The New Google Plus – All About Collections Not About Business

unwelcomeGoogle Plus has released their new responsive, mobile first design. It indicates a very clear direction for the product with its focus on collections, communities, content and curation.

What it doesn’t focus on is of more interest to me. It doesn’t focus on businesses, their description, reviews, videos or business photos. In fact the complete absence of those features in this initial roll out seems to indicate the final and rather draconian separation from any business related function.

Over the past two years I have discussed the parting of the ways between local and Plus but through all of that  Google had retained the essence of tabbed business pages and given the owner the ability to add a description, photos, videos and provided a place to send customers to see and leave their reviews.

That is all gone. In focusing on content, communities and collections Google has hung out a new and bold  sign.

If you haven’t gotten the message yet it should finally be clear in the release of their new and improved G+: BUSINESS UNWELCOME.

Click to view the missing features larger. The “new” Business Page on G+ – No tabs, no reviews, no photos, no description and no video. Google wasn’t even bothered with making the cover photo scale correctly.

This dramatic change will leave small businesses not just frustrated but angry as they shake their heads and head out the exit.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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90 thoughts on “The New Google Plus – All About Collections Not About Business”

  1. @Jennifer

    Short answer: No

    Longer answer: No, No

    Long answer: It appears that Plus is shifting from a communication based network to a very focused interest based network with collections and communities at its core. Google’s vision is not yet clear but those seem to be the essence of the product.

    While there might be some opportunity for some limited subset of businesses in that new world there are a number of caveats.

    1- The business has to want to take the time to develop a collection and followers
    2- That assumes that the followers will provide some value to the business
    3- and as Edwin noted that those followers must stick with the platform through what will be a very painful transition.

  2. @Joe
    Exactly!

    Even little things like having a business asking a customer for a review – where do you send them. Has the customer switched or not switched?

    Should you still send them to Plus? It probably would work but its best to pick alternatives now and effectively not wait for Google to get it together.

  3. @Dave
    I couldn’t have said it better myself. The product itself with its separation from search had declining return to the SMB. This transition accelerates that decline in return by infusing the whole shebang with uncertainty.

  4. @Jenn
    Google has always ranked reviews by “helpfulness”. In that algo there has been a bias towards highlighting negative reviews as most helpful.

    PS Thanks.

  5. @Ginger
    Reviews continue to show and can be asked for on Google Maps desktop and mobile, Google browser search on desktop and mobile and even Google Plus if the user has not upgraded to the beta.

    Reviews will continue to be important. We just don’t know whether they will be important in the post G+ upgrade world on G+. They will be important in search and Maps.

  6. It seems to me like the new G+ rollout is very similar to the way Google gradually rolled out the new Google Maps.

    Remember how bad new maps was in the beginning? How many features were missing and how slow it was? Remember how long it was in BETA and how many great user suggestions and new features were added over time. They did what seems like hundreds of little updates, before they released the final product and cut off access to Classic Maps.

    I’m guessing we’ll see a similar trajectory here, but much shorter and not as detailed – because G+ is not as important to Google and the world does not depend on G+ the way it does G Maps.

    Is it a good way to launch up update? Half baked and let the users do the testing? No. But Google pretty much crowd sources everything.

    Seems to me it would be so much better if they would do traditional BETA testing and let select, skilled people opt in that are willing and have the time and knowledge to test. Then let some average, non tech savvy users in the BETA to make sure it makes sense and works for them. Make most of the improvements before the general public even gets to see it. Save us all a lot of time and frustration and would make them look a heck of a lot better.

  7. @Linda
    I agree totally. The problem is compounded even more by a lack of communications about the “vision” for the product and how they think folks might benefit from it.

    I think most SMBs like Dave above are asking “why spend time?” and as Edwin noted abandoning ship.

    I have loved Plus from Day 1 and over the years have offered up a number of business use cases. I have some collections with over 40,000 followers and none with less than 19,000.

    Is there any local small business use case? After all it’s local that I am interested in and only see social as a means to an end.

    And yet I am asking myself that very same question. What value am I getting? And I am just looking for readership not sales.

    On top of that it is just plain UGGGGGLY to interact with.

  8. Yep totally agree with the why spend time for SMB angle. Right now I no longer really even see this as an SMB or local product – unless some serious changes happen. And I’m not very hopeful about that any more. (The local piece.)

    But my comment above about the new Google Maps was more just about all regular G+ social features and functionality that got changed, borked or is totally missing.

    And the community management features. Don’t even get me started on that! For a product that is supposed to be focused on communities, they just totally crippled managers and owners from being able to manage at the spam that G+ communities attract!

    My new Local Search community has 104,000 members. We get over 100 new apps a day that need to be vetted because 90% are spam.

    And get this. Now a spammer can just BLOCK the mods and owners and post total spam or P*orn and we don’t even know it’s there, to be able to moderate it. So everyone else can see it, but we can’t.

    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg with all the community management problems and missing features. Told you I should not even get started as this is all off topic for this convo. But just goes to show it’s not just the long lost step child of local that was left out, but many features for the core product, they do still have in their vision.

  9. @Linda

    Wow.

    Can you just switch back to the old system for communities? Or are you stuck with those flaws?

    My sense from the beginning was that this project has been understaffed and not very productive. It could be a long wait.

  10. Haha we crashed your server Mike.

    Like I said that’s just one thing. There are lots more.

    Yes in fact it’s ADVISED by top Google TCs and big community managers to only use classic for now, because so many critical features are missing. But even with classic the spam folder is totally missing. So we can’t see if there are legit posts from valued member that were filtered by mistake to approve them.

    Here is a post from John Ellis and John Skeats again about some of the community management problems:
    https://plus.google.com/+JohnREllis/posts/jNKXhp3Bp6B

    But that does not even cover all of them. There are more issues highlighted in that community.

    But they say Google is aware and the features either being fixer or are coming, if missing.

  11. Am I wrong by saying that the individual posts a business owner makes on their own page still has its own url, can still get +1’d, and can still be a valuable backlink that Google values in ranking factors. So a business that still uses its page and still solicits +1s should still get very big Brown Nosing juice from Google. What am I missing???

  12. @scott the links are no-follows and as far as we know +1s transfers no value to the post. Reshares, total followers and comments add “juice” so that the article itself can rank in and of itself. But it takes a powerful follower base to get an article to show. And as far as we know there is no ranking value from the post itself.

  13. From a client of mine. I am wondering the same thing too. Is everything a Profile vs. Page now? I noticed all of the pages/locations have ‘edit profile’

  14. Very interesting thoughts Mike. I just swtiched to the new view this morning and what a headache – and it’s only been 5 hours! Yikes! Any tips for those of us using Google Plus as a business? We still want to be found for location – is there a better way to make this happen?

  15. @Amanda

    Google Plus is not Google Local and Google Local is not Plus… at least any more.

    The impoverishment of Plus in no means you should not use Google My Business to give Google your most current local information; hours, photos, review responses.

    Google still delivers the most local customers to more businesses than anyone and that is done through search. Getting your data into search is a function of Google My Business + Website + Citations+ Links+ Reviews.

    As to whether Google Plus has location based use case is a whole other discussion. I am having trouble envisioning it but it might.

    Anyone?

  16. Mike:

    As to your question–> “As to whether Google Plus has location based use case is a whole other discussion. I am having trouble envisioning it but it might. Anyone?”

    Over time I looked at the localness of various google plus groups versus the localness factor in other social media sources and efforts.

    I didn’t see it, testing several different topics. I found more activity in other media/sources. Frankly I’ve seen restaurants and active retailers with lower priced more often shopped items take advantage of local followers in places like FB and some other examples. Just couldn’t find it in G+.

    Sometimes those incidents find there way into media and we can all read about them. Other times you really have to hunt them down. I only reviewed a few topics in G+…but I couldn’t find anything of note…and when I did compare some G+ activity with some other media sources….G+ paled in interactivity on the local basis.

  17. @Dave
    That was essentially my conclusion.

    Which means that you would need to somehow build out your own local followers from your customers, convince them to join G+ and actually interact with your stuff….. seems unlikely.

  18. Mike:

    On top of what you suggested you would need to get them to change existing habits to spend time in a different social environment, one that they only presumably used for interacting with just your business.

    I wouldn’t suggest that. Go where they already go. Interact with them where they are already interacting. Don’t make their lives difficult.

  19. As usual the feedback here is greatly appreciated. For the umpteenth time I’m updating a page that explains to customers how to write a review. I’d like to ask your opinions.
    A client has 3 locations so after bringing up the KP and clicking “write a review” I’ve got a URL. By directing folks to that URL I’m reducing the amount of friction involved in posting images along with instructions that may not be the same for everybody. I noticed that sometimes, on the SERP, I have to click the down arrow to expand the KP in order to get the “write a review” to appear.
    I assume you no longer need G+ to post a review but is Gmail still required?
    Thanks folks

  20. @Chris
    You still need G+ to write a review.

    As a note you really have to test any review link in a number of environments with a number of variables; mobile, desktop, logged in, not logged in, in-cognito or no.

    What you will find with that URL is that it works great on desktop AND mobile but will fail miserably if the user is not logged in.

  21. Thanks Mike,

    Kinda suspected so. Looks like some really smart people at the Local Search Forum are on this for a once and for all solution. Heading back over there to figure it out.

  22. Thanks Chris, I was just coming to tell Mike.

    Mike said: “As a note you really have to test any review link in a number of environments with a number of variables; mobile, desktop, logged in, not logged in, in-cognito or no.

    What you will find with that URL is that it works great on desktop AND mobile but will fail miserably if the user is not logged in.”

    The new tools some of the pros at my place just built get around all these problems and auto-generate links in a variety of ways based on your needs. Here are all the options:

    Free Tools for Generating Google Review Links now that G+ Reviews are Gone

    I think they cover all the link variables you mentioned above that are so tricky to figure out now.

    (Normally would not share a link to my place here, but I know so many are struggling to figure out how to craft a review link that works now that the G+ page is not an option and “review=1” is no longer an option.)

  23. No I didn’t test it because several users did. Still it’s a start and better than nothing and gives some options that obviously do work based on feedback from the pros that have tried it.

    They all seemed to think it works. But they probably didn’t test all the variables you did, because they don’t know as much as you do.

  24. My clients are so frustrated with their Google My Business pages. They can not find them a lot of time since there is no “Pages” on the left side menu any more with the new version. They are lost. I have to show them how to find their pages. Usually I help them switch back to Classic.

    Then on the map their bad reviews show at the top and their good reviews below that. Two really bad reviews are given top billing over twenty good ones, in one case.

    Three clients have asked me to find a way to disable their reviews or delete their entire My Business. They say since they are not in the 3 pak consistently (local results here are in constant flux sometimes there is a 3 pak, sometimes not, sometimes the client is number one in most of the city, sometimes not in 3 pak at all) and the reviews are problematic, they want me to get rid of the page and focus solely on organic. They think local optimization is a waste of limited resources.

    I totally understand but am trying to get them to keep their My Business pages for now.

    Will removing the My Business page remove the map listing or are they separate now?

  25. Also in addition to the above, clients are getting so many false negative or phony negative reviews from competitors or cranks, they are getting “review fatigue” which is what I am now calling it and want out. One client wants to quit any site that has reviews including BBB where he has a great rating, Yelp, Facebook..no more reviews anywhere, he told me.

    I am trying to convince him that his good reviews are so good, the negative ones won’t hurt since they make the good ones look natural. All good looks phony. Anyway, we’ll see.

  26. The tragedy is how poorly Google has communicated with the small business about all the changes. They spend resources getting them on the Maps. Now most businesses are more confused than ever that I meet about the show issue.

    Good post!

  27. “1)I am skeptical whether Google gives a flying f*%k and 2)whether there will be any users left to care.”

    1) they don’t
    2) if they’re smart, they shifted focus long before this

    as far as adding features back .. smbs are too worn out playing Google’s guinea pigs to care at this point

    “new and improved G+: BUSINESS UNWELCOME”
    you nailed that one.

    BUSINESS: GOOGLE UNWELCOME

  28. Agree Mike, search is still valuable as well as adwords but all the G+ is pretty much a waste of time. Instead of just giving it a proper burial, Google is forcing it to die a thousand deaths. It’s painful.

  29. If merging Google + with Google Places caused a “Trainwreck at the Junction” then what do you call this?

    Let’s rename it {Google + – Local}

    Couldn’t be more thrilled at the end of this failed experiment and I think once the bugs are all worked out the new Google My Business will be better than ever – with a new name of course!

  30. Mike: Our various smb’s received gmail reports for Google+ activity during November. After reviewing the emails during the earlier days I simply stopped…..for years. I found the dashboard to be a misleading waste of time, with google controlled data that you could not confirm via a secondary source.

    The GMB dashboard was no different than some of the earlier form data google sent to local smb’s via its earlier incarnations and names.

    Do you remember them, Mike??? Keyword data without geo descriptions? A limit of 10 keywords, “impression data” on your maps visibility without any sense of the radius around your business and all sorts of data that couldn’t be confirmed.

    It was all hogwash, from day one.

    On the latest data from google they reported clicks on the website. I checked against analytics. The GMB report, which acknowledges its not specific, basically showed around 1/4 of the clicks to the smbs. 25% That is crappy data. Why do they send that???? Why did they do this over the years???

    Why didn’t anyone call them on this cr@p?

    On the visits to driving directions….can I believe them or not??? would they ever confirm this??? How do I know its not some bogus bs marketing data without any way to substantiate it?

    Where does the photo views come from??? Really what the heck is it???? Why do they and why did they send data that simply leaves an smb in wonderment???

    On the mobile phone data…I really wish we could substantiate this!!!!!!! Is there a technological way to check against automatic clicks on a mobile phone click icon???? I’d rather get substantiated data from a third party than google data that has proved to be non believable for almost a decade. Think of that; virtually a decade with crappy bs, unsubstantiated and remarkably controlled data.

    I reviewed the “review data”.

    For individual businesses I simply never needed this. I could see the google reviews and respond via email, or simply see the list itself.

    If I was overseeing a chain or was an agency creating reports…okay helpful. The reports allow for summarizing numbers and generating reports.

    That, though, is only step one of real management. You want to respond to the problematic reviews and get a “reasonableness” across to readers of reviews. Even with that when a review site, such as G+ or Yelp highlights the crappy reviews and pushes them to the top….you can’t really manage what the outside world sees. (yes, yelp is accused of this much more than google).

    Anyway, post….the disconnect of G+ from local….good ole’ google sent another report.

    As usual, it was worthless and uninformative if not misleading.

  31. Couldn’t agree more. Google have simply lost the plot when it comes to G+… they’ve just made it even harder (and confusing) to use their platform.

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