Google Plus Upgrade FAQ for the SMB

Is it just me or is this the ugliest logo ever?
Is it just me or is this the ugliest logo ever?

Google has finally made some forward facing statements about the new Google+ and how it relates to local.

Essentially it doesn’t.

And they have no plans to add features back that would make it more local friendly.

They noted:

The following features are no longer supported for Local pages – Reviews, categories, directions, stars, photo uploads, interior photos, maps, hours, opentable/apps integration.

With that in mind, I wanted to put the questions about G+ to rest with this FAQ:

Q: What about G+ as a citation?

Google Plus was never a citation in the classic sense. A citation was a 3rd party web reference to your business that Google looked to for verification of your basic data and possibly to enhance your ranking. Your G+ listing in and of itself never offered any ranking value.

Q: Then why was local integrated into G+?

Short answer: Bad strategic thinking about social

Long answer: In the forced march to G+ it was arbitrarily welded to the hip of Plus in the hopes that the rising boat of local would push Plus to the surface as it had done in the past with Maps. Given the changing nature of the local world, the everything but the kitchen sink that Plus had become was more of an anchor.

Q: Is Google getting rid of reviews?

Reviews have and will remain an integral part of Google local search. They have never really been that visible on the G+ pages and were always the most visible in Google search and in Google Maps. Going forward as the world moves to apps for those apps that is even more true.

Q: What link should I use for reviews if reviews are going away on Plus?

There are a number of choices and here is a good utility that generates them for you.

Be careful though, several of the links given by the utility fail in one situation or another so test them. They need to work mobile, desktop, logged in, or not, incognito or not. Not all of them do.

As a note, the Plus URL that you have been using and will work for a while (at least until users actually switch to the new Plus) has NOT worked on mobile for quite some time.

Q: Do we know if the verification process for pages is going away?

Google My Business was separated from Plus quite a while ago. While pages may go away in Plus as they and profiles become one and the same, verification will not go away.

The verification process was to verify the accuracy of your local data for inclusion in the Google Local Knowledge Graph database. That has always been the case and will always be the case.

Likewise certain Page types on Plus have not required verification. It is possible that the idea of a unique page type for local might disappear. If it does then that page/profile type itself might not need verification. Currently they are showing the verification check mark in the Beta. That implies to me that it will continue to be verified for some time.

Q: What is the local smb business use case for the new G+?

There is none that is obvious and available to most businesses. The reason for that is several fold but the main one is that there are just not enough local users on G+ to make the effort worth your while.

The only situation where it might make sense is if you are in a very visual business and are looking for an international audience and have the time to curate or create visual content.

But if that were the case you might already be on Pinterest.

Q: Doesn’t posting at G+ with backlinks benefit my local site?

Maybe in 2011 it did. If that’s your link building tactic, you need to explore other avenues. And quick.

Q: Can a small business just delete their G+ page and be done with it?

Well you can delete your G+ page but….

1)your listing will still show in search with its reviews and

2) you will loose the ability to add hours, photos and respond to reviews.

At least for now you are stuck with the G+ page.

Q: What about all the posts I did? Shouldn’t I keep posting?

Sometimes as business people we invest resources in the wrong place. This may have been one of them. If you have a gadzillion followers and your posts get shared and commented on, keep doing it. Otherwise: Abandon ship.

Q: Do I owe David Mihm a beer for our bet that G+ would fail?

When the original G+ came out in 2011, we bet a beer as to whether it would hit the shit can. I said that it would succeed and David noted that it would fail. Lucky for me we had set a 12 or 18 month deadline for the beer .

I collected my winnings but I fear that this failure is so deep that I will have to pay that beer and one more back to David. It may have taken 4 years but this is what can only be called a #fail.

Q: Will the new G+ Survive?

The internet is a funny place. Who knows. Anything can happen. But we do know that Google doesn’t have much tolerance for also rans these days.

Regardless it appears that its local use case for the foreseeable future is nil.

Q: Why does G+ look so strange on the iPhone?

Google is apparently building a single code base for Plus wherever its deployed. That may be good for Google but when meshed with their (Im)Material Design, Google’s over arching design standards, it has disastrous outcomes on iOS.

Besides being frickin ugly and looking like a ransom note many of the conventions either don’t fit or don’t work. At this point even the limited web version is better.

Q: If G+ is minimizing local, what does that mean about local on Google? What will happen to local?

Local is alive and well. And more important to Google than ever. In fact while I see this as a demotion of Plus, it is a promotion of Local to a critical part of both search and Adwords.

Q: What’s the bottom line with G+?

The reality is that even if those locally oriented features that Google removed from the Plus beta had returned, the new G+ is not a platform that will have much direct or even indirect benefit to most local businesses.

You should continue to use Google My Business to update your local information and for most of you, ignore G+.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Plus Upgrade FAQ for the SMB by

32 thoughts on “Google Plus Upgrade FAQ for the SMB”

  1. This is good to know. We finally stopped posting to G+ for our clients two months ago. It just seemed harder and harder to find where to post.

    Years ago for a local cinema client with zero g+ followers, we posted the opening night premiere of the original Captain America film (it was filmed here in our city). We created a G+ event, 24 hours later we had two people RSVP on our G+ event, however we still had zero followers. It showed me that maybe Google was showing our event to people searching for the film or Captain America nearby.

    We began posting all our events there immediately and have been ever since. However it’s not happened since. It may have been a fluke or they just stopped showing events if they ever were.

    R.I.P. G+

  2. Mike: Thanks for the review. Before midday yesterday I’d agree with all your comments. Over at Linda’s LocalSearchForum though there might be the exception to the rule: A dentist highlighted his business G+ Page and we looked at it: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+SmilesbyPayet

    The business page has 805 followers. The dentist’s personal page has a significant volume of followers in the thousands.

    We understand he has landed business via this method.

    So in this case, going forward should he continue what he is doing?? I’d say possibly.

    But if you don’t have a following or are new….G+ DOES NOT EQUAL local. Go elsewhere!!!!

  3. @Dave
    I addressed that above where I said: If you have a gadzillion followers and your posts get shared and commented on, keep doing it.. For a local business (probably in a large market) to have 800, that is roughly a gadzillion in G+ speak.

  4. Sorry Mike: I missed the gadzillion reference. I did see though that the depth of the failure is so significant that you acknowledge you owe Dr. Mihm a beer.

    Go pay up!!!

  5. Hey, I am perfectly happy with the pride that comes from being able to say “I told you so” to Professor Maps, regardless of how long it took 🙂

  6. Yep Mike said what I said in the post at the forum. Chip’s case is rare. He’s invested tons of time and energy into building his G+ presence. 7,800 followers is more than even a lot of local consultants that are on G+ all the time have. He also has not been able to build traction on FB. So I told him if he’s willing to keep promoting the page himself since you can no longer find it in search and if it’s working, continue for now. But I’d gradually start transitioning energy in other directions.

    @Mike excellent and much needed FAQ about all the changes!

  7. @Linda

    He did the do and it paid off. I would argue that any business could have done so but many did not want to put in the effort. That was then.

    I would, if I were him, create some relevant collections to further his reach…

    And with a good plan it is still possible. And might still garner some traction but it would be hard. And even harder to get local business from.

  8. thinking about the negative impact of the new G+ on pages created through GMB I wonder what is the advantage usig GMB versus MM?

    There are very few differences to list:
    Owner of GMB created and verified businesses can answer on reviews
    and the recentlhy introduced special hours can’t managend in MM.
    Are there other advantages or disadvantahes still managing a business in GMB or MapMaker?

  9. @Mihm
    I am glad its giving you some pleasure. 🙂

    The reality is 6 years is two lifetimes in this industry, enough time for both of us to have been right.

    As Orson Welles said: “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

  10. @Helmut

    Other benefits of GMB
    1- changes are nearly instant
    2- they are more trusted and less prone to moderation
    3- the interface is simpler and more intuitive

    But even GMB may give way to some other editing interface.

  11. @Mike:

    First off is there a way to give Dr. Mihm a +1 for his post, or a +10. 🙂

    On a local social scene there are often a great multitude of social environments in which to expand visibility. FB is the biggest, G+ had its “run”. Twitter, and a host of others are out there.

    Beyond those there are local community groups, church groups, interest groups, business groups, local media, etc etc etc. Its often in the implementation, not necessarily the choice of medium. With regard to Chip/SmilesByPayet it was probably in the implementation rather than the medium that was key.

    Persistence, continuity, and effort. Lots of different social media out there.

  12. Hi Mike and others – Linda pointed me over here as y’all were discussing my G+ presence, and someone mentioned something specific that I wanted to ask about, and that’s Collections.

    Just today, I have had a number of additional people Follow several of my Page’s Collections, and I had a question about them (perhaps more will develop from the discussion):

    Would Collections of semantically relevant and related content possibly surface in Search, even if the Page doesn’t any longer? Perhaps as part of the Knowledge Graph?

    If that’s the case, having quality Collections could have benefit for a Page, as those Collections can be found and followed, even if the Page itself is not.

    Any thoughts on that?

  13. Hi Dr Payet
    The reason I suggested Collections as a tactic is that Google highlights them to other users more than profiles these days particularly if you get picked for one of their Collection Fridays or some such.

    I have about 19,000 folowers generally but I have one collection, Mobile Local Search, that has 52,000 followers. I don’t think they are coming from search but I can’t really tell. I think most have picked it up from recommendations in their stream.

    I have checked a few other highly followed collections and only one showed up in search for an exact match search. That was Hangouts tips & Updates that has 905,500 followers and shows in in search for that exact phrase. But I checked several others and they were no where to be found.

    So just followers is not enough. Whether a small amount of link building or internal resharing at G+ might change that is certainly possible.

  14. @Dr. Charles Payet
    – Really great question.

    Since Collections are all about interests and interest are universal hence most search keywords are not going to be just seen in your location. Even before this change followers and content posts while they helped your authority in the local results they probably did little for most local businesses when they found their way into google organic results since they are seen globally, not just where the search originated (as is the case for Local results pack).

    Followers and Content in Circles are more useful for building followers (that are local) and then using the content posts to maintain or create a strong relationship

    One way around this to get only local views (from posts to your circles) appearing in Google organic would be to make the posts location keyword optimized, however repetitively doing this might turn people off.

    If you did however get the balance right and did find a way to optimize on your location keyword for all posts – Then the searcher would also need to be using a location keyword and the Interest keyword in the same search. Its probably less likely that Interest search is conducted this way.

    However having said this – It is unlikely that Google will in the future treat the posts and comments in collection the same as it does with current posts to Circles.

    While Google probably will not decide anytime soon on the algorithm – However followers in Circles are probably seen by Google as different to followers in Collections – My guess to reflect the audience looking for highly visual quick fix mini discoveries they would look to place collection posts results as snippets, like they do currently by injecting images or news into the results.

  15. Hmmm Mike aren’t you and David seeing each other in March? Just thinking that would be a perfect time to buy him that beer without him having to fly out to NY 😉

  16. @Joy
    Yes but David deserves his pound of flesh sooner than that… He claims his gloating is satisfaction enough.

    Although with Local U these types of occurrences become the basis of legend and take on a life of their own…. so …

  17. Yeah, but this way he’ll get to gloat in front of all of us which sounds too fun to pass up. Personally, I want to witness this and get it on camera 🙂

  18. @Dr Payet and @Jeremy Widdup:

    I’d suggest if you want social interaction from local people, and you want some of it or most of it to show in search…then post in search. Post on your site and post in locally based social media that shows in search. Why dance around in a social media environment, G+, that doesn’t show in search. Surprisingly doesn’t show. Twitter shows. Isn’t that fascinating, if not arse backwards? (I’m not advocating twitter….but isn’t that crazy?)

  19. @Dave Oremland – Actually that is fascinating – Twitter Mnnnnn showing up in search for local – anything specific about the keyword types (I am assuming location should be at least one of these)? – Good point about local social media, very easy to overlook and as you say why dance around with G+ if you are posting on a platform that is already seen as a relevant authority for specific themed content identified through its location by Google.

  20. @Mike
    Outstanding article! Thanks very much for the Google+ update.

    I’d thought that Google+ would survive as a local information capture device for Google. Evidently not though.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  21. @Mike

    It counts for you and for me, but GMB is an unknown concept to most of the local businesses I visit with. If Google is depending on these local businesses to enter information about themselves, I think this is a mistake.

    Before the Snack Pack, I could show a business owner a prominent Google+ link in search results and in the local pack. It was a breadcrumb trail to the Google Plus Local page and a motivator for entering business information. No so now.

    Thanks very much for the update!

  22. Thanks for the great insights, Mike.

    In attempt to demonstrate the value of an optimized GMB page to various clients, I recently appended utm tracking to the website url indicated on the GMB pages. As you know, the url parses to the map 3-pack, Knowledge Graph and maps, so I would think that click metrics garnered from GMB Insights would remain to be of value – do you agree?

  23. @Mike

    Thanks for being on top of the changes, and being able to break them down to an understandable format for beginners. I recently participated on a panel at a GMB workshop at our local Small Business Development Center. I knew about the changes coming from your blog, although our page had not been affected yet. I was at least able to prepare the workshop participants about the upcoming changes and steer them in the right direction moving forward. Thanks again for all you do!

  24. Thank you for the great FAQ Mike.

    I would not say that G+ is dead for local, at least in the sense of how Facebook and Twitter etc.. are dead for local. If your audience is on G+ you are doing them a disservice by not promoting your presence on G+.

    You are correct that there is no direct effect on local SEO (maybe a semantic search effect, but there is no proof to that).

    Why I feel strongly about this? I am a bit biased, my company manages G+, FB and Twitter, and runs many local pages. Almost every local page we run has 1000’s of real followers (Built out over months, like Charles) The signal/follower ratio is amazing (in the 30% – 50% range) and almost every local client has a provable ROI.

    ROI can be seen in clicks to site (tracked by our own shortener), calls and driving directions always going up (in GMB insights) directly proportional to activity, gaining press coverage, and lastly we know that if we put out a promo to an active engaged audience that that promo is redeemed (G+ only promos).

    In summary, is G+ needed for a local business, not from a local SEO standpoint, I agree. Is it useful like any other social network? I would say absolutely (depending on your market)

  25. @Ben
    I noted above that If you have a gadzillion followers and your posts get shared and commented on, keep doing it.

    Certainly makes no sense to throw them away if you are seeing returns…. but it has proven to be a difficult chicken egg problem for most businesses and putting the effort into Plus at this point doesn’t make any sense to me.

    I would love to look at the specific local businesses that you have that are targeting local customers well on G+. Please let me know their URLs

  26. I’m gonna go drink a beer right now. I’ve always yarned on that G+ would never stick and have not once recommended it for worthy effort for any SMBs. Glad to see it go.

    Thanks for the insight into WHY local was integrated into G+. That actually makes sense. But do we know who to credit for the bad strategic thinking? Just curious.

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