Google+ business pages - what you need to know

This week, Google+ finally opened up to businesses.

Google hopes that its new social network will soon become a hub not just of conversation but also of commerce – and it is pitching its service particularly towards local businesses.

So how can your business get started on Google+?

What is Google+?

Google+ is the search company’s latest attempt at social networking. Much like Facebook or Twitter, it allows users to connect with other users – either people they know in real life, or people in whom they are interested.

The platform offers a range of new ways in which people can converse, including video ‘hangouts’, Circles, and the exciting new Google+ Direct Connect.

What has changed?

There were two significant changes to Google+ this week. The first was that the service, which was previously invite-only, was opened up to everyone – leading to an influx of new users.

But perhaps most importantly, this week also saw the launch of ‘Pages’ – meaning that Google+ is now available not just to individuals, but also to businesses and brands.

Google had asked business users to refrain from signing up for profiles on Google+, insisting that it would be launching dedicated business pages soon. Indeed, some organisations that signed up for profiles had their accounts deleted.

Now, though, businesses are free to use Google+ to connect with current and potential customers.

Who can set up a page?

The signup process for Google+ Pages is split into five categories: Local Business or Place; Product or Brand; Company, Institution or Organisation; Arts, Entertainment or Sports; and Other. Within these categories you may have to select sub-categories, but these are sufficiently broad to accommodate virtually any conceivable business type.

It is important to note that you will also have to have a Google account in order to set up a Page. Similarly, the terms and conditions require that you have ‘authority’ to set up and maintain the Page. You cannot sell or lease a Page without Google’s permission.

How do I set up my page?

First, think carefully about which Google account you want your Page to be linked to. The Page will be automatically (and apparently irrevocably) linked to the account with which you are logged in when you create it. So, if you would prefer that the Page not be linked to your personal account, make sure that you log out first.

You will then have to choose a category for your Page, as described earlier, along with a name. If you are setting up a Page for a ‘Local Business’ you will also have to tell Google where your business is based.

After this you will be given the option to add a tagline and photo, and to tell existing followers on your personal account about the Page you have just set up. You can skip both these steps and come back to them later if you prefer.

What next?

Then the fun begins. The range of features on offer on Google+ Pages can seem dazzling. You might want to read our previous article on Google+ for business for an overview of the main points of the service.

But there are a few key things that you should understand. To begin with, you’ll notice the name of your Page in the top left hand corner of your browser, along with an arrow below it. This is important: you can switch between your personal account and your Pages by clicking on this button.

You should also think about promoting your page. Google+ provides you with a snippet of code that will take users directly to your Page, and which you can add to your website or other profiles. You will also get a unique URL on your homepage which you can share.

You should also note that Google+ Direct Connect provides users with a simple way to navigate direct to your Page. By adding a + symbol to the front of a search in Google, a user indicates that they want to find the Google+ Page associated with that query. For example, if you search for +youtube you will be taken to the Youtube Google+ Page. This has the potential to make Google+ Pages a real first port of call for web users in the future.

Look out for our roundup of the best business features in Google+ next week.