Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “Great, another social media network…” As small businesses continue to invest a healthy amount of time and money into social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter already, many are understandably hesitant to flock to Google+. Although Google+ is relatively new and still in its early stages, it certainly possesses large potential for small businesses as an SEO and marketing tool.
The greatest potential Google+ provides for small businesses may be within Google+ Local.
Google+ Local is an internal search platform within Google+ that is specifically designed for businesses. This platform is ideal for small businesses as it levels the playing field for them as far as showing up in a search engine results page (SERP). This allows small businesses that may not have the budget or time to implement SEO strategies, to be competitive in these Google+ Local SERPs by ranking through a system based more off their reviews and number of reviews. Here is an example of what one of these SERPs would look like with the query “Boise Pizza”:
As you can see, Flying Pie Pizzaria is ranking the highest with 180 reviews and an overall score of 24. This means that a company with even the smallest budget can rank well in a Google+ Local SERP by simply being active on Google+ and providing excellent service. By clicking on these links a user will be sent to the corresponding business’ Google+ page which provides more information such as phone number, email, website, etc. Also, a giant map which shows the company’s exact location is included as a cover photo for this Google+ page.
You can also see from the above image that a Google map is also included next to the search results. This is an added benefit which further displays the potential of Google+ for small businesses.
Another reason that Google+ shows promise as an effective marketing tool for small businesses is the seamless integration it exhibits through Google’s many wonderful products.
As noted before, when a potential customer does a search within Google+ Local they are provided with results and a Google map that shows the location of each result. This can not only drive organic traffic to the company’s site, but also actual foot traffic to the company itself. This is an incredibly valuable asset as it makes it easy for the customer to find exactly where the business is.
This integration between Google+ and Google maps is vastly important as it makes things easy for the customer. For instance, if a potential customer was using Yelp to help them select a local business, they would get the reviews from Yelp and then use a separate program (most likely Google Maps) to find that business’ location. Google+ Local eliminates this extra step which makes things easy for the customer, and anything that makes it easier for a potential customer to find your business, is good for business.
Another advantage of Google+ for small businesses is the ability to target small, segmented audiences.
This is possible through the “Circles” feature on Google+. Google+ allows its users to separate their contacts and followers into different categories or “circles”. This provides a great opportunity for small businesses as they can divide their target audience into various market segments. Google+ allows users to choose which circles they want share each individual post with and who will or will not see the post. This is ideal for sharing targeted messages and content to specific demographic segments.
Google hangouts are another reason Google+ can potentially be a powerful marketing tool for small businesses or companies.
Google hangouts provide small businesses with some unique opportunities. For one, these hangouts give companies an inexpensive (free) way to meet. Not only is this feature free, but it also saves on traveling costs associated with setting up meetings in person. Co-workers can meet face-to-face to brainstorm or even work on Google Docs together simultaneously.
Hangouts also give small businesses a unique avenue to communicate and engage with their customers through. Companies can host hangouts to provide open forums where they can answer consumer questions in real time, face-to-face. It also provides a more personal platform to announce product launches or grand openings of new buildings. These hangouts offer a level of personal interaction that is only achievable through Google+.
While there is great potential for Google+ as an effective tool for small businesses, it is not without some minor shortcomings. The biggest downside to Google+ is that is relatively new and because of this it does not have as many users as a more established social media network like Facebook. However, Google+ continues to grow all the time as it recently passed Twitter to become the second largest social network.
Also, because Google+ is still in its beginning stages, Google is continuously toying with it to see what works and what doesn’t work. This means that it is not guaranteed that features like Google+ Local won’t undergo drastic changes or even be removed altogether.
Google+ is a work in progress and it still has some minor issues which are typical of any new product. However, as Google continues to hammer out the details and remedy problems, Google+ is emerging as quality social media platform with massive potential. This potential can be especially realized by small businesses as Google+ provides many benefits and unique opportunities for these companies.
Andrew Dennis is a writer at the link building company Page One Power based in Boise, Idaho. When he’s not writing about social media marketing and SEO, he enjoys battling opponents on the racquetball court.