Why a Google+ Brand Page Could Be More Important Than Your Facebook Page

If you think Google+ will never be able to compete with Facebook in social networking, guess what? You’re right.

Google is more interested in owning the search engine results market. And that’s what Google+ brand pages are really all about.

In fact, for brands that sell their products directly, I’d bet Google+ brand pages could become more important than Facebook fan pages. In case you missed it, after an initial false start at launch and months of speculation, Google+ finally opened the floodgates for brands today.

Google+ claims to have 40 million users, but it’s unclear how many of those accounts are actually active. Anecdotal evidence – my personal Google+ feed is repetitively filled by the same four or five users despite having 200+ in my circles – suggests that most users signed up, checked it out once or twice, and never returned. Full disclosure: I logged on to Google+ for the first time in about a week today when the brand page announcement came down, and I do digital marketing and social media for a living. It’s my job to care, and I’ve had a hard time convincing myself that I should be logging in.

Until today.

The first time I wrote about Google+, I maintained that Google+ accounts would be more competitive with LinkedIn, and more important for professionals looking to build their own personal brand. I still maintain that personal Google+ profiles will be important for that purpose, even if the service has already run out of friends to suggest for your Circles. But even if most Google+ user accounts are dormant, Google+ brand pages are going to become important quickly.

Google+ brand pages look a lot like Facebook fan pages, and hence, drew criticism from some corners for a lack of originality. That’s a fair critique. But here’s what truly matters: Google+ pages, unlike your Facebook fan page, will actually generate traffic, because of a little thing called, um, Google. You know, the world’s biggest search engine?

The size of the Google+’s user base is irrelevant with regard to brand pages, because after all, Google is a search engine, not a social network. And Google is the undisputed king of search. Google enjoyed 65% of the U.S. search engine market in September 2011 according to ComScore.

Lost in all the hype around today’s announcement was the following paragraph from Google’s blog:

“People search on Google billions of times a day, and very often, they’re looking for businesses and brands. Today’s launch of Google+ Pages can help people transform their queries into meaningful connections, so we’re rolling out two ways to add pages to circles from Google search. The first is by including Google+ pages in search results, and the second is a new feature called Direct Connect.”

As I suspected, Google is going to include Google+ pages in search results. In other words, if people are Googling for “Boston Celtics tickets”, our new Boston Celtics Google+ brand page will show up in the results, presumably near the top. After all, doesn’t Google have a vested interest in keeping its own traffic in house, on pages it controls, featuring ads it can sell? You can bet Google will eventually place advertising on G+ pages the same way Facebook places ads on your Facebook profile. After all, Google reported made $28 billion in ad revenue in 2010.

That’s $28 billion. With a B.

Celtics.com is already one of the top organic search results for “Boston Celtics tickets”, but secondary market ticket brokers, who’ve spent a fortune mastering SEO techniques, all rank highly thanks to both paid and organic search results alike. Obviously, we want Celtics.com to be the first destination for potential ticket buyers, but if a Google+ brand page is going to perform highly in search results, we need to be there too.

The power of Facebook is that it allows us to grab mindshare whenever we choose from fans who’ve opted-in to our Fan Page updates. Still, we can’t force people to buy tickets just because we put an offer in front of them. More likely, when a fan actively wants to buy Celtics tickets, they will either visit our website, or Google something like “Celtics tickets”. Presumably, our Google+ brand page will give us more control over the search result for that query, and give us a better chance to capture that customer who’s demonstrating buying intent.

As an added bonus, for those users who are active on Google+ and want to become a Boston Celtics follower, we’ll be able to reach them there too, Facebook style, with status updates. I expect that content we publish on Google+ will eventually become more relevant in Google’s search results as well.

So, if you haven’t set up your brand’s Google+ page, what are you waiting for?

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Will Exline says:

    You hit the nail on the head, Peter. It’s not about creating another destination for people to spend time necessarily, it’s about SEO and “planting your flag” in Google’s search results.

    Who knows, in the not-so-distant future, it might be easier for fans to type “+Pepsi” to find information rather then going to http://www.Pepsi.com or heading to Facebook and searching for the Pepsi page. With so many having Google.com as their homepage, it would not surprise me for this to start becoming the trend.

  2. Like you, I have to remind myself to ‘head on over’ to Google+ to check in on the action. I’m also finding the same few people enthusiastically posting great content, but most of my circles have fallen silent.

    Also like you, I am seeing the value of the Google+ brand pages and have a little buzz in my fingers as I search for information and see what brands have their pages up already.

    One of the features that I believe will be the biggest advantage is the direct connect. Celtics are not yet connected, but if we were to type +Celtics in Google search, the Google+ brand page would be the FIRST option in the live search results AND if you hit return, you immediately land on the + brand page. This is a brilliant move my Google. And you are right…it’s all about the search results. (I’m sure Celtics will be added in no time. You can see who is already up and running by typing +a +b +c etc and get a sample of brands connected.)

    This nifty new feature may require some training to get people to auto-type + before big brand names, but it’s a very easy behavior to modify. Still have to figure out the full potential of engagement once the visitor lands on the + brand page. Let’s hope that’s not as stale as the profiles.

    I’m finding I am much more excited about the pages than the profiles on Google+. Looks like the platform finally deserves my attention. Thanks for your post, Peter. I’ll keep an eye on what Celtics are doing and how you’re leading the way. : )


  3. Vinny O'Hare says:

    I totally agree with what you say. Google is smart and even if they list the brand pages in the #3 spot of ten in the natural search they will still end up with a boatload of traffic on a Google property.

  4. I don’t think there’s any question what you’re saying is true. Google+ Pages are a cleaner version of Facebook and the interaction seems relatively normal. Google is personalizing more of the search results I see daily. Now I see many ‘shares’ from people in my Circles.

    I jumped on the Google Pages band wagon and I think it will definitely cause some marketers to lose interest in Facebook.

  5. Great post Pete, will be interesting to see if Google+ pages send traffic as well. The Direct Connect stuff is crucial especially to verify your page. Already seeing fake pages popping up hopefully the verification process sorts them out quickly.

  6. Keen insight and perspective. As a user, I’m a big fan of Google Plus primarily because of the design aesthetic. I prefer a clean look and feel. (I also, for some strange reason really love minimal branding: http://goo.gl/M5d6X .)

    For marketers, I believe that Google Plus will ultimately prove out to be a superior platform for the reasons you describe.

    But at the end of the day, the key takeaway for me is to maintain an active presence on as many destinations as possible. The MySpace collapse aside, I don’t see Facebook or Twitter fading away anytime soon. But it’s far too early to predict the impact that Google Plus could have.

  7. Eric McCudden says:

    I find your understanding of G+ appalling for someone who is in charge of interactive media for the Boston Celtics.

    Your first sentence displays it all.

    “If you think Google+ will never be able to compete with Facebook in social networking, guess what? You’re right.”

    G+ has many things going for it that facebook could only dream of having. First and foremost it is Google.

    I am not sure you understand what that means exactly. That means it is also android, and you tube,and docs and apps and .picassa, and google TV.. and the list goes on and on. With millions and millions of users over and beyond any amount that have signed up already.

    You are seeing only short term and I find that frightening in someone in control of interactive media.

    Google is all in on this, and they are working at integrating all of the things i mentioned into one thing… G+

    Google never has to put adds on G+. G+ will drive traffic to their adds

    The question isn’t will G+ ever compete with Facebook it is how long before facebook becomes irrelevant.

    I really think you need to look closer at what google is doing here, Cause you are missing the point entirely.

    1. Peter Stringer says:

      Thanks for your feedback Eric. That said, I certainly don’t agree with your premises. A few things to consider about your arguments:

      – “The question isn’t will G+ ever compete with Facebook it is how long before facebook becomes irrelevant.”

      Android, YouTube, Docs, GMail and Picassa may have millions of users, but that doesn’t mean those people want to use G+ for social networking. I’d argue that G+ got to 20 million users out of the gate simply by signing up existing GMail accounts, and guess what? Many of those initial G+ accounts are abandoned or inactive. Aside from social media “gurus” and digital pros, very few real people seem to be using G+. I get updates from the Robert Scobles of the world on G+, but posts from people I actually know are incredibly rare. That doesn’t bode well for G+ as a social network.

      That said, I definitely believe brand pages have legs as SEO destinations, because Google has a vested interest in creating content on the internet that it actually controls, rather than giving away traffic to third party sites. Follow the money.

      Seriously, you really think Facebook is becoming irrelevant? Facebook is approaching 1 billion accounts, likely before the end of the year. There’s no data to suggest Facebook is slowing down, is there?

      – “Google never has to put adds on G+. G+ will drive traffic to their adds.”

      Google is not a 2011 startup. They will be looking to monetize G+ pages ASAP. And most of their brand page traffic will come from standard Google searches, not G+ use by logged in users. Facebook fan pages do very little traffic because people don’t use social networks to browse. They read news feeds for updates about their friends. If G+ ever gains traction as a social network, I would still bet that brand pages will derive far more traffic from generic internet searches than they will from logged in G+ users browsing to a brand page.

      Finally, it’s unclear that Google itself understands what they want G+ to be, so I think we’re all struggling to completely understand it. I could be wrong, but I’m confident in my opinions on this. If I am wrong? I can live with it. Time will tell…

      1. T W says:

        “I get updates from the Robert Scobles of the world on G+, but posts from people I actually know are incredibly rare. That doesn’t bode well for G+ as a social network. ”

        To me that is the most telling point about G+’s future.

        I like google+, I use it a lot and my stream is busy – but it is nearly all people posting photographs or, as you say, the Scobles of this world posting every 10 – 15 seconds.

        There is almost no social interaction – the Elite with thousands of followers rarely engage in discussion, and photo posts nearly always result in “wow” or “great” responses rather than social interaction.

        Not a single one of my real world friends – who mostly have gmail accounts – use their Google+ for social networking. They all use Facebook. Reunions are planned over facebook and family updates are sent over facebook.

        Google+ just keeps sending me more and more photographs. I have tried to engage with people on it, and turn it into a social interaction platform, but have had almost zero success so far.

  8. Good question there, what are you waiting for? Just what I was asking myself while through the post. You’ve just convinced me of the importance of creating a Google+ fan page. Since I heard of them I never took the time to really check what I can do about it. Thanks for pointing this clearly to me.

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