works for crap but wating seems the safest route to me.

  11. Great post, Mike. SMBs generally knew that they should be ‘signing up for Google,’ but I think Plus was just too confusing for many and not well positioned in front of SMBs to convince them of its value. Positioned more as a portal instead of a stand alone product like Plus, My Business has much greater potential to catch on with users.

    However, you raise the point that it’s not geared towards large businesses (i.e. bulk users), which leads me to wonder what Google’s plans are for integrating bulk into My Business, or will bulk fall by the wayside as Google decides to prioritize SMBs? We ask some of these questions over on our blog (http://www.simpartners.com/google-my-business/), but wondering what your thoughts are?

  12. Alexis
    As you are probably aware, Google has started the migration of bulk from the old dashboard to My Business Locations, the upgrade of bulk to Plus . They are just getting started on this transition and it is obviously very complicated and like the transition before it for Places to Plus, is likely to take some time as Google works out the various ownership issues.

    Here is Google’s explanation of the upgrade.

    But because in its original form bulk was a data feed not a claiming process, many listings were listed in multiple feeds. Also many of the listings were claimed into Plus and or old dashboards or perhaps all of the above. Any given listing might have 4 or 5 contenders for “ownership”. This makes deciding who “owns” a given listing very complex for Google and even more complex to code for this transition at scale. This obviously slows things down. But I have heard that many bulk dashboards have already been moved over to the new architecture.

    During the transition from the old bulk to My Business Locations it will be painful until any given upload gets moved but it will and is happening.

    I think once the transition is complete you are also likely to see Google implement rapid interface updates and hopefully some portal like functionality as well.

  13. Just want to say, Mike, no one writes a better insight-into-local-developments article than you! I want to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts about this. Local is in an interesting phase right now, with various new tools appearing, going away, people I’ve known in Local reaching new heights, taking new directions, etc. Your blog has been a dependable resource through it all and I think Google’s latest moves pretty much confirm that, in their eyes, Local is where it’s at. And that’s good news for all of us!

  14. Well the simplification of the Create a Page option will help single location business owners pick the right option.

    I have noticed on the Google and Your Business Help forum that Google seems to be moving software houses from a + Local Business page / Places entry to just a Brand page.

    I have been confused about what Google see as a Brand. I think of a perfumery with stands at the front of department stores rather than a service industry. (Is it true that real brands will be able to list in store stands according to a comment I saw?)

    Its good that Google have added the option for early social users with a single location and Places entry who created a Brand page can now merge it with a new functionally merged + Local Business and Places entry in Google my Business where the default + Local Business page was not used.

    https://support.google.com/business/answer/6010825

    Note both must be owned by the same account.

    And only social stuff from the + Page is retained. There was a comment that social stuff from the + Local Business page cannot be copied over because of trust issues.

    So where someone had been posting as the Brand on the social page and the local manager on the + Local Business page the latter content will be lost.

    As the social page will have any custom URL then that page must be retained or the custom URL will be lost.

    I am still confused why the third option is called Brand, rather than Business say, as when the option is available to connect a Brand page to multiple locations for a real Brand will there be only one Post option on the Brand page, and no + Local Page equivalent for a local manager to engage with his customers?

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