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Google Authorship

In a move that should please many online businesses, Google is making it easier to leave reviews on the platform. Finally, users can leave reviews without a Google+ account.

To clarify, while you don’t need a Google+ account, you do still need a regular old Google account. The change was first spotted by Conrad O’Connell from Serptests.com.

The difference seems small, but in this case, semantics is everything. By not requiring a Google+ account, Google is opening the door to a considerable number of reviews. Considering review counts and overall rating are top ranking signals for local search, this also means it will be easier to improve your local rankings with reviews.

This doesn’t mean you will have to do with an enormous amount of anonymous or troll reviews either. The first and last name of the reviewer will still be shown, so you shouldn’t have to worry about being flooded with one-star reviews by nameless accounts.

At the same time, Google also fixed a well-known bug which would keep reviews from being submitted from a mobile device for businesses without another pre-existing review.

Reputation is everything for local businesses, and these changes make it easier than ever for your customers to spread the gospel of your quality service or products.

Google Authorship

It can seem like the entire world hates Google+ sometimes, but in reality the social media platform has carved out a niche audience that has stayed loyal over several years, and recent changes have given the platform a strong presence in local search results.

As Google has upped the presence of “local packs” or groups of local results on searches that appear to be geographically linked and this has given businesses with Google+ profiles a big step up in visibility.

Google+ gets beat on for not having near the number of daily active users as sights such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, but it is not going anywhere soon simply because of how useful the site can be. Now Google+ has made it even easier to keep the most useful information in a prominent location on your page by pinning the most important posts at the top of your feed.

You can use this to keep business information such as contact numbers or location info in a highly viewable place, but this can also be extremely useful for bringing attention to sales, special promotions, or any other big events coming up for your business that you want the public to know about.

To pin posts, just click the drop down arrow at the top-right corner of your published updates and select ‘Pin post’ as in the example below.

pinning

The feature has already rolled out on desktop and Android but, in typical Google fashion, iPhone users will have to wait until they decide to share the feature with iOS.

welcome-to-google-my-business

Google has been making some big changes to help businesses increase their visibility on Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ by connecting business information across all of Google’s services. Google is calling the interconnected service Google My Business, which is set to be a one-stop shop which will allow users to access all their applications in one place.

The service will help deal with duplicate entries across Google products by asking users to entire their information one initial time, then populating it into all of Google’s services at once. TechCrunch also reported that “owners can post news events, photos, and other updates they want shared with customers” in an apparent bid to rival Facebook.

google-my-business-home-screen

Once you’re signed in and Google has guided you through a tour of the platform, you’ll see a screen that houses your basic information that will appear on Google+, Google Places, and Google Search. From now on, you’ll be able to update business information such as store hours, phone number, or your website URL in one easy to access location.

google-my-business-dashboard

Beyond that page, you’ll be given access to the the really meaty parts of the update. From one screen, you’ll have control of your Google+ profile, from which you can share new text, photos, links, and events. You can also explore Insights, which will help you analyze your visibility, engagement, and audience. This screen also lets you manage your reviews, quickly access your Google Analytics dashboard, and even start a Hangout with the click of a button.

google-my-business-android

Notably, this update has already gotten a mobile launch on Android, and it appears the iOS version of Google My Business will be released n the near future.

Google My Business makes it easier than ever for small businesses to take control of their own online presence and helps level the playing ground so that any company can benefit from being online. You don’t have to be a well-established brand to make yourself visible online.

There’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest. All offer something unique and a unique demographic to those that create a presence for their business there. So which one is best suited for the needs of your company?

Jen Wilson, of Business Journal, recently published an in-depth look at who exactly is using each site and what type of company will flourish there. Here’s a quick rundown of the findings.

Facebook: Best suited for established brands with a dedicated following that will share success stories. Ages 18-55.

Twitter: Great for developing relationships with customers and for PR. Younger demographic than Facebook with an added bonus of well-known personalities among the users.

LinkedIn: B2B sales is perfect here, but it can also be used to establish yourself as an expert in a given field. Wide age range, but users are college educated and often advanced in their careers.

Google+: Tech companies, internet services and gaming works great considering there’s a high concentration of young, tech savvy males here. Also, get a boost in search as your picture appears with your articles or web site.

Pinterest: Any image driven company, specifically fashion or design but could even be adapted for certain types of sales. The best place to market to women under 50.

You may have already noticed ads with a company’s number of Google+ followers noted at the bottom of them. This is a new feature from AdWords Enhanced Campaigns and one that you, like I did, might be wondering about. Does it really make that much of a difference how many followers you have? Does it make a consumer more likely to click on your ad? According to Google, yes.

Frederic Lardinois reports for TechCrunch that these ads with the follower count ‘annotations’ receive a 5 to 10-percent bump in CTR than regular ads. A large number of followers would likely lend a little more credibility to an ad, but those companies with thousands or millions of followers likely already have that credibility through name recognition.

And this new feature isn’t available to just anyone with an AdWords account. You’ll not only need a “significant number of followers”, but you also need “recent, high-quality posts”. The whole thing sounds a little subjective, but it may be worth putting the time in to build up your Google+ page to get the boost in CTR.

There’s been an interesting development with Google’s AdWords Express, which is marketed as a headache-free alternative for small businesses. Recently, Google announced that you could use the ads Google sets up for you with your budget in AdWords Express to drive users to your Google+ page. However, Google+ itself is an ad-free zone and you are unable to even set parameters so only Google+ users will be shown the ads.

For small businesses with no website, this could still be a valuable tool to create some sort of web presence. Google had been offering AdWords Express users with no site of their own the ability to create a free site, but with the included option of using a company’s Google+ page, that may be a thing of the past.

However, there are also some obvious glitches in this AdWords Express, Google+ relationship. For one, Google is essentially allocating your AdWords budget to promote Google+. Read more about the sketchy side of this deal in Greg Finn’s article at Marketing Land.

With millions of searches happening daily, it’s no secret that Google can impact your business in a positive way. Google plus is a fairly recent social media platform that focuses on interaction and sharing. Thanks to Unbounce, they have created a beyond helpful infographic that highlights the importance of harnessing this power of Google+ and the hugely beneficial aspects of this service.

Google Plus for Business [infographic]

As you have likely noticed by now, Google merged Google Plus and Google Places. This has changed the way that Places listings are showing up in a few ways. One of the changes that is most noticeable is the review system – it used to be an easy to see 5-star system. What happened?

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Google announced yesterday that they’ll be changing how they track users across all of their different sites, including YouTube, Gmail, and the big G’s search engine. There is some concern from various places (including the Washington Post)  that this is tracking that can’t be opted out of, but the truth is, you still have that option. It goes live March 1st, you can see all details here.

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