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The new Google: what does it mean for your business?

Google has long been a friend to small businesses, making it much easier to market services and products. Just think about the game-changing things Google has done in the advertising space:

  • Introduced pay-for-performance advertising to the mainstream (ie. charging per action rather than for exposure), forcing traditional media to become more transparent in terms of the ROI they offer
  • Created a PPC model combined with infinitely flexible ad targeting that allows even the smallest ad budget to be effective
  • Created a search relevancy model that evens the playing field, potentially giving the little guys just as much exposure to prospective customers as the big global brands
  • With Google Places, every business in the world can have a strong, easily self-managed online presence, for free!

The benefits of these innovations are well documented. I want to look at what Google has done more recently, and how this could change how businesses promote themselves online.

Google is going social – and in a big way.  By now you’ve probably heard about Google+, Google’s new social network. On the surface, it appears to be just a competitive product to Facebook and Twitter. However, Google has much bigger plans than that, as evidenced by changes to Google’s search engine announced last week. These changes are rolling out now.

In a nutshell, Google has embedded Google+ into its core search engine product in three key ways:

Personal results

Google’s search results are tailored more specifically to you (they already were to a certain extent by using your location and web history, but this now goes further). Relevant content shared by you and your connections on Google+ will get a ranking boost, appearing higher in search results than they normally would.

Profiles in search

Google+ profiles and pages will appear in the Search Auto-complete and in search results.

As in the screenshot below, a search for photography blogger Trey Ratcliff brings up his G+ profile as an Autocomplete suggestion…

And if you then click on that suggestion, his profile appears, including a button allowing you to immediately follow him on Google+

 

Suggested people and pages

On the right hand side of the Search Results page, Google will now show suggested G+ profiles and pages for some high level topic searches. For example, the following may appear in a search for “music”…

These changes are a major overhaul of Google’s search engine and there’ve been many calls in the blogosphere that Google has abandoned its objectivity and is unfairly favouring its own social network over rivals Facebook and Twitter. Excellent analysis of the issue was made by my favourite search blogger Danny Sullivan.  Check it out here.

So what does this mean for small business?

Regardless of whether or not Google is being unfair, it’s obvious that having a Google+ page is a very important weapon in your arsenal. Here’s why:

  • Content you have shared on G+ will appear highly in relevant searches made by not just your followers, but also those your followers are connected to.  If you generate as many followers as possible and then share content, you’ll enhance your reputation and brand!
  • Appearing in the People & Pages suggestions for relevant search keywords could create invaluable exposure even if you don’t appear on the first page of normal search results. I would be over the moon if we got the Xero+ page to appear here whenever people did a search for “accounting software”!

For marketers there are some additional features – but I’ll leave that for another blog post.

Finally, you might think having yet another social media profile to maintain is a time waster, but for those businesses that rely heavily on the web, Google has made G+ almost impossible to ignore.

By the way, don’t forget to follow Xero on Google+!

How to get started on G+

If you don’t already have a G+ profile, follow these steps…

  1. Navigate to plus.google.com
  2. If you have a Google Account, hit the Sign in Button.  If not, click the Create an Account link
  3. Follow the instructions to create a public profile
  4. On the Add people you know screen, search for Xero and click ‘Add to Circles’.  Repeat for anybody else you know or want to follow
  5. Complete your G+ profile to reflect who you are
  6. Start sharing!

 

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4 comments

Jeremy Kerr
18 January 2012 #

What a great blog Darrin. You make some brilliant and very informative points!

Gayle Buchanan
19 January 2012 #

Thanks Darrin, especially for the seo tip – much appreciated

David
20 January 2012 #

Still deciding if it’s worth investing in Google+? I would say, Join the culture today. In spirit of measurement, When setting up your Google+ Pages and posts, remember to tag your links appropriately. Especially links to content on your site. As Google + grows and the social take up rate increases, you will be able to see as a source/medium which posts are actually bringing in traffic and conversions.
It appears the boys at Xero have some tagging to do.. #MeasureEverything

Mike Angove
19 November 2012 #

Hi Darren, some excellent points – would you mind emailing me I have a couple of questions for you.

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