A lot of terms start with Google these days, so we can understand how confusing that can be. Google Search, Google Calendar, Google Drive (formerly Google Docs), Google Play (formerly Android Market), you name it. (Well, actually, Google named it. Because Google really likes naming things. The only thing it likes more is renaming things.)
Anyway, that brings us to Google+Local, because nothing’s clearer than a term that has a plus sign in the middle of it. What the heck is that plus sign doing in there, anyway?
It’s there to let you know that Google Local is now merged with Google+ (aka Google Plus), the social platform that Google (yes, we are getting tired of writing the word Google, but bear with us) has been trying to popularize for some time now, with mixed results.
Google+ hasn’t reached nearly the social media saturation of Twitter or Facebook, but just the fact that it’s connected to the world’s most popular search engine (and creator of the most popular smartphone/tablet operating system, Android) gives it some level of credence and power.
It doesn’t hurt that Google is doing everything it can to connect Google+ to everything else the company does, in particular its local search platform. Thus we have Google+Local.
Google+Local puts Plus at the forefront
To keep things as clear as possible, we’ll just refer to Google+ — just the social platform — as Plus. Google wants Plus to be part of everything people do while using Google on the Internet, and that includes search results and rankings, two aspects that are obviously extremely important to small business owners.
It’s hard to proprietors not to be skeptical of including yet another social network into one’s marketing approach. Twitter and Facebook can handle a lot of that stuff, after all, from the perspective of promoting one’s brand and connecting with current and potential customers.
In reality, though, business owners really don’t have a choice in the matter. Google is the big dog, and by ignoring Plus, you miss out on a lot of the functionality Google provides. If you don’t want to get left behind in your online marketing efforts — particularly compared to competitors in your local market — you need to play ball.
Google wants to make a company’s Plus page the hub for every aspect of what the company does online. This includes a vast range of considerations, including business listing management, events, PPC advertising, integrated online payment, customer service, product delivery, buyer loyalty rewards, online deals/coupons, analytics, and much more.
The company actually had planned to roll out most of this functionality by last fall, but that clearly was a bit too optimistic.
Google+ Growing Pains
Would it have been easier if Google could have made all this functionality come together at the same time? Boy, would it ever. The company discovered numerous unexpected hurdles in incorporating Plus into all of its various features.
The company discovered that numerous listings were misplaced, and its efforts to reinstate them weren’t entirely (or at least immediately) successful. Other listings disappeared over supposed guideline violations that site owners found questionable at best.
Google has found itself dealing with a tidal wave of complaints from companies claiming that information on its Plus pages is incorrect or missing, and/or that reviews are not properly showing up. This is all while Google goes through an extensive verification (or reverification) process for all these sites and tries to quell the concerns of a lot of very upset webmasters/site owners.
Did Google try to bite off too much, too soon? That’s a rhetorical question. It obviously did. It tried to implement all sorts of requirements and innovations over a very short period of time, including a Zagat-type review system, requiring a verified (non-anonymous) profile to use Plus, forcing businesses to reverify listings, etc.
And, of course, a lot of Google innovations are introduced before all the kinks are worked out. That’s actually an inherent part of the model: Release it to the public, then let usage and feedback show you where you need to patch things up. Works great for Google, but that’s an obvious frustration for the user.
What’s a Business Owner Supposed to Do?
For one thing, don’t panic or give up on Google+Local. You wouldn’t just drop your insurance just because your insurance company is having issues. You wouldn’t just decide you don’t need a driver’s license because your local DMV is poorly organized pain in the behind.
You need Google+Local, and as frustrating as the issues might be, remember that all sites — including your competitors — are dealing with many of the same issues. At Ring Ring Marketing, we’re happy to help you understand how these issues affect your listing at Google+Local and the best ways to deal with them.
The reality is that this is what Google does: It has a lot of great ideas, but while sometimes they’re implemented quite well, sometimes they’re not. This is going to require patience and perseverance while Google works out the kinks.
Focus on being sure all your information is correct in your Google listings, keep up your outreach to current and prospective customers, and be vigilant in ensuring you’ve done everything you can to work with the current system.