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Google+ and Google Places — What the heck?

The Google Quagmire Google PlacesAre you as confused as I am by Google Plus and Google Places?

I think the whole quagmire is an issue for me because one of the things we do at Mountain Marketing Group is set up and manage social media accounts for our clients. So I have to face the issue numerous times each day.

The rest of the social media platforms we routinely handle are relatively easy to locate and manage.

But if you look for Google+ or Google Pages at Google.com, you will find an effective search engine, but not a place to list your business location or an account from which to share items of interest. So why can’t I just go to Google+.com and sign up a client account? Why does Google make everything so blasted difficult?

The answer is, of course, very simple. Google owns the Internet and basically everything on it. So they don’t have to play by the rules. You may, in fact, be surprised to learn everything that Google owns. The browser I use to surf is a Google product…Chrome. The most used search engine, by far, is Google’s. The second most used search engine after Google is YouTube…also owned by Google. In fact, if you’re interested, here is the link to all of the Google-owned Internet properties.

When all is said and done, I can’t really complain about how much Alphabet (the newly named parent company that owns Google) has control over because everything Google powers works. That’s why everyone in tech is constantly chasing the media giant. Google is to the Internet what apple is to devices. And I’m not just saying that in a desperate hope to bump up SEO on my website.

Like millions of others, my first venture in cyberspace was with an account on AOL and Internet Explorer as a browser–long before I even knew what a browser was. And if everything had worked perfectly with those platforms, I doubt I ever would have migrated to Gmail and Chrome. But necessity is the mother of invention. I looked for solutions to America Online and Internet Explorer problems, which is how I discovered Google’s solutions. Of course, AOL is busy reminding folks that they were with us in the beginning. And IE (now called Microsoft Edge) is desperately trying to re-brand itself to regain ground. But why struggle with buggy software and programs when Google is as easy as clicking a button.

Sorry for the diatribe. The reason I wrote this post is to explain the reasons you need Google+ and Google Places accounts, directions for setting up each account, and suggestions for how you should be using them if you want to grow your business. So, here we go.

Why you need Google+ and Google Places Accounts

For all of the above reasons and more, Google matters. So don’t make the costly mistake of writing off their products. Although few people understand the distinction of search results returned when they randomly use Google to search the Internet, there are several different categories.

  • The top and right margins are reserved for Ad Words…otherwise known as Pay Per Click. When you click on sponsored results, the advertiser pays Google as little as pennies to hundreds of dollars per click, depending on the competition for the particular search term.
  • The next listing is Google Places. If you can somehow overcome the inconvenience of answering a verification call or returning the Google Places postcard they mail to you at your physical location, your efforts will be rewarded by a star and website link on all-important Google Maps.
  • The final category of search result listings are organic, natural results. No one is paying for them. So this is where social media strategy is critical. The only way to show up in organic (unpaid) results is to produce lots of valuable content on a regular basis relative to your keywords. One of the easiest avenues for posting this type of content is by using Google’s social tool…Google+. After all, since Google owns it, they know right where to find it so they can direct traffic to it.

How to Set up Google+ and Google Places

The following is a simple tutorial which explains how to set up both of these vital Google accounts. Each is important for any small business owner who wants to compete in 2015.

Google+

This account will enable you to post and share articles and videos of interest with anyone who is in your “circles.”

  1. Go to plus.google.com and find “Create An Account” located at the top right of the screen.
  2. Provide a few pieces of information, including your name, birth date and current email address.
  3. Next, you’ll be prompted to add a profile photo to accompany your Google Account.

Google Places

This account will rank your business near the top of search results with a pin next to your physical location.

  1. Enter “Google My Business” into your search engine.
  2. Complete the profile.
  3. Be ready to answer an automated call to verify your business location or wait for a postcard to be sent within one to two weeks.

The bottom line is that it may take awhile to set up Google accounts. In fact, to secure a verified listing on Google Places, you will need to either sit by the phone in your physical office location waiting or a Google computer to call or you will need to wait for snail mail to deliver a postcard. So the investment of time and effort required to create these accounts is a lot higher than for other forms of social media. But rest assured, it is well worth the effort — if your goal is to make sure your website is easy to find on the Internet. And let’s face it. Is it really that difficult to pick up your phone or return a postcard? Suck it up, Buttercup.

How to use Google+ and Google Places to grow your business

Kathy Bowling is CEO of Mountain Marketing Group, a boutique social media and website development agency based in Fontana, California, and serving the San Gabriel Valley, Inland Empire and greater LA basin. We develop and manage responsive websites and strategic social media campaigns designed to secure lead generation and sales conversion. At Mountain Marketing Group, we help our clients reach new heights. To find out why your website isn’t on the map, give us a call (909) 336-3333 or book an appointment today.

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Bowling for Business: When it comes to social media, what qualifies as TMI?

Circles of Google Plus Friends

(This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on August 15, 2011.)

Long before anyone realized the potential business applications, I created a Facebook account to reconnect with high school friends. The official label for those of us who signed up before anyone understood the platform is early adopter, which is just another name for what we really were—social media guinea pigs.

In those early days, I didn’t understand the subtleties of Facebook features like the wall or messages. I learned the difference the hard way when I posted something to my wall which was meant as a message for one of my closest friends:

I FORGOT TO MAKE A DEPOSIT. SO OUR ACCOUNT IS OVERDRAWN BY $1,000!

Any regular readers of Bowling for Business know that I am pretty transparent when it comes to sharing details about my personal life. But revealing the balance, or lack thereof, of my checking account to hundreds of business associates is not something I routinely do. That type of disclosure definitely qualifies as TMI (too much information).

Several years later, we are all constantly faced with decisions about what to share and what to withhold from our various online contacts, connections, followers and friends. Is Google+ the answer to our prayers or another way to sacrifice our privacy at the altar of electronic transparency?

When I first got word of, I tried to sign up but was directed to a screen that informed me:

Google+ is in beta testing. We will keep your email address on hand and send updates.

In the meantime, friends and colleagues were posting about the fun they were having experimenting with Google+ while Mountain Marketing Group clients forwarded articles about it, asking my opinion. I didn’t have a clue.

Desperate, I finally did what I should have done in the first place—I turned to my own social networks. I tweeted my frustration about #GooglePlus, which fed an update to my Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Within minutes, several friends and business associates offered to send me invitations. Google emailed me a personal invite. And some of my Twitter followers sent hyper-linked invitations.

In hindsight, it’s all quite simple: If you want to play the game, you have to follow the rules. I wasn’t successful trying to sign up using traditional communication methods because the platform, like social media itself, is all about engaging, interacting and sharing.

In the interest of transparency, I have to admit I’m still a Google+ newbie. But, so far, the application seems promising. Here is how social media guru Pete Cashmore of Mashable explains the application:

Google+, a social network operated by Google, Inc., launched on June 28th, 2011 with integrations across a number of Google products, including Buzz and Profiles. One key element of Google+ is a focus on targeted sharing within subsets of your social group, which are what Google calls Circles. Circles are simply small groups of people that you can share to, each with names like friends, family, classmates and co-workers.

Google’s new app allows subscribers to manage connections by corralling them into groups. This is helpful because it will keep users from inadvertently sharing business content with friends and personal posts with associates. The downside is that Google+ uploads anything and everything to users’ streams.

One of my Google+ connections had this to say about the caveat:

The Google+ app instantly uploads photos my camera phone took to my account. I’m not sure if I like that or not—convenience versus automatic upload to the internet?

Another downside to Google+ is that, at least for now, you have to create personal profiles instead of business accounts. Also, since Google ranks search engine results based on the account holder’s associated email address relative to online engagement, involvement and interaction, it virtually precludes ad agency ghost-writing and ghost-posting.

So, at least for now, I can’t examine the tool through the lens of my usual three categories of marketing for free, on a limited budget and when the sky’s the limit. For the time being, Google+ won’t do you any good unless you’re willing to do the work yourself. If you want to tinker around with the tool, email me Kathy@MountainMarketingGroup.net, and I will gladly send you an invitation. And don’t worry—I won’t post your request on my wall.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.