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Should Your Online Business Be on Google+?

The year-old social network has compelling features to offer e-commerce merchants.

Google+ launched in June 2011, and the world watched—sort of. We say sort of because we were all too busy checking out the latest on Facebook, or tweeting, or updating our LinkedIn profiles to pay much attention. A year later, the question of whether your online business should be on Google+ is still a fair one.

No one would argue that, as measured by member base, Google+ is a long way from threatening Facebook, for example. The question of just how many subscribers Google+ has remains just that—a question.

A March New York Times article, quoting a company rep says 50 million people “who have created a Google Plus account actively use the company’s Google Plus-enhanced products daily.” As the article points out, the “enhanced products” include YouTube and Google itself, so that 50 million number isn’t very helpful. No such smoke and mirrors with Facebook’s numbers. It has 900 million users. (Of course you have to account for Facebook, founded in 2004, having a seven-year head start on Google+).

With all the other things we have competing for our time, you need a compelling reason to make the effort to learn how to use Google+, let alone promote and market your online business on the still-new social networking site. Partly for that reason, Google+ has not exactly charged out of the gate like a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred.

But as an e-commerce merchant, can you really afford to not be on Google+ at all? After speaking with a number of e-merchants and consultants, we think definitely not. Just don’t sink too much time in it for now. The payoff may not be there yet.

“Google’s search engine favors websites that are linked to Google Plus pages”

The ‘Plus’ factor in search

It’s no surprise that, by being on Google+, your online business will enjoy better Google rankings. Yes, Google apparently favors sites that link to its social networking site. Shoplet.com, an online office supply retailer, started using Google+ for promotion and marketing soon after it launched. The move paid off, the company’s found.

“Google’s search engine favors websites that are linked to Google+ pages,” says Erik M. Fox of Shoplet.com’s marketing and business development group. That better exposure on Google alone seems to justify the time it takes to create a business profile.

If you are not on Google+ already, just sign up through Google’s home page by clicking on the +You hyperlink. Once you’re signed up, click on the “Pages” link at the bottom left corner of your new profile page, and click on the red Create new page button.

You’ll find that setting up a Google+ page is no big deal—you’ve created online profiles before. But you do want to do as complete a job as possible, according to Marc Arner, who runs ThinkBIGsites.com, which specializes in social media campaigns.

“We make sure our clients’ Google+ page is filled to the max with information, pictures and videos relating to their business,” Arner tells us. “Google wants to see a full page.”

Business benefits of Google+

Being a Google+ member has other advantages as the site has some pretty cool features. One is Circles, which makes keeping all your contacts organized simple, and even kind of fun. Once you’ve imported your various lists of connections, you drag and drop them into Circles of your choice (e.g., vendors, new customers, etc.). That way, you can really zero in on your markets with targeted communications.

Another compelling feature is Hangouts, a feature that lets you easily set up and hold video “hangouts,” or let’s say business meetings, “anytime, anywhere,” Google says.

“Google hangouts are a great way to offer online customer service as well as question and answer opportunities for your customers,” says Curtis Howe, whose company, GHS (for Got Help Services) manages social media accounts and strategy for businesses. He recommends to his clients that they have a Google+ account, and the availability of hangouts is one reason why.

“It helps keep things personal and shows you pay attention to your customers,” he tells us.

Measuring the payoff for your online business

Improved Google rankings and access to cool features is nice, but will a presence on Google+ boost traffic to your Web store? Opinions are mixed.

“Customer reviews have indicated that many people were directed to the company through Google Plus”

Another company that got on board early with Google+ is RunGoddess. RunGoddess uses social media to help sell its line of temporary tattoos. Have its efforts paid off? The company can’t really say yet.

“Our primary reason for setting up [our Google+ page] was hoping that it may heighten our Google search results for RunGoddess and create a benefit for us that way,” says company founder Dave Hurme.

Yet, “there doesn’t appear to be a way to integrate Google Analytics into the Google+ page to gauge what type of visitors the page will generate,” he laments.

GHS’ Howe can’t say exactly how well Google+ pays off for his customers, either. He keeps costs down by reposting on Google+ a lot of material created for Facebook, so that “Google search can see more of the content.”

Others think the payoff is already there. Ari Zoldan, CEO of Quantum Networks, which provides wireless products like GPS tracking systems and iPod integration devices for cars, feels Google+ has led to many referrals.

“Customer reviews have indicated that many people were directed to the company through Google+,” he says.

A mistake to ignore it

To simply ignore Google+ would be a huge mistake, adds Arner of ThinkBIGsites.com.

All told, the best advice, it seems, is to get started on Google+ by creating a rudimentary company page for your online business. For now, though, don’t use up too much time by going beyond that to create other pages, such as those specific to the overall business you’re in, or special event pages.

But do get started!

“Other companies that are looking to promote their businesses and increase revenue should definitely invest some time in this social platform,” Zoldan adds. “If you constantly update your feed and reach out to customers, you will see results almost instantaneously.”

Hurme of RunGoddess is also optimistic. “We keep experimenting with our Google+ page, and are optimistic that it will be a valuable tool down the road to help drive traffic to RunGoddess.com,” he says.

About the author

Brad & Debra Schepp
Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Alibaba.com Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book is How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Brad is also a literary agent for Waterside Productions. For further information, visit the couple's website, bradanddeb.com. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Anonymous

    Great
    post. As you said Google+ is always evolving and the changes. Thanks for the
    share.



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