In the last week Google has implemented a full redesign of their social media platform, Google Plus. The new site is more mobile friendly, simplified, and streamlined — a more “focused”, interest based user experience that comes at the cost of some of it’s other features.
It’s readily apparent that Google has decided to emphasize communities, aspiring to be the ideal place for like-minded individuals to interact. They have put two of their features, Communities and Collections, at the front and center. According to Google, these changes are in response to the input of their most active users. Google reports have shown that their Communities feature attracts nearly 1.2 million new users every day, while Collections, implemented just earlier this year, has been growing just as quickly. Collections creates a group of dashboard content based on just one tagged topic, while a Community allows people with the same interest to start a conversation about that connection and more. The goal of both of these forefront features is to allow the user to follow other users’ posts on specific topics, without having to constantly wade through unrelated posts.
The new Google Plus also lays a heavy emphasis on being mobile-friendly. Rebuilt for both Android and iOS, the app is clean and eye appealing, takes hardly any time to load, and it’s easy to navigate and operate. Google has also removed some of the clutter located at the bottom of every post, making it straightforward to +1, comment, and share.
Although the change is fitting to their new, simplified aesthetic, it appears that this update has been detrimental to My Business pages. Business descriptions, reviews, videos, and the uploaded photos area are now completely absent. Back in July, Google announced that Google Plus profiles would not be required to use some of their individual features – YouTube, for example – and it was here that the parting of ways between local and Plus began. In subsequent months, user pages have played an increasingly irrelevant role, in a turn towards this current interest and group based theme. A shop’s My Business page and public posts are still visible on their followers’ Google Plus dashboards after the implementation of the new features, but the tabs to display practical content and business information have been removed.
The new Google Plus platform so far has not made any visible changes to local listing and search results. In this new update, Google has completed the split of a shop’s My Business page from it’s Local Listing. The information removed from the social media page — pictures, reviews, etc.– is still present on the Local Listing. But as the two are no longer linked, the only way to reach a shop’s My Business page is through a direct link or by searching within the new platform.
For now, it seems that the business benefit of creating and maintaining a Google Plus is for SEO purposes only. It is still necessary to create a Google account and a My Business Page that’s consistent across the backend because the ranking effects of a local listing has not changed. But in regards to customer outreach, the shift away from the individual user profile means that a My Business page would be a lot less of an effective investment than other forms of social media.
We predict that this update will resolve into the complete separation of social from local SEO; Google Plus will revert to being a purely social network. From a social media perspective Google Plus is an attractive, creative way to communicate and build communities. The new emphasis on Collections and Communities removes the annoying fact that users were forced to use Google Plus for other productive products, like local SEO, and instead allows shops and users to take advantage of the platform’s strengths. From a local SEO perspective, Google Plus Communities and Collections both have a lot of potential to be used as link and community building resources, but no longer have a direct influence upon the ranking of your Local Listing. If Google allows businesses to build Communities and Collections directly on their Google My Business page, we could see a great retention tool that gives more credibility to a local business.