The short answer to this one is, a qualified yes. Google+ is Google’s attempt to take on Facebook and lure eyeballs away from the dominant social network. Google is a savvy company, and Google+ has some features that make it better than Facebook. But once again, the marketplace has proven that having a good product – or even a better product – is not enough to win the day. Especially if you’re late to the party. (Those of you under 30 years of age should now go Google the story of Sony Betamax.)
So Google+ has been a zombie site since the spring of 2014, when the executive in charge of the project left Google and the company has been vague about its future. (When I was researching this post, I went to my own Google+ page and sent connection requests to a couple friends. Both of them came back with messages along the lines of, “I forgot I had a Google+ page. Sorry if your request sat unnoticed.” How sad!)
Do You Need a Google+ Page? Yeah, It’s a Means to an End
Particularly if your market is local, set up a Google My Business page. This will get you a marker on Google Maps that shows up to anyone looking at or near your location. That’s pretty cool.
And the best feature of your new Google+ Business presence is, it will feed the card for your organization that shows up on the Google Knowledge Graph. Cards are suddenly everywhere in Google search. I think they’re pretty darn useful. You can see some examples of cards by searching things such as:
- Madison weather (learn which of our two seasons we’re in: winter or road repair)
- Measles (an easily-preventable infectious disease)
- Lombardino’s (a neighborhood restaurant I like)
- Bloody Mary (which addresses ambiguity quite well)
- Cottonseed oil (it’s for cooking)
- Chicago Cubs (
19082016 World Series champions)
Look at all that good stuff presented to Google searchers! The Cubs get two cards. Here are some other great Knowledge Graph cards that are just too detailed to display here: The Rolling Stones, New York to Boston by Train, Hamburger, Swedish rock bands. Google is doing a great job of providing answers now, not just a list of links.
Note that your Google My Business information is not the only thing feeding the card. There is information from Wikipedia and other data-driven sites (like mlb.com). And there’s a whole lot of social engineering going on, as Google only shows Google reviews and Google+ posts. No Yelp or Tweets or Facebook posts have made it over the garden wall. (Yet.) Sill, look at the card for Lombardino’s and bask in the low-light ambience of an inviting local restaurant. It’s so much more inviting than a blue link in the search rankings.
If you’ve read my article on having a Facebook Business page, you may be wondering how a Google My Business page differs, and whether it qualifies as another form of “digital sharecropping.” I do believe the original Google+ model is yet another form of digital sharecropping, but not Google My Business. It’s more of an aggregation of your business basics (location, hours, etc.) with customer-supplied information like photos and reviews. If Google decides to do away with cards generated from Google My Business, your entire web presence will not disappear.
Google cards are like a Yellow Pages ad on steroids. Unlike a Yellow Pages ad, this is free – just the time it takes you to set it up. If you don’t have a Google business page, go set it up now and get it working for you and adding to your marketing mix. While you’re at it, set up a Google+ page, and claim all your other Google “assets” too. Make sure you’re set up on YouTube, even if you have no immediate plans to upload video.
Feed your Knowledge Graph card. Feed it!