As the New Year approaches Google has decided to roll out significant updates to its struggling social network Google+. It’s no secret that Google+ whilst attracting billions of sign-ups has a tiny active user-base, just 9%. Of these hopefuls I would love to see a breakdown of communities of people Vs companies who just pump information out on the network.
When Google announced in November that it was rolling out a new design for Google+, it was really signalling a fundamental change for the network. The focus is now on communities and ‘interest’ collections; technically useful features but only if active users on the network increase and spam limitations are put in place.
It warranted a sort of ‘meh’ response, but then Google sneaked in something big. When Google+ launched it was seen as the central hub of Google online, connecting services such as YouTube and Local; in the same way it disconnected ‘mandatory’ YouTube integration, it’s now completely disconnected Google Local.
This means Google Local business information such as reviews, categories, directions, star ratings, photo uploads, interior photos, maps, hours, and app integrations are no longer seen by people on Google+ business profiles. Not only this, but thousands of unverifiable business accounts (considered spam) were removed without notice.
Has Google just removed the business purpose of Google+ overnight?
The integration between Google Local and Google+ kept businesses tied to the network, knowing that their business profile information would make branded search listings and their activity on Google+ previewed above paid-for AdWord links in search. In some ways, it was the Google authorship (another archaic feature) of business.
It’s worth noting that this is a staged roll out by Google, available when choosing to view the new design of Google+. It will likely go the same way as Google Maps, the old version will be provided as an option but once all fixes have been made, the new version will remain permanent.
What does this mean for businesses?
- It may no longer be worth maintaining a Google+ page, as business critical ‘local page’ information has been moved across to ‘Google My Business’. None of the information in Google+ will appear high in search and the SEO benefits are now questionable;
- Google+ is going through a radical redesign; it’s deleted and disconnected a number of features over the last year. As a result, Google+ is an unpredictable network with a low number of active users – expect no engagement and little traffic directed to websites;
- Word on the cyber street is that businesses should stop investing time into Google+, and focus purely on Google Local. The only exception to this rule may be visual businesses who are able to valuable contribute to community and interest discussions.
If you do run Google+ business pages then you’re likely to either encounter that your page has been removed or its turned into a basic profile without the Google Local information. Either way, think if Google+ is now worth it for business. Unless a business friendly update happens, then the message from Google is that ‘our social network is just for people’.