What is it?
Despite the popular notion that Google+ is a “ghost town,” it is one of the fastest growing social media sites in existence. Since its 2011 launch, it has amassed 540 million active monthly users across its services. Google My Business is one of those services, formed from the combination of Google Places and Google+ Local Business pages. Google My Business uses the interface of Google+ to provide businesses with platforms to expand their reach and interact with their customers. What differentiates Google+ and its services from other social media sites is that all profile and post content is immediately indexed in the Google search engine, offering a significant SEO boost to users.

Who can benefit?
Because the benefits of Google My Business are not industry-specific, it is a platform on which every business should be present. For those with a physical storefront or service location, Google My Business is useful for setting up pages where business information such as hours, services, and locations can be posted and updated. Potential customers can then find these pages through Google Maps, Search, and more. There are also options for businesses that do not have a brick-and-mortar establishment. Google My Business can be used to build and manage an online community where social content can direct followers to a business website, blog, or e-newsletter. The platform is an excellent solution for any business wanting to become more easily searchable online or to gain highly targeted visitors from Google’s organic search results.

How can businesses use it?
Since Google+ has not yet reached the level of popularity that other social media sites have, it should complement an existing social media campaign rather than form the basis of a new one. Why, then, is a Google+ profile worth maintaining? The value lies in Google’s rapid SEO indexing of Google+ profile information and post content. For other sites such as Facebook, Google will only index profile information. All Google+ content can therefore be found easily via the Google search engine, which means businesses on Google+ have improved local search visibility on Google Maps and Search.

Business can start out by creating either a local business page or a brand page. The first type is best for businesses that operate within a specific service area or that have a storefront which customers can visit. The second type is more similar to a Facebook business page, in that it allows businesses to reach out to customers and prospects. Both pages, however, should be generated to maximize the efficacy of this social media strategy; customers can look up information on local business pages and interact with businesses on brand pages.

Google local business pages are useful because they give customers and prospects simple, direct access to connecting with a business.  These pages have a review feature built-in, which means existing customers can be encouraged to provide feedback. This not only significantly boosts credibility, but it also helps to increase page ranking in search results. Local business pages are integrated with Google Maps as well, boosting online visibility even more.

Google brand pages can help a business achieve deeper engagement with customers and prospects by building up a social community around content. For quality engagement, businesses should interact with the appropriate people, sharing content with them or adding them to Circles (the Google+ equivalent of friends lists). Businesses can even create, participate, or moderate a Community, a group where people discuss mutual interests. To track engagement in content, special attention should be paid to metrics such as amount of +1s (the Google+ equivalent of a “like”), comments, and shares. Amount of views and number of followers can be analyzed to determine the level of reach.

Google My Business can also bridge other social media accounts or online properties. The platform can be used to drive traffic to a website, either from clicks on shared links in content or from the increased visibility in search results. Conversely, a business can drive customers from its website and followers from its social media to start +1’ing Google+ content, in order to build up credibility and visibility in search results pages.